Here, we will do our end-of-season rankings before we do a Rookie of the Year award review after the playoffs.
1. Corbin Carroll, CF — Arizona Diamondbacks
A superstar is born. This wasn’t a flash in a pan, this was an all-year, under-pressure onslaught of major-league pitching and exemplary defense in the outfield. One aspect that most don’t take into account is a rookie performing under must-win situations. The Diamondbacks are now in the playoffs and needed Carroll to perform day-in and day-out in order to get there. The rookie outfielder finishes with a slash line of .285/.362/.506 with a 133 wRC+ and an fWAR of 5.9, which was good for No. 8 in the National League. Welcome to stardom, Corbin.
2. Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS — Baltimore Orioles
The rookie infielder (just 22-years-old) finished the season on an absolute tear. 125 wRC+ since September 1 in 129 plate appearances and the power is beginning to show. six home runs, eight doubles and three triples in that time frame and an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph. For the season, he finishes first in American League fWAR (5.8) among rookies and has my vote for AL rookie of the year.
3. James Outman, OF — Los Angeles Dodgers
While Outman continues to have strikeout issues (30% in September) he also continues to be above-average at the plate (113 wRC+ in September). He holds an fWAR of 4.3 in 2023, good for No. 3 among batters in MLB behind only Carroll and Henderson. The surge of above average offense at the plate late in the year really helps his ranking here. He’s faced intense scrutiny playing for the Los Angeles, especially when he had a June where he hosted a 55 wRC+ at the plate in 74 plate appearances. But he bounced back and continues to produce at a high level and hopes to do so into the playoffs.
4. Tanner Bibee, RHP — Cleveland Guardians
Nothing has changed for the standout rookie right-hander. His three starts in September were phenomenal (2.60 ERA in 17.1 IP) and he continues to show he should be at the top of the rotation for Cleveland for years to come. He ranks second in FIP (3.52) in the majors among all rookies with over 100 innings pitched, and No. 8 in ERA (2.98) in all of MLB among pitchers with 100 innings or more. He ranks No. 13 in LOB% (runners left on base %) in MLB (Shohei Ohtani is No. 12) with an 80% clip in that category. Bibee figures to be a fixture in the Cleveland rotation for years to come.
5. Nolan Jones, OF — Colorado Rockies
Yes, Jones is 25-years-old and only had 424 plate appearances in 2023, but look what he did with them. .297/.389/.542 slash line for a 135 wRC+ and 20 bombs. He’s ready, he’s rolling. He’s looked good on the base-paths with a 2.9 BsR and defensively has been adequate with a 5.8 UZR/150 (runs above average per 150 defensive games). One wonders if the Rockies figure for Jones to be on their roster for awhile, or sell high this off-season to jump their undeniable rebuild.
6. Kodai Senga, RHP — New York Mets
Why doesn’t everybody have a ghost forkball? Specifically, one that leads to a .110 batting average on the 663 times it has been thrown. It’s a shame we wont see Senga’s stuff in the playoffs, because it sure is pretty. The 30-year-old rookie finished 2023 with a 2.98 ERA and a 3.64 FIP in 166.1 innings pitched. The reason Senga is No. 6 on this list is the previously stated age, but this was an immaculate first season in the major leagues for the righty.
7. Matt McLain, INF — Cincinnati Reds
McLain’s campaign was stopped short by injury (oblique, out since August 28) but everything prior to that suggests McLain will be a stalwart in the Cincinnati lineup for years to come. A .290/.357/.507 slash line for the year on 403 plate appearances is phenomenal. The 24-year-old right-handed hitter did strikeout at an above average clip (28.5%) but with the contact ability that figures to improve. McLain did get a ton of fastballs this year (over 50% of pitches thrown at him) so the league will likely start to shift to breaking balls to see if he can handle them. Look to see how McLain adjusts to that in 2024.
8. Josh Jung, 3B — Texas Rangers
Jung is a guy who likely had his Rookie-of-the-year award derailed by injury. However, his September (38 wRC+ in 54 PA) wouldn’t have helped. Despite that, he still had a top-notch rookie year. Ranking No. 10 in fWAR among all American League rookies and defensively, playing the hot corner at an above average clip. The Rangers hope Jung can turn it on at the plate in the postseason against the Rays to help them advance, although with Henderson and Bibee in the running, it is probably too little, too late for Jung to win ROY.
9. Bryce Miller, RHP — Seattle Mariners
The hard-throwing righty had an up-and-down season. But in 131.1 innings he posted a FIP under four (3.98) while having extremely limited secondary pitches to go to (Miller threw the fastball 58.5% of the time). If the young righty can develop a plus breaking ball that is more than just a strike-stealing pitching… lookout. The slider may be on its way with just a .202 BA against it in the 397 times it was thrown. But the movement needs to get better, as it was below-average in both vertical and horizontal movement compared to other sliders thrown in the majors this year.
10. Spencer Steer, INF — Cincinnati Reds
This was almost a spot for Francisco Alvarez, but the numbers at the plate for Steer are just too hard to ignore. 25-years-old, playing 1B/3B and earning a 118 wRC+ in 665 plate appearances. The rookie infielder is striking out under 22% of the time and carries a BB% over 10%. If Steer can add some power (23 home runs in 2023) and push his home run total closer to 30 or more going forward, he is an all-star.
Here’s to hoping the Reds are able to find some quality pitching on the market this winter. In the event they do, they’ll be scary.
More than one of these guys will impact the playoffs, so lookout for our rookie rankings after the postseason.
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