How Rookie Hitters Are Performing So Far This MLB Season


Image credit: Andy Pages (Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Two weeks ago, we examined the performance of rookie starting pitchers so far this season. Today, we’ll dive into rookie hitters.

It’s been an interesting year, as many top prospects haven’t met lofty expectations early on. Jackson Chourio and Wyatt Langford have been 30% worse than the league average, while Jackson Holliday was quickly sent back to Triple-A after his initial cup of coffee.

As a group, rookie hitters have their lowest wOBA since 2015. However, that’s partly due to the league-wide run environment, as we’re now firmly outside the Juiced Ball Era. By wRC+, this year’s group has been in the middle of the pack over the past decade. It feels as if they’ve been worse, though, due to some high-profile strugglers.

Below, we’ll start with a top-down view of the 2024 hitter class (min. 70 PAs). From there, we’ll dive deeper into a few of the most interesting names.

Andy Pages, OF, Dodgers

Pages was almost traded to the Angels in 2020. He remained with the Dodgers after that deal fell through, and he erupted for 31 homers at High-A the following season, the most among all minor leaguers age 20 or younger.

It seems like the Dodgers always have productive rookies waiting in the wings, and Pages has fit right in. Through 97 plate appearances entering Monday, he’s hitting .287/.330/.483 with four homers and a 130 wRC+. Alongside Teoscar Hernández, he’s been the team’s most valuable outfielder.

The 23-year-old’s power has been firmly on display, but it’s worth noting his approach is quite aggressive. Pages didn’t draw his first walk until his 18th game in the majors, and his 56.1% swing rate is tied for 15th-highest among all batters with at least 90 PAs.

The good news is Pages consistently lifts the ball and makes good contact in the strike zone, as shown in the table below. That formula should lead to 30+ homers eventually, along with plenty of counting stats in a loaded lineup.

Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers

Chourio broke out as an 18-year-old in 2022, dominating Low-A before posting impressive historical numbers at High-A (given his age). The hype was enormous entering last season, where Chourio began at Double-A and had to deal with the Southern League’s pre-tacked ball.

Unsurprisingly, his numbers improved once he no longer had to deal with it:

Chourio was fast-tracked to the majors despite not turning 20 until this March. His long-term contract from this offseason meant the Brewers could comfortably continue his development at the game’s highest level, but it’s important to factor in his relative inexperience when analyzing his season thus far.

The power and speed have shown up with four homers and six stolen bases, and the strikeout rate isn’t disastrous at 28.3%, but the batted ball quality has been lacking. Similar to Pages, Chourio has an aggressive approach. He makes fine contact in the zone but struggles to get the ball on the ball when chasing. This is problematic because Chourio has the fifth-highest chase rate among rookies.

Knowledge of the strike zone and batted ball impact are two traits that should improve with experience. Again, Chourio just turned 20, and baseball fans may have been spoiled in recent years by top prospects who hit the ground running after initial adjustment periods.

Julio Rodriguez was a year older when he debuted, and Bobby Witt Jr. was given half a season of PAs at Triple-A. Corbin Carroll and Gunnar Henderson had a month’s MLB experience before Opening Day 2023, their official rookie campaign. Chourio isn’t a polished big leaguer yet, but he’s flashing raw power, speed, and…bat speed. His long-term ceiling remains very high.

Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers

If you’ve been living under a rock, bat-tracking data from Baseball Savant dropped on Monday. There’s plenty of work to be done with the newly accessible information, and we don’t yet know how predictive any of it is.

Still, it’s been interesting to dive into the metrics. Here’s a fun grouping after some initial research:

This is more descriptive than anything, but if you are wondering why Langford’s production is lacking despite his skill set, his issue has been squaring up the ball upon contact. Among all hitters with at least 75 PAs, he currently ranks 279th out of 301 qualifiers.

Langford is currently on the IL with a hamstring issue, but fans should remain optimistic about his potential upon his return. He’s underperforming his expected stats while displaying plus bat speed and contact skills. He came into this season more polished than Chourio, but despite his spring heroics, an adjustment period was always expected.

Davis Schneider, INF/OF, Blue Jays

We’ll close by looking at some of the underlying skills of our rookie hitters. No first-year player has been better than Schneider when barreling up the baseball.

The 25-year-old has never been considered an elite prospect, but he’s always produced and has a glorious mustache. During his brief time in the majors last season, he was 76% better than the league average, and that success has carried over into 2024.

Schneider doesn’t just lead rookies in barrel rate. It’s an elite trait of his when compared to the rest of Major League Baseball:

His time as a relative unknown might soon end, as Derek Carty’s THE BAT X projections peg Schenider for the second-highest rest-of-season wOBA on the Blue Jays. Only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. projects more favorably.

Among hitters with at least 100 PAs, Schneider ranks 16th in fly ball rate and is tied for 21st in pull rate. Hit it in the air or pull it — two staples of modern hitting. Add in the appearance and good walk rate of someone who would’ve fit in on the Moneyball A’s, and it’s easy to see how Schneider has quickly become a fan favorite.

Evan Carter, OF, Rangers

Carter’s heroics from last September and October meant he was unlikely to match that raw production in his first full season.

After hitting .306/.413/.645 with five homers in 75 regular season plate appearances, Carter slashed .300/.417/.500 (155 wRC+) in the Rangers’ World Series run.

Carter displayed extreme passivity last season, chasing a microscopic 13.4% of the time. For context, among qualified hitters, Juan Soto led the league at 20%. His chase rate is up this season, but his in-zone swing rate ranks bottom-20 among all hitters — not just rookies. This leads to an uninspiring Z-Oswing% in the above chart.

There’s a fine line between passivity and selectivity, but according to Robert Orr’s metrics, Carter is taking far too many hittable pitches. A great batting eye is advantageous, but to be as valuable as possible, it needs to be supplemented by the ability to do damage upon making contact. That’s a high bar to reach, and Carter only has 217 big-league PAs (in the regular season).

If there’s another nit to pick with Carter, it’s his production against southpaws. 40 PAs is a tiny sample, but Carter is batting .081/.150/.081 versus major league lefties. Texas recently re-acquired lefty masher Robbie Grossman, which could further signal plans to platoon Carter regularly.

Ultimately, Carter’s biggest value to the Rangers will come from what he does against right-handed pitching. Gunnar Henderson and Triston Casas had similar passivity issues early last year before “figuring it out” and exploding down the stretch. As a similarly touted prospect, Carter should be given the time to make his own adjustments throughout the summer.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone