As is the case every few years, the MLB rookie class is looking phenomenal with several rookies proving they have bright futures.
In the AL, Randy Arozarena is having a decent season for the red-hot Rays, who have also had their top prospect, Wander Franco, consistently get on base like he plays for the Moneyball Athletics. All-Star Adolis Garcia is also off to an incredible start to his career as a power force in the Texas Rangers’ lineup.
In the NL, Jonathan India has been an incredible leadoff hitter with a great flow to the game while All-Star Trevor Rogers has become yet another solid pitcher in a strong Miami Marlins’ rotation. There’s also been Jazz Chisholm Jr. making the Marlins a very fun team to watch as he becomes their next face of the franchise.
But every year, there are the rookies that no one appreciates enough. Some go on to have solid careers, while others do not. Last year, this honor belonged to people like Brady Singer and Triston McKenzie.
This year, that honor belongs to Baltimore Orioles first baseman/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle and Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Their teams might not make the playoffs this year, but with these incredible sensations, both the Orioles and Cubs have bright futures for the next five to eight years.
Let’s start with Mountcastle, the 2015 first rounder out of high school is having a marvelous season for the Orioles. In 133 games, Mountcastle is batting .260 with 128 hits, 30 home runs and 83 RBIs. Very recently, Mountcastle just passed Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. for the most home runs hit by an Orioles rookie. For reference, Ripken had 28 in 1982 while appearing in all but two games and batting .264.
On the Orioles, Mountcastle sits second in batting average behind another breakout man in All-Star Cedric Mullins, first in home runs, third in hits, fourth in doubles, first in runs batted in and second in OPS. With numbers like that, you know he is going to be a power hitter pitchers must keep their eyes on in the future.
Defensively, Mountcastle can handle any position he plays well, as he gets most of his innings at first base and can also move around the outfield. That said, he has proven himself to be a cornerstone that the Orioles can build off. Mountcastle, the No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com in 2020, has already hit more home runs than he did during any season in the minor leagues, which shows that he is settling into major league pitching nicely.
Mountcastle is tied for the league lead in home runs by rookies with Garcia, first in runs batted in, among the top players eligible in batting average and tied for second in hits with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson. He’s only 24 and with numbers like that, he’s only expected to improve with time and make the Orioles better than they have been over the last five seasons.
If we were just looking at the numbers, Mountcastle should be the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. He has gotten some strong consideration for the award, but the polls are leaning towards Arozarena and Garcia as of right now.
Then there’s the Cubs’ wisest player in Wisdom. He may not be getting a lot of love because he is a 30-year-old rookie, but he was one of the top hitters for the Cubs during their transition phase from loveable contenders to rebuilding Cubbies.
Wisdom, a complimentary pick out of St. Mary’s in 2012, is having a career year as he is batting .238 with 27 home runs, 59 runs batted in and 77 hits in 102 games. Along the way, he has picked up the most home runs by a Cubs rookie since 2015. Not bad for a stud who was on no one’s Top 30 prospect rankings.
Like Mountcastle, Wisdom can play multiple positions whether it is third base, first base or left field. The Cubs have decently balanced his playing time at most places, but he looks like the heir apparent to Bryant at third base. With a rookie season as good as that offensively and defensively (2.4 WAR, fourth on the team), there should not be any reasons as to why he should not be playing at that position.
With the Cubs, Wisdom leads the team in home runs, is second in RBIs, fourth in batting average and sixth in doubles. When he wasn’t leading in a category, it was being led by either someone on the team like Ian Happ (first in hits) or one of the three core players that got traded at the deadline (Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Bryant). If he gets his batting average up a lot more, he is going to be the face of the Cubs’ offense.
Compared to other rookies, Wisdom is second in home runs behind Garcia and Mountcastle, in the top twenty for hits by eligible rookies, tied for sixth in RBIs with Carlson, and in the top 20 for doubles. His numbers may not stand out compared to other rookies like Carlson, Bobby Dalbec and Mountcastle, but he has a strong foundation that he can build off as he continues to earn his long-awaited playing time.
Only time will tell how both of their careers pan out, but in the moment, they have both been incredible players for two struggling franchises and should be key faces towards rebuilding both of their lineups. Mountcastle may be the next great franchise player in Orioles’ history, while Wisdom seems to have found his home after being on three different teams in as many seasons.
In all fairness, the baseball writers are probably going to give the Rookie of the Year awards to India and either Arozarena or Garcia, but if they can give the ROTY to two 50 homer sluggers in three years, then there shouldn’t be a problem as to why two 25+ home run sluggers should earn the honors as well.