Ranking MLB's Top 10 Rookie Teammate Duos of the Last 10 Years

Joe GiglioContributor IJune 13, 2013

Ranking MLB's Top 10 Rookie Teammate Duos of the Last 10 Years

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    A quick look at the rookie pitchers leaderboard will lead one to notice a common theme while scrolling through the young names: St. Louis Cardinals arms.

    From Shelby Miller to Michael Wacha to Seth Maness to Tyler Lyons to Trevor Rosenthal to John Gast to Carlos Martinez, the best team in baseball is flush with an abundance of young, talented pitching.

    As the season progresses, Miller and Wacha have a chance to place themselves in the top tier of rookie duos in recent memory.

    While Wacha, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been placed on the quick track, he profiles as a good, if not great, arm for the remainder of this season.

    Miller, on the other hand, is good enough to challenge for the Cy Young along with the NL Rookie of the Year award.

    Five months from now, Miller and Wacha could bump one of our top rookie duos from this list. For now, they'll try to emulate baseball's top sets of rookie teammates to come along over the last decade.

    Stats, award voting results and WAR figures courtesy of the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com.

10: Craig Kimbrel-Freddie Freeman, 2011 Atlanta Braves

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    Kimbrel: 79 G, 77 IP, 127 K, 32 BB, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV, 2.4 WAR, ROY

    Freeman: 157 G, .282/.346/.448, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 67 R, 1.6 WAR, 2nd in ROY vote

    In terms of pacing the rookie field in a given year, no duo has done it better than Kimbrel and Freeman's first/second finish in the 2011 vote.

    While the closer didn't assume the full-time role until summer, the dominance out of the bullpen was Rivera-esque for the young right-hander. The idea of 127 strikeouts in 77 innings is mind-boggling, but Kimbrel was that dominant out of the gate for Atlanta.

    Freeman was outstanding, but looks even better when factoring in his durability and readiness to play from the start of the season. Atlanta didn't have to wait for him to develop, plug in a stopgap at first for two months to avoid earlier free agency or arbitration down the line or give him days off against difficult left-handed pitching.

    The young Braves first baseman was ready to be a big-time contributor from the start.







9: Huston Street-Nick Swisher, 2005 Oakland Athletics

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    Street: 67 G, 78.1 IP, 72 K, 26 BB, 1.72 ERA, 23 SV, 2.9 WAR, ROY

    Swisher: 131 G, .236/.332/.446, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 66 R, 1.6 WAR, 6th in ROY vote

    While it seemed like Billy Beane's magic wore off prior to the last two seasons, the Oakland executive kept churning out talented young players in the middle of the last decade, despite mostly mediocre results from the organization.

    Two of those young stars helped take the league by storm in 2005.

    Street, drafted and developed as a closer, didn't blow hitters away, but he has always been highly effective when healthy. In 2005, he paced the American League rookie class with an ERA under 1.75 and contributed nearly three wins.

    Swisher, one of the characters portrayed in the Moneyball draft in the Oakland war room, burst on the scene as the player we've come to know over the years. In other words, he provided power, patience and versatility from his first moments in the big leagues.

8: Dontrelle Willis-Miguel Cabrera, 2003 Florida Marlins

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    Willis: 27 GS, 160.2 IP, 142 K, 58 BB, 3.30 ERA, 4.3 WAR, ROY

    Cabrera: 87 G, .268/.325/.468, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 39 R, 0.6 WAR, 5th in ROY voting

    It's easy to forget now, but the Willis-Cabrera combination became linked in 2003, leading the Marlins to a World Series title, and was pegged to do the same when shipped to Detroit together prior to the 2008 season.

    As Cabrera has built upon his success to become the best hitter in the sport, Willis has floundered due to injury and medical conditions.

    A decade ago, they paced the NL rookie field, with Willis taking home the award by delivering over 160 innings of top-of-the-rotation performance for Jack McKeon.

    Cabrera only finished fifth in the vote, but gets extra points for his performance down the stretch and into October.


7. Zack Greinke-David DeJesus, 2004 Kansas City Royals

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    Greinke: 24 GS, 145 IP, 100 K, 26 BB, 3.97 ERA, 3.6 WAR, 4th in ROY voting

    DeJesus: 96 G, .287/.360/.402, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 58 R, 1.8 WAR, 6th in ROY voting

    Due to issues beyond the baseball field, it's almost difficult to remember the original, pre-2009 renaissance of Zack Greinke as a success, but it certainly was during his rookie campaign in 2004.

    If the 3.97 ERA doesn't stand out, take a minute to remember the landscape of the league in 2004. As the sport entered the first year of steroid testing, offense still ruled. Greinke's ERA+ equated to 120, or, to compare that to the rest of his career, the exact mark he posted in 2012.

    From the jump, Greinke was dominant when right.

    DeJesus, owner of a long, underrated career, looked like a future All-Star leadoff hitter early on in his Kansas City career. While he's still a contributor for the Chicago Cubs, the All-Star selections never followed.

6. Jeremy Hellickson-Desmond Jennings, 2011 Tampa Bay Rays

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    Hellickson: 29 GS, 189 IP, 117 K, 72 BB, 2.95 ERA, 3.7 WAR, ROY

    Jennings: 63 G, .259/.356/.449, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 44 R, 20 SB, 2.3 WAR, 7th in ROY voting

    The final night of the 2011 baseball season was a whirlwind of excitement, giving the sport a March Madness feel heading into the postseason.

    Without the rookie contributions of Hellickson and Jennings, Dan Johnson's and Evan Longoria's clutch home runs wouldn't have meant much for the Rays. In fact, it's likely that the game would have been meaningless and forgettable.

