The 15 Best MLB Rookies of 2013
While the 2012 rookie class stood out for its quality—thanks to phenoms Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout— this year’s crop of talent will be remembered for its depth on both sides of the ball. However, that doesn’t mean it was short on impact talent.
21-year-old right-hander Jose Fernandez emerged as the Miami Marlins ace this year after making the jump from High-A to the major leagues and ultimately turning in one of the best seasons by a rookie pitcher in baseball history.
Across the country, Yasiel Puig became an immediate star for the Los Angeles Dodgers following his arrival in early June, as his five loud tools and an all-out playing style made the 22-year-old outfielder must-see television on a nightly basis.
Beyond Fernandez and Puig, though, the rest of this year’s rookie class may as well be lumped together as the “field.”
But with so many high-profile rookies playing in the postseason, I thought it would be interesting to see how they stacked up against each other during the regular season.
In order to do so, I first examined each player’s respective statistics from the year, comparing their production to other rookies while taking FanGraphs’ WAR totals into consideration. Because rookies—like prospects—are highly unpredictable, I also favored players who were consistent and enjoyed sustained success for either all or a majority of the season. And lastly, I assessed each player’s impact in relation to his team’s overall success.
Here’s my take on the top 15 rookies from the 2013 season.
15. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
2013 Stats: .267/.301/.405, 43 XBH (10 HR), 52 RBI, 72/23 K/BB, 2.7 fWAR (133 G)
Season Highlight: A California native, Arenado collected his first hit and home run on April 29 (his second career game) in front of friends and family at Dodger Stadium.
Breakdown: Nolan Arenado was one of the first big-name prospects promoted the major leagues this season, getting the call on April 28 after only 18 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Though his production varied from month to month, the 22-year-old quietly had a solid season as one of the younger everyday players in the major leagues. He led all rookies with 130 hits and 29 doubles.
But perhaps the most impressive facet of Arenado’s game this season was his Gold Glove-caliber defense at the hot corner. According to FanGraphs.com, his 30 DRS (defensive runs saved) ranked fifth among all eligible position players and second among third baseman, behind Manny Machado (35 DRS), while his 22.5 UZR/150 (ultimate zone rate per 150 games) was good for eighth overall.
14. Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres
2013 Stats: .249/.301/.444, 49 XBH (23 HR), 63 RBI, 123/33 K/BB, 2.5 fWAR (125 G)
Season Highlight: Gyorko notched the first multi-homer game of his career on Aug. 23 against the Chicago Cubs as part of a 3-for-4 effort.
Breakdown: One of the few prospects to make an Opening Day roster, Jedd Gyorko would have ranked within the top-10 on this list had it not been for a groin strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list for parts of June and July.
In general, the 25-year-old was one of baseball’s more productive young hitters this season. Gyorko led all rookies with 23 home runs while ranking second in RBI (63), third in doubles (26) and fifth in hits (121).
13. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Atlanta Braves
2013 Stats: .243/.291/.480, 42 XBH (21 HR), 65 RBI, 81/21 K/BB, 0.9 fWAR (105 G)
Season Highlight: Gattis opened his big-league career by capturing back-to-back NL Rookie of the Month awards in April and May. Also, his 486-foot home run against the Phillies on Sept. 9 was the longest of the 2013 season.
Breakdown: Evan Gattis definitely gets the nod for the feel-good story of the 2013 season.
The 27-year-old rookie posted a .952 OPS with 12 home runs and 32 RBI over his first two months (43 games) in the major leagues. However, his playing time diminished following Brian McCann’s return from injury, and it fell even more so when he hit the disabled list in mid-June with a strained oblique.
After a brief demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett late in August, Gattis was recalled from the minor leagues when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1. “El Oso Blanco” looked more like himself self upon returning to The Show, as he posted a .780 OPS with six home runs and 18 RBI in 25 games over the final month of the season. His 65 RBI this season was also the highest total among all rookies.
12. Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers
2013 Stats: 10-6, 124.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .267 BAA, 84/37 K/BB, 1.6 fWAR (20 GS)
Season Highlight: Perez tossed the first complete game of his career on Aug. 11, holding the Astros to one run on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
Breakdown: Martin Perez opened the season on the 15-day disabled list after he was struck on the left forearm by a line drive during a spring-training outing, which fractured his ulna.
Though he was promoted to the major leagues in late May, Perez didn’t truly settle in until August, when he posted a stellar 5-0 record, 3.06 ERA and 26/11 K/BB ratio in 35.1 innings. As a result of his success, Perez was named the AL Rookie of the Month for August.
11. Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Stats: 9-7, 128.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .226 BAA, 101/38 K/BB, 1.2 fWAR (23 GS)
Season Highlight: Chris Archer tossed the first complete-game shutout of his career on July 14 at home against the Houston Astros. Yeah, I know—it was the Astros; big deal. However, just two starts later on July 27, the rookie right-hander fired a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium.
