Ranking The Top 20 MLB Rookies In 2020

Image credit: Luis Robert (photo by Bill Mitchell) and Gavin Lux (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

While young talent has always been a critical part of winning games and franchise success, the rookie classes of the last half decade were especially impactful.

The 2015 season saw the debuts of Kris BryantCarlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. The 2016 campaign brought Corey SeagerTrea TurnerAlex Bregman and Trevor StoryAaron Judge and Cody Bellinger shattered rookie records in 2017. They were followed by a historic 2018 rookie class that included Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan SotoWalker BuehlerJack FlahertyGleyber Torres and Shohei Ohtani.

To finish out the decade, Pete Alonso smashed the single-season rookie home run record in 2019 and was joined by fellow debuting players Yordan AlvarezFernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez.

As the new decade opens, even more young players are primed to break through and establish themselves as immediate superstars as rookies. Here are the top 20 rookies primed to do that in 2020, plus another 10 rookies to watch.

1. Gavin Lux, SS/2B, Dodgers
Age: 22 | Projected Role: 2B

Calling Card: Lux combines an exceptional offensive approach with a fast, powerful swing to make consistent hard contact. He hit .347 with a 1.028 OPS last year, both top 10 in the minors, before making his major league debut in September.

2020 Outlook: Lux will open the season as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman. With his advanced skills and feel for the game, he should continue the franchise’s tradition of standout rookies.

2. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
Age: 22 | Projected Role: CF

Calling Card: A physical freak, Robert combines immense power, speed and athleticism to impact every part of the game. He hit .328 with 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases in the minors last year, all while playing an impressive center field.

2020 Outlook: Robert will be the Opening Day center fielder after signing a six-year, $50 million contract during the offseason. He is next in line in the White Sox franchise’s great Cuban tradition that stretches from Minnie Miñoso to Jose Abreu.

3. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
Age: 22 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: Luzardo dominated every level of the minors with his 93-97 mph fastball, devastating changeup and swing-and-miss curveball. He was beset by injuries last year but still reached the majors at 21, where he struck out 20 and walked five in 15 innings including the postseason.

2020 Outlook: Luzardo will open the year in the rotation as long as his health allows. If he holds up, he will team with Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas to give the A’s one of the stronger rotation trios in the American League.

4. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
Age: 20 | Projected Role: RF

Calling Card: With prodigious power and constantly improving contact skills, Adell hit .289 with 37 extra-base hits in just 76 games last year and starred for Team USA’s Olympic qualifying team at Premier12.

2020 Outlook: Justin Upton is the only sure-thing corner outfielder on the Angels’ roster, so Adell has a clear path to playing time if he hits the ground running in Triple-A.

5. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
Age: 24 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: The two-way star has moved faster as a pitcher than a hitter, with his precise control and polished four-pitch mix allowing him to jump from Double-A to the majors last season.

2020 Outlook: McKay will be one of the Rays’ primary starting pitchers this year. He should settle into the back of their rotation and may see occasional at-bats as a pinch-hitter or DH.

6. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers
Age: 22 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: May’s 95-100 mph sinker and 90-93 mph cutter give him two dominating pitches that simply overpower hitters. Combined with his pristine control, he rose from Double-A to the majors last year and made the Dodgers’ postseason roster.

2020 Outlook: Whether it happens on Opening Day or later in the year, May is poised to join the Dodgers’ rotation for good.

7. Carter Kieboom, SS/2B, Nationals
Age: 22 | Projected Role: 3B/2B

Calling Card: Kieboom’s steady approach and mature hitting instincts have helped him post a career .378 on-base percentage in the minors. He made his big league debut last year at age 21.

2020 Outlook: The Nationals’ infield picture is crowded even after the departure of Anthony Rendon. But Kieboom will have every opportunity to win an everyday job, whether at second base (Howie Kendrick and Starlin Castro) or third base (Asdrubal Cabrera).

8. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
Age: 21 | Projected Role: LF

Calling Card: Carlson’s advanced instincts and feel for the game long stood out among his peers, and strength gains allowed him to post a 20-home run, 20-stolen base season last year between Double-A and Triple-A in a breakout campaign.

2020 Outlook: With Marcell Ozuna leaving in free agency and Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler all coming off subpar seasons, Carlson will be given every opportunity to win a starting spot in the Cardinals’ outfield.

9. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
Age: 23 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: Pearson’s 99-104 mph fastball is the stuff of legend, while his slider, changeup and above-average control help make him more than just a flamethrower. He rose three levels up to Triple-A last year, compiling a 2.30 ERA in 25 starts along the way.

2020 Outlook: The Blue Jays fortified their rotation in the offseason—adding Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Shun Yamaguchi—but Pearson is poised to move to Toronto as soon as the need arises.

10. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics
Age: 24 | Projected Role: SP/RP

Calling Card: Puk’s upper-90s fastball and devastating slider returned intact after Tommy John surgery, helping him reach the majors last year and make Oakland’s postseason roster.

2020 Outlook: Puk will fit in either the rotation or bullpen depending on team need. He has the stuff to dominate in either role.

11. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics
Age: 25 | Projected Role: C

Calling Card: Murphy’s defense was regarded as the best among catchers in the minors, and he showed it was more than just talk by taking over as the Athletics’ everyday catcher during the pennant race last September.

