Top 20 MLB Rookies For 2023
If there is ever any doubt about how much of an impact rookies can have on a team, one need only look to the 2022 rookie class.
Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, Braves outfielder Michael Harris and Braves righthander Spencer Strider all emerged as instant stars last season and altered the fortunes of their respective franchises. Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña won a Gold Glove and the ALCS and World Series MVP awards, becoming the first rookie shortstop to do any of those things.
Mariners righthander George Kirby made his debut during the season and became a fixture in Seattle’s playoff rotation. Angels lefthander Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter on his way to a breakout season, Royals third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. had 20 homers and 30 stolen bases, and Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan emerged as one of baseball’s best pure contact hitters.
The importance of young talent continues to grow every year, and the number of rookies making significant impacts does too.
Here, we present the top 20 rookies to watch for 2023, taking both talent and opportunity into account.
1. Gunnar Henderson
Team: Orioles Age: 22 Pos: 3B/SS
The 2022 Minor League Player of the Year zipped from Double-A to the majors and never looked overmatched against big league pitching. With a rhythmic, powerful lefthanded swing, impressive speed, smooth hands and a cannon for an arm, Henderson is ready to pair with Adley Rutschman as Orioles cornerstones.
92.4 mph: Henderson’s average exit velocity in 2022, which ranked 16th highest among players with at least 50 batted balls.
2. Corbin Carroll
Team: D-backs Age: 22 Pos: OF
The 5-foot-10 Carroll continued to dismiss questions about his stature as he stormed from Double-A to the majors last year. His elite speed, outstanding glove in center field, premium hitting ability and sneaky power have him ready to take over as a dynamic leadoff hitter atop the D-backs’ lineup on Opening Day.
30.7: Carroll’s Statcast sprint speed, in feet per second, fastest of any player in the major leagues last season.
3. Kodai Senga
Team: Mets Age: 30 Pos: RHP
Senga starred as one of Japan’s top pitchers for 11 seasons before signing a five-year, $75 million contract with the Mets in December. His mid-90s fastball and devastating forkball should help him rack up strikeouts as he steps into the middle of the Mets’ rotation behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
.121: Opponent average—that’s 19-for-157—in at-bats ending with a Senga forkball in Japan last season.
4. Jordan Walker
Team: Cardinals Age: 21 Pos: OF
The 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft, Walker quickly mashed his way to Double-A and starred at the level as a 20-year-old last season. Even if he doesn’t open the season with the Cardinals, his pitch recognition, strike-zone discipline and enormous power should help make him an impact hitter for St. Louis before long.
2: Players since 2006 to hit at least .300 with 10 homers and 20 steals at Double-A at age 20 or younger: Walker and Mike Trout.
5. Grayson Rodriguez
Team: Orioles Age: 23 Pos: RHP
Rodriguez missed part of last season with a lat strain, but he dominated when he was healthy with a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts at Triple-A Norfolk. With a physical 6-foot-5 frame, a vicious arsenal topped by a 95-99 mph fastball and exceptional command for his age, he is ready to begin his rise to the front of the Orioles’ rotation.
419: Strikeouts by Rodriguez in 292 career minor league innings, a rate of 12.9 per nine innings.
6. Miguel Vargas
Team: Dodgers Age: 23 Pos: 2B
The son of a former Cuban baseball star, Vargas hit .313 in the minors and reached the majors as a 22-year-old last season. His advanced approach and elite contact skills have him primed to be an offensive threat from Day One as he takes over the Dodgers’ starting second base job. He also plays corner infield and left field.
287: Hits by Vargas in the minor leagues—primarily at Double-A and Triple-A—the past two seasons, the most of any player.
7. Triston Casas
Team: Red Sox Age: 23 Pos: 1B
Casas missed two months with a sprained ankle last season, but he still forced his way to the majors and hit five home runs with nearly as many walks (19) as strikeouts (23) in his debut. The hulking first baseman possesses elite strike-zone discipline and enormous power and will soon be a force in the middle of Boston’s lineup.
32: Extra-base hits, including 11 home runs, by Casas in just 72 games for Triple-A Worcester last season.
8. Josh Jung
Team: Rangers Age: 25 Pos: 3B
Jung has been hampered by injuries, including a stress fracture in his left foot in 2021 and a torn labrum in his left shoulder in 2022, but he still reached the majors after just 153 career minor league games. The gifted hitter boasts impressive bat speed and plus raw power and is ready to be an impact hitter in the Rangers’ lineup.
.919: Jung’s career OPS in the minor leagues—he has played the most at Triple-A—despite repeated injuries.
9. Hunter Brown
Team: Astros Age: 24 Pos: RHP
The hard-throwing but wild Brown found his control last year and surged to the majors, where he posted a 0.89 ERA and earned a spot on the Astros’ postseason roster. His 96-100 mph fastball, low-90s slider and mid-80s power curveball give him the stuff to dominate as a starter as long as he maintains his control gains.
95.9 mph: The velocity of Brown’s hardest slider last season, in miles per hour, second-fastest in the majors.
10. Masataka Yoshida
Team: Red Sox Age: 29 Pos: OF
Yoshida led Japan’s Pacific League in OPS the last two seasons before signing a five-year, $90 million contract with the Red Sox. His exceptional strike-zone discipline, supreme hand-eye coordination and fast bat give him a chance to post high on-base percentages immediately while hitting in the top third of Boston’s order.
