Which MLB teams’ rookie classes had the biggest impact in 2023? Ranking and grading all 30

The 2023 MLB season will be remembered for the ground-breaking rule changes that were a grand slam and for standout performances from players such as Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuña Jr., Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole. However, from a team-building perspective, what will be remembered most is the significant change in philosophy in promoting top prospects to the major leagues earlier than ever before. Some of that is because the new collective bargaining agreement rewards teams with draft picks for fielding a Rookie of the Year (or for top finishes in voting for ROY and other awards), and it’s also because the development of amateur players is better than ever.

It appears that the development landscape in which prospects are pushed more quickly through farm systems is here to stay, and the impact on major-league teams has been astounding. Look no further than the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles, who have made huge jumps this season thanks to the promotion of so many prospects over the past couple of years. But beyond those young, exciting teams, many other clubs are getting valuable contributions from their rookie classes.

To illustrate that point, I decided to rank (and grade) how rookies have impacted each major-league team, highlighting the best rookie performers. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of each club’s rookies and in most cases, recent call-ups were not included, though I made some exceptions. Think your team should be higher in the rankings? Let me know in the comments.

WAR figures are according to Baseball Reference as of Sept. 14. 

1. Cincinnati Reds

Grade: A

Notable rookies: Matt McLain, SS/2B (3.6 WAR); Andrew Abbott, LHP (2.8 WAR); Spencer Steer, 1B/3B/LF (2.5 WAR); Brandon Williamson, LHP (1.3 WAR); Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B (0.8 WAR); Noelvi Marte, 3B (0.2 WAR); Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B/OF (-0.2 WAR)

Bolstered by their talented bunch of rookies, the Reds went from losing 100 games last year to being in the middle of a pennant race this year. This rookie class ushered in an entirely new infield for the Reds, led by McLain, their best all-around player, and De La Cruz, who has the upside and athleticism to be a superstar when fully developed. Abbott and Williamson, both left-handed starters, should be solid middle-of-the-rotation arms for years to come, while Marte has serious power and is clearly the Reds’ long-term answer at third base. This rookie class completely changed the franchise’s outlook for the short term and long term.

2. Baltimore Orioles

Grade: A

Notable rookies: Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS (5.6 WAR); Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (0.2 WAR); Yennier Cano, RHP (2.3 WAR); Jordan Westburg, 2B/3B (1.4 WAR)

The Orioles’ rookie class might end up being the difference between them winning the American League East and making the playoffs as a wild-card team, thanks mostly to Henderson, who is the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors. He’s a complete player who is above-average defensively at both third and short and has a strong arm. He’s a clutch hitter, the type of player you want at the plate with the game on the line. Rodriguez has shown flashes of being the ace he’s going to develop into; on the season, he has a 4.88 ERA in 20 starts, but a 2.95 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. Cano was one of the best set-up relievers in the league this season before moving to the closer’s role when Félix Bautista was injured. He has a 2.00 ERA in 64 appearances, with 58 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 67 1/3 innings.

3. Cleveland Guardians

Grade: A

Notable rookies: Tanner Bibee, RHP (3.2 WAR); Gavin Williams, RHP (1.4 WAR); Logan Allen, LHP (1.8 WAR); Xzavion Curry, RHP (0.4 WAR); Will Brennan, OF (0.8 WAR)

The Guardians lost their two aces, Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie, to injuries but managed to stay in the AL Central race longer than expected because of their exciting trio of rookie starting pitchers: Bibee, Williams and Allen. Bibee has not only been the best rookie on the Guardians, but also arguably the best rookie pitcher in the entire AL; he’s 10-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 20 starts. All three rookie starters have ERAs under 4.00 and have been consistent all year. In addition, manager Terry Francona told me that Curry was the reliever who saved them this year and was the most “under the radar, indispensable player” on the roster .

