The 2023 AL and NL Rookie of the Year (ROY) Awards were given out last week, with little doubt as to who was going to take home the hardware. The Baltimore Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll both won in unanimous votes, as both established themselves as superstars for their respective teams.
Which should we be looking for when trying to predict next year’s winners?
Henderson and Carroll were both high level minor league players, so top 100 prospect lists is a good place to get an idea who might be in the mix. Over the last 10 years, 16 of the 20 winners have been hitters, with only 3 pitchers winnings the award (omitting two-way unicorn Shohei Ohtani who pitches and hits). Another trait that seems to translate well to winning this award is speed. The winner in each league over the last 3 years has produced double-digit steal totals, with Carroll’s 54 being the high water mark this past season. Finally, opportunity plays a big part. Earning a starting job in Spring Training goes a long way towards creating an appealing ROY resume.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the top three National League first year players for the 2024 season.
1. Jordan Lawler, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
If you watched the Arizona Diamondbacks run to a World Series last month, you probably saw Lawler in the dugout cheering on his teammates. Unlike Evan Carter from the Rangers, Lawler was a non-factor in the playoffs, recording just two at bats. However, the experience of being part of a magical run may be useful for him going into next year. He struggled at the end of the regular season with the Diamondbacks, but his Minor League numbers were eye-popping in 2023: an .874 OPS with 20 home runs and 36 steals. Coming in at #10 on MLB’s top 100 prospect list, the young infielder has every chance to break out in 2024. The only issue may be finding a spot in the lineup for him. Geraldo Perdomo returns at shortstop, but the team may explore moving Lawler to third base to get his bat in the lineup.
2. Jackson Chourio, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
There is a good chance Chourio would be number 1 on this list if the Brewers had not already announced that he won’t start the season in the Major Leagues. I’m not sure why they would go out of their way to announce this before Spring Training even starts, but the youngster will surely be in the mix for Milwaukee before long. The 19-year old Venezuelan outfielder is the #2 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, blasting 22 home runs and 44 steals last season. He might be the closest thing to a Carroll-like skill set that could take the baseball world by storm when given his chance. For a seemingly mediocre Brewers team, it’s only a matter of time before we see him as the cornerstone of this franchise.
Last season as an 18-year-old, Chourio hit .288 with 30 2B, 5 3B, 20 HR, 75 RBIs, 75 R, and 16 SB in 99 games between A/AA. pic.twitter.com/HbI6G30jhW
— Brewers Stats (@BrewersStat) April 7, 2023
3. James Wood, OF, Washington Nationals
Wood was the big return for the Nationals in their Juan Soto trade of 2022, and has lived up to the hype so far. Wood is the closest thing to an Aaron Judge-type prospect, measuring in a 6’7″ and 240 pounds. Despite being that big, he still has some wheels, stealing 18 bases to go along with 26 home runs last season. Wood may be a guy that needs a month or two of additional Minor League seasoning, but he has the skillset to explode once he inevitably gets called up. MLB’s #7 overall prospect is sure to be a key player in the Nationals rebuild going forward.