Welcome to the June edition of the Rookie Hot List, MLB.com’s monthly look at some of the rolling rookies in the major leagues.
As always, as a reminder, this isn’t about who has the best season. It’s not about who becomes Rookie of the Year. It’s all about who’s hot – rookie players who have had the best performances over the past 30 days. There is a slight bias in game time, so a player with twice as many at-bats or innings is preferred over one with slightly better odds stats.
Among those who narrowly missed this week: Jack Suwinski, Jose Miranda, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Jeremy Peña and Graham Ashcraft. You can absolutely argue that one of them was in the top 10. These are discretionary decisions.
1. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (no longer eligible to be classed as a prospect)
Last month we had Rodríguez in 5th place and realized that the only thing left to come was performance. The power has come. Rodríguez is .288/.351/.529 over the past 30 days, with seven home runs. And he’s still running wild, with seven steals in eight tries over that span. Do you know what a player is who averages seven home runs and seven steals a month for an entire season? A 40/40 player. Rodriguez is something special.
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (no longer ranking)
Much like the only name above him on this list, Witt is a super hyped prospect who has found his way into the big leagues. There’s practically nothing separating him and Rodríguez, and if you wanted to turn them around, it would be hard to dispute. Witt has posted a .283/.348/.586 line for the past 30 days with five steals in five tries while playing regular shortstop. The royals have tussled but Witt looks exactly as advertised.
3. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (unranked)
The tune should be familiar by now. A top prospect had a tough time arriving in the majors, but he’s starting to figure it out. Greene is still racking up strikeouts — 44 in 34 innings over the past month — but he’s reduced walks. He has shown 11 in our chosen time span, but five of those came on May 15th. In five starts since then he has 35 Ks and six walks.
4. Christopher Morel, OF, Cubs (Chicago No. 21 prospectus)
Morel, the first name on this list who isn’t a top prospect, has been a delightful surprise for the Cubs since his May 17 debut. He has a .278/.360/.485 line during that time, with three home runs and six steals in eight attempts. The achievement – 12 extra base hits – is the biggest surprise and possibly the most difficult to sustain. But so far he’s been a tremendous boost for Chicago.
5. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (unrankable)
At some point, gore won’t just be hot anymore. He is good. He had a tough battle against the Rockies on his last break, but that followed a streak of nine excellent starts earlier in the season. Even with the one clunker, he has a 2.59 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 24 1/3 innings over the past month. He hasn’t hit a homer since his debut on April 15.
6. Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers (Prospectus Detroit #15)
If you play fantasy baseball, you’re familiar with the term “post-hype sleeper.” It was basically made for guys like Faedo. Once a Top 100 prospect, he’s slipped off most fans’ radars in recent years, but he’s been great for the Tigers since his May 4 debut. Last month, he had 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 innings, with a 2.67 ERA in five starts.
7. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves (unrankable)
After dominating in relief, Strider was placed on the rotation. His first start was a bit bumpy but he seems to be adjusting. In the past month, which spanned 20 2/3 innings split between starts and relief, he’s amassed 31 Ks — that’s 13.5 per nine innings vs. 10 walks with a 1.74 ERA. Like Gore, he’s kept the ball in the park, with one homer allowed all season.
8. Roansy Contreras, (MLB Prospectus #64, Pittsburgh #6)
Contreras had some relief appearances in April and held his own. Now he’s doing more than that in the rotation. In four starts, he has 23 strikeouts against six walks with a 2.21 ERA. He struggled a bit against the hot Braves, but even in a game where he was touched up a bit, he still racked up seven strikeouts.
9. MJ Melendez, C/OF/DH, Royals (MLB Prospectus #45, Kansas City #1)
Melendez keeps hitting and so he keeps getting attacks. Prior to this year, he had a total of nine games as a pro in a non-catcher position. But with Salvador Perez fairly entrenched as a catcher and Melendez raking in, the royals need to find a spot for him. So Melendez started at right field and DH and is hitting on. He’s .260/.333/.510 with six homers in the last month.
10. Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox (unranked)
Burger was a godsend for an injury-plagued team. He’s only had 59 at-bats in the last month, otherwise he’d be a lot further up this list. He hit .322 with .385 OBP and .712 slugging percentage in those 59 at-bats and hit six home runs. If he can make that 100+ record appearances, he’ll likely be at the top of next month’s list.