McKenzie, Karinchak among hottest rookies

Last week was another big one for top prospect debuts, as MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospects Casey Mize (No. 8), Cristian Pache (No. 14), Joey Bart (No. 15), Sixto Sánchez (No. 24), Tarik Skubal (No. 50) and Jesús Sánchez (No. 87) all were summoned to the Major Leagues for the

Last week was another big one for top prospect debuts, as MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospects Casey Mize (No. 8), Cristian Pache (No. 14), Joey Bart (No. 15), Sixto Sánchez (No. 24), Tarik Skubal (No. 50) and Jesús Sánchez (No. 87) all were summoned to the Major Leagues for the first time. Other prospects such as Triston McKenzie and Dane Dunning also made their respective debuts, adding to a growing list of 2020 rookies who’ve made an immediate impact since they got the call.

To help make sense of all the best and latest prospect performances across the Major Leagues, MLB Pipeline has put together below a list of hottest rookies from the past week, which covers Aug. 17-23.

1. Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners
Lewis entered the week as the AL Rookie of the Year favorite and did his part to hold on to that title by batting .522/.633/.957 and hitting safely in all seven games for the Mariners. The 25-year-old outfielder paced all rookies in both hits (12) and runs (11) and capped his week by homering in two of three games during Seattle’s weekend series against the Rangers. He also posted seven walks against two strikeouts — an encouraging sign for a young hitter who battled strikeout issues early in the season. Overall, Lewis has compiled a .368/.456/.585 line with an AL-best 39 hits, seven homers and 19 RBIs across his first 29 games.

2. Jake Cronenworth, INF, Padres (No. 18)
“Rake” Cronenworth has been an unexpected breakout star early this season and arguably is the running favorite in the NL Rookie of the Year race. He had another big week for the Padres, tallying hits in all seven games en route to a .423/.500/.692 line and 7-0 team record in that span. One of those hits was a grand slam — which helped fuel Slam Diego’s streak of four straight games with a grand slam — and he also tallied four doubles while recording three multihit performances. The defensively versatile 26-year-old owns a .347/.410/.627 overall line through 24 games this season and continues to get looks all around the Padres’ infield as they work to keep his bat in the lineup.

3. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians (No. 9)
A former first-round competitive balance pick (2015) and Top 100 prospect, McKenzie pitched well during his first Double-A campaign in 2018 and seemed poised to reach the Majors last year before a back injury suffered during Spring Training wiped out his entire campaign. So while it did come as a surprise that the Indians chose to promote the 23-year-old right-hander for his big league debut on Saturday, McKenzie proved every bit ready for the challenge as he punched out 10 batters and allowed two hits over six one-run innings against the Tigers to earn the win. He executed each of his four pitches well in the outing and was particularly effective with his fastball, which averaged 94.5 mph and topped out at 96.5 mph. He recorded a 42.3 percent whiff rate and induced nine strikeouts with the pitch.

4. Jesús Luzardo, LHP, Athletics (No. 1/MLB No. 13)
After giving up six runs on nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings against the Giants on Aug. 14, Luzardo bounced back last week to establish career highs in both innings pitched (6 1/3) and strikeouts (seven) in a win over Arizona. He threw 58 of 92 pitches for strikes in the outing, allowing four hits with two walks as he improved to 2-0 in four starts since joining the rotation. With the scoreless performance, the 22-year-old southpaw lowered his 2020 ERA to 3.67, and he’s now fanned 27 batters in as many innings.

5. Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies (No. 1/MLB No. 31)
Bohm’s defense at third base has left something to be desired — he committed two errors in one inning against the Braves on Aug. 21 — but the 2018 No. 3 overall pick’s bat has started to pick up. In six games last week, he batted .389/.542/.611 with a double and his first career home run — a 446-foot blast to center field that highlighted his 3-for-3 showing against Atlanta on Sunday night. He’s batting .344/.462/.531 with four RBIs and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (six) through his first 10 games in the Majors.

6. Kwang Hyun Kim, LHP, Cardinals
Signed by St. Louis to a two-year, $11 million deal in December, Kim, 32, began the season in the Cardinals’ bullpen but recently was moved into the rotation. The South Korean left-hander fared well in his debut as a starter, tossing 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Cubs on Monday, then picked up his first career victory against the Reds on Saturday, when he allowed just three hits and struck out three in six scoreless innings. With a 0.93 ERA over 9 2/3 frames as a starter, he seems to have carved out a role in the Cardinals’ rotation moving forward.

7. James Karinchak, RHP, Indians (No. 15)
The season may still be relatively young, but it’s safe to say that Karinchak has rightfully earned the title as one of baseball’s best relievers. The 24-year-old righty racked up six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings last week while recording three hitless appearances out of the Indians’ bullpen. In fact, he’s now made five straight hitless appearances for Cleveland and has not permitted a knock in 10 of 13 outings this season. Karinchak’s overall numbers, meanwhile, are astounding: a 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 innings, during which he’s allowed only four hits (.089 BAA) while piling up 28 strikeouts (17.2 K/9). Including his performance as a September callup in 2019, he’s posted a 0.90 ERA and .108 BAA with 36 strikeouts in 20 big league innings.

8. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (No. 1/MLB No. 3)
Robert missed several games last week while recovering from a minor wrist injury he suffered while diving for a ball in center field. While that absence helps to explain why the 23-year-old phenom struggled to make contact in the five games he played, fanning in 10 of his 19 plate appearances, he still managed to make an impact with his tremendous as power, as each of his four hits left the park. That included his first multi-homer game on Monday against the Tigers, and he went deep in both White Sox wins against the Cubs in their weekend series. Robert still ranks among the top rookies even after the down week, sporting a .265/.321/.541 batting line with seven homers, 15 runs scored and 17 RBIs through his first 27 Major League contests.

9. Evan White, 1B, Mariners (No. 5/MLB No. 59)
It has been a challenging rookie campaign so far for White, who, after spending all of 2019 in Double-A, has produced a .143/.210/.352 line with a Major League-high 43 strikeouts (and 43 percent K rate) through his first 27 games. But the 24-year-old first baseman showed last week that he’s beginning to settle in, connecting on his first multi-homer game on Monday and then recording a career-high six RBIs on Saturday against the Rangers. He finished the week with nine RBIs, pushing his season total to 15, and he has hit four of his five homers in his last seven contests.

10. Tejay Antone, RHP, Reds (No. 24)
Antone, 26, has become a multi-inning bullpen weapon for the Reds, who used the right-hander twice last week with excellent results. He struck out eight of the 18 batters he faced and yielded just a pair of singles while tossing five scoreless innings between the two outings. He worked 2 1/3 hitless frames against the Cardinals on Sunday to lower his ERA to 1.72 through five appearances (one starts). He’s fanned 21 batters and given up just six hits in 15 2/3 innings on the season, albeit with eight walks.

Honorable mentions (alphabetical order):

Jorge Alcala, RHP, Twins (No. 26)
Tom Eshelman, RHP, Orioles
Peter Fairbanks, RHP, Rays
Luis García, 2B, Nationals (No. 2)
Sam Hilliard, OF, Rockies (No. 12)
Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (No. 2/MLB No. 8)
Aaron Slegers, RHP, Rays
Josh Staumont, RHP, Royals

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.