Where Did Past MLB Rookie of the Year Winners Rank on Top Prospect Lists?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2020

Where Did Past MLB Rookie of the Year Winners Rank on Top Prospect Lists?

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Over the years, MLB Rookie of the Year winners have come from all different prospect profiles.

    Ronald Acuna Jr. was the No. 1 prospect in baseball when he took home 2018 NL Rookie of the Year honors, living up to the hype that comes with being placed in that top spot.

    Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso both began the 2019 season ranked outside of the top 30 prospects in the league, checking in at No. 34 and No. 48 overall.

    Jacob deGrom was nowhere to be found on the leaguewide top 100 list at the start of the 2014 season, when he took the league by storm and walked away with the NL hardware.

    Ahead, we've taken a closer look at the last 25 years of AL and NL Rookie of the Year winners and where they ranked on the Baseball America Top 100 list at the start of their rookie seasons.

    Let's get to it.   

No. 1 Prospect in Baseball

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    Ronald Acuna Jr.
    Ronald Acuna Jr.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 10 percent (5/50)

    • OF Ben Grieve, OAK1998 AL ROY
    • OF Bryce Harper, WAS2012 NL ROY
    • 3B Kris Bryant, CHC2015 NL ROY
    • SS Corey Seager, LAD2016 NL ROY
    • OF Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL2018 NL ROY

    Outfielder Ben Grieve was a hyped prospect from the time he went No. 2 overall in the 1994 draft, and he made his full-season debut with a bang in 1998, hitting .288/.386/.458 (123 OPS+) with 41 doubles, 18 home runs and 89 RBI. He had a few more productive campaigns after that but never developed into the star most expected him to become.

    Phenom Bryce Harper was the No. 1 pick in 2010, and he made his MLB debut at the age of 19, hitting .270/.340/.477 (118 OPS+) with 57 extra-base hits and 18 steals while manning center field.

    Despite leading the NL in strikeouts (199), Kris Bryant still managed to hit .275/.369/.488 (135 OPS+) with 31 doubles, 26 home runs and 99 RBI. His arrival signaled the beginning of the Chicago Cubs' rise back to contention.

    Corey Seager debuted down the stretch in 2015 and hit .337 with a 174 OPS+ in 113 plate appearances to seize the starting shortstop job for the postseason push. He took over in earnest the following year and hit .308/.365/.512 (134 OPS+) with 71 extra-base hits to become the 17th Dodgers player to win NL Rookie of the year.

    Dynamic five-tool threat Ronald Acuna Jr. hit .293/.366/.552 (143 OPS+) with 26 home runs and 16 steals in 111 games to help the Atlanta Braves win an NL East title in 2018.      

Top 5 Prospect in Baseball

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    Kerry Wood
    Kerry WoodJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 14 percent (7/50)

    • #2 3B Evan Longoria, TB2008 AL ROY
    • #2 SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, LAA2018 AL ROY
    • #3 OF Mike Trout, LAA2012 AL ROY
    • #4 SP Kerry Wood, CHC1998 NL ROY
    • #4 OF Wil Myers, TB2013 AL ROY
    • #4 SS Carlos Correa, HOU2015 AL ROY
    • #5 SP Jose Fernandez, MIA2013 NL ROY

    After hitting a forgettable .220 with an 89 OPS+ in 135 plate appearances in 2011, Mike Trout made a legitimate run at AL MVP honors the following year when he hit .326/.399/.564 while leading the AL in OPS+ (168) and MLB runs scored (129) and steals (49) in a 10.5 WAR season.

    His future teammate Shohei Ohtani turned in a rookie season unlike any we've seen before by posting a 151 OPS+ with 22 home runs in 367 plate appearances while also going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51.2 innings on the mound.

    Third baseman Evan Longoria (127 OPS+, 27 HR, 85 RBI) and outfielder Wil Myers (131 OPS+, 13 HR, 53 RBI) both delivered on their top-prospect potential for a Tampa Bay Rays team that leans heavily on controllable young talent.

    Electric young right-hander Kerry Wood went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 233 strikeouts in 166.2 innings as a 21-year-old rookie in 1998, including his memorable 20-strikeout performance. His arrival helped the Cubs reach the postseason for the first time since 1989.

    Shortstop Carlos Correa (135 OPS+, 22 HR, 68 RBI) edged out Francisco Lindor for 2015 AL Rookie of the Year honors, while right-hander Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 187 K, 172.2 IP) beat out upstart Yasiel Puig for 2013 NL honors.    

Top 10 Prospect in Baseball

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    Derek Jeter
    Derek JeterRon Vesely/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 18 percent (9/50)

    • #6 SS Derek Jeter, NYY1996 AL ROY
    • #6 SP Jeremy Hellickson, TB2011 AL ROY
    • #7 C Buster Posey, SF2010 NL ROY
    • #7 1B Cody Bellinger, LAD2017 NL ROY
    • #8 SS Rafael Furcal, ATL2000 NL ROY
    • #8 SP Justin Verlander, DET2006 AL ROY
    • #9 OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA2001 AL ROY
    • #9 RP Neftali Feliz, TEX2010 AL ROY
    • #10 SS Nomar Garciaparra, BOS1997 AL ROY

    Ichiro Suzuki put together one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history when he led the AL in batting average (.350) and MLB in hits (242) and steals (56) to win AL MVP honors for a 116-win Seattle Mariners team. He was a 27-year-old rookie with nine professional seasons in Japan under his belt.

