Rookie of the Year rankings: Sixto, 'Wild Thing' among favorites

Welcome to the second edition of RunSportBet’s 2020 Rookie of the Year rankings, where we pick five top candidates from each league.

American League

5. Justus Sheffield, Mariners

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IP ERA K WHIP WAR
44.1 4.06 42 1.29 1.3

Sheffield was the prized piece acquired in the 2018 James Paxton trade, and he’s shown this season why the Mariners had to have him. The 24-year-old leads all qualified rookie pitchers in fWAR (1.3), accompanied by a 3.11 FIP and 0.4 HR/9. He’s also held left-handed hitters to a .146/.204/.171 slash line with a .176 wOBA, and five of his eight outings have resulted in quality starts. While the 2014 first-round pick has done a solid job at limiting opponent’s batting average away from T-Mobile Park (.237), he sits fifth on this list because of a concerning road ERA (5.66), including 12 walks in 20 2/3 innings.

4. James Karinchak, Indians

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IP ERA K WHIP WAR
22.2 2.78 43 1.15 0.9

Karinchak put himself on the radar last season during a September cup of coffee with the Indians, and he’s continued his success this year. The ninth-round pick of the 2017 draft has the best K/9 in the American League (17.45) and the fifth-lowest FIP (1.59) in the majors among relievers, despite a 5.0 BB/9. During his 22 appearances, he’s struck out 40 different hitters, including AL MVP contender Nelson Cruz three times. Karinchak, who wears No. 99 and enters games to “Wild Thing,” has also become a fan favorite of actor Charlie Sheen. Sheen played Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn for the Indians in the “Major League” films and also wore No. 99.

3. Ryan Mountcastle, Orioles

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GP HR RBI R AVG/OBP/SLG WAR
23 5 18 11 .350/.411/.588 0.9

That Mountcastle hadn’t debuted at the time of our first edition of these rankings is telling enough that he’s been unbelievable since his promotion. He’s already had nine multi-hit games and leads all rookies with a 178 wRC+. Despite his reputation in the minors as a free swinger, Mountcastle’s walked more frequently than he ever has before. His torrid success at the dish makes you wonder if the Orioles should have called him up sooner.

2. Luis Robert, White Sox

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GP HR RBI R AVG/OBP/SLG WAR
45 11 30 29 .255/.317/.503 1.8

The former top prospect is living up to the hype. Robert leads all rookies in homers and RBIs, and he’s second in runs scored. The 23-year-old Cuban has also played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field for the surging White Sox. His 4.6 ultimate zone rating is second in the AL behind Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, while his 21.3 UZR/150 only trails Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, according to FanGraphs.

1. Kyle Lewis, Mariners

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GP HR RBI R AVG/OBP/SLG WAR
47 10 27 34 .295/.390/.494 1.8

Ken Griffey Jr., is that you? All jokes aside, it feels like the Mariners haven’t had a star player like Lewis in the outfield since The Kid in the 1990s. The 25-year-old sits second behind Robert for round-trippers and RBIs among rookies, and he leads all first-year players in runs scored. He owns an .886 OPS in 65 career games while going deep 16 times. Lewis has also made some sensational plays with his glove this year, including a jaw-dropping catch to steal a grand slam Monday:

National League

5. Alec Bohm, Phillies

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GP HR RBI R AVG/OBP/SLG WAR
32 3 19 16 .316/.365/.474 0.5

Here comes the Bohm! The Phillies’ No. 1-ranked prospect has started his major-league career with a bang. The 24-year-old third baseman’s accrued an .839 OPS through his first 32 games. Only Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth has a higher batting average than Bohm among rookies with at least 110 plate appearances during the 2020 campaign.

4. Devin Williams, Brewers

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IP ERA K WHIP WAR
20 0.45 41 0.70 1.0

Williams has been one of the biggest bright spots on an underwhelming Brewers squad, and his success can largely be attributed to what may be the game’s most devastating changeup. He’s thrown it 189 times (55.1% of his pitches) and allowed zero hits off it. Williams’ changeup ranks first in the majors with a 0.070 wOBA.

3. Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers

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IP ERA K WHIP WAR
35.2 1.51 30 0.79 0.9

Gonsolin may only have six starts under his belt, but he’s been sensational for the Dodgers and appears to have a clearer role following Ross Stripling’s trade to the Blue Jays. The 26-year-old owns a 0.88 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in games he’s started and ranks third in WAR among qualified rookie pitchers. He’s also reduced his ERA, WHIP, and FIP from a season ago while lowering his walks and hits per nine. What might be most impressive about the California native is he’s only allowed more than one earned run just once this season.

2. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins

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IP ERA K WHIP WAR
32 1.69 29 0.91 0.9

There have been remarkably few growing pains for the 22-year-old righty since he debuted Aug. 22. Sanchez has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his five starts, going scoreless on two occasions. His most recent outing was a dominant seven-inning affair where he allowed one run on three hits against the Philadelphia Phillies, the club that traded him to Miami in the J.T. Realmuto deal. Oh, and he also hits 100 mph on the radar gun. Sanchez is a joy to watch.

1. Jake Cronenworth, Padres

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GP HR RBI R AVG/OBP/SLG WAR
44 4 20 24 .319/.378/.546 1.7

Cronenworth takes over the top spot in the NL rankings thanks to a tremendous rookie season for Slam Diego. The 26-year-old leads NL rookies in WAR and owns a .319 batting average through 44 games, with 21 of his 45 hits going for extra bases. If the Michigan native continues to hit the way he has, there’s a chance he finishes the year with the highest single-season batting average by a Padres rookie in franchise history. Luis Salazar hit .337 in 44 games for San Diego during his 1980 rookie campaign.