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

Grade: A

Notable rookies: Corbin Carroll, OF (4.9 WAR); Scott McGough, RHP (0.5 WAR); Drey Jameson, RHP (0.8 WAR); Brandon Pfaadt, RHP (-0.6 WAR); Ryne Nelson, RHP (-0.1 WAR)

Corbin Carroll has been the best rookie in MLB in 2023 and should win National League Rookie of the Year over the Mets’ Kodai Senga. His performance alone raised the D-Backs to fourth in these rankings. Carroll is a complete player who can beat you with his bat, power, speed, arm, and glove. He has the potential in future years to join Acuña and Mookie Betts in the MVP conversation, which he did at least for a stretch this summer. The Diamondbacks were willing to take some lumps with their pitching staff by giving opportunities to rookies despite being in a pennant race, which could benefit them in future years. McGough, a 33-year-old rookie, has struck out 86 in 70 1/3 innings and saved nine games. Jameson has a 3.32 ERA in 40 2/3 innings mostly as a multi-inning reliever. Starters Pfaadt and Nelson, although inconsistent, showed flashes of what they could do in the future if they put it together.

5. Houston Astros

Grade: A-

Notable rookies: Yainer Diaz, C (3.0 WAR); J.P. France, RHP (2.0 WAR); Hunter Brown, RHP (0.9 WAR); Corey Julks, LF (0.3 WAR)

The Astros found their long-term answer at catcher when Diaz was finally given an opportunity to share the position with Martín Maldonado. The 24-year-old has certainly delivered offensively, hitting for power (21 homers) and driving in runs (56 RBIs). He has also learned quite a bit defensively from Maldonado, who is one of the sport’s best game callers. France and Brown have been solid in the Astros’ rotation and are a key reason the staff was able to overcome the injuries to Lance McCullers Jr. and José Urquidy. Julks has provided outfield depth with speed.

6. Boston Red Sox

Grade: A-

Notable rookies: Triston Casas, 1B (2.1 WAR); Masataka Yoshida, LF (1.4 WAR); Brennan Bernardino, LHP (1.5 WAR)

The Red Sox signed Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million contract in the offseason with the idea that he would hit for average, get on-base at a high rate, smack 15 to 18 home runs and play solid defense in left field. Check, check, check and check. Casas got off to a slow start, hitting just .225 in the first half of the season with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. But then it clicked for him, as he’s slashed .317/.417/.617 in the second half with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs. He’s back in the Rookie of the Year conversation and has surpassed Yoshida as the team’s top rookie. Bernadino, a Rule 5 draft selection, was a real sleeper this year. The southpaw has made six starts and 43 relief appearances, striking out 54 and walking 18 in 46 innings.

7. New York Mets

Grade: A-

Notable rookies: Kodai Senga, RHP (3.8 WAR); Francisco Álvarez, C (1.2 WAR); Brett Baty, 3B (-0.9 WAR)

Senga has been the best rookie pitcher in the NL this year, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 23 of his 27 starts. He signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Mets in the offseason and his ghost fork has been as good as advertised; opponents are batting just .112 against the pitch, which has a 60 percent whiff rate. Álvarez delivered the power as expected, hitting 23 home runs in 347 at-bats. The 21-year-old improved defensively this season, in particular with his pitch framing (97th percentile), while showing progress on his game calling. Baty worked to get better on defense, but struggled offensively, slashing .212/.282/.314 in 312 at-bats. However, all three of these players should be integral parts of the Mets’ future.

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Grade: A-

Notable rookies: James Outman, CF (2.9 WAR); Bobby Miller, RHP (1.1 WAR); Ryan Pepiot, RHP (1.0 WAR); Miguel Vargas, 2B (0.1 WAR); Emmet Sheehan, RHP (-0.2 WAR)

The Dodgers’ rookie classes seem to always be in the top third of baseball, and this year was no exception, with Outman and Miller leading the way. Outman has hit for power (19 homers) and showed his speed on offense (15 steals), while ranking in the 95th percentile in outs above average and in the 80th percentile in arm strength. Miller, who boasts a triple-digit fastball, has gone 9-3 and kept his ERA under 4.00, while striking out 92 in 101 2/3 innings. Pepiot has appeared in only five games for the Dodgers, including three starts, but I had to mention him because of his impressive numbers: In 27 innings, he’s allowed only 15 hits, struck out 22 and walked two. He could play a huge role for Los Angeles the rest of the way. Vargas and Sheehan disappointed but both flashed their future potential at times.

