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It seems like on an almost annual basis, we wind up talking about how the current rookie crop was one of the best in baseball history.
That’s true again in 2023. Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll entered the year ranked 1-2 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list and likely will end it as the American and National League Rookies of the Year.
The Top 100 was chock full of prospects ready for the big leagues, and few of them disappointed. Francisco Alvarez, Jordan Walker and Anthony Volpe ranked right behind Henderson and Carroll, and they all made our All-Rookie First or Second Teams. The depth beyond them was striking as well.
According to FanGraphs’ calculations, 2023 rookie hitters amassed 68.6 WAR, second all-time in AL/NL history behind 2015 (75.1). While this year’s rookie pitchers’ total of 46.3 WAR ranks just 14th, the combined total of 114.9 WAR again comes in second only to 2015 (126.9).
Our all-rookie teams:
C: Yainer Diaz, AstrosOnly two rookie catchers in the past 30 seasons had 300 plate appearances and a higher OPS+ than Diaz’s 128: Buster Posey in 2010 (133) and Adley Rutschman in 2022 (131).
1B: Triston Casas, Red SoxBatted .317/.417/.617 after the All-Star break, the fourth-highest OPS (minimum 200 plate appearances) behind only Shohei Ohtani, Matt Olson and Ronald Acuña Jr., and led all rookies with a .367 on-base percentage.
2B: Matt McLain, RedsThe Reds went 47-41 in McLain’s 88 starts, good for a .534 winning percentage exceeding that of 10 of the other 14 NL clubs.
3B: Josh Jung, RangersBefore Jung, the last time the Rangers signed a player who developed into a homegrown All-Star was 2012, when they drafted Joey Gallo in the supplemental first round.
SS: Gunnar Henderson, OriolesBaseball’s top prospect became baseball’s top rookie by leading them all with 28 homers while providing quality defense at shortstop and third base. The only rookies who played the left side of the infield and hit more homers in the past 50 years were Ryan Braun (34 in 2007) and Nomar Garciaparra (30 in 1997).
OF: Corbin Carroll, D-backsThe most dynamic player on this list, Carroll became the first rookie ever to combine 25 homers and 50 steals, sparking a D-backs turnaround from three straight losing seasons to the NL Championship Series.
OF: Nolan Jones, RockiesUnable to find a job with the Guardians, Jones lofted 20 homers with the Rockies and topped the Majors with 19 outfield assists in just 90 games.
OF: James Outman, DodgersThe Dodgers had more famous rookies, but Outman was their best, becoming the first rookie in franchise history to combine 20 homers and 15 steals.
DH: Spencer Steer, RedsSteer somehow flew under the radar a bit despite starting games at five different positions and pacing all rookies with 37 doubles and 86 RBIs.
SP: Tanner Bibee, GuardiansThe latest college finesse pitcher souped up by the Guardians, Bibee was one of just eight big league pitchers to work 100 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA. Another was…
SP: Kodai Senga, MetsSenga led rookie pitchers in just about every category and became just the fifth in the expansion era to reach 200 strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA, joining John Montefusco (1975), Dwight Gooden (1984), Hideo Nomo (1995) and Spencer Strider (2022).
RP: Yennier Cano, OriolesNo pitcher worked as many innings (72 2/3) with a better ERA (2.11) than Cano, who tied for the Major League lead with 31 holds and finished second among rookies with eight saves.
C: Francisco Alvarez, MetsAlvarez became just the sixth rookie catcher and first since the Rockies’ Wilin Rosario in 2012 to hit 25 homers.
1B: Ryan Noda, AthleticsThe lone Rule 5 pick on this list, Noda finally got a big league opportunity at age 27 and launched 16 homers while leading all rookies with 77 walks.
2B: Zack Gelof, AthleticsGelof didn’t debut until mid-July but ranked fifth afterward among primary second basemen in the Majors with an .840 OPS (minimum 300 plate appearances).
3B: Royce Lewis, TwinsBefore he homered four times in six playoff games, Lewis slashed .309/.372/.548 with 15 blasts in 58 regular-season contests.
SS: Anthony Volpe, YankeesHis .666 OPS doesn’t jump off the page, but he became just the third rookie 20-20 shortstop ever, following Garciaparra (1997) and Bobby Witt Jr. (2022).
OF: Jordan Walker, CardinalsJust two rookies in Cardinals history age 21 or younger have hit 16 homers in their first full big league seasons: Walker and Albert Pujols (2001).
OF: Matt Wallner, TwinsOnce he became a regular following the All-Star Break, his barrel percentage (19.5, minimum 200 plate appearances) trailed only Aaron Judge (24.8) and Shohei Ohtani (22.0).
OF: Masataka Yoshida, Red SoxThe World Baseball Classic hero led the Red Sox and all rookies in hitting at .289, the best mark for a Boston rookie since Dustin Pedroia’s .317 in 2007.
DH: Edouard Julien, TwinsThe Arizona Fall League’s 2022 breakout player of the year, Julien showed that his batting eye translated to the big leagues by ranking fifth in walk percentage (minimum 400 plate appearances) at 15.7.
SP: Bobby Miller, DodgersMiller helped plug a hole in a depleted Dodgers rotation while leading all rookies (minimum 100 innings) with a 1.10 WHIP.
SP: Eury Pérez, MarlinsMiami’s best pitching prospect since the late José Fernández lived up to the hype, logging a 1.34 ERA in his first nine starts and a 3.15 mark overall.
RP: Tyler Holton, TigersClaimed off waivers from the D-backs in February, he posted a 2.11 ERA and topped all pitchers (minimum 80 innings) with a 0.87 WHIP. Since 1900, the only AL/NL rookies with that many innings and a better ERA and WHIP than Holton are Babe Adams (1909) and Dellin Betances (2014).