On Friday, I ranked the top rookies in the American League. Today it’s the National League’s turn, and the conversation starts with Diamondbacks sensation Corbin Carroll, who has a commanding lead in the NL Rookie of the Year race.
I’ve always said MLB should have a rookie position player award and a rookie pitcher award for both leagues because it’s not fair to compare a pitcher with a position player. There is an MVP Award and a Cy Young Award, and it should be the same for the rookies, but it’s not.
For our purposes here, we’ll rank the top 10 rookie position players and the top 10 rookie pitchers.
Carroll has been the NL’s best position player, with 4.2 bWAR, 21 homers, 37 steals and a .354 on-base percentage, all while playing above-average defense in left field. Meanwhile, Andrew Abbott of the Reds and Kodai Senga of the Mets are in a close battle for NL rookie pitcher of the year.
The Reds have a league-leading five rookies on my top 10 rookie lists, including three infielders: Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer.
With six weeks left in the season, here’s how I see the NL rookie field and Rookie of the Year race.
All statistics are from 2023 unless otherwise noted. WAR figures are according to Baseball Reference.
1. Corbin Carroll, LF, Diamondbacks
Slash line: .273/.354/.502
2B: 24 HR: 21 RBI: 60 SB: 37
Corbin Carroll will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award and he’ll be an MVP candidate for years to come. He is special. He can beat you with his legs, glove, hit tool, power, base running and intelligence. His sprint speed ranks in the 99th percentile, his maximum exit velocity is in the 90th percentile, and his outs above average are in the 81st percentile. He has already made the 20 steals, 20 homers club in his first year and has the potential to join the 30/30 club and even the 40/40 club in future seasons.
2. Matt McLain, SS, Reds
Slash line: .296/.362/.504
2B: 23 HR: 13 RBI: 44 SB: 11
Matt McLain has a short, quick swing and he uses the whole field. He has a 131 OPS+ and hits over .300 against both fastballs and breaking pitches. He ranks in the 91st percentile in outs above average and in the 92nd percentile in sprint speed. He makes all the plays defensively at shortstop and is smooth in everything he does.
3. James Outman, CF, Dodgers
Slash line: .252/.355/.433
2B: 14 HR: 15 RBI: 52 SB: 14
The Dodgers were looking for their answer in center field and they’ve found it in James Outman. He ranks in the 93rd percentile in outs above average and in the 84th percentile in arm strength. He is in the 90th percentile in sprint speed. He has above-average power and will draw walks (50, first among NL rookies). He still needs to develop as a hitter and get better in the strike zone but he’s been a key cog for the Dodgers this year.
4. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies
Slash line: .261/.300/.429
2B: 27 HR: 14 RBI: 57 SB: 7
Ezequiel Tovar is the most underrated rookie in baseball and not enough people are talking about him. He is an elite defender at shortstop with standout range and body control in all directions. He ranks in the 98th percentile in outs above average and in the 70th percentile in arm strength. He’s an above-average base runner with plus power. Special instincts.
5. Elly De La Cruz, 3B, Reds
Slash line: .257/.309/.455
2B: 11 HR: 10 RBI: 27 SB: 19
Elly De La Cruz is the most exciting rookie in the game when it comes to tools. His Statcast numbers are ridiculous: sprint speed in the 100th percentile, arm strength in the 99th percentile, maximum exit velocity in the 98th percentile and outs above average in the 84th percentile. He throws the ball over 100 mph, hits the ball 450 feet, and goes from first to third faster than anyone in the sport. He plays with passion. His ceiling is unlimited. He won’t be the Rookie of the Year because he chases too much out of the strike zone, doesn’t barrel the ball enough, doesn’t draw enough walks and strikes out too much. However, all he needs is time to develop and someday he’ll have an MVP award.
6. Patrick Bailey, C, Giants
Slash line: .264/.314/.410
2B: 15 HR: 6 RBI: 39 SB: 1
The Giants were 20-23 when they called up Patrick Bailey to the big leagues on May 19; they’ve gone 45-36 since then and he’s one of the main reasons. He’s the best pitch framer in the NL based on strike rate. His pop time to second base is in the 97th percentile and his framing is in the 100th percentile. He’s held his own offensively and shown he has doubles power.
