Where the 2015 MLB Rookie Class Ranks Among Best of the Last 25 Years

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Where the 2015 MLB Rookie Class Ranks Among Best of the Last 25 Years

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The story of the 2015 MLB season, or one of them anyway, has been the tremendous influx of young talent in what may wind up being the deepest rookie class of all time.

    With a second wild-card spot up for grabs and the playing field in both leagues as level as we've seen in recent memory, teams have opted to aggressively promote their top prospects as opposed to playing it safe and letting them spend extra time in the minors.

    That has left us with a rookie class of epic proportions, but is it the best rookie class of the past 25 years?

    The following article attempts to answer that question, though obviously a good deal of projection and guesswork goes into such an exercise.

    A few things to consider about how the rankings work:

    • Career Performance: The following rookie classes are ranked on the overall talent pool of each rookie class, not necessarily on how each group of players performed in their rookie season. For example, Jose Bautista gives the 2006 class a boost, despite not breaking out until years later.
    • Depth: The 1995 rookie class featured Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but there is a steep drop-off in talent behind those four, and as a result they wound up as an honorable mention. Depth of the rookie class played a significant role narrowing down the top 10.
    • Superstar Talent: Once the top 10 were narrowed down, high-end talent served as something of a tiebreaker when two rookie classes were relatively close.
    • Balance: The 2013 rookie class was loaded with pitching but light on hitting. The 2003 rookie class was stacked with position player talent and thin on arms. Both made the list, but neither were in the running for the top spot.

    Included on each slide is my take on an All-Rookie Class team as well as the 10 best players not included in said team, an overview of the rookie class as a whole, a quick look at who from the class made the All-Star team as rookies and then a statistical breakdown of the class both in rookie-year performance and career performance.

    Enjoy.

    Note: Any prospect rankings referenced in the following article come courtesy of Baseball America.

Honorable Mentions

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    GARY STEWART/Associated Press

    1991

    Mike Mussina, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Luis Gonzalez, Bernie Williams, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, Juan Guzman, Darryl Kile, Charles Nagy, Ray Lankford

    1995

    Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon, Shawn Green, Brad Radke, Ray Durham, Edgardo Alfonzo, Garret Anderson, Hideo Nomo, Phil Nevin, Troy Percival

    2005

    Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Adrian Gonzalez, Brian McCann, Ryan Howard, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Scott Kazmir, J.J. Hardy, Ervin Santana, Huston Street, Nick Swisher, Chris Young (P), Jeff Francoeur

    2011

    Chris Sale, Paul Goldschmidt, Kyle Seager, Freddie Freeman, Jason Kipnis, Salvador Perez, Brandon Crawford, Jose Altuve, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Brandon Belt, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Lance Lynn, Josh Harrison

10. 2007

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Carlos RuizSS Erick Aybar
    1B James Loney SP Yovani Gallardo
    2B Dustin Pedroia SP Matt Garza
    3B Mark ReynoldsSP Jeremy Guthrie
    SS Troy Tulowitzki OF Josh Hamilton
    LF Alex GordonSP Phil Hughes
    CF Adam JonesC Miguel Montero
    RF Ryan BraunRF Hunter Pence
    SP Tim LincecumOF Justin Upton
    RP Joakim Soria RP Brian Wilson

    Rookie Class Overview

    The big story of 2007 on the rookie side of things was Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka, as the Boston Red Sox shelled out a six-year, $52 million deal with a $51.1 million posting fee on top of that to sign him.

    He stepped into their rotation immediately, going 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 204.2 innings of work. He followed that up by going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA to finish fourth in Cy Young voting the following year, but his production fell off dramatically from there.

    It was actually Matsuzaka's teammate Dustin Pedroia who would take AL Rookie of the Year honors, as he began the season as the No. 77 overall prospect but wound up hitting .317/.380/.442 and provided a huge spark offensively.