Breakdown: Recalled from Triple-A Durham in early June, Archer—like teammate Wil Myers—was a key contributor during the Rays’ mid-season hot streak. The 25-year-old right-hander was named as both the AL Rookie of the Month and the AL Pitcher of the Month for July after he went 4-0 with two complete-game shutouts and a 0.73 ERA in 37 innings (five starts).
However, Archer’s stock fell steadily over the following months, and he finished the regular season by posting a 4.78 ERA in five September starts.
10. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 2-4, 3 SV, 75.1 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .223 BAA, 108/20 K/BB, 2.2 fWAR (74 G)
Season Highlight: After giving up an earned run against the Nationals on April 24, Rosenthal put together a streak of 20 consecutive scoreless appearances that lasted until June 17. During that span, he struck out 30 batters compared to only three walks in 21.1 innings.
Breakdown: Trevor Rosenthal opened everyone’s eyes during the 2012 playoffs by dominating some of baseball’s best hitters during the NLDS and NLCS. Logging 8.2 scoreless innings over seven appearances as the Cardinals’ setup man, the hard-throwing right-hander allowed just four baserunners (two hits, two walks) while striking out 15 batters.
This season, it was more of the same, as Rosenthal established himself as arguably the top eighth-inning arm in baseball by fanning 108 batters in only 75.1 innings (12.9 K/9). The 23-year-old also showcased his obvious potential as a closer over the final two weeks of the season after taking over for a struggling Edward Mujica.
9. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 15-9, 173.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .234 BAA, 169/57 K/BB, 2.1 fWAR (31 GS)
Season Highlight: Starting at home against the Colorado Rockies on May 10, Shelby Miller surrendered a leadoff single to Eric Young, Jr. before retiring the next 27 hitters in order.
Breakdown: Miller was outstanding during the first half of the season, posting a 2.92 ERA and 112/29 K/BB ratio in 104.2 innings over 18 starts. However, the 22-year-old noticeably wore down following the All-Star break and logged only one quality start in August. And while he didn’t miss as many bats as he did earlier in the season, Miller did rebound nicely in September with a 2.76 ERA over five starts.
Miller can also be credited for stabilizing the Cardinals’ rotation throughout the season amidst the injuries and ineffectiveness of the team’s other starting pitchers (specifically, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter).
8. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 Stats: 10-7, 117.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .253 BAA, 100/28 K/BB, 2.1 fWAR (19 GS)
Season Highlight: In his second-to-last regular-season start on Sept. 19, Cole allowed one earned run on four hits and three walks while striking out a career-high 12 batters.
Breakdown: Selected by the Pirates with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole entered the 2013 season ranked as one of baseball’s top prospects. And after spending roughly two months at Triple-A Indianapolis, the 23-year-old was finally called up to the major leagues in early June.
Cole initially struggled with his command following the promotion and was knocked around at times, but the quality of his stuff enabled the 23-year-old to consistently minimize the damage.
In addition to posting a 2.85 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 75.2 innings over 12 starts after the All-Star break, Cole stepped up in a big way when the club needed him most during the final month of the season. Making five starts in the heat of the playoff race, the right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 39/10 K/BB ratio in 32 innings.
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats: 14-8, 192 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .252 BAA, 154/49 K/BB, 3.1 fWAR (30 GS)
Season Highlight: Ryu held opposing hitters to a .228 batting average this season with runners in scoring position.
Breakdown: Signed by the Dodgers for $36 million last winter after an impressive tenure in the Korean Baseball Organization, left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu was everything the Dodgers expected him to be this season, logging 192 innings as the team’s third starter and making all but one scheduled start.
Compared to other rookie starters in the National League, the 26-year-old ranked among the best in numerous categories: Ryu led the league with 192 innings pitched, ranked second in wins (14), third in ERA among staring pitchers (3.00) and fourth in strikeouts (154).
6. Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians
2013 Stats: .294/.345/.481, 45 R, 31 XBH (11 HR), 67/18 K/BB, 3.7 fWAR (88 G)
Season Highlight: Yan Gomes had a game to remember on May 20 against the Seattle Mariners, going 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs, including a walk-off three-run blast in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Breakdown: The first Brazilian-born player to reach the major leagues, Gomes was an unsung hero for the Indians this season. After opening the year as the team’s backup catcher, Gomes ultimately took over as the primary backstop later in the season thanks to a consistent bat and outstanding defense.
In 49 games following the All-Star break, the 26-year-old batted .319/.385/.485 with 17 extra-base hits and 18 RBI. However, Gomes’ true value stems from his defensive prowess behind the plate. Appearing in 85 games at catcher for the Tribe, Gomes posted a 40.8 percent caught-stealing rate (20-of-49) while saving 11 runs, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
5. Jose Iglesias, SS, Detroit Tigers
2013 Stats: .303/.349/.386, 21 XBH, 5 SB, 60/15 K/BB, 1.8 fWAR (109 G)
Season Highlight: Um, did you watch the above video?
