Top Rookies for Each AL West Team in 2024

From postseason hero Evan Carter to young hurler Emerson Hancock, here's a look at five AL West rookies who could make an impact in 2024.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Emerson Hancock (62) delivers a pitch during the baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 19: Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Emerson Hancock (62) delivers a pitch during the baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on August 20, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The AL West projects to be an interesting division in 2024.

The defending World Series Champion Texas Rangers and Houston Astros both have aspirations of making deep October runs again this year. And while it’s always difficult to figure out exactly what Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry DiPoto is thinking, the M’s won 88 games a year ago, and they seemingly view themselves as a playoff-caliber team entering the 2024 campaign.

But while the AL West is home to two legitimate World Series contenders and a third playoff-caliber squad, it is also home to a couple of teams that project to be among the worst in the sport.

Post-Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels will probably be more competitive in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2025 MLB Draft than for a playoff spot. However, they will have some big competition for the top draft selection within their own division. The Oakland Athletics won just 50 games a year ago, and owner John Fisher isn’t even pretending to try to put a competitive product on the field in what appear to be the franchise’s waning days in the Bay Area.

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Whether it’s for a team hoping to contend or one with ample opportunity for young players to become a part of its next core, here’s a look at the top five rookies who could make an impact for their respective AL West teams in 2024.

Oakland Athletics Top Rookie: SS Max Muncy

2023 MiLB Stats (at Double-A): .275/.353/.411, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 52 BB, .764 OPS

The A’s are a disaster at the MLB level, and it’s not as though they have a legion of young talent looming in the minors. Their only top-100 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is 21-year-old shortstop Jacob Wilson, and Wilson isn’t projected to reach the majors until 2025.

So, for now, we’ll go with Muncy, the 25th-overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, who has no relation to the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger with the same name.

Keith Law of The Athletic has Muncy ranked as the No. 1 prospect in Oakland’s system, a spot ahead of the aforementioned Wilson, who plays the same position. While Law concedes that Muncy becoming a utility infielder at the MLB level “might be the most likely outcome,” he also adds that the 21-year-old’s ceiling could be as “a regular shortstop who hits for average with eight to 12 homers.”

Muncy finished the 2023 season at Double-A Midland a year ago and is a non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring. He’s probably not going to be on the Opening Day roster for the A’s, but he could very well be in play for a role at some point this year, given Oakland’s lack of talent at the MLB level, established or otherwise.

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Los Angeles Angels Top Rookie: 1B Nolan Schanuel

2023 MLB Stats: .275/.402/.330, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 20 BB, .732 OPS, 0.1 fWAR

2023 MiLB Stats (across three levels): .365/.505/.486, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 21 BB, .991 OPS

Schanuel was the No. 11 overall pick in last summer’s MLB Draft, and as the Angels went all-in on their attempt to reach the postseason with Ohtani still in the picture, the lefty-batting first baseman was promoted to the majors in mid-August.

Obviously, the Angels had an embarrassing finish to the season, going 28-43 after the All-Star break and not finishing within striking distance of a playoff spot. But while promoting Schanuel didn’t help the Halos to make the postseason in 2023 or convince Ohtani to remain with the organization, there’s still quite a bit to like about the 22-year-old.

Schanuel is an on-base machine, who walked 41 times in just 51 total games in the Angels organization a season ago. He is still considered prospect-eligible, and the Angels hope he will be part of a group that surprises in 2024, helping the team contend for the remainder of Mike Trout‘s career.

Seattle Mariners Top Rookie: RHP Emerson Hancock

2023 MLB Stats: 12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 6 K, 0.2 fWAR

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2023 MiLB Stats (at Double-A): 11-5, 98 IP, 4.32 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 107 K

Hancock made his MLB debut last August and was unspectacular in parts of three starts before a shoulder injury ended his season.

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft has yet to pitch at the Triple-A level, so he figures to open the season with the Tacoma Rainiers. Still, whether it’s as a spot starter or a reliever, there’s a good chance the 24-year-old plays a role for the Mariners at some point in 2024.

Four Mariners — catcher Harry Ford, outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez, and shortstops Cole Young and Colt Emerson — made Just Baseball’s Top 100 list at the conclusion of the 2023 season. But Ford is the elder statesman of that quartet at 21 years old, which is why the 24-year-old Hancock, who isn’t a top-100 prospect, is the pick here.

Texas Rangers Top Rookie: OF Evan Carter

2023 MLB Stats: .306/.413/.645, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 12 BB, 1.058 OPS, 1.3 fWAR

2023 MiLB Stats (across three levels): .288/.413/.450, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 81 BB, .863 OPS

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Carter helped the Rangers to win their first World Series title last October and still has his rookie eligibility, given that he only appeared in 23 regular-season games in 2023. Like Randy Arozarena in 2021, Carter has a chance to win the AL Rookie of the Year a season after a tremendous October run.

Not only was Carter an impact hitter immediately for the Rangers, but he posted six defensive runs saved in just 174 2/3 innings last season. He’s going to be the primary left fielder for Texas in 2024, but Carter is capable of taking starts at all three outfield spots, further increasing his value.

Fellow young outfielder Wyatt LangfordNo. 4 on Just Baseball’s latest Top 100 Prospects list — also figures to make an impact in 2024. Carter, Langford and Adolis García should give the Rangers an elite outfield trio for years to come.

Houston Astros Top Rookie: OF/IF Joey Loperfido

2023 MiLB Stats (across three levels): .278/.370/.510, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 65 BB, .880 OPS

Loperfido finished the season with Triple-A Sugarland but spent the bulk of his 2022 campaign at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .296 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs over 84 games with the Hooks.

The 24-year-old was a seventh-round pick out of Duke in the 2021 MLB Draft. Law notes that Loperfido is capable of playing all three outfield positions, along with his ability to provide flexibility at first or second base. He may not be the best overall player in the Astros’ system, but if you’re looking to get your first call up to the majors, positional flexibility is a good quality to have.

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Yainer Diaz — projected to be the team’s starting catcher in 2024 — used up his rookie eligibility in 106 games a season ago, clubbing 23 home runs and driving in 60 runs in just 355 at-bats. Loperfido isn’t going to have that type of impact when he makes his MLB debut, but he should get an opportunity to be a utility player for manager Joe Espada in 2024.