    In the National League, Ryan Braun did not debut until May 25, but he still managed to post a 1.004 OPS with 34 home runs and 97 RBI. That allowed him to narrowly edge out Troy Tulowitzki (128 to 126 vote points) for Rookie of the Year honors.

    Meanwhile, Tulowitzki helped lead the Colorado Rockies to a surprise World Series trip. Little did he know they would reach the postseason just one more time during his 10 seasons with the team.

    Hunter Pence, Adam Jones and Alex Gordon all turned into stars and put together terrific seasons, while Josh Hamilton enjoyed a fantastic peak that culminated in 2010 AL MVP honors.

    It's the pitching that keeps this class from being ranked any higher, and the dramatic decline of Tim Lincecum plays a big part in that. Still, he and closer Brian Wilson both played a key role in a pair of World Series titles for the San Francisco Giants.

    Starters Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza and Phil Hughes and closer Joakim Soria round out the rest of the front-line arms in this group.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • RP Hideki Okajima, BOS

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '07 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Dustin Pedroia, BOS .317BA.304Ryan Braun
    Troy Tulowitzki, COL.838OPS.911Ryan Braun
    Delmon Young, TB186H1,458Dustin Pedroia
    Ryan Braun, MIL34HR253Ryan Braun
    Troy Tulowitzki, COL99RBI837Ryan Braun
    Troy Tulowitzki, COL104R785Ryan Braun
    Jerry Owens, CWS 32SB321 Rajai Davis
    Troy Tulowitzki, COL6.8WAR44.4Dustin Pedroia

    Pitchers

    '07 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS204.2IP1,745.1Jeremy Guthrie
    Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS15W108Tim Lincecum
    John Danks, CWS 13L107Jeremy Guthrie
    Manny Corpas, COL19SV202Joakim Soria
    Jeremy Guthrie, BAL 3.70ERA3.61Tim Lincecum
    Jeremy Guthrie, BAL1.209WHIP1.268Tim Lincecum
    Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS201K1,704Tim Lincecum
    Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS 4.1WAR22.7Tim Lincecum

9. 1997

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    CHRIS GARDNER/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Jorge PosadaCF Mike Cameron
    1B Dmitri YoungSP Bartolo Colon
    2B Jose VidroUT Craig Counsell
    3B Scott RolenOF Brian Giles
    SS Nomar GarciaparraOF Jose Guillen
    LF Vladimir GuerreroSP Livan Hernandez
    CF Andruw JonesSP Derek Lowe
    RF Bobby AbreuSP Kevin Millwood
    SP Chris CarpenterSP Matt Morris
    RP Keith Foulke OF Shannon Stewart

    Rookie Class Overview

    The 1997 season marked the second consecutive season Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones would begin the year as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.

    He had debuted down the stretch the previous season at the age of 19, and he wound up going 8-for-20 with two home runs and six RBI in the World Series.

    However, it was Scott Rolen who walked away with NL Rookie of the Year honors, as he hit .283/.377/.469 with 35 doubles, 21 home runs and 92 RBI for the Philadelphia Phillies.

    On the AL side of things, Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra stole the show. The former Olympian hit .306/.342/.534 with 44 doubles, 30 home runs and 92 RBI while leading the AL in hits (209) and triples (11) to win AL Rookie of the Year and finish eighth in MVP voting.

    All three of those guys would go on to terrific careers, while outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu and catcher Jorge Posada were also perennial All-Stars and among the best of the generation.

