Buying or Selling 2021 MLB Rookies as Future All-Stars

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2021

Buying or Selling 2021 MLB Rookies as Future All-Stars

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    Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

    How many future All-Stars do we have in the 2021 MLB rookie class?

    The current tally stands at two after Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia and Miami Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers were both selected to this year's Midsummer Classic, but it is certain to grow in the coming years.

    Going position-by-position, we took a closer look at some of the most productive rookies of the 2021 season, and based on their current production, underlying metrics and future potential, played "buy or sell" on them being named to an All-Star team in their career.

    Since the answer is already a definitive "buy" for Garcia and Rogers, they were not included.

    But where did we land on guys like Jonathan India, Wander Franco, Andrew Vaughn, Akil Baddoo, Patrick Wisdom, Casey Mize, Luis Garcia, Michael Kopech, Emmanuel Clase and others?

    Let's find out.


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    Eric Haase
    Eric HaaseCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers

    With 19 home runs in 273 plate appearances, Haase trails only Salvador Perez (30) and Mike Zunino (25) among catchers. The 28-year-old is on the older end of the rookie scale, but his average exit velocity (82nd percentile) and hard-hit rate (86th percentile) are legit. Zunino was an All-Star this season with a similar profile, and plenty of power and throw guys have earned nods over the years.

    Verdict: Buy


    Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds

    The No. 11 overall pick in the 2015 draft and a top-10 prospect in the Cincinnati system six years running, Stephenson is the heir apparent to Tucker Barnhart behind the plate. The 25-year-old has a 110 OPS+ with 15 doubles, nine home runs and 38 RBI in 299 plate appearances, and his .375 on-base percentage speaks to his well-rounded offensive approach. It's only a matter of time before he's the everyday guy for the Reds.

    Verdict: Buy

First Basemen

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox

    The max exit velocity (96th percentile) and barrel rate (95th percentile) numbers speak to the tremendous raw power that Dalbec possesses, but he has not yet shown the ability to consistently tap into it. The 26-year-old has 121 strikeouts against just 17 walks in 332 plate appearances, and that lack of discipline has left him with a tenuous grasp on the first-base job.

    Verdict: Sell


    Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles

    Despite finishing eighth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2020, Mountcastle still holds rookie eligibility this year and is technically eligible for the award once again. The 24-year-old hit .327/.382/.634 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in June, and he has a 113 OPS+ with 19 home runs and 63 RBI on the year. He has the tools to string together multiple months like what we saw in June.

    Verdict: Buy


    Pavin Smith, Arizona Diamondbacks

    The No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Smith played his way onto the D-backs Opening Day roster after going 10-for-37 in his first taste of MLB action last year. He has been one of the few bright spots on a last-place team, posting a 98 OPS+ with 34 extra-base hits in 106 games. The 25-year-old has lined up at all three outfield spots as well as first base, but he looks more like a versatile utility piece than a future star.

    Verdict: Sell

Second Basemen

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Jazz Chisholm Jr., Miami Marlins

    Still refining his game in his age-23 season, Chisholm has regularly showcased the exciting raw tools that convinced the front office to acquire him from the D-backs in exchange for Zac Gallen in July 2019. With 13 home runs and 11 steals, to go along with a 102 OPS+ in 337 plate appearances in 2021, his mix of power and speed gives him huge upside. It may take a few more years for him to reach his ceiling, but he has star potential.

    Verdict: Buy


    Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds

    After a relatively disappointing start to his pro career following his selection at No. 5 overall in the 2018 draft, India has broken out in a big way this year as Cincinnati's everyday second baseman. The 24-year-old is hitting .283/.396/.476 for a 122 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 16 home runs, 55 RBI and 73 runs scored, and his stock is trending up with a 1.021 OPS and 10 home runs in 30 games since the All-Star break.

    He could be an All-Star Game staple alongside Ozzie Albies among NL second basemen.

    Verdict: Buy

Third Basemen

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    Patrick Wisdom
    Patrick WisdomG Fiume/Getty Images

    Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

    After hitting .376/.442/.682 in 95 plate appearances and leading all rookies with 1.9 WAR in a 24-game audition last season, Hayes began 2021 as one of the NL Rookie of the Year front-runners. However, after homering on Opening Day, he played just one more game before suffering a wrist injury that cost him two months.

    The 24-year-old has been a Gold Glove-caliber defender at third base (13 DRS, 8.2 UZR/150), but the wrist injury has sapped him of some of his power at the plate. While his season has not gone as hoped, the future is still bright.