7. Nolan Jones, RF, Rockies
Slash line: .279/.362/.498
2B: 14 HR: 12 RBI: 36 SB: 8
Nolan Jones was never given a chance by the Guardians to play every day in the majors, getting only 86 big-league at-bats before they traded the former second-round pick to the Rockies last November. The Rockies loved his upper-deck power but also liked his hit tool better than Cleveland did. Jones is proving them right as he’s hitting .279 with a .362 on-base percentage and 12 homers in his first 229 at-bats as a Rockie. He ranks second among NL rookies with an .860 OPS, behind only Matt McLain (.866).
8. Spencer Steer, 1B, Reds
Slash line: .267/.349/.461
2B: 28 HR: 18 RBI: 66 SB: 11
Spencer Steer has played first base, second base, third base and left field, and has been adequate at all four spots, though first base is probably his best position. He’s had a terrific season, hitting 28 doubles (first among NL rookies) and 18 home runs (third) while posting a 115 OPS+. His versatility adds to his value and protects the Reds from injuries all around the diamond.
9. Joey Wiemer, CF, Brewers
Slash line: .215/.290/.379
2B: 17 HR: 13 RBI: 40 SB: 11
Joey Wiemer is the most awkward-looking major leaguer since Hunter Pence, who retired in 2020. However, like Pence, no matter how awkward he looks on the diamond, he’s a solid player across the board with power, speed and intensity. Wiemer is a plus-plus defender with a strong arm. He’s a plus-plus runner. He can hit fastballs (.264 batting average against, .520 slugging percentage against) but struggles with breaking balls and changeups.
10 (tie). Jordan Walker, RF, Cardinals
Slash line: .260/.327/.421
2B: 12 HR: 11 RBI: 35 SB: 6
Jordan Walker showed his potential in spring training and made the big-league team out of camp as a 20-year-old, yet after a couple of weeks of success was inexplicably optioned to the minor leagues. The Cardinals brought him back up in June, but the damage was done. Walker came up through the minors as a third baseman but the Cardinals asked him to move to right field because they have Nolan Arenado at third. It’s been a struggle for him defensively, but he’s put in the work and kept a great attitude. His arm strength ranks in the 96th percentile and his maximum exit velocity is in the 92nd percentile. His sprint speed is in the 80th percentile. Walker would be better off playing an infield corner, but since neither spot is available in St. Louis, the Cardinals have no choice but to keep him on an outfield corner and hope he improves defensively. He’ll be on my list of 2024 breakout candidates next spring.
10 (tie). Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets
Slash line: .221/.291/.455
2B: 8 HR: 21 RBI: 46 SB: 0
Francisco Álvarez already has legitimate 30-home run power at 21 years old. He’s tied with Corbin Carroll for the most homers among NL rookies with 21. Álvarez will eventually hit for average but it might take a couple of years to get there as adjusts to major-league pitching. Defensively, he’s shown steady improvement but has a ways to go.
1. Andrew Abbott, LHP, Reds
ERA: 2.99 IP: 81 1/3 SO: 88 BB: 27
Andrew Abbott is not just the best left-handed rookie starting pitcher in the NL; he’s also already one of the best lefty starters in the league period. His mid-90s fastball has movement and deception. His sweeper is so good opposing batters have hit .106 against it. His curveballs rank in the 88th percentile in spin rate and his extension is in the 75th percentile. His dead-fish changeup has held batters to a .151 average. Abbott has poise and composure beyond his years. He can win big games against the best teams.
2. Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets
ERA: 3.19 IP: 129 2/3 SO: 154 BB: 61
I don’t think Kodai Senga should be eligible for Rookie of the Year because of his experience in Japan, but for some reason MLB allows it, which is not fair to true rookies. He’s in a close race with Abbott for NL rookie pitcher of the year, and I won’t be surprised Senga ends up besting the Reds lefty because of his experience pitching deep into seasons and logging many more innings. Senga has put together a nice season thanks to his “ghost fork” pitch, which is so tough to hit at about 85 mph because of its ridiculous movement. (Opponents are hitting .128 against it with 81 strikeouts in 125 at-bats.) He leads all NL rookie pitchers in innings, wins and strikeouts.
3. Eury Pérez, RHP, Marlins
ERA: 2.91 IP: 68 SO: 83 BB: 21
I think Eury Pérez is the most talented of all the rookie pitchers in either league and has the highest upside. He went 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA in his first 11 starts but the Marlins optioned him to the minors in early July to limit his innings and try to keep him healthy for the long term. However, it also disrupted his rhythm and success. After returning to the majors Aug. 7, he posted an 8.31 ERA in his first two starts before rebounding to pitch six shutout innings and strike out 10 against the Dodgers on Saturday.
4. Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers
ERA: 3.70 IP: 75 1/3 SO: 70 BB: 22
Bobby Miller has a triple-digit fastball (98th percentile in velocity) to go along with noteworthy extension (85th percentile). Opponents have hit .239 against his four-seamer with just one home run, .243 against his slider, and .150 against his curveball, which ranks in the 89th percentile in spin rate. Miller goes right at hitters and isn’t afraid of anyone. There is no doubt he belongs.
5. Brandon Williamson, LHP, Reds
ERA: 4.47 IP: 86 2/3 SO: 76 BB: 32
A second-round pick by the Mariners in 2019, Brandon Williamson was part of the package traded to Cincinnati for Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker in 2022. He made it to the majors a year later and has posted a 4.47 ERA in 17 starts. He has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his last nine outings.
6. Ryan Walker, RHP, Giants
ERA: 2.23 IP: 44 1/3 SO: 50 BB: 13
Ryan Walker has made 10 starts and 22 relief appearances, putting up a 2.23 ERA and a 1.218 WHIP. His fastball is 94 to 96 mph. He throws a hard slider that comes in at 83-84 mph with late tilt and movement. He has averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.6 walks per nine.
7. Ryne Nelson, RHP, Diamondbacks
ERA: 5.47 IP: 125 SO: 82 BB: 37
Ryne Nelson has provided bulk innings with mixed results in his 24 starts for the Diamondbacks. His fastball is 93 to 95 mph and he throws a slider and a curveball. But his best secondary pitch is his changeup, which opponents have hit .193 against. He doesn’t command his fastball in the zone nor does it have much life, which is why it’s been hit. (He has allowed 14 homers and a .316 batting average against on the four-seamer.) But he’s pitched the most innings (125) of any NL rookie not named Kodai Senga.
8. Tristan Beck, RHP, Giants
ERA: 3.39 IP: 66 1/3 SO: 54 BB: 16
Tristan Beck is 6-foot-4 with extension that ranks in the 80th percentile, which makes his mid-90s fastball look more like a high-90s fastball. Opponents have hit just .160 against it. His xERA/xwOBA is in the 77th percentile and he has an average chase rate.
9. Jake Irvin, RHP, Nationals
ERA: 4.47 IP: 96 2/3 SO: 81 BB: 38
A fourth-round pick in 2018, Jake Irvin made his major-league debut in May and has logged a 4.47 ERA in 19 starts. He’s shown improvement this season and has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts.
10. Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Cubs
ERA: 4.65 IP: 69 2/3 SO: 58 BB: 20
A sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2019, Hayden Wesneski was acquired by the Cubs at the 2022 trade deadline in the deal for reliever Scott Effross. Wesneski got off to a fast start this year in Triple A, posting a 1.35 ERA in five starts before being called to the majors. He has held his own in 11 starts and nine relief appearances, though he’s yielded 17 home runs in 69 2/3 innings. Opposing batters have hit .132 against his sweeper, his most-used pitch.
(Top photo of Corbin Carroll: Nick Wosika / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)