2020 Outlook: Murphy is set to be the catcher in Oakland on Opening Day. As long as he can stay healthy—which has been a problem in the past—he has Gold Glove potential and a powerful bat.

12. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
Age: 22 | Projected Role: 2B

Calling Card: The 5-foot-6 Madrigal simply puts the bat on the ball whenever he swings. He posted the lowest swinging-strike rate in the minors last season and hit .311 as he raced to Triple-A in his first full season.

2020 Outlook: With only Leury Garcia in his way, Madrigal should quickly take over as the everyday second baseman for the White Sox.

13. Jose Urquidy, RHP, Astros
Age: 25 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: Nothing about Urquidy stands out on paper, but his ability to expertly command his four-pitch arsenal helped him rise from Double-A to the majors last year and post a 3.95 ERA. He then allowed one run in 10 innings in the postseason, including starting and winning Game 4 of the World Series.

2020 Outlook: Urquidy is firmly in the Astros’ rotation plans after the free agent departures of Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. He should open the season as the club’s No. 4 starter.

14. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, OF, Rays
Age: 28 | Projected Role: LF/DH

Calling Card: Tsutsugo comes to the U.S after establishing himself as one of Japan’s top power hitters in recent years. He averaged 35 home runs per season the last four years with Hiroshima.

2020 Outlook: Tsutsugo will serve as a lefthanded complement to Hunter Renfroe in the outfield and Jose Martinez at DH. He should receive plenty of at-bats with the Rays’ penchant for matching up.

15. Nico Hoerner, SS/2B, Cubs
Age: 22 | Projected Role: 2B

Calling Card: A pure hitter with a simple, sweet swing, Hoerner hit .345 his final year at Stanford and raced to the majors in his first full season on the strength of his bat.

2020 Outlook: Hoerner will be one of many competing for the starting second base job. Even if he opens back in the minors, he’ll be back in the majors as soon as injuries hit.

16. Evan White, 1B, Mariners
Age: 23 | Projected Role: 1B

Calling Card: White’s grace and athleticism on defense are that of a perennial Gold Glover, but his sneaky contact skills and growing power make him an offensive threat, too.

2020 Outlook: White is set to be the Mariners’ Opening Day first baseman after signing a six-year, $24 million contract in the offseason. His defense will buy him time to continue growing offensively.

17. Nick Solak, 2B/OF, Rangers
Age: 25 | Projected Role: 2B

Calling Card: Solak has simply hit everywhere he’s gone, including batting .293/.393/.491 in his major league debut with the Rangers last year.

2020 Outlook: Solak’s defense is questionable at best, but his offensive contributions will get him into the Rangers’ everyday lineup, whether at second base, third base, center field or even DH.

18. Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Dodgers
Age: 25 | Projected Role: SP/RP

Calling Card: Gonsolin’s mid-90s fastball and devastating split-changup allowed him to race from Class A to the majors in two years. He posted a 2.93 ERA in 40 innings with the Dodgers in his debut.

2020 Outlook: Gonsolin excelled both as a starter and reliever for the Dodgers in his debut. Depending on what happens around him, he’ll fit seamlessly into either role.

19. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates
Age: 23 | Projected Role: SP

Calling Card: Keller’s easy upper-90s fastball and big-breaking curveball long made him the top pitching prospect in the Pirates’ system, and helped him make his major league debut last year at 22.

2020 Outlook: Keller will open the year in the rotation for the rebuilding Pirates. A new coaching staff and pitching philosophy should help him get on track after a rough major league debut.

20. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Orioles
Age: 23 | Projected Role: 1B

Calling Card: Mountcastle’s ability to hit for average and power has long made him one of the most promising offensive prospects in the minors. He hit. 312 with 25 home runs, 83 RBI and an .871 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk last year to win International League MVP.

2020 Outlook: With the Orioles in full-on rebuilding mode, Mountcastle should make his ML debut and take over as the O’s everyday first baseman.

Ten More Rookies To Know

Shogo Akiyama, OF, Reds

Akiyama set the single-season hits record in Japan and is a solid center fielder who can help Cincinnati on both sides of the ball.

Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B, Red Sox

Dalbec is powerful, patient and knocking on the door at Triple-A.

Jaylin Davis, OF, Giants

After a breakout 2019, the slugging Davis is primed to contend for a starting outfield spot with the rebuilding Giants.

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres

Gore has made just five career starts above high Class A, but his polish, poise and excellent arsenal give him a chance to rise quickly to San Diego.

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Dodgers

Graterol will open the season in the Dodgers’ bullpen and is positioned to become the closer if Kenley Jansen continues to falter.

Austin Hays, OF, Orioles

Hays has generally performed when healthy and is set to open the year as the Orioles’ center fielder.

Sam Hilliard, OF, Rockies

Hilliard showed prodigious power in his big league debut last year and has a chance for an increased role.

Kwang-Hyun Kim, LHP, Cardinals

The Korean import gives the Cardinals a valuable lefty who can bounce between the rotation and bullpen as needed.

Sheldon Neuse, 2B, Athletics

With Jurickson Profar gone, second base is open for Neuse to take over in Oakland.

Cristian Pache, OF, Braves

Pache’s path is blocked in Atlanta, but his power, defense and speed will make him a valuable contributor if injuries hit.

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