    The pitching side of things was fairly weak in this class, but Chris Carpenter and Bartolo Colon were both Cy Young winners and Matt Morris, Kevin Millwood, Livan Hernandez and Derek Lowe were all staff aces at one point or another in their careers.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • SP Jason Dickson, ANA
    • SS Nomar Garciaparra, BOS
    • 2B Tony Womack, PIT

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '97 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS .306BA.318Vladimir Guerrero
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS .875OPS.931Vladimir Guerrero
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS 209H2,590Vladimir Guerrero
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS30HR449Vladimir Guerrero
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS98RBI1,496Vladimir Guerrero
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS122R1,453Bobby Abreu
    Tony Womack, PIT60SB400Bobby Abreu
    Nomar Garciaparra, BOS6.6WAR70.0Scott Rolen

    Pitchers

    '97 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Matt Morris, STL 217.0IP3,189.0 Livan Hernandez
    Jason Dickson, ANA13W214Bartolo Colon
    Chris Holt, HOU*12L177 Livan Hernandez
    Rich Loiselle, PIT29SV191Keith Foulke
    Matt Morris, STL 3.19ERA3.76Chris Carpenter
    Matt Morris, STL 1.276WHIP1.276Chris Carpenter
    Matt Morris, STL 149K2,215Bartolo Colon
    Matt Morris, STL 3.9WAR44.5Bartolo Colon

    *Tied with Brian Moehler (DET)

8. 1998

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Jason VaritekSS Orlando Cabrera
    1B Todd HeltonSP Ryan Dempster
    2B Miguel Cairo3B Troy Glaus
    3B Adrian BeltreSP Orlando Hernandez
    SS Miguel Tejada1B Paul Konerko
    LF Geoff Jenkins1B Derrek Lee
    CF Randy WinnDH David Ortiz
    RF Magglio Ordonez3B Aramis Ramirez
    SP Javier Vazquez1B Richie Sexson
    RP Kerry WoodSP Jarrod Washburn

    Rookie Class Overview

    Filling the shoes of Andres Galarraga in Colorado was no easy task, as he hit .318/.389/.585 with 41 home runs and 140 RBI in his final season with the team in 1997.

    That is unless you have someone like Todd Helton waiting in the farm system, as he stepped in and hit .315/.380/.530 with 25 home runs and 97 RBI to kick off what would be the best career in franchise history.

    He lost out on NL Rookie of the Year honors to Chicago Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood, though, as the flame-throwing rookie helped the team to an NL wild-card berth and provided one of the highlights of the season with his 20-strikeout performance.

    In the AL, Oakland outfielder Ben Grieve entered the season as the No. 1 prospect in the league and delivered on the hype with a .288/.386/.458 line that included 18 home runs and 89 RBI.

    However, it was later-blooming players like David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Jason Varitek, Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee—none of whom received Rookie of the Year votes—who earned this class a spot on the list.

    The pitching is weak here, led by Javier Vazquez, Ryan Dempster and Jarrod Washburn, but there's enough superstar talent on the position-player side to justify their ranking.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • SP Rolando Arrojo, TB
    • RF Ben Grieve, OAK

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '98 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Todd Helton, COL.315BA.316Todd Helton
    Todd Helton, COL.911OPS.953Todd Helton
    Ben Grieve, OAK168H2,716Adrian Beltre
    Todd Helton, COL25HR492David Ortiz
    Todd Helton, COL97RBI1,609David Ortiz
    Ben Grieve, OAK94R1,401Todd Helton
    Randy Winn, TB26SB216Orlando Cabrera
    Mark Kotsay, FLA3.9WAR81.2Adrian Beltre

    Pitchers

    '98 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Rolando Arrojo, TB202.0IP2,840.0Javier Vazquez
    Rolando Arrojo, TB14W165Javier Vazquez
    Javier Vazquez, MON15L160Javier Vazquez
    Kerry Ligtenberg, ATL 30SV129Antonio Alfonseca
    Orlando Hernandez, NYY 3.13ERA3.67Kerry Wood
    Orlando Hernandez, NYY 1.170WHIP1.249Javier Vazquez
    Kerry Wood, CHC 233K2,536Javier Vazquez
    Rolando Arrojo, TB4.1WAR43.3Javier Vazquez

