Ten Underrated Rookie Pitchers Making Their Mark in 2024

You may have heard their names brought up on occasion, but these ten rookie pitchers have not gotten nearly enough attention so far in 2024.

San Diego Padres manager Mike Shildt takes San Diego Padres pitcher Matt Waldron out of the game after Waldron pitches 5 and 2/3 innings during the MLB game between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves at Truist Park.
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17: San Diego Padres manager Mike Shildt (8) takes San Diego Padres pitcher Matt Waldron (61) out of the game after Waldron pitches 5 and 2/3 innings during the MLB game between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves on May 17, 2024, at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Even through all of the arm injuries we have seen since the beginning of the 2024 season, we have also seen some incredible pitching performances across the league. The most impressive thing about these performances is that many of them have not come from the likely sources we would have mentioned in previous years.

Sure, we have seen a meteoric rise from Shota Imanaga to start his MLB career. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, although he got off to a rocky start and currently sits on the injured list, has flashed the dominance he was lauded for when he came over from Japan.

Jared Jones has burst on the scene for the Pirates after having to win the final rotation spot out of spring training. Oh, what about his teammate Paul Skenes? He has done nothing but dominate the opposing competition and confirm everyone’s preconceived notions about him, ever since he made his first start for the Pirates.

I would be remiss not to mention Luis Gil as well and the work he has done to bring some stability to the Yankees rotation, especially while Gerrit Cole was working his way back from injury.

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This article is not meant to continue to prop up those we expected good things from or those who have already gotten their fair share of praise, but to highlight the rookies who have been far more impressive than anyone expected them to be.

I want to bring to light ten pitchers that qualify as rookies, who, while we may have seen or heard their names brought up, have not gotten enough attention to truly describe how well they have performed during the 2024 season.

Gavin Stone – Los Angeles Dodgers

2024 Stats: 16 GS, 92.0 IP, 3.03 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 7.0% HR/FB

The Dodgers have had their fair share of injuries to prominent players on their roster, especially on the pitching staff.

Not only are they still going through the rehabilitation process with Shohei Ohtani and his return from a torn UCL, but after injuries sustained by Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Walker Buehler, and with the team still awaiting the 2024 debut of Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have had to rely on their young arms to propel them forward.

Gavin Stone has been a steady source of production since he was named to the Opening Day rotation heading into the season.

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After his rapid ascension through the minor leagues, many Dodgers fans hoped that Stone would be able to provide exactly the kind of production he is giving the team right now. Little did they know that the timing of his breakout would be of this much importance.

Mitchell Parker – Washington Nationals

2024 Stats: 15 GS, 84.2 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 1.2 fWAR

There have been a lot of positive surprises coming out of the Nationals organization this year.

While they technically still find themselves in the race for an NL Wild Card spot, the biggest story is the development and production they have been getting throughout the roster from a few unlikely sources. One particularly pleasant surprise has been the young left-hander Mitchell Parker.

Though the Nats front office can continue to say they knew Parker would have an impact on the major league roster in 2024, I am sure they were not expecting this. The best part about it is that Parker is an organizational success story, having been developed through the Nationals farm system after he was taken in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.

Parker is finding a lot of success through his ability to dominate with his fastball and execute his offspeed off of it well.

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As the Nationals continue to work towards building a winner, Parker looks to have become one of the pieces in ensuring they do.

Ben Brown – Chicago Cubs

2024 Stats: 15 G, 8 GS, 55.1 IP, 3.58 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 10.4 K/9

The 2024 season has not been ideal for Ben Brown.

After being lauded as one of the better right-handed pitching prospects in baseball, his MLB debut was highly anticipated, and Cubs fans were ecstatic when he got the call-up this year. Though it has been a roller coaster of a season, Brown has flashed his high-upside potential, as highlighted by his impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Unfortunately, Brown was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his neck in mid-June that has sidelined him for about three weeks now. According to Manager Craig Counsell, the Cubs are still unsure when he will be able to get back.

Aside from the injury, Brown has shown that he has the “stuff” to be a front-of-the-line option for the Cubs rotation as they head into the future, but his upside has not been brought up enough this season because of the injury.

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Bryan Hudson – Milwaukee Brewers

2024 Stats: 32 G, 46.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 10.03 K/9

Bryan Hudson’s emergence in 2024 has been incredible, not only for the Brewers, but for all of baseball.

After he was acquired from the Dodgers in a minor trade, Hudson has been able to surpass all expectations that anyone could have put on him. Not only has he been arguably the most dominant pitcher in the Brewers bullpen this season, but there is a case to be made that he is the best relief pitcher in all of baseball right now.

What is even crazier is that I am sure there are a lot of baseball fans out there now who had never heard of Hudson prior to reading this.