    Shortstop Derek Jeter (101 OPS+, 41 XBH, 104 R) and catcher Buster Posey (133 OPS+, 18 HR, 67 RBI) both played significant roles in leading their teams to World Series titles during their rookie seasons, and in the process, they began to carve out what would be enduring legacies with their respective franchises.

    Nomar Garciaparra put together a 30-game hitting streak during his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .306/.342/.534 (123 OPS+) with 44 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 98 RBI, 122 runs scored and 22 steals. Cody Bellinger (143 OPS+, 39 HR, 97 RBI) set the NL rookie record for home runs, though that mark has since been surpassed.

    Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA, 124 K, 186 IP) and Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95 ERA, 117 K, 189 IP) both enjoyed tremendous early success despite less-than-stellar strikeout rates.

    Speedy shortstop Rafael Furcal (40 SB, 87 R) and hard-throwing Neftali Feliz (40 SV, 2.73 ERA, 9.2 K/9) both made their mark on division winners.    

Top 50 Prospect in Baseball

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    Dontrelle Willis
    Dontrelle WillisEliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 28 percent (14/50)

    • #13 3B Scott Rolen, PHI1997 NL ROY
    • #14 OF Carlos Beltran, KC1999 AL ROY
    • #26 3B Ryan Braun, MIL2007 NL ROY
    • #27 1B Ryan Howard, PHI2005 NL ROY
    • #29 1B Jose Abreu, CWS2014 AL ROY
    • #30 SS Hanley Ramirez, FLA2006 NL ROY
    • #32 SS Bobby Crosby, OAK2004 AL ROY
    • #34 DH Yordan Alvarez, HOU2019 AL ROY
    • #42 3B Albert Pujols, STL2001 NL ROY
    • #43 SP Dontrelle Willis, FLA2003 NL ROY
    • #44 OF Todd Hollandsworth, LAD1996 NL ROY
    • #47 C Geovany Soto, CHC2008 NL ROY
    • #47 SP Michael Fulmer, DET2016 AL ROY
    • #48 1B Pete Alonso, NYM2019 NL ROY

    Last year's Rookie of the Year winners, Pete Alonso (148 OPS+, 53 HR, 120 RBI) and Yordan Alvarez (173 OPS+, 27 HR, 78 RBI), both began 2019 ranked outside of the top 30 prospects.

    Sluggers Albert Pujols (157 OPS+, 37 HR, 130 RBI), Ryan Braun (154 OPS+, 34 HR, 97 RBI) and Jose Abreu (173 OPS+, 36 HR, 107 RBI) all received MVP votes as rookies, while Ryan Howard (133 OPS+, 22 HR, 63 RBI) played in just 88 games when he took home the hardware.

    On the mound, Dontrelle Willis (14-6, 3.30 ERA, 142 K, 160.2 IP) and Michael Fulmer (11-7, 3.06 ERA, 132 K, 159 IP) both anchored their respective staffs as rookies.

    Geovany Soto (119 OPS+, 23 HR, 86 RBI) was the first NL rookie catcher to start the All-Star Game.

    Scott Rolen (121 OPS+, 21 HR, 92 RBI) was immediately one of baseball's best all-around third basemen, Carlos Beltran (22 HR/27 SB) was a power-speed threat from the start, and Hanley Ramirez (116 OPS+, 74 XBH, 51 SB) made good with the Marlins after coming over as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.

    Despite their strong debuts, shortstop Bobby Crosby (93 OPS+, 22 HR, 64 RBI) and outfielder Todd Hollandsworth (113 OPS+, 12 HR, 21 SB) failed to develop into stars.     

Top 100 Prospect in Baseball

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    Aaron Judge
    Aaron JudgeJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 10 percent (5/50)

    • #74 OF Jason Bay, PIT2004 NL ROY
    • #86 RP Craig Kimbrel, ATL2011 NL ROY
    • #90 OF Aaron Judge, NYY2017 AL ROY
    • #97 RP Scott Williamson, CIN1999 NL ROY
    • #97 RP Huston Street, OAK2005 AL ROY

    The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Jason Bay from the San Diego Padres in the August waiver deal that sent Brian Giles to the San Diego Padres in 2003. The following year, he hit .282/.358/.550 (132 OPS+) with 26 home runs and 82 RBI to win NL Rookie of the Year.

    Aaron Judge actually saw his prospect stock dip heading into the 2017 season. He fell from No. 76 to No. 90 on the Baseball America Top 100 list after missing time to injury at Triple-A the previous year. He took the league by storm with a 171 OPS+, 52 home runs and 114 RBI as a rookie to finish second in AL MVP voting.

