A rookie class for the ages in 2012 featured unsurpassed top-shelf talent with the likes of Yu Darvish, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout. While this year's class may not quite hit those high notes, it offers considerable depth, especially on the pitching side of the ledger, where one could comfortably fill three rotations with high-end rookie starters.
Consider the pitchers who did not make this year's all-rookie team: Chris Archer (Rays), Tony Cingrani (Reds), Sonny Gray (Athletics), Wily Peralta (Brewers), Martin Perez (Rangers), Danny Salazar (Indians), Dan Straily (Athletics), Michael Wacha (Cardinals), Alex Wood (Braves) and Zack Wheeler (Mets). How many of those arms would you not want in your dynasty league farm system?
The position-player depth was less impressive, though the Rays' Wil Myers and the Dodgers'Yasiel Puig will both be patrolling right field for a long time while being annual threats to win the home run crown. They didn't shine as brightly while exhausting their rookie eligibility, but Rangers middle infielder Jurickson Profar and Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich also have star potential.
Two of the National League's premier organizations are also two of the best represented on this rookie team. The Cardinals introduced three more impact players to their major league roster, calling on first baseman Matt Adams, righthander Shelby Miller and set-up man Trevor Rosenthal. The Braves, meanwhile, received contributions from catcher/left fielder Evan Gattisand righthander Julio Teheran that helped push them to 96 wins and their first NL East division title since 2005.
Not to be outdone, the NL's two other playoff teams also have rookie-team representatives. The Dodgers scored big on the international market with right fielder Yasiel Puig and lefthanderHyun-Jin Ryu, while the Pirates received four months of strong pitching from righthander Gerrit Cole.
Note: Indians catcher Yan Gomes and Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin are not eligible for the AL rookie of the year award because they had too much service time in past seasons.
C Evan Gattis • Braves
In a season in which several top catching prospects made their big league debuts-among themTravis d'Arnaud (Mets), Tony Sanchez (Pirates) and Mike Zunino (Mariners)-Gattis outshined them all, swatting 21 home runs to rank fourth on a Braves club that led the NL in longballs. The only catch: Gattis started just 10 games at catcher during the final three months of the season, deferring to Brian McCann and Gerald Laird. In fact, he got into the lineup more often in left field (47 games) than behind the plate (38) overall.
1B Matt Adams • Cardinals
For most teams, losing a first baseman the caliber of Allen Craig, who collected 97 RBIs in 134 games thanks to a .454 average with runners in scoring position, would spell certain doom. Not so for the Cardinals, who simply plugged in Adams, the ready-and-able rookie who hit .315/.344/.609 with eight homers in 25 September games while covering for the hobbled Craig. The Cardinals hope that trend continues in the postseason because they'll be without Craig for at least the Division Series versus the Pirates.
2B Jedd Gyorko • Padres
Gyorko entered the season with all of 51 games of experience at second base in the minors, but he exited the season as one of the Padres' primary run-producers and the entrenched regular at the keystone. In the process, he became just the fifth rookie second sacker to hit 20 home runs-joining Joe Gordon (1938), Dan Uggla (2006), Alexei Ramirez (2008) and Danny Espinosa (2011)-though the feat has become more common as teams favor offense at the position. In fact, Gyorko led all rookies with 23 homers, despite calling cavernous Petco Park home. Among the second basemen to challenge him for all-rookie honors were the Mariners' Nick Franklin, the Brewers' Scooter Gennett and the Nationals' Anthony Rendon.
3B Nolan Arenado • Rockies
The Rockies have been down this road before with Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson, homegrown third basemen they selected out of high school in the early rounds of the draft. Arenado received a giant Coors Field boost, batting just .238/.267/.352 with five homers in 67 road games, but he had so little rookie competition at the hot corner-the Phillies' Cody Asche hit well in a small sample-that his substandard offense paired with a terrific glove carried the day. Advanced fielding metrics indicate that Arenado contributed defensive value on par with Gold Glove-caliber third basemen Evan Longoria or Manny Machado, but that his bat was as light as former Chatworth (Calif.) High teammates Matt Dominguez and Mike Moustakas.
SS Jose Iglesias • Tigers
Faced with an impending 50-game suspension for all-star shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers executed a three-team trade on July 30 in which they sacrificed top prospect Avisail Garcia to acquire the slick-fielding Iglesias from the Red Sox. The Cuban shortstop hit an unprecedented (and unsustainable) .367/.417/.461 in 199 plate appearances for Boston in the first half, so even as he regressed to a .235/.274/.306 batting line (183 PAs) in the second half, he continued to provide a reliable glove behind Tigers starters Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, two of the most extreme groundball pitchers in the majors. Iglesias' primary rookie shortstop competition consisted of the Mariners' Brad Miller and the Pirates' Jordy Mercer, two college shortstops with greater offensive upside, and the Diamondbacks' Didi Gregorius, a gifted defender who similarly started hot and then tailed off down the stretch.
CF A.J. Pollock • Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks expected to receive strong defensive contributions from a table-setting rookie center fielder this season. They just didn't expect that center fielder to be Pollock. The organization had paved the way for the overachieving Adam Eaton to play every day in 2013, but a spring-training elbow injury scuttled those plans, and Pollock stepped forward in a big way. He made more starts and produced more offense than any member of a thin rookie center-field crop that includes the Astros' Brandon Barnes, the Mets' Juan Lagares and the Brewers' Logan Schafer.