9. New York Yankees

Grade: A-

Notable rookies: Anthony Volpe, SS (3.2 WAR); Ian Hamilton, RHP (1.6 WAR); Jasson Domínguez, CF (0.2 WAR); Jhony Brito, RHP (0.3 WAR)

Volpe became the first Yankee with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in his rookie campaign. He’s also played above-average defense at short, with many evaluators believing he should be in the AL Gold Glove conversation. He doesn’t have the strongest arm but makes up for it with quick feet and accurate throws. There is no doubt he has the potential to develop into an elite leadoff hitter in time. The promotion of the “Martian” (Domínguez) brought optimism for the Yankees’ future when he quickly hit four home runs. That optimism was dampened when he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that required Tommy John surgery. However, being a position player, he should be able to return sometime next spring or early summer. Hamilton was the Yankees’ best rookie pitcher, logging a 2.24 ERA in 52 1/3 innings. Brito showed flashes that he belonged but was inconsistent. He has a 4.69 ERA in 13 starts and eight relief appearances.

10. Colorado Rockies

Grade: B+

Notable rookies: Nolan Jones, OF (2.5 WAR); Ezequiel Tovar, SS (2.0 WAR); Brenton Doyle, CF (0.1 WAR)

The Rockies have three of the most underrated rookies in baseball, and that’s probably because they play for a last-place team. However, Jones and Tovar deserve more recognition nationally for their significant contributions. Jones was acquired from the Guardians last November in a trade for infield prospect Juan Brito. The deal was a clear win for Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt. Given the Guardians’ need for power, it was surprising that they dealt Jones after giving him only 94 plate appearances in the majors last year. However, the Rockies are glad they did, because he’s slashed .275/.355/.511 with 19 doubles, 16 home runs, 52 RBIs in 309 at-bats, along with collecting 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. He has become one of the best outfield power bats in this rookie class. Tovar has played elite defense, ranking in the 100th percentile in outs above average and in the 68th percentile in arm strength. He also ranks in the 71st percentile in sprint speed. Doyle has been an upgrade in center field for Colorado and has provided speed on the basepaths (17 steals in 21 attempts).

11. Minnesota Twins

Grade: B

Notable rookies: Royce Lewis, 3B (2.0 WAR); Edouard Julien, 2B (2.1 WAR); Matt Wallner, OF (1.4 WAR)

Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has had an injury-filled career, including multiple ACL surgeries on his right knee, but this year he’s finally healthy and having a terrific rookie season. In fact, he hit three grand slams in an eight-game span, which gave him four in his major-league career in 56 games, an MLB record in terms of fewest games played, surpassing Rudy York, who did it over 132 games in 1938. Lewis has slashed .300/.355/.530 with 13 home runs in 200 at-bats and solidified himself as the Twins’ long-term third baseman. Julien has been just as impressive with the bat, slashing .270/.382/.460 with 13 home runs in 289 at-bats although he’s a well-below-average defender at second base. Wallner has been another solid contributor, reaching base at a 39 percent clip against right-handed pitching and hitting 12 home runs overall.

12. Miami Marlins

Grade: B+

Notable rookies: Eury Pérez, RHP (2.5 WAR); Bryan Hoeing, RHP (0.8 WAR); George Soriano, RHP (0.5 WAR)

Pérez is the most talented rookie pitcher, with the most upside in this class and was absolutely dominating at the All-Star break, posting a 2.36 ERA over 11 starts with 61 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. In seven of his eight starts prior to the break he allowed one run or fewer, including five outings in which he gave up no runs. When the Marlins, concerned about his innings, then sent him to the minors to lessen his workload, the team immediately lost eight games in a row. There is no doubt his demotion affected the clubhouse and indirectly the team performance. When they recalled Pérez in August, it took him two starts to really get going again. Pérez ranks in the 94th percentile in fastball velocity and 93rd percentile in Whiff%. Opposing batters have hit .183 against his wipeout slider and .077 against his curveball. Meanwhile, Hoeing (4.04 ERA in 62 ⅓ innings) and Soriano (3.20 ERA in 45 innings) have contributed out of the bullpen.