    Scott Williamson went 12-7 with 19 saves and five holds in 62 appearances for the Cincinnati Reds, posting a 2.41 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with 107 strikeouts in 93.1 innings. He spent just two seasons in the minors after he was selected in the ninth round of the 1997 draft, and his MLB debut was his first professional relief appearance.

    On the other hand, both Craig Kimbrel (46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 14.8 K/9) and Huston Street (23 SV, 1.72 ERA, 8.3 K/9) worked exclusively out of the bullpen during their time in the minors before assuming a more traditional closer's role.

Unranked, Previously a Top-100 Prospect

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    Dustin Pedroia
    Dustin PedroiaAbelimages/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 6 percent (3/50)

    • SP Jason Jennings, COL2002 NL ROY (#87 in 2000)
    • SS Angel Berroa, KC2003 AL ROY (#15 in 2002)
    • 2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS2007 AL ROY (#77 in 2006)

    Jason Jennings was the No. 16 pick in the 1999 draft, and he began the 2000 season as the No. 87 prospect after posting a 3.34 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 67.1 innings in his debut.

    Middling numbers in the upper levels of the minors over the next two years dropped him off the list, but he still showed enough to claim a rotation spot out of camp in 2002. The right-hander went 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA and 106 ERA+ in 185.1 innings to edge Brad Wilkerson (then-MON) and Austin Kearns (CIN) for NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    In the midst of a breakout season in the minors, Angel Berroa was part of the three-team trade that sent Johnny Damon to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2001 season. His .872 OPS with 60 extra-base hits and 25 steals between High-A and Double-A was enough to vault him up to No. 15 on the top 100 list heading into 2002, but he fell off the list entirely after hitting just .215 in 77 games at Triple-A that year.

    Despite those struggles, he took over as the Royals' starting shortstop in 2002 and hit .287/.338/.451 (101 OPS+) with 28 doubles, seven triples, 17 home runs and 21 steals to narrowly beat out Hideki Matsui for AL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Dustin Pedroia moved quickly through the Boston farm system, and he was the No. 77 prospect in baseball entering the 2006 season after he hit .293/.385/.452 with 44 extra-base hits between Double-A and Triple-A in his first full campaign.

    Despite posting a similar .305/.384/.426 line in 111 games at Triple-A in 2006, he fell off the top 100 list, perhaps due to a disappointing MLB debut in which he hit .191 in 98 plate appearances. That didn't stop the Red Sox from handing him the starting second-base job in 2007, and he took home AL Rookie of the Year honors while helping lead Boston to a World Series title.    

Unranked, Never a Top-100 Prospect

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    Jacob deGrom
    Jacob deGromMike Stobe/Getty Images

    By The Numbers: 14 percent (7/50)

    • OF Marty Cordova, MIN1995 AL ROY
    • SP Hideo Nomo, LAD1995 NL ROY
    • RP Kazuhiro Sasaki, SEA2000 AL ROY
    • 3B Eric Hinske, TOR2002 AL ROY
    • RP Andrew Bailey, OAK2009 AL ROY
    • OF Chris Coghlan, FLA2009 NL ROY
    • SP Jacob deGrom, NYM2014 NL ROY

    Hideo Nomo did not sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers until Feb. 8, 1995, so that explains his exclusion from the 1995 prospect list. Fellow Japanese League standout Kazuhiro Sasaki was 32 years old when he saved 37 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2000, so his exclusion from the list also makes some sense.

    The other five guys on this list came out of nowhere.

    Marty Cordova had a huge season at Triple-A in 1994, hitting .358/.426/.592 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI. That was enough for him to check in as the No. 4 prospect in the Minnesota Twins' system, but he missed the top 100 list. He took over as the Twins' starting left fielder in 1995 and posted a 115 OPS+ with 24 home runs and 20 steals to edge Garret Anderson in ROY voting.

    Eric Hinske was traded twice before finding a home with the Toronto Blue Jays, and he hit .279/.365/.481 (119 OPS+) with 38 doubles, 24 home runs and 84 RBI in a 4.0 WAR season as a rookie in 2002. He began that campaign as the No. 6 prospect in the Toronto system.

    Andrew Bailey began the 2009 season as the No. 23 prospect in the Oakland farm system. He had a 4.32 ERA in 110.1 innings at Double-A the previous season before moving to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 1.29 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 14 innings. That paved the way for him to emerge as the team's closer, and he finished 2009 with 26 saves, 9.8 K/9 and a 1.84 ERA in 83.1 innings.

    Chris Coghlan started his pro career as a second baseman before moving to left field to get out from behind Dan Uggla on the depth chart. He was the No. 9 prospect in the Florida Marlins' system heading into 2009, when he hit .321 to finish sixth in the NL batting race.

    Jacob deGrom was the No. 10 prospect in the Mets' system at the start of 2014, behind Noah Syndergaard (1) and Rafael Montero (3) among the team's pitching prospects. The Stetson University product posted a 4.51 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 147.2 innings over three minor league levels the year before bursting onto the scene and quickly emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, while prospect rankings come via Baseball America.