7. 2003

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    MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Victor MartinezSP R.A. Dickey
    1B Mark TeixeiraUT Chone Figgins
    2B Chase UtleyDH Travis Hafner
    3B Miguel CabreraSP Dan Haren
    SS Jose ReyesRP Brad Lidge
    LF Hideki MatsuiSS Jhonny Peralta
    CF Coco Crisp2B Brandon Phillips
    RF Michael CuddyerOF Scott Podsednik
    SP Cliff LeeSP Brandon Webb
    RP Francisco RodriguezSP Dontrelle Willis

    Rookie Class Overview

    When your nickname in Japan is "Godzilla," your move stateside is bound to come with plenty of fanfare, and that was certainly the case for Hideki Matsui joining the New York Yankees.

    Despite solid numbers across the board, Matsui actually lost the AL Rookie of the Year race to Kansas City Royals shortstop Angel Berroa (.287/.338/.451, 17 HR, 73 RBI, 21 SB), who definitely peaked in his rookie season.

    In the end, it was left-hander Dontrelle Willis who stole the show among the 2003 rookie class, as his funky delivery and enthusiastic personality took the league by storm. He was roughed up in the postseason while the Florida Marlins made a run to a World Series title, but he was a big reason as to why they were there to begin with.

    One player who did come up big in the postseason for the Marlins was a then-20-year-old Miguel Cabrera, who posted a .793 OPS with 21 doubles and 12 home runs as a rookie before emerging as one of the top hitters in the league the following year.

    He's joined by Chase Utley, Jose Reyes, Mark Teixeira and Victor Martinez as the bona fide stars of this class, while guys like Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta and Michael Cuddyer have carved out solid careers as well.

    The decline of Willis and injuries to Brandon Webb hurt the pitching depth of this class, but Cliff Lee is a stud to headline a group that also includes workhorse Dan Haren and the single-season saves leader in Francisco Rodriguez.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • LF Hideki Matsui, NYY
    • SP Dontrelle Willis, FLA

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '03 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Scott Podsednik, MIL.314BA.322Miguel Cabrera
    Jody Gerut, CLE .830OPS.966Miguel Cabrera
    Rocco Baldelli, TB184H2,305Miguel Cabrera
    Mark Teixeira, TEX26HR406Miguel Cabrera
    Hideki Matsui, NYY 106RBI1,432Miguel Cabrera
    Scott Podsednik, MIL100R1,219Miguel Cabrera
    Scott Podsednik, MIL43SB474Jose Reyes
    Scott Podsednik, MIL3.6WAR64.6Miguel Cabrera

    Pitchers

    '03 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Jae Weong Seo, NYM 188.1IP2,380.2Dan Haren
    Jeriome Robertson, HOU 15W150Dan Haren
    Jeremy Bonderman, DET 19L130Dan Haren
    Mike MacDougal, KC27SV378Francisco Rodriguez
    Brandon Webb, ARI2.84ERA3.52Cliff Lee
    Brandon Webb, ARI1.151WHIP1.182Dan Haren
    Brandon Webb, ARI172K1,985Dan Haren
    Brandon Webb, ARI6.2WAR43.3Cliff Lee

6. 2008

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    Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Geovany SotoOF Michael Bourn
    1B Joey Votto RF Jay Bruce
    2B Martin PradoSP Clay Buchholz
    3B Evan Longoria SP Johnny Cueto
    SS Alexei Ramirez1B Chris Davis
    LF Carlos Gomez3B Chase Headley
    CF Jacoby Ellsbury SP Hiroki Kuroda
    RF Carlos Gonzalez3B Pablo Sandoval
    SP Clayton Kershaw SP Max Scherzer
    RP Glen Perkins2B Daniel Murphy

    Rookie Class Overview

    Jay Bruce entered the 2008 season as the No. 1 prospect in baseball and the favorite for NL Rookie of the Year honors, and he put together a solid debut with a .767 OPS and 21 home runs.

    However, it was Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto who walked away with the hardware as he became the first rookie catcher to start for the NL in the All-Star Game.