    Verdict: Buy


    Patrick Wisdom, Chicago Cubs

    Wisdom went 17-for-78 (.218 BA) with four home runs in sporadic action with the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs over the past three seasons, and at 29 years old, he looked like little more than organizational depth for the North Siders in 2021. Instead, he has been a clear bright spot in a trying season, hitting .255/.318/.537 with 18 home runs and 37 RBI in 237 plate appearances.

    A 30 percent home run-to-fly-ball ratio that ranks seventh among all hitters with at least 200 trips to the plate is going to be difficult to sustain, and much of his value has been tied to his over-the-fence production. But he's at least solidified his spot in the 2022 lineup.

    Verdict: Sell


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    Wander Franco
    Wander FrancoRob Tringali/Getty Images

    Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays

    Since going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run in one of the most hyped MLB debuts in recent memory, the Franco hype has died down considerably while he's settled into life as a big leaguer. The 20-year-old has an .816 OPS with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI in 12 games this month, and he's tallied at least one hit in 16 of his last 21 games. It's only a matter of time before he's a superstar.

    Verdict: Buy


    Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego Padres

    Kim hit .306/.397/.523 with 30 home runs and 109 RBI in his final season in the KBO before inking a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres this past winter. The 25-year-old is hitting just .206/.276/.349 with 17 extra-base hits in 244 plate appearances. However, he's been worth 1.8 WAR thanks to his stellar defensive work at second base (101 INN, 5 DRS), third base (131.2 INN, 3 DRS) and shortstop (238 INN, 7 DRS). He's a very useful player, but standout defense rarely leads to All-Star Game recognition.

    Verdict: Sell   

Corner Outfielders

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    Randy Arozarena
    Randy ArozarenaIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

    One of the strangest takeaways from the shortened 2020 season is the fact that Arozarena still holds rookie eligibility despite taking the baseball world by storm in October and winning ALCS MVP honors.

    It took the 26-year-old some time to get things going at the plate this year, but he's hitting .357/.413/.690 with 15 extra-base hits in 21 games since the break. His 3.0 WAR leads all rookie position players, and it's only a matter of time before he's an All-Star.

    Verdict: Buy


    Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals

    Carlson has played more games in center field (58) than right field (52) this year, but that was a result of Harrison Bader missing significant time. The 22-year-old has been a steady offensive performer all season, hitting .261/.341/.419 with 24 doubles and 12 home runs while batting first and second in the lineup. There's plenty more power to come, and he has already shown an approach that belies his age.

    Verdict: Buy


    Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox

    With Jose Abreu only signed through the 2022 season, Vaughn could shift to first base in the not-too-distant future. That said, he's taken to the outfield with aplomb, and he's starting to show the offensive potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft. The 23-year-old is hitting .299/.362/.520 with seven home runs and 18 RBI since the beginning of July, and he'll be hitting in the middle of a dangerous White Sox lineup for years to come.

    Verdict: Buy

Center Fielders

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    Akil Baddoo
    Akil BaddooIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Akil Baddoo, Detroit Tigers

    Baddoo homered in his first two MLB games, but he struggled from there, as was to be expected for someone who had never played above the High-A level. Things have started to click since the middle of June, when he rattled off a modest 10-game hitting streak, and he's hitting .283/.332/.450 with 18 extra-base hits in his last 193 plate appearances.

    The underlying metrics have not been pretty, as he ranks near the bottom of the league in average exit velocity (2nd percentile) and hard-hit rate (11th percentile). While the 23-year-old might not have All-Star upside, he's been a great Rule 5 find for a rebuilding Tigers team, and he can hold down center field for the time being.

    Verdict: Sell


    Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners

    The No. 4 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2021 season, according to Baseball America, Kelenic debuted with a thud in May. He hit .096 with 26 strikeouts in 92 plate appearances before he was optioned in June back to the minors, where he quickly went back to annihilating Triple-A pitching. The 22-year-old is batting .200/.289/.360 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 28 games since he was recalled, but growing pains are inevitable. His strong Triple-A numbers (30 G, 1.016 OPS, 19 XBH) and youth still make it easy to be optimistic about his future.

    Verdict: Buy

Starting Pitchers (American League)

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Luis Garcia, Houston Astros

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a terrific cutter that generates a 45.1 percent whiff rate, Garcia has been a revelation for the Astros with a 3.30 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 111.2 innings. His 3.43 FIP and strong swing-and-miss numbers point to a bright future, and he's shown no signs of wearing down with a strong 6'1", 244-pound frame.

