Top Rookies for Each AL East Team in 2024

With the 2024 season just around the corner, here is the top rookie from each AL East team who will make a difference in the big leagues.

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Jackson Holliday #87 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a double in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during a 2024 Grapefruit League Spring Training game at BayCare Ballpark on March 05, 2024 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Since 2019, an AL East prospect has been in the #1 or #2 spot on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects heading into the respective season.

First, it was Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who made his debut later that year. Then came Rays infielder Wander Franco, and over the past three years, the Baltimore Orioles have had three different players occupy either first or second on the rankings, forming one of the top farm systems in the Major Leagues.

The 2024 season is no different, as the Orioles occupy the #1 spot with infielder Jackson Holliday, who has become the league’s consensus top prospect and has dominated the rankings since being the first overall pick for Baltimore almost two years ago.

The same goes for the rest of the AL East, who all boast a few prospects that should have an impact at the big league level at some point this season.

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Baltimore Orioles Top Rookie: Jackson Holliday, INF

2023 MilB Stats (4 levels): 125 games – 12 HR, 75 RBI, .323/.442/.499

In a stacked Orioles farm system, 20-year-old Jackson Holliday stands out from the rest. The son of former big leaguer Matt Holliday has skyrocketed his way through the Minor Leagues, advancing from Low-A ball at start the 2023 campaign to Triple-A Norfolk when September rolled around, putting up video game-like numbers along the way.

Holliday quickly outmatched his opponents with the Delmarva Shorebirds and through his time in High-A and Double-A, he collected 20 doubles, eight triples, and eight home runs en route to a combined .934 OPS. That impressive work saw Holliday finish the season in Triple-A, where through 18 games he went 20-for-75 at the plate (.267), collecting two home runs and nine RBIs.

This spring, Holliday returned to big league camp and carried over his impressive 2023 campaign in the new year.

At the plate, Holliday has amassed a .326/.370/.628 slash line with seven extra-base hits, six RBIs, and produced a .998 OPS through 15 games.

The left-handed batter has seen a slight uptick in his strikeout numbers (14) but overall, he has proven that his bat appears ready for the big leagues. Both home runs came off big league arms (Yusei Kikuchi and Chad Green) and he has been posting solid exit velocities at the plate, while working himself into hitter-friendly counts with regularity.

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Holliday will be a problem in the AL East this season

The jury is still out on whether the infielder will break camp with the club, as the Orioles coaching staff has been non-committal about whether he will start the year on the big league roster or not.

Manager Brandon Hyde has been giving him more reps at second base, most likely in an attempt to find a spot for him in the big leagues to start the season, but with only 75 at-bats in Triple-A, there is an argument to be made for him to get some more reps in the minors before joining a star-studded Orioles lineup.

Whether his journey in the big leagues begins on Opening Day or sometime later this season, there is no doubt he will make an impact for the Orioles and the AL East in 2024. The bigger question is just when.

Boston Red Sox Top Rookie: Ceddanne Rafaela, INF/CF

2023 MLB Stats: 28 games – 2 HR, 5 RBI, .241/.281/.386

Signed by the Boston Red Sox as an international free agent in 2017, Ceddanne Rafaela has quickly found himself towards the top of the organization’s prospect rankings thanks to his exceptional defense.

Standing at 5-foot-9, the Curacao product has become one of the most versatile athletes on the field, splitting time at third base, second base, shortstop, and center field during his climb up the farm system.

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Scouts believe he has Gold Glove potential with his ability to field with consistency while putting his plus speed to use, which included stealing 36 bases between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

Rafaela was called up to the Red Sox towards the end of last season and suited up in 28 games for Boston, collecting 20 hits with six doubles and two home runs to finish out the year.

Aggressive at the plate, the right-handed batter struck out 28 times against big league arms, something the 23-year-old will need to hone in as time goes on.

When he puts the barrel into the ball, it will travel a long way but that comes at the risk of striking out at a higher rate with such a strong swing.

This spring, Rafaela has been putting the ball in play with regularity, going 14-for-50 at the plate (.280) while walking four times and adding six doubles and three home runs to the tune of a .913 OPS. The Red Sox have been using him in center field for most of Spring Training and he along with Wilyer Abreu are both fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Given his utility aspect and with Vaughn Grissom starting the season on the IL, there is playing time to be had at second base, which Rafaela could slot into to help fill the void until his return.

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For the Red Sox, Rafaela is one prospect to keep an eye on this season as he continues to carve out a role on the big-league squad. We know his defense is ready for the highest level, and if his bat can carry over into the regular season, he should be a regular in the AL East for the foreseeable future.

