We’re still a few months away from Major League Baseball, but Spring Training will be here before you know it. Pitchers and catchers report in early February, and among the topics of conversation in meeting rooms across the league will be which rookies make the cut. The collective bargaining agreement discourages younger players from breaking camp with the big league squad, making predicting awards like the Rookie of the Year more challenging. However, there are already a variety of eligible Rookie of the Year candidates whom fans could see make an impact at the big league level this season. Here are three rookies to keep your eye on in the 2024 MLB season.
Evan Carter | Texas Rangers, Outfielder
Drafted in the 2nd round in 2020 as a high schooler, Carter has done nothing but hit. He torched High-A ball as a 19-year-old in 2022, logging a .864 OPS with 11 homers and 26 stolen bases. Not to mention being nearly four years younger than the average player at that level. He did the same in 2023, hitting 12 homers and stealing 22 bases to a .862 OPS in 97 games at AA Frisco. Again, he did so while being over four years younger than the average player at that level.
His strong performances culminated in a September callup to a Rangers team chasing a division title. The results were better than anybody could have expected. In 23 games, Carter hit .306 and slugged a whopping .645, hitting five homers in just 75 plate appearances. He saw similar success in the postseason, hitting .300 with a homer while playing in all 17 Rangers’ games en route to the franchise’s first World Series title. As a result, he will likely open online sportsbook betting as the odds-on favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year.
Carter was such a wonder for the Rangers that he batted 3rd or 4th in the lineup for every World Series game and started every game in left field. Entering 2024, Carter will not only be the uncontested starter in left field on a team loaded with talent, but he will be a centerpiece to a team attempting to repeat as champions.
The youngest player on our list, Jackson Chourio, may also have some of the worst odds of winning his league’s Rookie of the Year. The next player on our list might be his toughest competition. With that said, those odds are impacted more by potential playing time than skill. Chourio is 19 and isn’t guaranteed to make the Brewers roster out of camp. However, whenever he does get the call, he could be an immediate impact player for a defensive-minded team that desperately needs hitting.
Compared to Ronald Acuna Jr, Chourio has a unique combination of power and speed. It is such a potent combination that Milwaukee signed him to an eight-year, $82 million contract before he had even played a Major League game. Fangraphs scouting report gives Chourio a 70-grade speed tool with a 60-grade raw power tool. Even better, Fangraphs gives Chourio a future 60-grade game power tool. These grades are justified by one look at his numbers. As a 19-year-old in AA last season, facing competition nearly five years older than him on average, Chourio hit 22 home runs and stole 41 bases.
As a result, Chourios is a consensus top-3 prospect in baseball. He may not break camp with the Brewers, but he could immediately make an impact if and when he does. The Brewers had just two above-league-average hitters last season, according to OPS+, a league-adjusted stat that compares a hitter’s OPS with his peers. They could use another hitter as they attempt to win the NL Central for the fourth time in seven seasons.
Of course, Paul Skenes had to be on this list. Whether you think highly of the power right-handed pitcher or think he’s overrated, Skenes will almost certainly be one of the odds-on favorites to be National League Rookie of the Year. However, as mentioned with Chourios, this is as much about his playing time and Major League readiness as it is about his upside.
Scouts differ in their opinion of Skenes. MLB.com has him ranked as the 3rd overall prospect, while Keith Law has him as low as 16. His power arm is undeniable, but the lack of a third pitch and average command present some question marks. Skenes’ upside is a top-of-the-rotation guy, but he only got a few innings at the professional level last season, so it’s hard to know exactly how good he is.
With that said, you can’t teach his arm talent, and college pitchers are the most Major League-ready players in the draft. At 21, Skenes is among the oldest players on the prospect boards and could easily make an impact at the Major League level in 2024.
More players than these three are ready to make waves at the big league level. Jackson Holliday, the consensus top prospect in baseball, could get into the Major Leagues this season, and Skenes’ former teammate Dylan Crews is also right on the doorstep. The Rookie of the Year is among the hardest awards to predict, so stay tuned come March as to which guys are making their Major League roster.