    In the American League, Evan Longoria was the Kris Bryant of 2008, as he began the season in the minors but was called up as soon as the team had secured another year of service time control.

    He would help lead the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series, coming up with a number of clutch hits along the way, including three doubles and four home runs in their ALCS victory over the Red Sox.

    Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez and Jacoby Ellsbury join Longoria as star position players from the class, but there was plenty of talent debuting on the mound as well.

    Clayton Kershaw went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.495 WHIP as a rookie, but it wouldn't take long for him to emerge as the best pitcher in all of baseball.

    He's joined by Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto as front-line arms from the class, but it was Clay Buchholz who entered the season as the highest-rated pitching prospect from the group.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • RF Kosuke Fukudome, CHC
    • 3B Evan Longoria, TB
    • C Geovany Soto, CHC

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '08 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Joey Votto, CIN .297BA.310Joey Votto
    Joey Votto, CIN .874OPS.956Joey Votto
    Joey Votto, CIN 156H1,236Alexei Ramirez
    Evan Longoria, TB27HR200Jay Bruce
    Geovany Soto, CHC 86RBI690Evan Longoria
    Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS 98R636Joey Votto
    Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS 50SB323Michael Bourn
    Evan Longoria, TB4.8WAR41.8Evan Longoria

    Pitchers

    '08 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Nick Blackburn, MIN193.1IP1,555.1Clayton Kershaw
    Jair Jurrjens, ATL*13W108Clayton Kershaw
    Greg Smith, OAK16L79 Hiroki Kuroda
    Jensen Lewis, CLE 13SV133Jim Johnson
    Jair Jurrjens, ATL 3.68ERA2.46Clayton Kershaw
    Armando Galarraga, DET1.192WHIP1.043Clayton Kershaw
    Johnny Cueto, CIN 158K1,667Clayton Kershaw
    Armando Galarraga, DET 4.1WAR45.2Clayton Kershaw

    *Tied with Armando Galarraga (DET)

5. 2013

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Stephen Vogt RP Cody Allen
    1B Evan Gattis SP Chris Archer
    2B Anthony Rendon RF Kole Calhoun
    3B Nolan Arenado SP Gerrit Cole
    SS Jose Iglesias OF Corey Dickerson
    LF Christian Yelich SP Jose Fernandez
    CF A.J. PollockSP Shelby Miller
    RF Yasiel Puig SP Julio Teheran
    SP Sonny GraySP Michael Wacha
    RP Trevor Rosenthal SP Alex Wood

    Rookie Class Overview

    For as much attention as Yasiel Puig received during his rookie season, it's somewhat ironic that 2013 has a chance to go down as the greatest single-season influx of pitching talent we've seen in generations.

    Sonny Gray, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Rosenthal and Brad Boxberger all earned a spot in the 2015 All-Star Game after debuting in 2013.

    That doesn't include Jose Fernandez, who had just returned from injury at the All-Star break, not to mention Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kevin Siegrist, Danny Salazar and Cody Allen, among others.

    It's not as though it was simply a pitching-dominated class either, as Nolan Arenado and A.J. Pollock are budding superstars for their respective teams and were joined by Jose Iglesias and Stephen Vogt in also earning a trip to the All-Star Game.

    Obviously the verdict is still out on this group, and a good crop of position-player talent is generally a better bet for long-term success than pitchers simply because of the health and durability issue.

