Every year in Major League Baseball a new batch of rookies breaks into the show and stuns the fans. This season was different, though. The number of standout rookies could fill a list a mile long. From Pete Alonso’s record-breaking home run campaign to Mike Soroka’s incredible pitching dominance, the new kids on the block made it look like they’d be there for years. These are the best rookies from MLB in 2019, which just might be the most impressive class of all-time!
Note: These numbers are overall rookie numbers, which isn’t limited to the 2019 season per MLB’s definition of “rookie status.”
Pete Alonso Smashed As Many Balls As Possible
The only rookie position player with a WAR (wins above replacement) over five was Pete Alonso. Nicknamed the “Polar Bear,” Alonso made a name for himself crushing balls over the fence. Not only did he win the 2019 Home Run Derby, but he also broke the rookie record for home runs in a season with time to spare.
It’s not often a rookie can put themselves in the Rookie of the Year conversation and the Most Valuable Player conversation, but that’s exactly what Pete Alonso did. With a future as bright as they come, all of New York should be happy he doesn’t play for another city.
Fernando Tatis Jr. Proved Himself A Year Early
Fernando Tatis Jr. wasn’t supposed to play for the San Diego Padres in 2019. The team wanted to avoid letting him hit free agency early and planned to keep him in the minors until 2020. Then Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer went to management and convinced them they were wrong.
Tatis thanked his supporters by producing a 4.3 WAR while hitting over .300. An injury during the season hurt his overall offensive numbers, but he still managed to hit over 20 home runs. With one year under his belt, there is no telling what he’ll do in 2020!
Mike Soroka Was A Pitching Powerhouse
The Braves got everything they could have hoped from and more from Mike Soroka in his rookie season. Not only did he help the Braves win the NL East, but he also won 15 games with a sub 3.00 earned run average.
Soroka, only 21-years-old, is a sure bet for Rookie of the Year consideration, although it will be tough to beat Pete Alonso. With his stats, he will also get Cy Young consideration as the best pitcher in the National League.
Bryan Reynolds Is An All-Around Player
Bryan Reynolds came to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade with the San Francisco Giants prior to the 2018 season. Desperate to compete in the NL West, the Giants gave away one of their top prospects for Andrew McCutchen. The move, you can probably guess, backfired.
In his first season in the majors, Reynolds was spectacular. He hit over .300 with a near .400 on-base percentage. Add in 83 runs and 16 home runs and you have one of the most promising rookies in the Pirates have called up in a long time.
Chris Paddack Was A Bright Spot In San Diego
Chris Paddack was easily one of the highlights of the 2019 MLB season for the San Diego Padres. Alongside Fernando Tatis Jr. his performance has given the sun-kissed team hope for the future. His 2.8 WAR was the fourth-best among rookie pitchers.
Over 140 innings, Paddack controlled the strike zone and struck out 153 batters. His 3.33 ERA was nothing to laugh at either. At just 23-years-old, Paddack has shown he has the stuff to be the ace of the Padres team for years to come.
Yordan Alvarez Dominated The American League
Few rookies in the history of Major League Baseball have made the instant impact on that game Yordan Alvarez has. Called up from the minors by the Houston Astros midseason, Alvarez dominated the league, swatting 27 home runs in just 351 plate appearances.
If he were to have gotten a full season’s worth of plate appearances (between 500 and 600) it’s likely his WAR would be around 6.0 instead of 3.9. To many analysts, there is no question about who the American League Rookie of the Year will be.
Brandon Lowe Sparked The Rays
Not only were the Tampa Bay Rays one of MLB’s best stories in 2019, but Brandon Lowe was also one of the best rookies. The team wasn’t supposed to compete for a playoff spot in the crowded AL East. Then Lowe was called up and changed everything.
In his first 121 games, Lowe knocked in 75 runs and crushed 23 homers. If he hadn’t gotten injured midseason, those numbers would be even higher. Thanks to his rookie effort, the Rays won more than 90 games and put themselves in playoff contention.
Sandy Alcantara Ate Innings
Spreading his rookie campaign across three seasons, Sandy Alcantara threw for over 200 innings, a rare accomplishment for a modern pitcher. In 2019 alone, he logged 184 innings on his arm with a 4.00 earned run average.
Unfortunately, Alcantara’s season has largely been overlooked because he plays for the Miami Marlins. The team finished with the third-fewest wins in the league, although their young pitcher’s performance should give the fans optimism for the future of the team.
Mike Yastrzemski Powered The Giants
Early in the MLB season, the San Francisco Giants were flailing at 22-34, then rookie phenom Mike Yastrzemski got hot and the team surged their way back to .500. Once seen as a throwaway player by the Orioles, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski broke out big in the Bay in 2019.