New York Yankees Top Rookie: Austin Wells, C

2023 MLB Stats: 19 games – 4 HR, 13 RBI, .229/.257/.486

The New York Yankees have had no issue developing players who can hit for power and catcher Austin Wells is no different. A first-round pick of the 2020 MLB Draft, Wells finished last year with the New York Yankees as a September call-up once the rosters expanded.

In the Minors, Wells collected 24 doubles and 17 home runs en route to 72 RBIs and a .775 OPS, while throwing out 13% of base stealers and sporting a .984 fielding percentage behind the plate.

In the big leagues, Wells found himself in 19 contests and amassed 16 hits, 10 of which were for extra bases while adding 13 RBIs. The power has always been there for the 24-year-old, but scouts questioned if his defensive ability would hold up in such a demanding position.

This spring, Wells has put forward a strong effort on both sides of the ball, most notably in his defense where he appears more confident behind the plate while handling some of the Yankees’ more veteran arms. At the plate, Wells has hit a .344 average with four doubles, two home runs, and four RBIs while posting a 1.073 OPS through 32 at-bats, again showing off his easy power ability.

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For Opening Day, it seems like Aaron Boone is shaping up to have Wells platoon with Jose Trevino but nothing is set in stone with the start of the season under a week away.

Ben Rortvedt is also in camp looking for a big-league opportunity and is out of Minor League options, meaning he needs to make the team or must be DFA’d off the 40-man roster.

There is no indication as to who the Yankees are leaning towards for Opening Day in regards to their catching staff but it is no secret that Wells and his plus bat will contribute at the big league level for New York this season, whether that is starting next Thursday or further down the road.

Tampa Bay Rays Top Rookie: Junior Caminero, INF

2023 MLB Stats: 7 games – 1 HR, 7 RBI, .235/.278/.353

The Tampa Bay Rays have had no issue developing infield prospects throughout the years and Junior Caminero is another win for the talented prospect development group.

Acquired from the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for pitcher Tobias Myers as part of a 40-man roster crunch move, Caminero sits fourth in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects rankings and has quickly emerged as one of the top infield prospects in all of baseball.

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Last season, Caminero started the year in high-A before moving to double-A in mid-July, where he spent most of the season. In the minors, the Dominican product crushed 31 home runs to the tune of a .324/.384/.591 slash line with 94 RBIs and a .976 OPS, adding six triples and five stolen bases through 460 at-bats.

Towards the end of the season, Tampa Bay called upon the infielder to finish out the campaign in the AL East, skipping Triple-A entirely. Through seven games, he collected eight hits which included a double and his first big league home run to left field off Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza on the last day of the regular season.

Caminero won’t be making the Rays Opening Day roster, as the club optioned him to the Minor League camp earlier in the month in a move that wasn’t seen as a surprise by those across the league. The Rays currently have a stacked infield that consists of Isaac Paredes (3B) and Brandon Lowe (2B) in his way, meaning Caminero will get more reps in Triple-A to continue developing.

Even though he is starting the campaign in the minors, if Caminero continues to hit for power and cleans up his defense to be more consistent, the top prospect could easily force the Rays brass to progress him to the big leagues sooner than later.

Toronto Blue Jays Top Rookie: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP

2023 MiLB Stats (4 levels): 15 games – 3.83 ERA, 1.98 FIP, 86 SO, 24 BB

Over the past few seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays have traded away numerous top prospects for Major League talent such as Gabriel Moreno, Gunnar Hoglund, Austin Martin, and Simeon Woods-Richardson (amongst others). However, one prospect the Blue Jays have continued to hang onto is left-hander Ricky Tiedemann, a 2021 third-round pick out of Golden West College.

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One of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Tiedemann didn’t pitch in his draft year but has climbed up the farm system over the past two seasons, appearing in one game for Triple-A Buffalo at the end of last season.

A biceps injury limited him to just 44 innings in 2023 and the Blue Jays sent the southpaw to the Arizona Fall League to get some more reps. In the AFL, Tiedemann showcased why he could be a big leaguer shortly, pitching to a 2.50 ERA through four starts and 18 innings, striking out 23 batters and earning AFL Pitcher of the Year honours.

Tiedemann shaping up to finish the season in the AL East

This spring, Tiedemann has allowed four earned runs through 6 2/3 innings and three starts while striking out eight batters. The left-hander was a longshot to make the Jays Opening Day roster even with Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah potentially not ready to go, as the Jays will likely want their top prospect to get some more reps in Buffalo before a potential call-up to the big leagues.

For the Blue Jays, the fifth rotation spot has been a question mark after Alek Manoah’s rough 2023 season, although Bowden Francis has stepped up as of late and earned a spot in the big league rotation to start the year.

For Tiedemann, staying healthy will be his biggest goal this year but should he go to Buffalo and dominate on the mound, the Jays won’t have any reason to keep him in the minors much longer as they try to contend for a third consecutive postseason appearance.