Last year I gave my picks for who I believed would be the top seven rookies to watch in the 2018 season including my American League and National League Rookie of the Year predictions which both turned out to be correct with wunderkinds Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna taking home the awards in their respective leagues. With last year’s post being such a success, I figured that another top seven along with my predictions was a necessity for the 2019 season. So without further procrastination, here are my top seven MLB rookies to watch in 2018 and my Rookie of the Year Award predictions.
Honorable Mention: Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best possible scenario for Alex Verdugo is if either he gets traded, or someone residing within the Dodgers’ glut of outfielders is. Verdugo is a solid centerfielder with fantastic plate discipline and line-drive ability. Verdugo is projected to be a leadoff hitter in the Major Leagues after hitting .329 with 19 doubles in 91 games for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers before a brief call-up to the bigs in 2018 in which he hit .260 in 77 at-bats. Verdugo has some improvements to make in his game but is a high upside player that will likely make an impact in the bigs in 2019 (regardless of what team he is with).
7. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Tatis put together another great season in the Minors in which he hit for a good average, showcased fantastic on-base skills, along with some big-time pop. Tatis put up 101 hits, 22 doubles, 19 home runs, 43 runs batted in, and a .286 batting average in 353 at-bats in 88 games. While Tatis will need to cut down his strikeouts by a large margin after striking out in nearly a third of his at-bats, it should be no time before he is the San Diego Padres’ starting shortstop.
6. Peter Alonso, New York Mets
Peter Alonso was an absolute stud in 2018 during time almost equally spent in both Double and Triple-A in which he tied for the Minor League lead in home runs with 36 and ran away with the Minor League RBI title with 119, Alonso is certainly prepared to mash in Citi Field. The Mets need a first baseman and the spot is his to lose in 2019. Alonso is expected to be one of the top hitters on a revamped New York Mets team and could find himself in the thick of the National League Rookie of the Year race in 2019.
5. Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros
Forrest Whitley will most likely start his 2019 season in Triple-A after missing 50 games due to a violation of the Minor League Drug program. With Performance Enhancing Drug allegations aside, Whitley has four deadly pitches. His pitching arsenal features a sharp fastball, a wicked curveball, along with a fantastic slider and a solid changeup. Whitley and his 6’7” tall frame should be up in the bigs with Houston by mid-season with his wicked pitch arsenal.
4. Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
As one of the youngest players in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League last season, Kyle Tucker hit like an absolute stud, posting a .332 batting average with 24 home runs and 135 hits. The Astros have a crowded outfield, but if Tucker is able to secure a spot in the outfield for the 2019 regular season, expect him to make noise in the American League Rookie of the Year race while playing for the 2017 World Champs.
3. Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
Victor Robles’ potential was seen in small sample sizes during his brief stint with the Naationals before a hyperextended left elbow derailed his season. Robles is expected to have an outfield spot next to Juan Soto waiting for him and could possibly find himself batting leadoff during the 2019 season. Robles was a stud in the leadoff spot for Washington during his breif stint with the Nationals, slashing a fantastic .356/.400/.667, far better than any other Washington leadoff hitter last season. Robles is going to be a stud in 2019 and could find himself with a Rookie of the Year trophy on his shelf by the season’s end.
2. Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
Eloy Jimenez spent the 2018 season playing between Double-A and Triple-A. The 21-year-old outfielder hit a combined .337 with a .961 OPS all while hitting 22 home runs with 75 runs batted in and 140 hits. Jimenez is not projected to be a plus baserunner or defender but the guy can flat out hit and is projected to hit 30+ home runs per season when he gets his call to the show. Jimenez has nothing left to prove in the Minors and a starting spot in the outfield with Chicago is his to lose this Spring.
1. Vladimir Gurerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the top rookie to watch heading into the 2019 season by a landside. After flirting with a .400 batting average while splitting his season between Double-A and Triple-A while displaying exemplary power, plate discapline, contact, and the ability to swing with authority and balance. Vladdy Jr. finished his 2018 campaign with a .381 with 20 home runs and 78 runs batted in. Guerrero Jr. displays the offensive ability of a perrenial All-Star and a possibly a future MVP. Guerrero will be a top ten hitter as soon as he gets called to the bigs and the baseball world can’t wait.
American League Rookie of the Year Award Prediction: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
National League Rookie of the Year Award Prediction: Victor Robles