Top Rookies for Each NL West Team in 2024

Here’s a look at the top rookie-eligible players who could make an impact for each team in the NL West during the 2024 MLB season.

Jackson Merrill of the Peoria Javelinas runs off the field during a game against the Glendale Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch.
GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 01, 2022: Jackson Merrill #1 of the Peoria Javelinas runs off the field during a game against the Glendale Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch on November 1, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The National League West went six years without winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award before Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks took home the trophy last season. In 2024, rookies are poised to make a tremendous impact in the division once again.

International imports from Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and the Korean Baseball Organization in South Korea highlight the rookie class, while a pair of shortstops selected out of high school in the 2021 MLB Draft could shake up some postseason races.

Here’s a look at the top rookie-eligible players who could make an impact for each NL West team in the 2024 MLB season.

Arizona Diamondbacks Top Rookie: SS Jordan Lawlar

2023 MLB Stats: .129/.206/.129 with 1 SB in 34 plate appearances

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2023 MiLB Stats (AA/AAA): .278/.378/.496 with 20 HR, 67 RBI, 36 SB

The D-backs won their first ROY Award last season, becoming the last team in Major League Baseball to finally do so. If they’re going to become the first club since the Dodgers in 2016 and ’17 to take home the honors in consecutive campaigns (Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger), it’ll require a massive effort from Jordan Lawlar.

Drafted sixth overall in 2021, Lawlar has been ranked no lower than 48th on the top 100 prospects lists at Baseball America, MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus since the start of 2022. This fall, he came in at No. 6 on Just Baseball’s latest top 100 ranking.

The two-time Futures Game participant heads into 2024 on the heels of a solid showing at two levels last season. Lawlar’s numbers benefited from playing in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, although he was nearly seven years younger than the average player. 

Andrew Saalfrank is currently the only rookie in line to make the D-backs Opening Day roster. However, the left-handed reliever won’t have the same impact as a 21-year-old shortstop with an intriguing mix of power and speed. Lawlar’s first cup of coffee last September wasn’t memorable, but his ability to steal a base earned him a place on Arizona’s postseason roster throughout all four rounds.

Torey Lovullo may have named Geraldo Perdomo the team’s starting shortstop entering the season, but Lawlar’s success in Reno will dictate how long it will be until a new shortstop era for the Snakes begins. 

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Colorado Rockies Top Rookie: OF/1B Hunter Goodman

2023 MLB Stats: .200/.247/.386 with 1 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB in 77 plate appearances

2023 MiLB Stats (AA/AAA): .259/.338/.580 with 34 HR, 111 RBI

Did you realize the 2023 Rockies had three rookies — Nolan Jones, Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle — that hit 10 or more home runs and recorded 10 or more stolen bases? They and the Cincinnati Reds (also in 2023) became the first two teams in MLB history with a trio of newcomers in the 10-10 club.

Another group of prospects is waiting in the wings at Double-A for Colorado, but most will have to wait until the second half before sniffing a debut.

Hunter Goodman may not have the base stealing abilities to continue the trend set by Jones, Tovar, and Doyle, but his power should more than make up for that. The 24-year-old has absolutely raked since the Rockies selected him in the fourth round out of Memphis in the 2021 MLB Draft. During his two full seasons in the minors, he’s hit 70 home runs and 217 RBI, most in Colorado’s farm system.

The former catcher is battling for a place on manager Bud Black’s roster as a starting right fielder and backup first baseman. Though the league adjusted to Goodman during his first taste of the big leagues, there’s a strong belief within the Rockies organization that he’ll make the necessary changes to transfer his minor league effectiveness to the MLB club.

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Los Angeles Dodgers Top Rookie: RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto

2023 NPB Stats: 1.16 ERA, 0.860 WHIP, 171.0 IP, 9.3 K/9 in 24 games

If the Rookie of the Year Award belonged to any franchise, it would be the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson won the first-ever ROY Award in 1947, and the award for the best rookie now bears the name of the legendary athlete and civil rights activist. No team has won the prize more than half as many times as the Dodgers, who have been honored 18 times.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto isn’t just the latest Japanese import to come over to MLB. He’s won the past three Pacific League MVP Awards, a feat last accomplished by Ichiro Suzuki. He also has three consecutive Eiji Sawamura Awards, given to the best starting pitcher in NPB. Only one other pitcher has accomplished that feat in the 77-year history of the prize.

Los Angeles locked up the 25-year-old to the largest contract ever handed out to a pitcher before his MLB debut. His seven dominant seasons with the Orix Buffaloes were enough to convince the Dodgers to hand the right-handed starter a 12-year deal worth $325 million. 

Not only is Yamamoto the odds-on favorite to take home the ROY in 2024, he’s amongst the top choices to win the NL Cy Young Award. With both impressive command and control, he sports three above-average pitches plus a fourth that could further frustrate opponents at the plate. He will be an incredibly special player to watch this season and beyond. 

San Diego Padres Top Rookie: SS/OF Jackson Merrill

2023 MiLB Stats (A+/AA): .277/.326/.444 with 15 HR, 64 RBI, 15 SB

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With all due respect to relievers Yuki Matsui and Woo Suk Go, Jackson Merrill has the highest upside of any rookie-eligible player with the San Diego Padres this season. He may get less press than 17-year-old catching phenom Ethan Salas, but our own Aram Leighton still considers Merrill the better overall prospect.

Selected 27th overall in 2021, Merrill signed so far under slot value out of high school that second-round pick James Wood received a larger signing bonus from the Padres. Still, what mattered most to the club was holding onto Merrill — and not Wood — when it came to acquiring Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals.

Merrill posted nearly identical rate stats after his promotion to Double-A last year, with more runs batted in over fewer opportunities. While his defensive abilities at shortstop played up in the Texas League, Merrill also spent five games in left field. With Ha-Seong Kim taking over at shortstop for San Diego — and with Xander Bogaerts, not to mention Fernando Tatis Jr., still on the roster — Merrill’s future may be in the outfield.

Given some recent comments from his big league teammates and the lack of depth in the Padres outfield, it’s a good bet he’ll join forces with Tatis in the outfield through much of 2024.

San Francisco Giants Top Rookie: OF Jung Hoo Lee

2023 KBO Stats: .318/.406/.455 with 6 HR, 45 RBI, 6 SB in 86 games

You might be surprised to learn that the biggest free agent contract ever handed out by the San Francisco Giants was given to Jung Hoo Lee this offseason for $113 million over six years.

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Although he was limited to 86 games with the Kiwoom Heroes in 2023 after fracturing his ankle mid-season, Lee received the largest deal for an Asian-born position player in MLB history. A five-time recipient of the KBO’s Golden Glove Award, Lee batted .349 with 23 home runs and 117 RBI en route to winning the MVP Award in 2022.

The list of KBO hitters who have successfully transitioned to MLB is mostly limited to Padres’ shortstop Ha-Seong Kim. However, various projection systems like what Lee can contribute offensively. He’s a high-contact hitter who could bat .300 with around 10 homers and an elite strikeout percentage below 10%. He’ll enjoy a friendly competition with fellow Giants rookies Marco Luciano and Kyle Harrison for best on the club in 2024.