A lot of rookies made their mark in Major League Baseball this season, whether they began the year at the major-league level or were called up at some point in 2019. There were several impressive first-year players who didn’t make this list, such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Eloy Jimenez, Yordan Alvarez, and Bryan Reynolds, among others across the majors.
Here are five MLB rookies who put together breakout seasons.
Pete Alonso, New York Mets
There’s no way that Alonso wouldn’t be the first player on this list after his huge rookie season. “Pete the Polar Bear” made the Mets roster out of spring training as their starting first baseman, and he has been raking at the plate since. He’s just the second rookie ever behind Aaron Judge to hit 50 home runs in his rookie season, and he also just passed Mets legend David Wright for most total bases in a single season in Mets history.
Alonso is hitting .259 with a big-league-leading 51 home runs and 118 RBIs. He hit one of the hardest balls of the 2019 season according to Statcast, a no-doubter off Jonny Venters that left the bat at 118.3 mph and traveled 454 feet. There’s no doubt that he has become a centerpiece in New York. The fact that Alonso leads the majors in home runs in his rookie year is extremely impressive in itself.
There’s no way anyone could’ve predicted the home run leader in late September would be a rookie from the Mets, but here we are. Alonso is just two home runs shy of Judge’s record of 52, so it will be very fun to see if the 24-year old can reach — and possibly even pass — that total. Either way, it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Alonso will be named the National League Rookie of the Year.
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves
Soroka, a 22-year-old rookie, developed into one of the best starting pitchers in the game this season. The Braves righty has been a vital part of their venture to another NL East division title, leading their rotation with a 13-4 record and 2.60 ERA. His earned run average is also fourth in the majors and first among rookie starters. Soroka has pinpoint command, rarely walking hitters and getting ahead of almost every batter he faces. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s very deceptive and changes speeds extremely well.
For such a young player, he has impressive maturity, leading the Braves rotation in more ways than one. Although he can ramp it up to the mid-90s with his sinker, he pitches to contact relatively well, inducing a lot of groundballs with the sinking fastball that has wonderful movement. With a variety of pitches in his arsenal, including a wipeout slider that has arguably been his best putaway pitch this season, Soroka is the full package.
At just 22, the future is extremely bright for the Canadian. A future Cy Young could definitely be in the cards for Soroka if he continues to pitch this well on a consistent basis for years to come in his young major-league career.
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Everyone was very disappointed when Tatis went on the shelf with a season-ending back injury in mid-August. In 84 games this season, he proved exactly why he’s one of the top prospects in the game. Tatis put his five tools on full display on a nightly basis, whether he was throwing a guy out from the 5-6 hole or hitting a home run 400-plus feet.
The 20-year old hit .317 with 22 home runs and 53 RBIs while stealing 16 bags before his injury. He also hit six triples, which is a testament to his lightning speed on the basepaths. He did strikeout more than once a game, so that’s one area he will have to work on, but he’s still extremely young. The fact that he rolled into the big leagues this year and immediately tore up major-league arms in every way possible was exhilarating.
From his defense to his ability to hit the ball all over the field, he profiles as a franchise shortstop in San Diego and a vital piece of their exciting young core that look to get this team back to the playoffs in the near future. Once Tatis has the chance to play a full major-league season, watch out. He’s definitely a future All-Star and possibly even an MVP if his loud tools continue to speak for themselves every time he takes the field.
Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres
Here we are with another Padres rookie. Paddack never even pitched a day in Double-A, but his career 1.82 minor-league ERA was enough for the Padres to put him in their major-league rotation to begin the 2019 season. Well, it’s safe to say they made the right decision.
The 23-year old has been lights out this year, going 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts, holding opponents to a .204 batting average. He has struck out 153 hitters in just 140.2 innings while walking just 31. He mostly relies on his mid 90s fastball which Paddack uses to overpower hitters. The majority of his strikeouts this season have come via the heater. He does a great job of elevating the pitch when he’s ahead in the count.
His bulldog mentality on the mound has been a vital part of his success this season, always ready to put forward his best every time he takes the hill. Paddack made his last start on September 18 because the Padres shut him down for the remainder of the season due to an innings limit. But he proved his worth this year, solidifying himself as a top-end arm in San Diego’s rotation for the foreseeable future. He’s another exciting young player on a promising Padres team.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
There wasn’t a lot to be excited about in Toronto this year after yet another losing season for the Blue Jays in 2018. But the arrival of two of their top prospects, Guerrero and Bichette, brought some array of hope. Bichette made an immediate impact upon his arrival in the big leagues, hitting a double in each of his first nine contests while recording a hit in 11 of his first 13 major-league games. In his 46 games since getting the call-up in late July, Bichette is hitting .311 with 11 home runs and 21 RBIs while smacking 18 doubles.
His quick bat has encountered no problems adjusting to major-league pitching, showing the potential to be a future All-Star. Defensively, he’s a vacuum at shortstop, as he has committed just seven errors. He has all the tools to be a very good major leaguer, whether he’s stealing bases or hitting balls in the gaps.
Bichette is part of a unique trio in Toronto of players of former major leaguers. His dad, Dante Bichette, played in the bigs for many years, while Cavan Biggio is the son of Astros legend Craig Biggio. Lastly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the son of one of the best hitters in the game, Vladimir Guerrero. Three players with major-league dads have never played together on the same team. To boot, all of them are quite good, too. They give the Blue Jays promise for the future. It will be exciting to see these three rookies play a full season in the big leagues and see how much impact they can have for the Blue Jays.