    That said, don't be surprised if five years from now this rookie class is challenging for a spot in the top three.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • SP Jose Fernandez, MIA

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '13 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Nolan Arenado, COL.267BA.294 Yasiel Puig
    Jedd Gyorko, SD.745OPS.858 Yasiel Puig
    Nolan Arenado, COL130H429 Adeiny Hechavarria
    Jedd Gyorko, SD23HR63Evan Gattis
    Evan Gattis, ATL 65RBI205Nolan Arenado
    Yasiel Puig, LAD66R208Adam Eaton
    Jonathan Villar, HOU 18SB60A.J. Pollock
    Yasiel Puig, LAD4.9WAR13.4A.J. Pollock

    Pitchers

    '13 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD192.0IP590.0Julio Teheran
    Shelby Miller, STL 15W38Julio Teheran
    Wily Peralta, MIL15L35Wily Peralta
    Jim Henderson, MIL28SV87Trevor Rosenthal
    Jose Fernandez, MIA2.19ERA2.26Jose Fernandez
    Jose Fernandez, MIA0.979WHIP0.980Jose Fernandez
    Jose Fernandez, MIA187K515Chris Archer
    Jose Fernandez, MIA6.3WAR10.9Sonny Gray

4. 2001

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    MARK DUNCAN/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C A.J. Pierzynski1B Adam Dunn
    1B Albert PujolsSS David Eckstein
    2B Brian Roberts1B Aubrey Huff
    3B Michael YoungSP Ted Lilly
    SS Jimmy RollinsSP Kyle Lohse
    LF Alfonso SorianoSP Jason Marquis
    CF Vernon WellsSP Roy Oswalt
    RF Ichiro SuzukiSP Ben Sheets
    SP CC SabathiaIF Juan Uribe
    RP Chad BradfordSP Jake Westbrook

    Rookie Class Overview

    The 2001 rookie class produced two of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history, courtesy of Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki.

    Pujols hit .329/.403/.610 with 47 doubles, 37 home runs and 130 RBI to immediately establish himself as one of the best hitters in the game.

    Meanwhile, a 27-year-old Ichiro led the American League in batting average (.350), hits (242) and stolen bases (56) to help the Seattle Mariners to a 116-win season and claim AL MVP honors.

    Behind them, CC Sabathia and Roy Oswalt would become two of the best pitchers of the era, while Jimmy Rollins, Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young were perennial All-Stars and leaders for their respective teams.

    This class may not have the overall depth of some that it's ranked ahead of, but two of the best players of their generation and a pair of bona fide aces is enough to earn them a spot on the list.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • 3B Albert Pujols, STL
    • SS Jimmy Rollins, PHI
    • SP Ben Sheets, MIL
    • RF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '01 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA.350BA.315Ichiro Suzuki
    Albert Pujols, STL 1.013OPS.982Albert Pujols
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA242H2,923Ichiro Suzuki
    Albert Pujols, STL 37HR554Albert Pujols
    Albert Pujols, STL 130RBI1,677Albert Pujols
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA127R1,582Albert Pujols
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA56SB498Ichiro Suzuki
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA7.7WAR99.7Albert Pujols

    Pitchers

    '01 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Chris Reitsma, CIN 182IP2,959.2CC Sabathia
    CC Sabathia, CLE 17W212CC Sabathia
    Chris Reitsma, CIN 15L141Kyle Lohse
    Bret Prinz, ARI9SV114 Danys Baez
    Roy Oswalt, HOU 2.73ERA3.36Roy Oswalt
    Roy Oswalt, HOU 1.059WHIP1.211Roy Oswalt
    CC Sabathia, CLE 171K2,550CC Sabathia
    Roy Oswalt, HOU 4.7WAR54.0CC Sabathia

3. 2006

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Russell MartinSP Matt Cain
    1B Prince FielderOF Matt Kemp
    2B Ian KinslerSP Jon Lester
    3B Ryan ZimmermanSP Francisco Liriano
    SS Hanley RamirezRF Nick Markakis
    LF Nelson CruzSP James Shields
    CF Shane Victorino SP Justin Verlander
    RF Jose Bautista SP Adam Wainwright
    SP Cole HamelsSP Jered Weaver
    RP Jonathan PapelbonUT Ben Zobrist

    Rookie Class Overview

    In a blockbuster trade of epic proportions, the Florida Marlins sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a package of players headlined by shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

    Those two veterans would help the Red Sox win a World Series, while Ramirez emerged as an immediate star, hitting .292/.353/.480 with 51 stolen bases to win NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Meanwhile, Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA) beat out Jonathan Papelbon (35 SV, 0.92 ERA) for top rookie honors in the AL, but this would prove to be a far deeper class than just those three headliners.