13. Texas Rangers

Grade: B+

Notable rookies: Josh Jung, 3B (2.3 WAR); Cody Bradford, LHP (0.7 WAR)

Jung was the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year when he suffered a fractured left thumb in early August. He was slashing .274/.323/.489 at the time with 22 home runs, 64 RBIs and a 117 OPS+. He was also playing solid defense at third base, with range in all directions and an accurate arm. He ranks in the 98th percentile in sweet-spot percentage. Bradford has elite extension (98th percentile) and throws a deceptive changeup that opposing batters are hitting just .205 against.

14. Seattle Mariners

Grade: B

Notable rookies: José Caballero, 2B/SS (2.2 WAR); Justin Topa, RHP (1.5 WAR); Bryce Miller, RHP (1.4 WAR); Bryan Woo, RHP (0.5 WAR); Dominic Canzone, OF (0.1 WAR); Cade Marlowe, OF (1.0 WAR)

The Mariners acquired Kolten Wong in the offseason, hoping he would be their answer at second base, but when he got off to a slow start manager Scott Servais gave Caballero an opportunity and he took advantage, reaching base at a 35 percent clip, stealing 25 bags and playing elite defense. (He ranks in the 93rd percentile among second basemen in outs above average.) Topa, the Mariners’ most underrated rookie, has posted a 2.54 ERA in 66 appearances. The best part of this class, though, are the rookie starters; Miller and Woo have more than held their own, solidifying their standing in the rotation for the long term. In addition, the Mariners acquired Canzone from the Diamondbacks in the Paul Sewald trade at the deadline, and he has given them versatility and plus defense in left field. Marlowe has provided a left-handed bat, and although he’s had only 100 plate appearances, he’s already made an impact in a bench role.

15. Milwaukee Brewers

Grade: B-

Notable rookies: Brice Turang, 2B (1.6 WAR); Andruw Monasterio, IF (1.6 WAR); Sal Frelick, OF (1.3 WAR); Joey Wiemer, CF (1.0 WAR); Abner Uribe, RHP (0.8 WAR); Garrett Mitchell, OF (0.6 WAR)

The Brewers have a strong rookie class that should be ranked higher but the players just haven’t been able to perform close to their potential or have had to deal with significant injuries, like Mitchell, who underwent surgery in May to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. Sal Frelick is their most talented rookie, but he was a late-season call-up. He’s an above-average defender in right field with high on-base percentage potential (.363 OPB) and a top-of-the-order type with the ability to steal bags (six stolen bases in as many attempts). Wiemer is the most awkward-looking rookie in the majors since Hunter Pence but is a gamer with a good combination of speed and power. The best part of his game is his defense in center field, which is well above average. Monasterio is a solid offensive player who has slashed .273/.348/.373. Uribe has been strong out of the bullpen, posting a 1.44 ERA and striking out 31 in 25 innings. Turang has special range at second base and is a great base runner (22 stolen bases in 26 attempts).

16. Oakland A’s

Grade: B-

Notable rookies: Ryan Noda, 1B (2.3 WAR); Zack Gelof, 2B (1.9 WAR); Esteury Ruiz, CF (-0.2 WAR); Mason Miller, RHP (0.9 WAR); Ken Waldichuk, LHP (0.2 WAR)

The A’s are in the midst of a complete rebuild and are developing a slew of young players at the major-league level. Noda and Gelof, on the right side of the infield, have been their best rookies. Noda has slashed .239/.378/.430 with 15 home runs and 69 walks in 351 at-bats. Gelof has slashed .267/.332/.519 (137 OPS+) with 11 home runs and 10 steals. Ruiz leads the AL with 58 stolen bases but has been a mixed bag: He has great range in center field but doesn’t get the best reads and jumps nor take the best routes to balls, and although his speed often makes up for it, he still needs to improve a lot. Offensively, he’s a work in progress, but if he learns to hit he could steal 100 bases in a season. Miller has the best stuff among the A’s rookie pitchers; he’s missed a lot of time with injuries but has logged a 2.84 ERA in six appearances (five starts). Waldichuk has good stuff but must improve his control and command; he averages 4.9 walks per nine innings.

