Earlier this week, sluggers Yordan Alvarez of the Astros and Pete Alonso of the Mets were named the 2019 Rookies of the Year. Alvarez hit 27 homers in 87 games and took home the American League award unanimously. Alonso led baseball with 53 homers and was one vote short of a unanimous victory in the National League.
These days rookies are having an immediate impact moreso than at any point in baseball history. They're not just playing well for rebuilding teams. They're impacting postseason races, like Alvarez. MLB clubs are very good at player development and these kids are ready to produce as soon as they arrive in the big leagues. It is awfully impressive.
Because there is never a bad time to look to the future, here are five early 2020 Rookie of the Year candidates for each league. Each of these 10 players are featured on R.J. Anderson's top 50 prospect list for the 2020 season. Our top Rookie of the Year candidates are listed alphabetically in each league.
OF Jo Adell, Angels: Adell is not quite the next Mike Trout, but he is a potential superstar, and he figures to join Trout in the Angels outfield at some point next year. The 20-year-old reached Triple-A this past season and hit .289/.359/.475 with 10 homers in 76 games at three minor league levels after missing time with hamstring and ankle injuries in spring training. Following a short tune-up stint in Triple-A -- he played 27 games there in 2019 -- Adell figures to join the Angels in 2020. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 2.
LHP Jesus Luzardo, Athletics: The A's may have called Luzardo up much earlier than September if not for a shoulder injury that limited him to 43 innings in the minors this past season. He showed tremendous power stuff in his brief big league stint ...
... and could open 2020 in Oakland's rotation. If not, Luzardo figures to make plenty of MLB starts anyway, or spend enough time in the bullpen to garner Rookie of the Year consideration. The A's typically do not play games with their best young players. If you can help them win, you'll be on the roster, and Luzardo is clearly ready to help them win. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 12.
LHP/DH Brendan McKay, Rays: Playing time can have a big impact on Rookie of the Year voting and McKay, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, has a chance to be in Tampa's Opening Day rotation and throw a lot of innings next year (his career high is 122 2/3 innings set in 2019). Also, he is a two-way player and could see time at DH between starts a la Shohei Ohtani two years ago. McKay fell one inning short of losing his rookie eligibility in 2019, so he is barely still Rookie of the Year eligible. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 13.
RHP Nate Pearson, Blue Jays: There might not be a better arsenal of pure power stuff in the minors than Pearson. The 23-year-old pairs a triple-digit fastball with a wipeout slider, and he has a quality curveball and changeup as well. Pearson misses bats aplenty -- he struck out 119 batters in 101 2/3 innings in 2019 -- and he reached Triple-A at the end of the year. Toronto's rotation is the land of opportunity right now. Once deemed ready (i.e. his service time is manipulated), Pearson could be called up to stay. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 16.
OF Luis Robert, White Sox: The White Sox have an enviable young position player core (Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada) and it's not crazy to think Robert could be the best of the bunch. The 22-year-old authored a .328/.376/.624 batting line with 32 home runs and 36 steals at three minor league levels in 2019, including 47 games at Triple-A. Robert should spent most of 2020 with the White Sox and is the early odds-on favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 3.
Honorable Mention: RHP Deivi Garcia, Yankees; 2B Nick Madrigal, White Sox; RHP Casey Mize, Tigers; RHP Forrest Whitley, Astros
LHP MacKenzie Gore, Padres: This one might be a bit of a reach because the 20-year-old Gore made only five Double-A starts in 2019, but I think he is the best pitching prospect in the game, and has a chance to make his MLB debut by midseason 2020 despite his current lack of upper-level experience. Gore has four above-average pitches and tremendous pitching IQ. He could have an impact right away. My only concern is he won't throw enough innings to garner series Rookie of the Year consideration. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 4.
IF Carter Kieboom, Nationals: Aside from an 11-game stint with the big league team, Kieboom spent the entire 2019 season in Triple-A, where he hit .303/.409/.493 with 16 homers in 2019 games. It is entirely possible the Nationals will have openings at second base (if free agent Howie Kendrick leaves) and/or third base (if free agent Anthony Rendon leaves) next season, positions that Kieboom, a natural shortstop, could be asked to fill. The playing time should be there. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 18.
RHP Mitch Keller, Pirates: Keller's big-league debut did not go well this past season (7.13 ERA in 11 starts), but he has the tools to be much better than that, including an upper-90s fastball and two put-away offspeed pitches (curveball and changeup). A little more Triple-A time could be in the cards next year. Either way, I expect Keller to spend most of the season in Pittsburgh's rotation. He fell two innings short of the rookie limit in 2019 and remains Rookie of the Year eligible in 2020. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 19.
IF Gavin Lux, Dodgers: The Dodgers have had 18 Rookies of the Year, the most of any team, and they'll have another candidate for the award in 2020. Lux had a dominant minor league season, hitting .347/.421/.607 with 26 homers between Double-A and Triple-A, then he showed the same jaw-dropping tools during his September call-up. The 21-year-old should get plenty of at-bats all around the infield for the platoon-happy Dodgers in 2020. He might even start full-time at second base. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 6.
OF Cristian Pache, Braves: The numbers may not jump out at you -- Pache hit .274/.337/.411 between Double-A and Triple-A this season -- but he did that as a 20-year-old, and his center field defense is Andruw Jones-like. Pache will be an instant Gold Glove contender and hey, if the juiced ball sticks around, it could help him put up better offensive numbers than expected. The obstacle here may be playing time. The Braves have a pretty stacked MLB outfield at the moment. CBS Sports top 50 prospect rank: 9.
Honorable Mention: OF Dylan Carlson, Cardinals; RHP Dustin May, Dodgers; IF Brendan Rodgers, Rockies; OF Drew Waters, Braves