Welcome to the third edition of the 2022 Rookie Power Rankings. Once per month, the MLB Pipeline staff votes on who we believe to be the likeliest Rookie of the Year winners at year’s end.
Repeat: at year’s end. Please be sure not to miss that part. We’re not voting on who would win today, or who’s hot right now (that’s a separate story, one you’ll see in two weeks). Instead, we weigh players’ performance to date along with expectations for the rest of the year, adding up to a judgment call from our prospect experts.
1. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (previous rank: 1)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: -140 (must bet $140 to win $100)
Remember when Rodríguez was hitting in the .130s? Neither do we. This is what it looks like when a star emerges. Since a slow first two weeks – during which, you may recall, he wasn’t getting any favors with the strike zone – Rodríguez has simply been one of the best players in the game. He found his power in May, then started drawing some walks in June. And all of this while playing a quality center field and leading the American League in stolen bases.
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (previous rank: 3)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 7-1
You could just about copy-and-paste the above comment for Witt. He had a tough April, started hitting for power in May, and started commanding the strike zone more in June. Witt, like Rodríguez, is also racking up stolen bases and playing a premium defensive position well. These guys are both special, and it’s going to be fun watching them match feat-for-feat for the rest of the season.
3. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (previous rank: 9)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 30-1
Hate to say we told you so, but… yeah. We ranked Rutschman before his debut. We had him on the list when he finished May with a .179 average. Since then, the former No. 1 overall prospect has surged. Over the past two weeks, he’s found his power stroke, cut his strikeouts, and generally played like the star-in-waiting that pretty much everyone figured he was. The only thing keeping Rutschman from the top two spots on this list is that Rodríguez and Witt got a seven-week head start.
4. Jeremy Peña, SS, Astros (previous rank: 2)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 3.3-1
Peña’s power cooled off a bit in the first half of June, then he took a trip to the injured list with a thumb injury. He’s still a very good player having a very good year as the starting shortstop for a very good team, and that combination tends to be pretty compelling for voters. If Peña resumes his power surge from the first two months, he’ll be in the running with all three of the more highly touted prospects ahead of him on this list.
5. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (previous rank: 5)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 4.25-1
Gore finally had a rough start – two actually, both against Colorado – but bounced back last week against the Phillies, and it’s fair to say our staff still loves him. Still, that 1.71 ERA coming out of May is now nearly twice as high, and it will be interesting to see how a pitcher who has never topped 101 professional innings holds up over six months.
6. Michael Harris II, OF, Braves (previously unranked)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 4.5-1
Harris entered the season with 632 professional plate appearances, total. But that didn’t stop him from raking in his first exposure to Double-A, and he hasn’t looked unprepared for the Majors either. His defense gets superb marks, and the question was just how much he’d hit. So far, the answer is “a lot.” There’s some concern about his plate discipline (27 Ks against three walks), but Harris has been a revelation in his first month in the big leagues.
7. Brendan Donovan, IF/OF, Cardinals (previously unranked)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 19-1
Oh, hey, what do you know? Another polished hitter emerging from the Cardinals farm system. Donovan has been an on-base machine since he started playing regularly in mid-May, and his Minor League record indicates it’s no fluke. Donovan has hit for average and controlled the strike zone at pretty much every level since he was a seventh-round pick out of South Alabama in 2018.
8. Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins (previous rank: 6)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 28-1
Ryan has definitely been a bit less impressive since returning from the COVID-19 injured list, but his overall performance keeps him on the list. Ryan banked a very strong first two months of the season, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll return to form before long. But for now, in a crowded American League field, he slips a bit in the rankings.
9. George Kirby, RHP, Mariners (previously unranked)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 55-1
A preseason top-50 prospect, Kirby started the year at Double-A but quickly forced his way up the ladder. Now he’s dealing for a Mariners team that’s started to find its footing a little bit. Over Kirby’s last six starts, he has 36 strikeouts, four walks, and a 2.91 ERA. He’s been a little homer-prone, but overall he’s been very, very good for a team that needed it.
10. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves (previously unranked)
DraftKings Rookie of the Year odds: 9-1
Even with the dominance he showed out of the bullpen early in the year, it was going to be hard for Strider to win Rookie honors as a non-closing reliever. He’s continued to put up numbers even after moving into the rotation, though, so he’s now on the list. Strider has a 3.24 ERA in five June starts, with 35 Ks against nine walks, and he’s coming off a dominant performance against the Dodgers. His arrow is pointing up for sure.