Top 20 MLB Rookies Entering 2019
Major league teams rely on rookies more than ever. It’s easy to see why when one examines the recent list of Rookie of the Year winners in the American and National leagues, headlined last year by Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr.
Expect the good times to keep rolling in 2019 with what projects to be another robust rookie class.
1. VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR., 3B, BLUE JAYS
AGE: 20 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: 3B
Calling Card: After batting .331/.414/.529 in the minors and reaching Triple-A at 19, Vlad Jr. draws raves from scouts as the best pure hitting prospect since the turn of the millennium.
2019 Outlook: When Guerrero debuts in mid- to late April, he has the talent to immediately become one of the majors’ best hitters.
2. ELOY JIMENEZ, OF, WHITE SOX
AGE: 22 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: LF
Calling Card: Jimenez is legendary for his light-tower power—literally. He hit the top of a light tower during the Carolina League home run derby in 2017, and followed in 2018 by batting .337 with 22 home runs.
2019 Outlook: Like Guerrero, Jimenez will debut in mid- to late April, just as soon as the White Sox gain an extra year of control. When he does, it won’t be long before he’s a fixture in the middle of Chicago’s lineup.
3. FERNANDO TATIS JR., SS, PADRES
AGE: 20 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SS
Calling Card: An impact shortstop in the mold of Manny Machado, Tatis was on pace for his second straight 20-homer, 20-steal season in 2018 before a thumb injury ended his season in late July at Double-A.
2019 Outlook: Tatis has yet to see Triple-A and will start the season there. When he’s ready, he’ll join Machado on the left side of the Padres infield.
4. VICTOR ROBLES, OF, NATIONALS
AGE: 21 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: CF
Calling Card: Robles missed most of last season with injuries but still finished the year in the majors. When healthy, he showed flashes of Gold Glove defense, top-flight speed and contact skills that have long made him coveted.
2019 Outlook: The Nationals’ Opening Day center field job is Robles’ for the taking. If all goes to according plan, he’ll join Trea Turner as another speed demon at the top of the order.
5. YUSEI KIKUCHI, LHP, MARINERS
AGE: 27. | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: The latest Japanese import led Japan’s Pacific League in ERA (1.97) and finished second in strikeouts (222) in 2017 and remained effective in 2018 despite a shoulder injury. His low- to mid-90s fastball is solid, but his plus, mid-80s slider is his out-pitch.
2019 Outlook: Kikuchi slotted into the Mariners’ rotation when he signed. With a four-pitch mix and above-average control, he has a chance to be their most effective starter.
6. NICK SENZEL, 2B›OF, REDS
AGE: 23 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: CF
Calling Card: Senzel has hit .314/.390/.509 in the minors and reached Triple-A in two years. A natural third baseman, he’s moved around to second base and shortstop and will give center field a shot this spring.
2019 Outlook: Senzel’s bat will get him into the Reds’ lineup as long he stays healthy. Even if he doesn’t stick in center field, he can pick up enough at-bats bouncing around at multiple spots to make an impact.
7. KESTON HIURA, 2B, BREWERS
AGE: 22 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: 2B
Calling Card: The consensus top hitter in the 2017 draft, Hiura rose to Double-A in his first full season and mashed to a .323/.371/.563 line in the Arizona Fall League.
2019 Outlook: The Brewers infield picture got more crowded after they re-signed Mike Moustakas, but Hiura will still be just one injury away from a callup and has the bat to make an immediate impact.
8. ALEX REYES, RHP, CARDINALS
AGE: 24 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP›RP
Calling Card: The flame-throwing Reyes returned from Tommy John surgery last season with his upper-90s fastball, plus curveball and changeup and improving slider intact.
2019 Outlook: A torn tendon in his lat knocked out Reyes last year, and it was his second straight season-ending injury. If Reyes can finally stay healthy, he has the stuff to make an impact in either the rotation or bullpen as needed.
9. JESUS LUZARDO, LHP, ATHLETICS
AGE: 21 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: With a fastball that reaches 97 mph from the left side, a devastating changeup and an improving curveball, Luzardo shot from high Class A to Triple-A last season.
2019 Outlook: Oakland’s eviscerated pitching staff gives Luzardo a strong chance to make his major league debut.
10. MIKE SOROKA, RHP, BRAVES
AGE: 21 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: Soroka packs an advanced feel for pitching and quality stuff—headlined by a fastball creeping into the upper 90s and a slider that’s progressively getting harder. That combination got him to the majors at age 20 before a shoulder strain ended his season.
2019 Outlook: The Braves’ No. 5 starter spot is up for grabs, and Soroka is the best of the Atlanta’s upper-level pitching prospects provided he stays healthy.
11. KYLE TUCKER, OF, ASTROS
AGE: 22 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: LF›RF
Calling Card: With a smooth swing that packs a surprising punch, Tucker hit .332 with 24 home runs at Triple-A Fresno last season, earning his first big league callup.