17. San Francisco Giants

Grade: C+

Notable rookies: Patrick Bailey, C (1.4 WAR); Ryan Walker, RHP (1.5 WAR); Tristan Beck, RHP (0.8 WAR); Keaton Winn, RHP (0.6 WAR); Blake Sabol, C/LF (0.4 WAR); Luis Matos, OF (-0.1 WAR)

The Giants opened the season with former prospect Joey Bart as the starting catcher but will end the season with rookies Bailey and Sabol manning the position instead. Bailey is their best catcher; he’s thrown out 30 percent of would-be-stealers while making a difference with his game calling and pitch framing. (He ranks in the 100th percentile in the latter.) His pop time is in the 96th percentile and he’s held his own with his bat, hitting 17 doubles and seven homers with 45 RBIs in 313 plate appearances. Sabol has been a solid backup and shown home run power (13 HRs) coming off the bench. He’s also played in the outfield. The Giants have several rookie pitchers who have contributed: Walker has appeared in 43 games, including 12 as an opener, striking out 67 in 55 innings and logging a 2.13 ERA; Beck has appeared in 31 games, mostly in a bulk-innings role, and has posted a 4.04 ERA in 75 2/3 innings;  Winn has made three starts and four relief appearances and has a 3.55 ERA. Matos has played all three outfield positions for San Francisco. His offense has been slow to arrive in the majors but has batted .357/.400/.500 over his past 15 games (42 at-bats). Kyle Harrison, their top pitching prospect, debuted Aug. 22 and is getting his feet wet at the major-league level; he’s shown dominating stuff in five starts but his command hasn’t arrived yet.

18. Los Angeles Angels

Grade: C+

Notable rookies: Zach Neto, SS (1.5 WAR); Chase Silseth, RHP (0.7 WAR); Logan O’Hoppe, C (0.4 WAR); José Soriano, RHP (0.3 WAR); Nolan Schanuel, 1B (-0.2 WAR)

The Angels have five solid rookies but significant injuries to Neto and O’Hoppe really hurt their rookie class. Neto suffered an oblique injury in mid-June and dealt with back tightness later in the summer. When he did play this season he was an above-average defender at shortstop with a high baseball IQ and good instincts. He’s slashed .233/.309/.394 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 236 at-bats. O’Hoppe missed most of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He’s hit .229 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 131 at-bats. Silseth (currently on the injured list) has started and relieved for the Angels, logging a 4.10 ERA and striking out 53 in 48 1/3 innings. Soriano has been solid out of the bullpen, striking out 48 in 37 innings but also issuing 23 walks. Schanuel was the first to the big leagues from this year’s draft class and has posted a .409 on-base percentage in 76 at-bats.

19. St. Louis Cardinals

Grade: C

Notable rookies: Jordan Walker, OF (-0.4 WAR); Alec Burleson, OF (-0.9 WAR); Matthew Liberatore, LHP (-0.6 WAR)

The Cardinals converted Walker from third base to right field and it’s been a work in progress. The change in positions and their bizarre decision to option him in mid-April led to a slow start to his career. However, he worked to improve defensively in the outfield with the help of Cardinals great Willie McGee. Walker, who returned to the majors in early June, has done extra work almost every afternoon to get better and has made significant progress. Offensively, he’s been streaky, hitting over .300 in both June and September. He’ll definitely be on my list of breakout players for 2024. Burleson also has worked to improve his defense but he’s struggled at the plate, slashing .240/.292/.385 with eight home runs in 304 at-bats. Liberatore, who was the headline prospect in the Randy Arozarena trade with Tampa Bay in 2020, continues to remind us that the Rays got the best of that deal.