.308: Yoshida’s batting average in at-bats ending in a fastball 95 mph and faster in Japan last season.
11. Francisco Alvarez
Team: Mets Age: 21 Pos: C
Alvarez raced up the minors and clubbed 27 home runs across Double-A and Triple-A last season to earn his first major league callup as a 20-year-old. The wide-bodied slugger possesses enormous power and impressive strike-zone discipline, and now just needs to shore up his defense to become the Mets’ everyday catcher.
439: The distance, in feet, of Alvarez’s first career home run last season, when he was the youngest player in MLB.
12. Ezequiel Tovar
Team: Rockies Age: 21 Pos: SS
Long a defensive wizard, Tovar got stronger and broke out offensively in 2022 to race from Double-A to the majors. He is set to take over as the Rockies’ starting shortstop and could contend for a Gold Glove with his exceptional range, fluid actions, smooth hands and plus arm strength. Playing in Coors Field should boost his offense.
.927: Tovar’s OPS at Double-A and Triple-A in the minors last season, a 131-point increase from his previous career high.
13. Anthony Volpe
Team: Yankees Age: 22 Pos: SS/2B
The 2019 first-round pick delivered his second straight 20-20 season in the minors as he climbed from Double-A to Triple-A last year. His first callup is only a matter of time, and his mature approach, compact swing and advanced basestealing acumen and strike-zone judgment should ease his transition to the majors.
50: Stolen bases by Volpe last season, the most by a Yankees prospect since Jorge Mateo’s 82 in 2015.
14. Brandon Pfaadt
Team: D-backs Age: 24 Pos: RHP
A fifth-round pick out of Division II Bellarmine in 2020, Pfaadt quickly emerged as a draft steal and excelled at Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno last season, two of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors. His dominant mid-90s fastball, improving secondaries and durability have him primed to seize a rotation spot.
218: Strikeouts by Pfaadt last season, the most in a minor league season since Brandon Claussen struck out 220 in 2001.
15. Oswald Peraza
Team: Yankees Age: 23 Pos: SS
The slick-fielding shortstop sped through the upper minors to make his big league debut last season and earned a start in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. He is set to take over as the Yankees’ starting shortstop and should be the answer to their recent defensive problems at the position.
9: The number of errors committed by the sure-handed Peraza in 101 games at shortstop last season.
16. Brett Baty
Team: Mets Age: 23 Pos: 3B
Baty progressively improved each year and had his best season in 2022, batting .315/.410/.533 with a career-high 19 home runs to earn his first big league callup. With Eduardo Escobar starting to decline, Baty is primed to take over as the Mets’ third baseman and provide average and power from the left side.
.950: Baty’s career-best OPS at Double-A Binghamton in 2022, the highest in the Eastern League.
Friday MLB Notes: D-backs 2019 Draft Bonanza Paying Big Dividends
Teams with previous bonanzas rarely hit on more than 2-3 of their picks. The D-backs, at this early stage, appear to have hit on nearly all of theirs.
17. Sal Frelick
Team: Brewers Age: 23 Pos: OF
The 2021 first-rounder raced to Triple-A in his first full season and hit .331/.403/.480 overall while improving his numbers at every level. With a short, tight lefthanded swing built for contact, game-changing speed and the ability to play both left and center field, Frelick is nearly ready to take over as a dynamic catalyst.
91: The number of games, out of 119, primarily at Double-A and Triple-A, in which Frelick recorded at least one hit last season.
18. Logan O'Hoppe
Team: Angels Age: 23 Pos: C
One of the best defensive catchers in the minors, O’Hoppe progressively improved as a hitter and broke out in 2022, leading the Angels to acquire him from the Phillies for Brandon Marsh. His soft hands, plus arm strength, advanced game-calling and growing power have him ready to take over as the Angels’ primary catcher.
1.70: Pop time, in seconds, on an O’Hoppe throw to second base last season at Double-A, faster than any MLB pop time in 2022.
19. Oscar Colas
Team: White Sox Age: 24 Pos: OF
Colas signed with the White Sox for $2.7 million and stormed up to Triple-A in his first season, batting .314/.371/.524 with 23 homers. His ability to hit for average and power from the left side, above-average defense and advanced instincts have him ready to take over in right field and be Chicago’s next big Cuban import.
11: The number of outfield assists by Colas, who also pitched when he was younger, in 104 games last season.
20. Hayden Wesneski
Team: Cubs Age: 25 Pos: RHP
The Cubs acquired Wesneski for reliever Scott Effross at last year’s trade deadline and quickly brought him to the majors, where he posted a 2.18 ERA in six appearances. Wesneski boasts a deep, five-pitch mix that he commands and has an out pitch in his slider. He’s set to join the Cubs’ rotation and should make an immediate impact.
.198: Opponents’ batting average against Wesneski in his major league debut last season.
Others To Watch: Will Brennan OF, Guardians | Elly De La Cruz SS, Reds | Drey Jameson RHP, D-backs | Bobby Miller RHP, Dodgers | Garrett Mitchell OF, Brewers | Ryne Nelson RHP, D-backs | Luis Ortiz RHP, Pirates | Andrew Painter RHP, Phillies | Brice Turang 2B, Brewers | Ken Waldichuk LHP, Athletics