While the Brewers await the return of their All-Star closer Devin Williams, Hudson and his league-leading strand rate are doing just fine holding down the fort. The 27-year-old southpaw is a big reason why the Brewers currently sit in first place in the NL Central.

Cade Smith – Cleveland Guardians

2024 Stats: 40 G, 39.2 IP, 2.50 ERA, 1.66 FIP, 12.03 K/9

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I am sure this is not going to come as a surprise to many, but the Cleveland Guardians continue to spawn productive pitchers. Cade Smith is the most recent success story.

Coming into the season ranked in the twenties across most Guardians organizational prospect lists, Smith got his chance in Cleveland’s pen this year and has earned his job paving the way for Emmanuel Clase’s dominance in the ninth inning.

While his fastball usage sits at a rate many might not see as sustainable in terms of success, the effectiveness of the pitch at such a high rate fits the “If it ain’t broke…” saying perfectly.

José Buttó – New York Mets

2024 Stats: 9 G, 7 GS, 41.2 IP, 2.81 ERA, 4.18 FIP, .202 BABIP

It has been an up-and-down year for José Buttó.

By that, I mean literally up and down, with all his trips between the big leagues and Triple-A. His numerous optional assignments are surprising considering how well he has pitched each time he has had his name called upon.

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The Mets’ season as a whole has been full of ups and downs. NL MVP front-runner Grimace has given the Metropolitans the jump start that they needed, and the emergence of Buttó in a rotation in need of a jolt has been such a bright spot for them.

Buttó continues to be shuffled between the bullpen and starting rotation, but no matter what situation the Mets put him in, he continues to find success.

Matt Waldron – San Diego Padres

2024 Stats: 18 GS, 99.2 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 1.8 fWAR

The knuckleball is alive and well thanks to Matt Waldron.

When you think of the Padres starting rotation, you are going to rattle off the names Dylan Cease, Joe Musgrove, and Yu Darvish immediately. Yet, while Cease has been good throughout the year, the steadiest Padres pitcher since day one of the 2024 season has been Waldron.

An uptick in usage of the knuckleball is not something that attributes to much success when first referenced, but ever since Waldron increased his knuckleball usage, the fact that he can command and execute the pitch as well as he can has been a key factor behind his success. His production has not received nearly as much attention as it deserves.

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Justin Martinez – Arizona Diamondbacks

2024 Stats: 28 G, 36.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 10.00 K/9

When you think of 100-mph+ sinkers, you can think of quite a few players before the thought of Justin Martinez comes to mind. Granted, you may not even know who Justin Martinez is. Let me change that for you.

Not only is Martinez able to run his sinker up to triple digits, but he also possesses a devastating splitter that just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Yet, it should sit at the top of many lists for the best pitches in the major leagues today.

Martinez is one of those pitchers that just leaves you in awe when you watch him toe the rubber late in games for the Diamondbacks.

After struggling with command issues when he first debuted in the big leagues, Martinez entered 2024 spring training with a new mindset and approach to better execute his pitches. It has carried over into the regular season, as demonstrated by the success he has sustained so far.

Justin Slaten – Boston Red Sox

2024 Stats: 31 G, 42.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 2.44 FIP, 1.2 fWAR

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The Red Sox struck gold when they traded with the Mets to acquire their Rule 5 draft pick Justin Slaten.

Despite the rough patch that he currently finds himself in, Slaten was a big reason why the Red Sox bullpen was as successful as it was early on. It is not often that you find success stories like Slaten’s from a Rule 5 selection.

Slaten leads with his cutter, and with a four-seam fastball that can hit triple-digits and equal usage of his four-seam and sweeper at around 27% of the time, it should not come as a surprise how effective he can be when he is on.

His approach is simple: attack.

Since he made his debut, Slaten has been able to execute that plan perfectly and will look to get back on track for the Red Sox going forward.

Simeon Woods Richardson – Minnesota Twins

2024 Stats: 15 GS, 77.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.2 fWAR

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The story of Simeon Woods Richardson’s career should be an article all by itself.

Since he was drafted by the Mets in 2019, SWR has been considered a main part of two significant trades already. One was when he was sent to the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman deal, and the second was the trade to Minnesota as part of a package for José Berríos.

With all that moving around, it seemed as if SWR might never truly be able to regain his footing as the high-upside prospect he was touted to be.

Yet, with the help of some tangible tangles of his overall mechanics, he may have regained that form.

The young right-hander has seemed to settle in nicely into the Twins’ starting rotation. He has provided consistent start after consistent start since the beginning of the season.

While Woods Richardson does not possess the electric stuff that many baseball fans tend to gravitate towards, his ability to execute all of his pitches when he needs to has led to the overall success we have seen from him this year.

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After all of the travel, I think it is safe to say that Woods Richardson has found a home in Minnesota and should be there for the foreseeable future.