    Verdict: Buy


    Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners

    Gilbert has completed six innings just four times in 16 starts, but it's still been a strong debut for the 2018 first-round pick. The 6'6" right-hander has a 4.42 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 77.1 innings, and that's backed by an encouraging 3.54 FIP and a strong 5.6 percent walk rate. There are a lot of promising young arms in the Seattle pipeline, but Gilbert looks like the future ace of the staff. 

    Verdict: Buy


    Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays

    Manoah debuted less than two years after going No. 11 overall in the 2019 draft, and he has provided a stabilizing force in the Toronto rotation, going 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 59 innings. With a burly 6'6", 260-pound frame and a strong four-pitch mix, he can be a top-of-the-rotation workhorse for a Blue Jays team on the rise.

    Verdict: Buy


    Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays

    The Rays have kept McClanahan on a short leash. He has eclipsed 100 pitches just once, and he's completed six innings in only five of his 18 starts. The left-hander has strong numbers with a 3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 89.1 innings, but he allows an alarming amount of hard contact. Long-term, he probably fits as more of a middle-of-the-rotation guy with good strikeout numbers than a future ace.

    Verdict: Sell


    Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers

    With a 3.66 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 120.1 innings in 22 starts, Mize is living up to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. He has refined his slider into a dominant go-to pitch alongside his fastball and splitter, and his 7.0 K/9 will inevitably climb in the years to come.

    Skubal has a 4.10 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 116.1 innings, and his 4.98 FIP paints an even less promising picture, but the left-hander has turned a corner with 11 shutout innings in his last two starts. His slider and changeup are both terrific secondary offerings, and improved fastball command could make him elite.

    Verdict: Buy both

Starting Pitchers (National League)

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    Vladimir Gutierrez
    Vladimir GutierrezKirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves

    Anderson has been sidelined since the middle of July with shoulder inflammation. He was knocked around in his final start before landing on the shelf, but he had a 3.27 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 93.2 innings over his first 17 starts.

    The 23-year-old went 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in 18.2 innings in the postseason last year, and he has shown the stuff to slot alongside Max Fried and Mike Soroka atop the Atlanta rotation.

    Verdict: Buy


    Vladimir Gutierrez, Cincinnati Reds

    Props to Gutierrez for shoring up the Cincinnati rotation with a 3.95 ERA in 14 starts, but there are a lot of red flags beneath the surface. He has an ugly 5.20 FIP back by an unsustainable .259 BABIP, and there's a lot of blue on his Baseball Savant profile. The 25-year-old has logged four straight quality starts, but regression seems inevitable based on his underlying metrics.

    Verdict: Sell


    Tylor Megill, New York Mets

    Little was expected of Megill entering the season as the No. 28 prospect in the Mets system, but he has been an invaluable member of a banged up rotation. In 10 starts, he has a 3.42 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 54-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his 3.74 FIP is also rock solid. The 6'7" right-hander has three quality pitches and strong peripherals, pointing to a continued ability to exceed expectations.

    Verdict: Buy

Relief Pitchers

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    Garrett Whitlock
    Garrett WhitlockRich Schultz/Getty Images

    Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland

    Clase should have been an All-Star this year with a 1.68 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 50 appearances while nailing down 16 saves in 20 chances at the back of the Cleveland bullpen. With a cut fastball that averages 100.1 mph and a wipeout slider, the 23-year-old is going to be a late-inning force for years to come.

    Verdict: Buy


    Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox

    Will either of these hard-throwing youngsters wind up in the White Sox rotation long-term?

    Kopech has made three spot starts, and his curveball is a good enough change-of-pace alongside his triple-digits fastball and plus slider for him to thrive in any role. However, Crochet has been more of a two-pitch guy, and he throws his fastball 63.6 percent of the time. Both have All-Star potential, and I'll say Kopech gets there as a starter and Crochet does it as a closer a few years down the line.

    Verdict: Buy both


    Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox

    Plucked from the rival Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, Whitlock has logged a 1.41 ERA and 9.7 K/9 with 11 holds in 34 appearances. He has recorded more than three outs in 25 of his outings, and he there's a real chance Boston will shift him to the rotation at some point. He's a good multi-inning weapon with middle-of-rotation upside if he makes the shift, but this year was probably his best shot at an All-Star nod.

    Verdict: Sell


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant and accurate through Monday's games.