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Rookies to watch

White Sox Oscar Colas among rookies to watch

Masataka Yoshida hopes to duplicate Japanese success

Julio Rodriguez and the Astros’ Jeremy Peña set the bar high for the upcoming rookie class. Will Oscar Colas, Gunnar Henderson or Anthony Volpe have similar runs at the Rookie of the Year Award or postseason glory?

Rodriguez took home the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Award while guiding the Mariners to their first postseason in 21 years. Peña helped the Astros secure their second World Series title with a monster postseason. He won the ALCS and World Series MVP Awards.

Here are five rookies who have the potential to compete for the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Anthony Volpe

There is excitement brewing in the Bronx as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect Anthony Volpe is on the Opening Day roster. Volpe has received high praise from the Yankees organization as he fast tracked the minors and had a phenomenal spring, which earned him the call to the big leagues. 

In 2022, the 21-year-old rookie sensation spent time in both Double A and Triple A. In between the two, he played in 131 games where he slashed a total of 21 home runs, 65 runs batted in and most impressively 127 hits.

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Volpe can hit righties well. The short porch in Yankee Stadium should improve his home run numbers. Nonetheless, he will need to cut down on the strikeouts to get consistent at-bats.

The Yankee faithful are comparing him to Derek Jeter. He will get all the chances at shortstop to battle for the award. 

Oscar Colas

Oscar Colas, 24, has officially made the Chicago White Sox Opening Day roster. The Cuban outfielder has been playing professional ball since he was 17, bouncing back and forth from Cuba and Japan.

The White Sox signed Colas in 2022. He quickly paved through minor league pitching. Scouts have admired his raw power, his ability to use all parts of the field and his arm.

In one year in the minors, Colas launched 23 home runs, had 79 RBIs and 24 doubles while batting a brilliant .314 average. He wowed the Sox in spring training. He’ll soon show the rest of the league what they missed out on.

With fellow Cuba natives Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada guiding him through the big leagues, Colas should adjust fairly quickly.  

Masataka Yoshida

Masataka Yoshida, 29, is probably the most experienced rookie in the American League after playing seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. 

He is a lock in to be the Red Sox everyday left fielder. The Fukui, Japan, native had a slow spring training. He turned things around, in the WBC, hitting a huge three-run home run against Mexico to lead them to the final

Yoshida has had great numbers in the NPB. In seven seasons he totaled 900 hits, 135 home runs, 474 RBIs, a .326 batting average and a .957 OPS. If Yoshida can quickly make the adjustment from Japan to the United States, he might be a shoo in for the AL ROY. 

Hunter Brown

Houston Astros righthander Hunter Brown hopes to become the first pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year award since Michael Fulmer in 2016.

Due to Lance McCullers Jr.’s injury, Brown is the frontrunner for the fifth rotation spot. Brown saw some action in the major leagues last season. The Astros’ No. 1 prospect pitched in seven games with two being impressive quality starts. In his two starts he had a 1.50 ERA with 11 strikeouts. 

The 6-foot-2  pitcher from Detroit has been compared to his former teammate Justin Verlander. Brown has a pitching motion similar to Verlander’s. Both men rely heavily on their fastballs. He threw his fastball over 52 percent of the time, while registering nine strikeouts on that pitch.

Brown has great offspeed pitches too. He threw his curveball 31.4 percent of the time and his slider 13.3 of the time. Brown can throw it for strikes and to get the hitter to chase. He caused 17 swings and misses on both pitches.

Brown has exceptional stuff. We will see if Wayne State’s very own can pitch his way to a ROY Award. 

Gunnar Henderson

All eyes are on Gunnar Henderson, baseball’s No. 1 prospect. The 21-year-old will likely man the hot corner and bat in the heart of the order for the Orioles 

Henderson had a modest spring training with a below par batting average of .229, 11 strikeouts and only one homer. However during the 2022 September call-up, he showed that he can swing the bat.  

In his second major league at-bat, Henderson’s first major league hit was a towering home run to center field. In 116 trips to the plate, the Orioles phenom had a .259 batting average  and a .788 OPS. His ability to spray the ball around the diamond is what makes him such a valuable player. 

Henderson has proven he can hit the fastball. He has a .322 batting average on the fastball. Three of his four home runs came on that pitch as well. In contrast, he has struggled mightily with breaking balls, hitting below the Mendoza line. 

There’s no question that Henderson can play the field. He has a 70 plus grade arm and has made spectacular defensive plays. If he can adjust at the plate and continue using the whole field, the Orioles might have their seventh rookie of the year. 

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