His 20 home runs on the year put him in rarefied air for a Giants’ rookie, and his 2.6 WAR shows his immense value to the team. Now the only question is whether the 28-year-old late bloomer will be back in 2020 to continue proving his worth.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. Is Just Like His Father
The son of a Hall of Famer, Vlad Guerrero Jr. surged his way through the Blue Jays minor league system. At 20-years-old he forced his way onto the roster and began making an impact right away. In 120 games with the club, he knocked in 69 runs and swatted 15 homers.
The highlight of Guerrero Jr.’s rookie campaign, however, was his involvement in the Home Run Derby. His battle against Pete Alonso made history and helped make MLB a must-watch sport again.
John Means 4.3 WAR Is Actually Pretty Nice
Since debuting at the end of the 2018 MLB season, John Means has started 20 games for the Baltimore Orioles. The team, which has been a perennial cellar dweller in recent years, can look to Means’ 3.76 ERA and 4.3 WAR as a first step back to the surface.
Throwing 153 innings over his 20 starts, Means struck out 120 batters and walked 36. That kind of strikeout-to-walk ratio shows that his rookie season is a sign of things to come and not a fluke based on luck.
Dakota Hudson Was Lights Out
Dakota Hudson started his rookie campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018 and carried over his success into 2019. In total, Hudson has pitched 197 innings with 20 wins and eight losses and earned a 2.3 WAR.
The Cardinals clinched the NL Central after a slow start to the season. We think Hudson’s presence might have had something to do with it. Under team control until he turns 30 (he’s 24), St. Louis found a gem with Hudson that they hope will help them win another World Series title soon.
Alex Verdugo Was The Luxury The Dodgers Didn’t Need
First things first, the Dodgers might not have needed Alex Verdugo to win a seventh straight NL West title, but they are happy to have him. In 343 at-bats in 2019, Verdugo knocked in 49 runs and hit .294.
As the team attempts to make their third consecutive World Series, they might just find Verdugo was the missing piece. With him, they could just have the team to bring a title back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988.
Tommy Edman Solidified The St. Louis Infield
Another key piece to the Cardinals return to October was Tommy Edman. The versatile infielder recorded a 3.5 WAR as a rookie while slashing .298/.340/.500. His skills with the bat and his skills with the glove have made him an invaluable player for the Cardinals in just his first season.
Only appearing in 87 games, Edman made his debut on June 8th and has scored 55 times since then. Still young, the team is hoping his power continues to develop, but 11 home runs in just over half a season’s worth of games are nothing to be disappointed with.
Victor Robles Helped Revive The Nationals
Like the Giants, the Washington Nationals looked dead in the water for much of the 2019 MLB season. Then Victor Robles came along and changed all that. His .253 batting average and 64 runs batted in might not look like a lot, but his 4.3 WAR shows just how valuable he’s been.
At 22-years-old, a dynamic player like Robles is the exact reason the team was able to let Bryce Harper go. Not only did he have a more value statistically this year, but he’s much more affordable, too.
Zac Gallen Might Be Toronto’s Pitching Future
Debuting with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, Zac Gallen made 15 starts on the mound and recorded a 2.81 ERA. Over the course of 80 innings pitched he struck out 96 batters and walked 36.
To continue having success, Gallen will have to work on his strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the start of his career is very promising. Considering his age, the Diamondbacks should be very excited about the core of young talent they are building at the major league level.
Cavan Biggio Is Another Legacy Addition For The Blue Jays
Like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio is the son of an MLB Hall of Famer. His father, Craig, was one of the greatest Astros in franchise history. Cavan has a long way to go to reach that status in Toronto, but the start to his career has been powerfully promising.
In 95 games, Biggio hit 16 homers and knocked in 64 runs. He struck out a ton, but as his eye becomes more decisive in the batter’s box, he should find himself on base more.
Bo Bichette Finishes The Power Trio
The Blue Jays have their core set for years to come with Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette. Bichette, the son of Rockies icon Dante Bichette, has started his career with a 2.1 WAR in 46 games. Over the course of a full 162 game schedule, we can only imagine how high it could climb.
The same can be said for his home run production, which was 11 in a small sample size. A full season’s worth of crushed balls would be a thing of beauty for the young superstar in the making.
Keston Hiura Brought Balance To The Brew Crew
Keston Hiura played 78 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019 and sported a 1.7 WAR in that time. He hit for a slash line of .301/369/574 and brought stability to the team’s infield.
Looking towards his future, Hiura is only 22-years-old and already plays like a seasoned veteran. If anything is worrisome right now, it’s his high strikeout rate (96 in 87 games), although his high power potential offsets that for the time being.
Christian Walker Finally Got His Chance
Altough Christian Walker has played in parts of MLB seasons since 2014, 2019 was technically his rookie campaign. Playing regularly for the first time at 28-years-old, Walker was sensational for the Diamondbacks, cruising his way to 27 home runs and 83 runs scored.
Because he’s older, Walker probably won’t get the same attention as other burgeoning stars in the sport. His inclusion on this list, however, proves that no one is too old to make it in MLB.