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MLB Rookie Of The Year Watch: 2024 AL, NL Favorites On May 15 — College Baseball, MLB Draft, Prospects

Pirates RHP Paul Skenes

In the early stages of spring training, Baseball America ranked the top 20 MLB rookies for 2024.

Dodgers righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto ranked No. 1, and the former NPB ace has lived up to the hype. On the other hand, the top young position rookies have not met expectations—at least through the first six weeks of the season.

Rangers outfielder Evan Carter (104 OPS+), Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio (64), Orioles second baseman Jackson Holliday (–48) and Rangers outfielder Wyatt Langford (70) ranked Nos. 2 through 5. At this juncture, not one of them is in the Rookie of the Year conversation at the quarter pole.

Neither is preseason No. 6 rookie Junior Caminero, the Rays third baseman who suffered an early quad injury and was at Triple-A Durham.

Fortunes change quickly in baseball—especially for young players in the growth phase of their careers—and at least one of Carter, Chourio, Holliday, Langford or Caminero is sure to make a ROY push.

National League Rookie of the Year Race

1. Shota Imanaga, LHP, Cubs

Imanaga led the Japanese major leagues with 174 strikeouts last season, and the 30-year-old’s early results in MLB have been impeccable. He has gone 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA through eight starts, with 51 strikeouts and eight walks in 46.2 innings.

Four of Imanaga’s eight appearances have been scoreless. He has worked with at least five days of rest in all but one start, mimicking his NPB once-per-week schedule.

Imanaga is a pitcher of extremes: 27.9% strikeouts (16th among qualifiers), 4.4% walks (12th), 46.7% flyballs (10th) and 5.3% home runs per fly ball (10th). Even his pitch mix is extreme. Imanaga throws more four-seam fastballs than any starter but Kyle Harrison and more splitters than anyone but Cal Quantrill—and more than any qualified lefthanded starter of the pitch-tracking era. 

What to watch: In the early stages of 2024, MLB hitters have done much less damage on contact than in recent seasons. This has helped keep Imanaga’s home run rate in check. If that trend reverses, or if the ball simply carries better in warmer weather or batters gain enough familiarity with his unique release characteristics, Imanaga’s homer rate and ERA will rise sharply. Still, his strikeout rate and control are legit, making him at worst a quality No. 3 or 4 starter. 

2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, Dodgers

Yamamoto signed the richest contract ever for a pitcher and…

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