2019 Outlook: The signing of Michael Brantley leaves Tucker without an obvious spot on the 2019 roster, but he’ll be up as soon as the oft-injured Brantley gets hurt or if Josh Reddick’s decline continues into this season.
12. LUIS URIAS, 2B,SS, PADRES
AGE: 21 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: 2B›SS
Calling Card: A small man with a sweet swing, Urias hit .306/.397/.405 in the minors while being at least three years younger than league average at every level.
2019 Outlook: Urias projects to see some time at shortstop, but he will slide to his natural second base once Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives from the minors.
13. DANNY JANSEN, C, BLUE JAYS
AGE: 23 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: C
Calling Card: An offensive catcher, Jansen had nearly as many walks as strikeouts the last two seasons in the minors while posting an OPS above .850 both years.
2019 Outlook: Jansen made his major league debut last year. Now the trade of Russell Martin opens the door for him to play every day.
14. JOSH JAMES, RHP, ASTROS
AGE: 25 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: James rocketed from Double-A to the Astros’ playoff roster last season, flashing a fastball up to 102 mph to go with a slider and changeup that both flashed above-average.
2019 Outlook: James enters the season as the Astros’ likely No. 5 starter. Even if his durability or control proves insufficient for that role, he can make an impact as a late-inning reliever.
15. JUSTUS SHEFFIELD, LHP, MARINERS
AGE: 22 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: The top prospect the Mariners acquired for James Paxton, Sheffield’s mid-90s fastball and power slider helped him log a 2.25 ERA in Triple-A last year.
2019 Outlook: With the Mariners in a full-on rebuild, Sheffield should get his shot to stick in the rotation sooner rather than later.
16. CHRISTIN STEWART, OF, TIGERS
AGE: 25 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: LF
Calling Card: Stewart hit at least 25 home runs each of the last three seasons, solidifying himself as the Tigers’ top power prospect.
2019 Outlook: Stewart is slated to start in left field for the rebuilding Tigers. While his defense is questionable, his power and patience gives him a chance to grow into an impact middle-of-the-order hitter.
17. GARRETT HAMPSON, SS,2B, ROCKIES
AGE: 24 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: 2B
Calling Card: Hampson hit over .300 with at least 30 stolen bases in each pro season, demonstrating top-of-the-scale speed, a quick bat and a strong glove in the middle infield.
2019 Outlook: Hampson will share the Rockies’ second base job with Ryan McMahon, but he has the talent to make the job his own.
18. FORREST WHITLEY, RHP, ASTROS
AGE: 21 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP
Calling Card: The top pitching prospect in the game, The 6-foot-7 Whitley owns a mid-90s fastball, a devastating changeup and a cutter, slider and curveball that all pack significant promise. His only issue is durability, having never thrown more than 95 innings in a season.
2019 Outlook: Whitley’s innings will likely be limited by the Astros’ rotation depth and the fact he pitched just 52.1 innings last season (including the Arizona Fall League). His talent is such he can make a difference in whatever role he’s placed.
19. PETE ALONSO, 1B, METS
AGE: 24 | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: 1B
Calling Card: Alonso tied for the minor league lead with 36 home runs last year, another chapter in his long-running volume of huge power production.
2019 Outlook: The Mets’ offseason spree gives them multiple veteran options at first base (Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano) to go with former top prospect Dominic Smith, but Alonso’s power may be too enticing to keep down for long.
20. TOUKI TOUSSAINT, RHP, BRAVES
AGE: 22. | PROJECTED ROOKIE ROLE: SP›RP
Calling Card: Toussaint’s mid-90s fastball and hellacious curveball have long been renowned. After he finally discovered control last season, he shot from Double-A to the majors and earned a spot on the playoff roster.
2019 Outlook: Toussaint will compete for the Braves’ No. 5 starter spot. Even if he doesn’t win it, he can impact their bullpen and rise to the rotation as soon as injuries hit.
2019 MLB Rookie Of The Year Watch
AL and NL Rookie of the Year candidates, dark horses and players to keep an eye on.
10 More Names To Know
Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Marlins: The flamethrower flashed big promise in the rotation late last season.
Daz Cameron, OF, Tigers: Mike’s son has a chance to earn plenty of reps in Detroit’s thin outfield.
Griffin Canning, RHP, Angels: The Orange County product is only one injury away from rising to Anaheim.
Dakota Hudson, RHP, Cardinals: Hudson showed his value in high-leverage relief last year and is primed for a larger role this year.
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, Yankees: Health is a longstanding issue, but Loaisiga's stuff is electric.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers: Verdugo continues to hit and should help the Dodgers’ contact issues if given the opportunity, but a crowded outfield muddies his outlook.
Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves: Wright raced to the majors one year after being drafted and will be in the rotation mix in 2019.