With the season winding down, let’s take a look at the top rookies at each position in 2016.
Ever since Mike Trout and Bryce Harper took the league by storm in 2012, teams have been calling up prospects at a rapid pace in hopes of molding the next young superstar. While this year’s rookie class isn’t as pronounced as the one we saw in 2015, there are still players who have made a significant impact on their respected clubs.
Catcher – Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Sanchez has exploded onto the scene with his unprecedented display of power, as he’s the fastest player in MLB history to reach 19 home runs, needing only 45 games to do so. Since he was called up on August 3, Sanchez leads all big league hitters with an eye-popping 189 wRC+ and 1.103 OPS. The only knock on Sanchez that would prevent him from receiving Rookie of the Year honors is that he’s accumulated just over 200 plate appearances, which could result in voters casting their nomination elsewhere given the relatively small sample size.
First Base – Tommy Joseph, Philadelphia Phillies
Joseph battled concussions and other ailments throughout his minor league career before finally getting promoted to the big leagues earlier this year. Originally a catcher, Joseph switched positions to first base last season to reduce the risk of injury. Now fully healthy, the 25-year-old has forced his way into a platoon situation with Ryan Howard and is making the most of the opportunities he’s been given, slashing .259/.309/.511 with 21 home runs, the third most among rookies.
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Second Base – Ryan Schimpf, San Diego Padres
At the age of 28, Schimpf is unsurprisingly the oldest rookie in this year’s crop. He spent seven seasons in the Blue Jays organization prior to signing as a free agent with the Padres this past offseason. Schimpf has served as the team’s cleanup hitter for the majority of 2016 and has exhibited some serious pop in his bat, hitting 19 homers while his .312 isolated power is the highest of any player in the big leagues with a minimum of 300 plate appearances.
Shortstop – Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Forget Rookie of the Year. Seager has put up MVP-caliber numbers in his first full season as a Dodger while propelling the club to their fourth consecutive division title. Not only has Seager already established himself as baseball’s top shortstop, but he’s been the second most valuable player in the National League behind Kris Bryant in terms of WAR, while his 142 wRC+, .313 average, 40 doubles, and 103 runs scored all crack the top five.
Third Base – Ryon Healy, Oakland Athletics
All Healy has done is tear the cover off the ball since he was awarded a promotion following the All-Star break. He leads all American League rookies in hits (73) and runs (32) in the second half of the season while ranking second in home runs (12), runs batted in (33), and doubles (16). There hasn’t been much to get excited about in Oakland this year, but Healy has certainly given Athletics fans a glimmer of hope moving forward.
Outfield – Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
In a year that Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman have struggled, Turner has picked up the slack as the team’s table-setter, slashing .340/.360/.563 while his 31 multi-hit games after the All-Star break are in the top five among National Leaguers. Turner is just one of four players who has hit at least 10 homers and stolen 25 bases while posting an OPS above .900, joining All-Stars Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, and Paul Goldschmidt. It’s no coincidence that the Nationals have scored the sixth-most runs in the league since his arrival to Washington after placing in the middle of the pack prior to that.
Outfield – Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians
Naquin wasn’t expected to make Cleveland’s Opening Day roster, but the center fielder earned a spot following a head-turning spring training. His bat has seamlessly translated over to the regular season, as his 138 wRC+ and .900 OPS not only lead the Indians, but rank in the top 10 among all big league outfielders.
Outfield – Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers
Mazara has been a key contributor for a Rangers team that possesses the most wins in the American League. The highly-touted prospect is every bit as good as advertised, hitting .271/.324/.428 while becoming the first Rangers rookie to hit 20 homers in a season since Mark Teixera in 2003. At just 21 years old, the sky is the limit for him.
Pitcher – Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Fulmer solidified his case as AL Rookie of the Year in his last outing, pitching seven strong innings of one-run baseball while striking out nine and walking zero. The prized piece in the Yoenis Cespedes trade last year has an AL-best 2.95 ERA to go along with a 1.09 WHIP and .224 batting average against, both of which are fifth in the league. With one start remaining, Fulmer needs 6 1/3 innings to qualify for the ERA title, which is something a rookie pitcher hasn’t accomplished since Detroit’s own Mark Fidrych in 1976.