OF Wil Myers • Rays
The Rays went 36-33 prior to Myers' arrival on June 18, and then 56-38 (.596) afterward as he led all AL rookies with 23 doubles and 53 RBIs-the Twins' Oswaldo Arcia had one more home run-while adding a power-and-patience dimension to Tampa Bay's lineup. Of course, Myers' arrival coincided with ace David Price finding his groove following a disabled-list stint (9-4, 2.53 in 18 starts) and rookie righthander Chris Archer fully maturing from thrower to pitcher (8-5, 3.01 in 20 starts). All told, Myers hit 27 home runs between Triple-A Durham and the majors, so profile power for right field will not be an issue.
OF Yasiel Puig • Dodgers
Though he plays the game with a flair that rubs some opponents the wrong way, Puig hit .319/.391/.534 to lead all rookies with at least 400 plate appearances in average, OBP, slugging percentage and isolated power (.215). Like Myers, his performance leaves no doubt about future power production in right field, not after belting 27 homers between Double-A Chattanooga and the Dodgers. His arrival in Los Angeles on June 3 also coincided with returns to form by Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez, leading the Dodgers to a 69-38 (.645) record the rest of the way. Pitchers succeeded in expanding Puig's strike zone early in the year, but he stabilized his hitting approach in August and September, batting .273/.373/.487 with 21 extra-base hits in 54 games and a workable 24-to-46 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
DH Kole Calhoun • Angels
While he's nobody's idea of a profile corner outfielder, the 5-foot-10 Calhoun has done nothing but hit while being pushed aggressively up the ladder. The 2010 eighth-rounder from Arizona State brandishes a .943 OPS in minor league play, and this season he made the most of playing time in Anaheim created by injuries to Peter Bourjos and Albert Pujols. Making 45 starts in right field and four others at first base, Calhoun delivered an .808 OPS with a strong batting eye, and he offers more upside going forward than other hard-hitting corner rookies such as the Brewers'Khris Davis or the Phillies' Darin Ruf.
SP Gerrit Cole • Pirates
Cole was one of two rookie starters this season to record an average fastball velocity of 95 mph or greater while working at least 50 innings. He averaged 95.5 to rank a close second to the Indians' Danny Salazar at 95.9. For a pitcher who has been heavily scrutinized since turning down the Yankees as a first-round pick in 2008, then going No. 1 overall in the draft three years later, Cole has not wilted under the extra pressure. His performance with Pittsburgh, particularly the 3.57 K-BB ratio, was the best of his pro career.
SP Jose Fernandez • Marlins
Fernandez was so good, so young that he turned in the best season by an age-20 pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1985, nearly 30 seasons ago. How times have changed. Doctor K went 24-4, 1.53 with 268 strikeouts in 277 innings, more than 100 additional innings than Fernandez this season. The young Marlins ace led the NL with a .182 opponent average and all rookies with a 2.19 ERA, 187 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP, expertly deploying a power fastball-curveball repertoire.
SP Shelby Miller • Cardinals
The Cardinals demonstrate as well as any organization that player development doesn't stop once a player dons a major league uniform. They've been remarkably successful while breaking in numerous rookie pitchers, such as Miller and Michael Wacha this season, Joe Kelly last year, Lance Lynn in 2011 and Jaime Garcia in 2010-not to mention countless relievers. Miller could be the best of the lot if he can extend his first-half success this year-2.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.86 K-BB ratio-over a complete season.
SP Hyun-Jin Ryu • Dodgers
Ryu had no trouble slotting into the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as he transitioned from the Korean major league to the NL. While he didn't provide the jaw-dropping highs of the other pitchers here-or the impact of Myers or teammate Puig-he did deliver the most innings by a rookie (192) while not hurting himself with walks, home runs or stolen bases. Opponents succeeded on only one of three steal attempts despite Ryu's heavy diet of changeups (22 percent of the time), sliders (14) and curves (10).
SP Julio Teheran • Braves
Teheran ran up a 5.08 ERA at Triple-A in 2012, so he entered this season with the lowest of expectations. He reversed his fortune by de-emphasizing his four-seam fastball and changeup in favor of a two-seamer and slider, and positive results followed. Teheran led all rookie starters with a 3.78 K-BB ratio while logging 30 starts and 186 innings. After a dry period in the 2000s, the Braves system has once again been cranking out starting pitchers such as Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson (whom they traded just before his collapse), Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Teheran and Alex Wood. Give them credit for Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill, too, whom they used to pry Justin Upton away from the Diamondbacks.
RP Trevor Rosenthal • Cardinals
A 21st-round pick out of junior college in Kansas in 2009, Rosenthal may be the player-development success story in a Cardinals system full of them. The converted shortstop shot through the minors to assume a place of prominence in the St. Louis bullpen during the 2012 postseason. Rosenthal relies on little more than a 95-97 mph fastball he throws nine out of 10 times to strike out a rookie reliever-best 35 percent of batters faced. What's more, the only rookie reliever with at least 40 innings to generate a higher rate of swinging strikes than Rosenthal (14.7 percent) was Dodgers lefty Paco Rodriguez (15.8 percent).