    Hellickson, despite a 4.44 FIP, outpitched his contemporaries, using a great defense to pitch to big success despite allowing an alarming level of contact. Ultimately, his 2.95 ERA paced the field of young arms.

    Jennings probably should have been called up earlier than he was, but he rewarded the patience of management by helping to jump start the offense and providing outstanding defense in the Tampa outfield.


5. Dustin Pedroia-Hideki Okajima, 2007 Boston Red Sox

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    Pedroia: 139 G, .317/.380/.442, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 86 R, 3.9 WAR, ROY

    Okajima: 66 G, 69 IP, 63 K, 17 BB, 2.22 ERA, 2.9 WAR, 6th in ROY voting

    As Pedroia's stardom has taken him from Rookie of the Year to World Series champion to MVP of the American League, it's easy to forget how much he struggled early on in the 2007 campaign, and the patience Boston showed with its young shortstop.

    At the end of play on May 1, 2007, Dustin Pedroia was hitting .172. Not only was the Rookie of the Year award out of the question, but there was serious consideration of sending the second baseman down to the minor leagues.

    From that moment on, Pedroia posted a .335/.392/.470 slash line and walked more than he struck out, helping to lead Boston into and through October.

    While it would have been acceptable to pair Daisuke Matsuzaka (4th in ROY voting, 204 IP, 8.8 K/9) with Pedroia, the choice here is underrated left-handed set-up man Okajima.

    Throughout the summer, it was Okajima who provided the bridge from Terry Francona's staff to closer Jonathan Papelbon. Along the way, he was worth nearly three wins to a 96-win squad.

4. Yoenis Cespedes-Jarrod Parker, 2012 Oakland Athletics

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    Cespedes: 129 G, .292/.356/.505, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 70 R, 16 SB, 3.7 WAR, 2nd in ROY voting

    Parker: 29 GS, 181.1 IP, 140 K, 63 BB, 3.47 ERA, 3.7 WAR, 5th in ROY voting

    Over the past calender year, the Oakland Athletics own the best record in baseball. Much of the reason for their success hinges on the duo of Cespedes and Parker.

    In 2012, both shined, helping to lead Oakland from the bottom of the AL West all the way to the top at season's end.

    Cespedes, the Cuban defector, showed up looking the part. Over the course of last season, he played the part, smashing 23 home runs despite missing over 30 games due to injury. When he was available, Oakland's lineup was considerably more dangerous.

    Parker, a former top prospect in Arizona's farm system, burst on the scene to give the A's quality, bulk innings.

    The most recent duo on our list has many, many years left together in Oakland.

3: Jason Heyward-Jonny Venters, 2010 Atlanta Braves

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    Heyward: 142 G, .297/.393/.456, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 83 R, 11 SB, 6.4 WAR, 2nd in ROY voting

    Venters: 79 G, 83 IP, 93 K, 39 BB, 1.95 ERA, 1.27 WAR, 8th in ROY voting

    From the Opening Day home run against the Chicago Cubs to the stellar all-around play throughout the summer, Heyward paced all MLB rookies in 2010 with a WAR over six. In fact, he trailed only Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki in WAR for National League position players.

    Venters, the rising Braves relief ace before Craig Kimbrel, dominated opponents with outrageous movement on his sinker and two-seam fastball, giving the playoff bound Braves a lights out left-handed option out of the pen.

2. Joey Votto-Edinson Volquez, 2008 Cincinnati Reds

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    Votto: 151 G, .297/.368/.506, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 69 R, 3.3 WAR, 2nd in ROY voting

    Volquez: 32 GS, 196 IP, 206 K, 93 BB, 3.21 ERA, 4.5 WAR, 4th in ROY voting

    Before Joey Votto burst on the scene as a perennial MVP candidate and hitting savant, he was an underrated star for the Reds in 2008, posting an 825 OPS+ and playing excellent defense at first base.

    As the years passed, Cincinnati fans widely regretted the Volquez-Josh Hamilton trade, but in 2008, it looked like a wash. While Hamilton was establishing himself as one of the best all-around players in the sport, Volquez struck out more than a batter per inning en route to winning 17 games.

    Five years later, both are struggling, but it's been Hamilton who profiled as one of the best in the game for a five-year stretch before this season.

    Meanwhile, Volquez's first year remains his best, as he's been unable to command his offerings and reclaim his former, dominant stuff.

1. Hanley Ramirez-Josh Johnson, 2006 Florida Marlins

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    Ramirez: 158 G, .292/.353/.480, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 119 R, 51 SB, 4.8 WAR, ROY

    Johnson: 24 GS, 157 IP, 133 K, 68 BB, 3.10 ERA, 3.6 WAR, 4th in ROY voting

    Bring up the names Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson in a conversation today with Marlins fans and it's likely that head shakes, eye rolls and looks of disappointment will follow.

    Yet, at one point, there might not have been a franchise with better building blocks to enter the league together than the Florida Marlins with Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson in 2006.

    Considering that Dan Uggla, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Willingham also debuted this season, it was easy to imagine those Marlins winning for a long, long time.

    Of course, it didn't happen that way, but Hanley and Johnson were as good as advertised during that summer.

    While Johnson was working his way up to staff ace, dominant power-righty and future stud Hanley owned the National League from the moment he stepped on the field.

    Between the power and speed, comparisons to a young Alex Rodriguez were not without merit.

    As good as some of the rookie combinations in baseball have been recently, it's tough to imagine any duo topping Ramirez-Johnson in the near future.

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