The AL Rookie of the Year Race Should Be Awesome This Year

With so many top prospects set to make a big impact for their teams, the American League Rookie of the Year race looks loaded in 2024.

SARASOTA, FLORIDA - MARCH 21, 2023: Jackson Holliday #87 of the Baltimore Orioles runs off the field during a minor league spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at the Buck ONeil Baseball Complex on March 21, 2023 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

When is the last time we entered a season with four top-10 prospects in baseball all set to begin their rookie season within one league with each having a clear path to regular playing time?

If anyone has an answer to that, I’d love to hear how that race shaked out. Regardless of when it happened in the past, the American League Rookie of the Year race is set to be a phenominal one in 2024 due to the depth of superstar talents in the running.

On the other side of the league, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the clear favorite in the National League for an award that some would argue he shouldn’t even be eligible for given that he has dominated Nippon Professional Baseball (the second-best baseball league in the world) in Japan for years.

The American League features a class as talented as ever with a handful of candidates that could be the favorite for the award in a different year. As we begin to envision the 2024 season, it’s worth looking at what makes each candidate for the award special and how they could be the one to take home the hardware.

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The favorite for the award right now was just drafted out of high school a year and a half ago and will enter the season at just 20 years old with a chance to break camp with the team. After teammate Gunner Henderson just won the award, Jackson Holliday has a chance to be the next young superstar in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, a pair of Rangers outfielders are just behind Holliday and figure to be part of making Texas even stronger after their World Series victory. Evan Carter was simply a star in his first taste of MLB action and there is no reason to believe he can’t carry it into his first full season.

Wyatt Langford was the forgotten college star in a class that featured Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews, but tore through the minor leagues and is nearly ready to make an impact with the Rangers.

The lesser-known prospect who has a strong case to be considered here is Junior Caminero who is Just Baseball’s top-ranked third base prospect. Like Carter, he debuted last season and will now be in line for everyday role with Tampa this year.

Plenty of other highly-regarded and advanced prospects could make a run at this alongside these four. Brooks Lee, Nolan Schanuel, and Colt Keith could be a key pieces for their respective teams which could allow any of them to surprisingly break through in this race. For now, let’s focus on the four favorites and how their talent could result in them taking home the honor this year.

Jackson Holliday

Ranking: Just Baseball’s #1 prospect

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The top prospect in baseball has shown zero signs of slowing down since being drafted first overall a year and a half ago. He finished his first professional season with a slashline of .323/.442/.499 while climbing all four levels of the minor leagues.

While Holliday’s numbers dropped to a degree in his final 18 games, in which he was promoted to Triple-A, his all-around ability makes one of the most impressive prospects in some time. He has an elite approach with contact skills that will survive immediately at the highest level and he’s still growing into his power.

Given his already average glove at shortstop, Holliday will be granted a shot to start at shortstop for the Orioles with Gunnar Henderson easily able to slide to third base for the future.

The flexibility of the Baltimore roster further helps his case for playing time as Holliday could also be featured at second base with the likes of Ramon Urias and Jordan Westburg also able to slide over to third base when Henderson is at shortstop.

He may have the least likely chance to crack the Opening Day roster considering the depth of talent in Baltimore and the fact that two of these candidates are essentially guaranteed starting spots.

That may not even matter though, because if Holliday can make his way to Baltimore within the first month or two of the season, all bets are off.

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His upside from day one at the plate is the strongest factor that makes Holliday the current favorite for the award, but his competition is rather stiff.

Junior Caminero

Ranking: Just Baseball’s #2 prospect

The most underrated candidate by a mile in this race is Junior Caminero, who is not even top five in odds to win the award but has some of the best raw talent in this class. He posted a .975 OPS with 31 home runs across his 117 games between High-A and Double-A while entering the season at 19 years old prior to being promoted to Tampa directly from Double-A.

He played seven games down the stretch in addition to a couple playoff games but he should enter the 2024 season with a starting role on the Rays. With argubaly the best raw power among all prospects, Caminero’s possible impact at the plate is immense.

His defense is a limitation to an extent with his range being a factor which could hold him back from ample playing time. With Isaac Paredes in place at third base, Caminero would be an obvious choice at shortstop for Tampa if his defense was stronger there.

Recently acquired Jose Caballero is the best option right now at shortstop but Caminero will get a chance to prove himself there throughout the season. Even if he doesn’t have a clear starting role, Caminero could see time at third, shortstop, and DH for the Rays this season.

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The power will be the calling card for Caminero and if he can tap into that, while maintaining low enough chase and strikeout rates, we could witness an impressive line at the plate from the young star.

Wyatt Langford

Ranking: Just Baseball’s #4 prospect

Drafted just six months ago, Wyatt Langford went on an otherworldly tear across his first 44 minor league games and finished the year all the way at Triple-A. He posted an absurd .360/.480/.677 slashline with 10 home runs and 36 walks in those 44 minor league games.

Those stats seem hard to even believe, yet Langford has proved to everyone that he deserved to be in the same tier as the likes of Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes during the the draft process. He has proven himself to be a true star prospect.

With power, hit tool, athleticism, and experience, Langford is going to be a key piece for the Rangers in the very near future. However, he has just 17 games under his belt between Double-A and Triple-A so far.

Given the loaded nature of the Rangers roster and outfield especially, they may not feel a rush to get Langford onto the Major League roster just yet. His case for Rookie of the Year will depend first and foremost on if he can crack the roster early in the season. Secondarily, he needs to get enough playing time once on the roster.

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He may be the most well-rounded prospect at the plate despite the lack of time spent within the MLB ranks. It may only be a matter of time until this guy takes the league by strom and he could easily push for this award if he ends up making the roster out of camp or shortly after then.

Evan Carter

Ranking: Just Baseball’s #5 prospect

In almost any other year the prospect coming off a historic end of the season debut and playoff run would be the obvious favorite for the award. This year Evan Carter enters the year with the second-highest AL Rookie of the Year odds due to the presence of the aforementioned top prospect in baseball.

Carter showed the approach of an experienced veteran during the Rangers’ historic playoff run by going 18-for-60 with 10 extra base hits and 10 walks in those 17 playoff games. He delivered in numerous clutch situations for a team that needed him at times.

This came after just 23 regular season games which allows Carter to remain eligible for this award despite being a key piece of the reigning World Series Champions roster. While he could be considered a candidate for regression, Carter was extremely successful without having any success against left-handed pitchers.

As a strong defender in the outfield with very good speed, Carter may have the highest floor among these players when factoring in his plate approach. He also enters the year with the most solified role compared to the other three in this piece.

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Whether it be in left or center, Carter will play nearly everyday for the Rangers, while being occasionally shielded from lefties. If I had to bank on one player to take home this award, I think I’d have to go with Carter right now considering the approach, stability and role that he enters the season with.