Breakdown: Jose Iglesias was acquired from Boston shortly before the trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Chicago White Sox. The 23-year-old played out of his mind during his time with the Red Sox, posting a .785 OPS with 71 hits in 63 games. However, he was in the midst of an expected regression when the Tigers landed him in late July.
While he's held his own at the plate since joining Detroit, Iglesias was targeted primarily for his slick, highlight-reel-worthy defense, adding athleticism, consistency and range to an otherwise sluggish infield.
4. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2013 Stats: 14-8, 185.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .246 BAA, 170/45 K/BB, 2.4 fWAR (30 GS)
Season Highlight: Teheran carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Pirates on June 5 before surrendering a two-out single to Brandon Inge. He also struck out a career-high 11 hitters in the outing.
Breakdown: After a pair of unsuccessful auditions with the Braves in 2011 and 2012, Julio Teheran emerged as the team’s most consistent and effective starter. The 22-year-old’s would-be breakout campaign began ominously with a 5.08 ERA in five April starts.
However, over the next four months, the right-hander was one of the top starters in the National League, registering a 2.57 ERA with 128 strikeouts in 133 innings spanning 21 starts. Additionally, 17 of Teheran’s 30 starts this season were of the quality variety, and he stuck out six-plus hitters on 15 occasions.
3. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Stats: .293/.354/.478, 50 R, 36 XBH (13 HR), 53 RBI, 5 SB, 91/33 K/BB, 2.4 fWAR (88 G)
Season Highlight: Wil Myers hit the first home run of his career on June 22—a two-out, opposite-field grand slam off CC Sabathia in the top of the sixth inning.
Breakdown: The should-be Rookie of the Year in the American League, Myers was the driving force behind Tampa Bays’ midseason surge into playoff contention. In his first 36 games in the major leagues, the 22-year-old batted .331/.372/.528 with seven home runs and 27 RBI.
Myers’ only blip on the radar this season was the entire month of August, when he posted a .631 OPS with 29 strikeouts in 24 games. However, he returned to form in September with a .904 OPS, 17 extra-base hits and 14 RBI in 28 games.
As was the case with Puig, Myers played a major role in the Rays’ overall success this season following his promotion to the major leagues on June 18, as the team amassed a 52-36 record with him in the lineup.
2. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats: .319/.391/.534, 66 R, 42 XBH (19 HR), 11 SB, 97/36 K/BB, 4.0 fWAR (104 G)
Season Highlight: His entire first week in the major leagues.
Breakdown: Though Fernandez will likely take home Rookie of the Year honors in the National League, 2013 will be remembered as the "Year of Puig."
At the time of his promotion from Double-A Chattanooga to the major leagues on June 3, the Dodgers were last in the NL West with a 23-32 record and 7.5 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
With big-name players Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford all missing time with respective injuries, Puig can be credited for the Dodgers’ dramatic turnaround this season. Following his arrival in early June, the 22-year-old outfielder took baseball by storm, batting .436/.467/.713 with 44 hits and seven home runs in his first month with the Dodgers.
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, Puig was the first player since Joe DiMaggio in 1936 to collect 70-plus hits and 10-plus homers in his first 50 career games. Most importantly, in the 104 games in which he was in the lineup this season, the team posted a 66-38 record.
However, Puig’s production steadily regressed over the subsequent months, while his all-out style of play resulted in a slew of minor injuries. In September, he posted a season-worst .214 batting average and .333 on-base percentage over 26 games.
Now, imagine the numbers Puig might have put up had he not spent the first two months of the season in the minor leagues.
1. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats: 12-6, 172.2 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .182 BAA, 187/58 K/BB, 4.2 fWAR (28 GS)
Season Highlight: (Insert favorite Jose Fernandez achievement here.)
Breakdown: Jose Fernandez turned in one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history this year and.In fact, as I wrote about in August, it was arguably the greatest ever by pitcher in his age-20 season. That's not too shabby for a kid making the nearly unprecedented jump from High-A to the major leagues.
Fernandez ranked among the major-league leaders in numerous statistical categories including ebing first in opponent batting average (.182) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.8 H/9), second in ERA (2.19), fourth in WHIP (0.98) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.75 K/9). More importantly, the Marlins were a different team with their young right-hander on the mound, posting an 18-10 record in his starts.
In terms of his performance among other rookie pitchers, Fernandez, unsurprisingly, was the best in the game. In fact, his 2.19 ERA was the lowest by a rookie starter in either league since 1970—yes, even better than Fernando Valenzuela’s 2.48 ERA in 1981.