Mize climbs up Rookie Power Rankings

Detroit Tigers

Some stability in the ranks.

For only the second time this season, we have a repeat selection at the top of the Rookie Power Rankings. Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers continues to dominate on the bump as Major League Baseball heads toward the season’s midpoint, thus solidifying his place as the player most likely to claim a Rookie of the Year Award in MLB Pipeline’s estimation. The only other player to repeat at No. 1 this season was Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes back in April, and it just so happens that the former Top 10 overall prospect has surged back into consideration here following his return from a wrist injury that kept him out for two months.

Before we dive in, one more reminder that the RPR is a reflection of which players are in position to be named best rookie by season’s end, based on both current performance and projection for what is still to come. (All stats are through Tuesday’s games.)

1. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 1

How’s this for making sure the top spot remains yours? Since Rogers first went No. 1 in the RPR on June 2, the 23-year-old left-hander tossed three straight quality starts in which he posted a 2.37 ERA with 19 strikeouts and four walks in 19 innings. His 95 strikeouts in 81 2/3 frames on the season lead all rookie pitchers quite comfortably; Tarik Skubal is second with 74 punchouts. What’s more, Rogers, who owns a 1.98 ERA on the season, leads all rookies and is sixth among pitchers regardless of experience level with a 2.5 fWAR. The Miami southpaw continues to be in position for more votes than just Rookie of the Year.

2. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 5

While he was certainly flashy in last year’s postseason, Arozarena has been more of a steady presence for the Rays this year, and that consistency earns him marks at a time when other rookies have oscillated wildly. The Tampa Bay outfielder enters Wednesday on a 10-game hitting streak in which he’s produced a .317/.333/.561 line over 42 plate appearances. He’s hitting .264/.343/.427 with nine homers and a rookie-best 10 steals over 63 games on the season as a whole and is the only rookie to this point with at least nine dingers and nine thefts in 2021. Mix in some good defense from the corner outfield spots with that power-speed combo, and Arozarena ranks second among rookie position players with 1.5 fWAR.

3. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 3 (tie)

It looked like the rookie dip was coming for Anderson when he allowed eight earned runs over 8 1/3 combined innings on May 29 and June 4. However, seven scoreless innings against the Phillies on June 10 — matching the longest scoreless start of his young career — showed once again why the 23-year-old right-hander has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Braves. Anderson has posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over a team-best 66 1/3 innings. He has struck out 69 in that span, or 25.1 percent of the batters he has faced. What Anderson lacks in spin with his fastball and curve, he makes up for with his upper-80s changeup, against which opposing batters are hitting only .138 and whiffing 38.4 percent of the time.

4. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 3 (tie)

St. Louis has gone 3-9 since the last RPR, a stretch that includes sweeps at the hands of the division-rival Reds and Cubs, and it’s also been a rough go of it for Carlson, who has just a .663 OPS in those 12 games. But as always this season, the switch-hitting outfielder earns points in the RPR because he gets consistent playing time, a necessity for any Rookie of the Year candidate. Despite the recent downturn, Carlson remains an above-average hitter overall with a .265/.346/.410 line and 113 wRC+, aided by a good eye and chase rate that ranks in the 88th percentile among Major Leaguers. His 269 plate appearances are second-most among rookies behind only Arozarena’s 277, and there is hope that he can settle into even more power — like he showed in the Minors in 2019 — as that experience continues to expand at the top level.

5. Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B/SS, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 7

Questions about how he would return from a hamstring injury caused Chisholm to drop in the last edition of the RPR, but the left-handed slugger has bounced back just fine in the two weeks since, hitting .263 with three homers and an .807 OPS in his last 14 games. That comes at a crucial time for Miami as Chisholm has replaced the injured Miguel Rojas, sliding over from second to short on a full-time basis. Still, the 23-year-old hasn’t been as aggressive on the basepaths since his return; he hasn’t attempted a stolen base since May 25 and remains fixed on nine thefts on the season. To be clear, that’s still second-most among rookies, and his eight homers are tied for fifth-most. Chisholm, who is hitting .271/.337/.470 through 45 games, remains one of the most electric young talents in the game, and the further he gets from that hamstring problem, the more that could become evident.

6. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 8

The Mize climb continues. The 2018 top overall pick has quality starts in eight of his last nine outings, and the only exception was a five-inning, one-run performance on May 28. His ERA once stood as high as 5.23 in late April but has since shrunk to 3.49, fourth-best among rookie starters with at least 60 innings pitched in 2021. His 1.07 WHIP is even better among that group, slotting in at third. Once known for his plus-plus splitter, Mize has actually been most effective with his slider this season; opposing batters are hitting only .160 against it. That’s huge considering Mize has relied more on forcing bad contact this season with “only” 62 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings.

7. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: Unranked

To quote John Wick, yeah, we’re thinking he’s back. As mentioned above, Hayes returned to the Bucs lineup on June 3 following a wrist injury and has looked very much like the player who was a Rookie of the Year favorite entering the year. The right-handed slugger is hitting .289/.333/.511 with two homers in 11 games since his return, and no, that doesn’t include the June 8 dinger in which he missed first base and was later called out. Even with the missed time, Hayes ranks 20th among rookies with 0.5 fWAR, and his blend of offensive and defensive talent should allow him to shoot up those rankings as he accrues even more playing time. That said, his RPR comeback says as much about the current rookie crop’s inability to hold him off as it does about Hayes’ potential for the remainder of the summer.

8. Luis García, RHP, Astros (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 9

García moved into the RPR for the first time two weeks ago and is settling well into the back half of the list with continued strong performances. His eight strikeouts over six one-run innings against the Blue Jays on June 6 matched a career high for K’s. While he didn’t fare quite as well against the Twins on June 12, his ERA remains in a good place at 2.98 through 63 1/3 innings; only Rogers (1.98) has a better one among rookies with 60 frames. The 24-year-old right-hander doesn’t throw especially hard by modern standards with a fastball that averages 93.1 mph, but his full slate of offspeed pitches (cutter, slider, change, curve) keep hitters guessing and off-balance. García ranks in the 70th percentile among MLB pitchers in xERA, xBA, strikeout percentage, whiff percentage and chase rate.

9. Adolis García, OF, Rangers (not eligible for Top 30)
Previous RPR: 2

García has the biggest drop in this edition of the RPR, so let us explain. The Texas masher jumped onto the scene with 16 homers in his first 41 games of 2021, slugging .619 with a .942 OPS in that time. The problem since: it appears Major League pitchers are adjusting to him. García hasn’t homered at all since May 26, a stretch that has reached 16 games. He has just a .242/.266/.274 slash line with two total extra-base hits and 19 strikeouts in that time. Now, the 28-year-old still leads all rookie position players with his 16 homers, 46 RBIs, 116 total bases and 1.8 fWAR, so if the season ended today, he would get plenty of AL Rookie of the Year consideration. But that’s not what this space is about, and unless he shows he can adjust back against top-level pitching, García is in danger of falling off this list entirely next time out.

10. Ryan Mountcastle, OF/1B, Orioles (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: Unranked

Now for someone headed in the complete other direction. Mountcastle was a Top 100 prospect to enter the year but wasn’t blowing the doors off the competition with a .226/.255/.373 line through the first two months of the season. A light seems to have come on in June. The Orioles slugger is hitting .302/.333/.581 through 11 games this month. Three of his eight homers have come in June alone and with the way his power is trending, that number isn’t likely to be stuck there long. Mountcastle was known as a bat-first player coming into 2021 — one who hit .333 with an .878 OPS during his first taste of the Majors last season. If this improvement is a sign that he’s the 2020 version of himself again, he has every chance to climb even higher in future power rankings.

Dropped out: Yermín Mercedes, Dane Dunning

Others receiving votes: Emmanuel Clase, Pavin Smith

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