    Verlander was considered by many to be the top pitcher in the game for several years, but he was far from the only ace in the group, as Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver, Matt Cain and James Shields all fronted their respective staffs.

    Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Ian Kinsler were all highly regarded prospects, but what really pushes this group over the top is a trio of late bloomers in Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Ben Zobrist.

    In terms of both overall star power and depth, this rookie class is as good as any we've seen in recent years.

    However, it's lacking that true elite-level talent, and that's clear in the fact that Ian Kinsler and Cole Hamels are the group's career WAR leaders.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • SP Francisco Liriano, MIN
    • RP Jonathan Papelbon, BOS
    • 2B Dan Uggla, FLA

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '06 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Hanley Ramirez, FLA.292BA.296Hanley Ramirez
    Josh Willingham, FLA.852OPS.906Prince Fielder
    Hanley Ramirez, FLA185H1,693Nick Markakis
    Prince Fielder, MIL28HR305Prince Fielder
    Ryan Zimmerman, WAS110RBI957Prince Fielder
    Hanley Ramirez, FLA119R930Ian Kinsler
    Hanley Ramirez, FLA51SB267Hanley Ramirez
    Hanley Ramirez, FLA4.9WAR45.9Ian Kinsler

    Pitchers

    '06 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Matt Cain, SF190.2IP2,074.2James Shields
    Justin Verlander, DET 17W153Justin Verlander
    Clay Hensley, SD*12L100Paul Maholm
    Bobby Jenks, CWS 41SV345Jonathan Papelbon
    Justin Verlander, DET 3.63ERA2.98Adam Wainwright
    Matt Cain, SF1.280WHIP1.149Cole Hamels
    Matt Cain, SF179K1,892Justin Verlander
    Jonathan Papelbon, BOS 5.0WAR43.2Cole Hamels

    *Tied with Matt Cain (SF)

2. 2015

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Rookie Class Overview

    Just how good the 2015 MLB rookie class is going to be remains to be seen, but there is little question this crop of young talent will change the MLB landscape in the years to come.

    It's already happening in Chicago, where Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell have delivered on the hype and have the Cubs poised for a trip to the postseason.

    Meanwhile, the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals continue to cultivate young talent, and a pair of outfielders in Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty have stepped up huge in the wake of numerous injuries.

    Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang has proven to be well-worth the gamble the team took signing him out of Korea, while Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Taylor Jungmann figures to make some noise in the NL Central as well in the years to come.

    Rebuilding efforts have finally begun in Philadelphia, and third baseman Maikel Franco and right-hander Aaron Nola figure to be key pieces of the puzzle there moving forward. Tip of the cap to what Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera has done this year, though duplicating it could be tough.

    The Mets pitching is downright scary, and 22-year-old Noah Syndergaard has a chance to be the best of the bunch when all is said and done. With the Nationals set to lose Denard Span at the end of the season, and without him for much of this year, Michael Taylor will be a big part of their future.

    Out in the NL West, Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas figures to improve for the Diamondbacks in the years to come, while Matt Duffy and Chris Heston have been huge for the Giants. The Dodgers are still top dogs in the division, and Joc Pederson is a big reason why despite his second-half swoon.

    The National League is not the only place we've seen an influx of rookies, as a pair of future superstars have debuted in Minnesota in Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.

    He's struggled at times with his command, but don't be surprised if White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon winds up being the best arm of this class.

    Carlos Correa might already be the best shortstop in the AL, and he's been joined by Lance McCullers and Preston Tucker in helping the Astros to a division lead.

    Blake Swihart has tremendous upside behind the plate for the Red Sox, who have also trotted out Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson from their impressive stable of young arms.

