Star-Studded All-Rookie Team Offers Immense Upside
Completing the all-rookie team puzzle each fall often involves playing a few pieces that don't quite fit with the others. That wasn't the case this year.
Baseball America readers know that this year's rookie class offers no shortage of depth or paucity of impact players. Nine players who ranked among our preseason Top 100 Prospects not only reached the majors in 2015 but contributed in grand fashion. In order of appearance: Kris Bryant (No. 1), Addison Russell (No. 3), Carlos Correa (No. 4), Joc Pederson (No. 8), Francisco Lindor (No. 9), Noah Syndergaard (No. 11), Carlos Rodon (No. 15), Kyle Schwarber (No. 19) and Eduardo Rodriguez (No. 59).
The rookie options are so vast that Twins third baseman Miguel Sano (No. 13) got squeezed out at the last minute to make room for a trio of stud shortstops. He mashed 18 home runs and hit .269/.385/.530 in 80 games as he helped power the Twins to the precipice of an American League wild card berth.
C Kyle Schwarber • Cubs
The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft decimated the competition at Double-A Tennessee to earn a callup to Chicago in mid-June, and he never stopped hitting. Schwarber finished the year with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs and 85 walks, counting his time in the majors and minors, and quickly settled in as the Cubs' No. 2 hitter. While he did not start back-to-back games at catcher after Aug. 6 and worked mostly as a left fielder in the big leagues, Schwarber logged 52 games behind the plate in the minors and 21 more in the majors. Those looking for a more traditional, defensive-minded catcher could argue for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto or Blake Swihart of the Red Sox.
1B Justin Bour • Marlins
Credit the Marlins pro-scouting department for unearthing Bour in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft after he mashed 18 home runs at Double-A Tennessee in the Cubs system in 2013. Bour may be a one-dimensional player, but it's the one dimension--power--that teams most covet from first basemen. The 27-year-old mashed 23 home runs and recorded a .218 isolated slugging percentage, both placing him squarely in the first division among first-base regulars.
2B Addison Russell • Cubs
Though he began his big league career as the regular at second base, Russell seized the Cubs' shortstop job in early August after Starlin Castro faltered and Javier Baez lost a chunk of his summer at Triple-A Iowa with a broken finger. Still, Russell finished his rookie season with more games at the keystone (86) than at short (61). While he must reign in his strikeout rate, the 21-year-old showed impressive defensive efficiency, plate discipline and good power for a middle infielder.
3B Kris Bryant • Cubs
Bryant hit nine home runs in 14 spring-training games, but he spent the first seven games of the season at Triple-A Iowa as the Cubs lowered his service-time ceiling in order to delay free agency for an additional year. When they called him up on April 17, Bryant was ready. He led all rookies in home runs (26), doubles (31), RBIs (99), runs (87), on-base percentage (.369) and slugging (.488). He also led the rookie field with 199 strikeouts, but he inflicts such damage while making contact that, in the big picture, the whiffs don't diminish his value.
SS Francisco Lindor • Indians
The Indians went 52-48 after calling up Lindor on June 13, and the fact that the 21-year-old hit .313 for Cleveland with more power than he had ever shown in the minors suggests he was quite ready to make the jump. For all his offensive contributions, including 12 stolen bases, Lindor's outstanding defensive work made an even bigger impact for the Indians, for he made many more plays than the incumbent Jose Ramirez or utility infielder Mike Aviles.
CF Joc Pederson • Dodgers
Pederson appeared to be a shoo-in for National League rookie of the year award at the all-star break. He hit .230/.364/.487 with 20 homers and 58 walks through his first 89 games as the Dodgers' leadoff man, but he crashed hard in the second half when he hit .178. Pederson's high walk and strikeout rates remained constant, but his hard-hit rate fell off dramatically, dropping from 42 percent in the first half down to 30 percent in the second. He hangs onto a spot on the all-rookie team thanks to outstanding defense in center field, huge power (26 homers) and plus on-base skills (92 walks).
OF Randal Grichuk • Cardinals
Peter Bourjos appeared to be the Cardinals’ primary acquisition target when they traded David Freese to the Angels in November 2013, but Grichuk, who played at Double-A Arkansas at the time, has proven the best player from that deal. This season he contributed power and positional flexibility to St. Louis by starting 34 games in center field and another 47 on the corners, which was especially crucial in light of a quad injury to left fielder Matt Holliday. While Grichuk is not an especially disciplined hitter, he hits the ball hard consistently and recorded an elite .272 isolated slugging percentage as a rookie. Among outfielders who batted at least 300 times this season, only Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Jose Bautista performed better in that metric.