20. Toronto Blue Jays

Grade: C

Notable rookies:  Davis Schneider, 2B (2.2 WAR); Bowden Francis, RHP (0.9 WAR)

Schneider has been the biggest surprise of the entire rookie class, coming out of nowhere to become one one of the best overall rookie hitters while playing second base, third base, left field and designated hitter for Toronto. He’s slashed .353/.481/.776 (1.258 OPS) in 106 plate appearances, with eight home runs, 21 runs scored and 20 RBIs. Francis has been the Blue Jays’ only other significant rookie. The 27-year-old righty has a 1.78 ERA and 0.821 WHIP in 19 appearances, with 34 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings.

21. Chicago Cubs

Grade: C

Notable rookies: Javier Assad, RHP (1.9 WAR); Miguel Amaya, C (0.6 WAR); Miles Mastrobuoni, 3B (0.1 WAR); Hayden Wesneski, RHP (0.1 WAR)

The Cubs’ best rookies are left-hander Jordan Wicks and center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, but they were just called up so I didn’t include them in this list. (Both will be rookie eligible next year.) For this year, Assad has been the Cubs’ top rookie, logging a 3.10 ERA in nine starts and 18 relief appearances. Amaya is being broken in as their future catcher, and he’s getting quite an education from starter Yan Gomes and manager David Ross, two of the best in the business intellectually. Wesneski has good stuff but hasn’t put it together yet. Mastrobuoni has provided solid infield depth and stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts.

22. Kansas City Royals

Grade: C

Notable rookies: Freddy Fermin, C (1.8 WAR); Maikel Garcia, 3B (1.1 WAR); Drew Waters, OF (0.7 WAR); Dairon Blanco, OF (0.9 WAR)

The Royals have the worst record in the majors (46-101) and will go down in history as one of the worst teams ever. However, they do have four rookies who have contributed, including three with speed in Garcia, Waters and Blanco. The best of the trio is Garcia, who is hitting .273 with 21 stolen bases and 49 RBIs while playing solid defense at second base, shortstop and third base. Waters has been slow to develop but has a sweet left-handed swing and is a plus defender in right field with a plus-plus arm and plus speed. Blanco is a blazer who ranks in the 100th percentile in sprint speed. He also has a plus arm in left field.

23. Detroit Tigers

Grade: C-

Notable rookies: Tyler Holton, LHP (2.5 WAR); Parker Meadows, CF (0.0 WAR)

The Tigers have two significant rookie contributors, led by reliever Tyler Holton, who has posted a 2.14 ERA and 0.885 WHIP in 53 appearances. He has elite command with his four-seam fastball, which has an average velocity of only 91 mph but opposing batters have hit just .169 against it because of the placement. He also has a wipeout hard slider that’s held hitters to a .121 average against. The best part of his game is his dominance against lefties, who are hitting only .143 against him. Meadows was called up in late August but has opened eyes with his above-average defense and plus arm strength and speed.

24. Philadelphia Phillies

Grade: C-

Notable rookies: Johan Rojas, CF (1.8 WAR)

The Phillies have had only one significant rookie contributor this year and that’s Rojas, who has tremendous range in center field thanks to his elite speed (95th percentile) as well as a strong arm (92nd percentile). Offensively, he’s held his own, slashing .280/.330/.393 with seven doubles in 107 at-bats and 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts.

25. Chicago White Sox

Grade: C-

Notable rookies: Gregory Santos, RHP (1.5 WAR); Zach Remillard, 2B (0.1 WAR); Oscar Colás, RF (-1.5 WAR)

The White Sox rookie class has been disappointing. Colás just hasn’t lived up to the hype, as shown by his 56 OPS+, -1.5 WAR and below-average defensive metrics. Remillard has shown he’s not the answer at second base. Santos has been their best rookie. The 24-year-old reliever has appeared in 59 games, putting up a 3.03 ERA, striking out 66 in 65 1/3 innings, and saving five games.