    Left-handers Daniel Norris and Andrew Heaney both have front-line potential, while Nate Karns is having as good a season as any rookie pitcher. In the bullpen, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez have both been crucial arms for the Blue Jays as they push for a division title.

    Slick-fielding Francisco Lindor has proven he can swing it as well, while speedy Billy Burns and Rule 5 pick Mark Canha have been the latest little-known players to emerge in Oakland.

    The list goes on and on, and there are no doubt a number of players who have been left out here.

    The point is, in terms of the sheer number of impact players to debut, the 2015 season is like nothing we've seen in recent years.

    The sky is the limit for this group, but for now they're still chasing one other rookie class...

1. 2012

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press
    All-Rookie TeamBest of the Rest
    C Yasmani Grandal3B Matt Carpenter
    1B Anthony RizzoOF Yoenis Cespedes
    2B Brian DozierSP Yu Darvish
    3B Josh DonaldsonSP Nathan Eovaldi
    SS Andrelton Simmons3B Todd Frazier
    LF Starling MarteSP Matt Harvey
    CF Mike TroutSP Hisashi Iwakuma
    RF Bryce HarperSP Dallas Keuchel
    SP Corey Kluber3B Manny Machado
    RP Kelvin HerreraSP Jose Quintana

    Rookie Class Overview

    The 2015 rookie class has been absolutely spectacular, there's no question about it, but they will be fighting an uphill battle to catch the 2012 crop of rookies as the best in the past 25 years.

    It all starts with the best player in the game in Mike Trout.

    There's a good chance when we revisit this five years from now he'll still be the best player in the game, and if someone has taken that title away from him, the smart money would be on his Rookie of the Year counterpart from 2012 in Bryce Harper.

    As for this season, Trout has his work cut out for him if he hopes to repeat as AL MVP, and the man with the best chance of overtaking him is Toronto Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson, who also happens to be a member of this rookie class.

    He earns top third base honors in a class that also includes Manny Machado, Todd Frazier and Matt Carpenter, who were all members of the All-Star team this year.

    Anthony Rizzo is a legitimate MVP candidate in the NL this year and the leader of an upstart Chicago Cubs team, Andrelton Simmons is the unquestioned best defensive player in the game, and is there anyone more underrated than Brian Dozier?

    And that's just the position player side of things.

    Late bloomer Corey Kluber gets the nod as top starting pitcher in this class, but it could have just as easily gone to Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey or Dallas Keuchel, who are all front-line arms.

    The 2015 class has a real shot at unseating this group, but for now the 2012 rookie class still reigns supreme as tops in the past 25 years.

    Rookie All-Stars

    • RP Ryan Cook, OAK
    • SP Yu Darvish, TEX
    • RF Bryce Harper, WAS
    • SP Lance Lynn, STL
    • SP Wade Miley, ARI
    • CF Mike Trout, LAA

    Rookie Class Statistical Leaders

    Position Players

    '12 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Mike Trout, LAA.326BA.304Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA.963OPS.951Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA182H705Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA30HR131Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA83RBI380Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA129R454Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA49SB112Mike Trout
    Mike Trout, LAA10.8WAR35.9Mike Trout

    Pitchers

    '12 LeaderTotal TotalCareer Leader
    Wade Miley, ARI194.2IP792.1Wade Miley
    Yu Darvish, TEX*16W48Wade Miley
    Nathan Eovaldi, MIA13L45Wade Miley
    Addison Reed, CWS29SV104Addison Reed
    Wade Miley, ARI3.33ERA2.46Matt Harvey
    Scott Diamond, MIN1.243WHIP0.993Matt Harvey
    Yu Darvish, TEX221K680Yu Darvish
    Yu Darvish, TEX^3.9WAR13.9Jose Quintana

    *Tied with Wade Miley (ARI)
    ^Tied with Jarrod Parker (OAK)

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted, and accurate through Tuesday, Aug. 25.