OF Odubel Herrera • Phillies
The Rangers viewed Herrera as being expendable in the Rule 5 draft last winter--despite the fact he had just hit .321 to win the Double-A Texas League batting title--because Texas believed it had a wealth of infield depth and lefthanded-hitting options. The Phillies tabbed Herrera with the eighth pick in the Rule 5, then switched him from second base to center field and watched him turn in a fine rookie campaign in which he hit .297, struck 30 doubles improved as the season wore on. The 23-year-old hit .329/.394/.440 in 67 games after the all-star break.
DH Carlos Correa • Astros
With three future stars worthy of claiming all-rookie team honors at shortstop this season, we could make room for each only by moving one of them to DH. That turned out to be Correa because he has a higher offensive ceiling than Francisco Lindor or Addison Russell. In fact, the 21-year-old Correa led all major league shortstops with 22 home runs and a .233 isolated slugging percentage this season, despite spotting the rest of the field the months of April and May. So advanced was Correa that the Astros quickly installed him as the club's No. 3 hitter, and he helped key Houston's run to the American League wild card.
SP Anthony DeSclafani • Reds
Offseason trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, coupled with deadline deals sending Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake to contenders, left DeSclafani as the Reds' de facto No. 1 starter in the second half as the franchise established a major league record with 64 consecutive games started by rookies. He met the challenge by leading all rookies with 185 innings and tying the Giants' Chris Heston for the lead with 31 starts. More dependable than overpowering, DeSclafani misses his share of bats and keeps the ball in the yard, but it's his strong competitive makeup that ensures he will be a rotation stalwart.
SP Lance McCullers Jr. • Astros
McCullers rapidly completed his development at Double-A Corpus Christi early this season--he struck out 48 in 32 innings while allowing just 16 hits--to pin down a permanent place in the Houston rotation by mid-May. Once there, the 22-year-old teamed with Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to pitch the Astros to an American League-best 3.57 ERA. McCullers' mid-90s fastball and wicked knuckle-curve helped him record elite rates for strikeouts (9.2 per nine innings), hits (.226 opponent average) and home runs allowed (just 10 in 22 starts).
SP Carlos Rodon • White Sox
A number of other wild rookies--including the Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez, the Rockies' Eddie Butler and the Reds duo of Michael Lorenzen and Keyvius Sampson--spared Rodon from finishing with the highest walk rate (4.53 per nine innings) among big league starters with at least 50 innings. But in fairness to Rodon, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, he served but a brief 35-inning apprenticeship in the minors on his way to Chicago, and he showed notable improvement in the second half, when his strikeout rate held steady (8.8 per nine) while his walk rate (3.7 per nine) and opponent average (.237) diminished. Expect further improvement in 2016, for the 22-year-old southpaw throws hard (93 mph on average) and can miss bats in the strike zone or induce batters to chase his filthy mid-80s slider.
SP Eduardo Rodriguez • Red Sox
Summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket in late May, Rodriguez instantly became the most dependable member of a Red Sox rotation that ran up a 4.47 ERA when he wasn't starting. While he throws a firm, low- to mid-90s fastball and power slider, Rodriguez's greatest strength isn't so much missing bats as it is the absence of a glaring weakness. The 22-year-old southpaw throws strikes, keeps the ball in the park and retires righthanded batters with regularity thanks to an outstanding changeup.
SP Noah Syndergaard • Mets
The Mets organization that unleashed Matt Harvey in 2012, Zack Wheeler in 2013 and Jacob deGrom in 2014 turned next to Syndergaard, the system’s two-time No. 1 prospect, in mid-May after he allowed just seven runs in five starts at Triple-A Las Vegas. The 23-year-old proceeded to lead all rookie starters (min. 80 innings) with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings, a 1.05 WHIP and average fastball velocity of 96.5 mph. In fact, he's the hardest-throwing rookie starter (by the above criteria) in the eight seasons of the Pitch f/x era.
RP Roberto Osuna • Blue Jays
The Blue Jays shockingly stocked their Opening Day roster with two 20-year-old relievers who had no experience above the high Class A Florida State League. Osuna ascended to the role of closer, while the other, Miguel Castro, headed to the Rockies in July as part of the package for Troy Tulowitzki. A true three-pitch closer, Osuna ranked among the rookie-reliever leaders for fastball velocity (95.5 mph), swinging-strike rate (14.7 percent) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.7).
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