26. San Diego Padres

Grade: C-

Notable rookies: Tom Cosgrove, LHP (1.2 WAR); Pedro Avila, RHP (0.1 WAR); Brent Honeywell, RHP (0.0 WAR)

The Padres have made a lot of trades in recent years, depleting their prospect pool by dealing away talented youngsters for the likes of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Josh Hader and Juan Soto, so it’s understandable that they don’t have more rookies on their roster. But they do have three rookie pitchers who have made contributions. Cosgrove has been the best of the trio, putting up a 1.60 ERA and 0.867 WHIP over 46 games. Avila has been solid, logging a 3.63 ERA in six relief appearances and five starts. Honeywell, a former top prospect, is still attempting to make a comeback from previous injuries but hasn’t been too effective. He still has a special screwball but just doesn’t have the stuff nor command of his pitches like he did before his injuries.

27. Tampa Bay Rays

Grade: D+

Notable rookies: Osleivis Basabe, INF (0.3 WAR); Kevin Kelly, RHP (0.7 WAR); Taj Bradley, RHP (-0.3 WAR)

The Rays have had one of the best farm systems in baseball over the past decade and they’ve benefited by making the postseason four years in a row (and they’re about to extend that streak to five). They are mostly a homegrown organization and seem to produce rookie contributors every year, but this year has been an exception. Basabe helped them when Wander Franco was put on administrative leave and Taylor Walls was on the injured list, as he filled in at shortstop and hit well at the start. He’s now slashing .221/.284/.324 and is in a utility role, which is the best fit. The Rays have high expectations for Bradley, their top pitching prospect, but he’s been inconsistent in his rookie campaign. Kelly has been their best rookie contributor, posting a 3.12 ERA and 1.022 WHIP in 53 appearances out of the bullpen.

28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Class: D

Notable rookies: Luis Ortiz, RHP (0.5 WAR); Liover Peguero, 2B (0.0 WAR); Ji Hwan Bae, 2B/OF (0.0 WAR); Henry Davis, RF (-1.3 WAR); Endy Rodríguez, C/1B (0.4 WAR)

The Pirates have assembled a strong young core of players at the major-league level, including Ke’Bryan Hayes, Jack Suwinski, Bryan Reynolds and Oneil Cruz (IL), but none of them are rookies. This year’s rookie class is highlighted by the catchers: Davis, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2021, and Rodríguez, but neither one has been able to put it together offensively or defensively. Davis was moved to right field to at least get his bat in the lineup, but it’s a position switch that won’t last long based on the results. Rodríguez is the best of the two defensively behind the plate, but his ideal position might end up being first base.

29. Washington Nationals

Grade: D

Notable rookies: Jake Irvin, RHP (1.4 WAR); Jake Alu, INF/OF (-0.4 WAR)

The Nationals’ major-league roster is filled with “sophomores” and “juniors” and their farm system is stacked with prospects who won’t start arriving until next year. By contrast, their rookie class this year has been thin outside of Irvin and Alu. Irvin has a 4.22 ERA in 22 starts, with 92 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings. Alu has played in 36 games and is batting .222 in 135 plate appearances.

30. Atlanta Braves

Grade: D-

Notable rookies: Jared Shuster, LHP (0.3 WAR); AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (0.0 WAR)

The Braves have the best team in MLB this year but have done it with minimal contributions from rookies. Their roster is loaded with young homegrown players who were promoted over the past several years, and they’ve also strategically used their farm system over that span to trade for star players such as former A’s Matt Olson and Sean Murphy and closer Raisel Iglesias. The Braves are high on Smith-Shawver, who has pitched only 21 2/3 innings this season in the majors but is expected to get more opportunities in future years.


MLB All-30: We name each team’s most impressive rookie for the 2023 season

(Top image features photos from Katie Stratman and Jerome Miron of USA Today and Ron Schwane of the Associated Press)

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