On Monday night, Kyle Lewis of the Mariners and the Brewers’ Devin Williams were chosen as the 2020 Jackie Robinson Rookies of the Year. Now that that’s been decided, we can start looking at who will win the hardware in each league in 2021.
Some of the 30 candidates below already started making a claim for their candidacy during their big league debuts in 2020. Others will certainly break through on Opening Day, or soon thereafter, in 2021.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Nate Pearson, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 6)
Pearson had flashes of dominance during his first four starts before landing on the injured list late in August with right elbow tightness. The ailment proved a non-issue for the 24-year-old right-hander, as he returned the following month to strike out five batters while hitting 101 mph in a two-inning relief appearance. Despite having obvious upside as a reliever, Pearson has a significantly higher ceiling as a starter, possessing all the raw ingredients needed to become a true front-of-the-rotation force.
Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle, OF/1B (No. 5/MLB No. 90)
Mountcastle didn’t get called up in 2020 until Aug. 21, but showed that his bat is definitely going to play at the big league level by hitting .333/.386/.492 with five homers in 35 games. He played both left field and first base, but it’s his offensive production that earned him a Rookie of the Year vote. His 126 at-bats keeps him under the wire for consideration next year.
Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF (No. 19)
Acquired from the Cardinals last offseason in the deal that sent 2018 first-rounder Matt Liberatore to St. Louis, Arozarena tested positive for COVID-19 before finally making his Rays debut on Aug. 30. The 25-year-old outfielder was one of the hottest hitters down the stretch, posting a 1.022 OPS with seven homers in 23 games, then turned in one of the greatest rookie performances in postseason history, slashing .377/.442/.831 with 10 home runs in 20 games for the American League champions. With his ability to hit for average and power as part of an overall five-tool profile, he’s sure to be an early favorite to take home 2021 Rookie of the Year honors in the AL.
Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B (No. 3/MLB No. 100)
After ranking sixth in the Minors with 59 homers in 2018-19, Dalbec gave a preview of coming attractions by going deep eight times in 80 big league at-bats this summer. The 2016 fourth-round pick from Arizona also plays a quality third base, which could push shaky-fielding Rafael Devers to another position.
Yankees: Deivi García, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 87)
García had a reputation for owning one of the best breaking balls in the Minors and didn't disappoint while posting a 4.98 ERA and a 33/6 K/BB ratio in six starts with the Yankees, highlighted by six shutout innings against the Mets in his first big league outing in August. Signed for just $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, he gets high spin rates on his curveball as well as his fastball and slider -- and his changeup was his most effective pitch in his first taste of the Majors.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Nolan Jones, 3B (No. 1/MLB No. 38)
The Indians could be remaking their infield in 2021, which could include finding a spot for their top prospect, who theoretically also could shore up a weakness by shifting to an outfield corner. Drafted in the second round out of a Pennsylvania high school in 2016, Jones offers one of the best combinations of power and patience in the Minors as well as a plus arm.
Royals: Daniel Lynch, LHP (No. 3/MLB No. 54)
The first pieces from Kansas City’s pitching-dominant 2018 Draft class arrived this past season in Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, with the rookie hurlers combing for 22 starts and 114 1/3 innings. Lynch, the No. 34 overall pick in ’18, could be the next to arrive. The 6-foot-6 left-hander arguably has the best stuff in the organization, boasting a fastball in the mid- to upper-90s that he complements with a devastating slider and a curveball and changeup that both continued to improve this summer at the Royals’ alternate training site.
Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 5)
Promoted by Detroit roughly a month into the season, the former No. 1 overall pick (2018) struggled to find consistency in his Major League debut, going 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 28 1/3 frames (seven starts). And while Mize’s stuff was plenty good -- he operated with three plus pitches in his best outings -- the highly touted right-hander’s control and command both left something to be desired. That said, don’t be surprised if Mize begins to put it all together next year after gaining valuable experience in 2020.
Twins: Alex Kirilloff, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 27)
Kirilloff became one of the few rookies to ever make his Major League debut in the postseason and was the first to pick up his first hit in the playoffs (though it doesn’t officially count toward his career hit total). After raking in Summer Camp and at the alternate training site, he’s ready to contribute full-time, so look for him to hit his way into the lineup and stay there for good.
White Sox: Nick Madrigal, 2B (No. 3/MLB No. 36)
Madrigal had the best bat-to-ball skills in the 2018 Draft, where he went fourth overall out of Oregon State, and hit .340 with a miniscule 6-percent strikeout rate in his 29-game big league debut this summer. There's still some questions about how much power he'll provide, but there's no doubt he'll hit while also providing plus speed and defense. The White Sox could have four Top 100 Prospects making contributions next year, with first baseman Andrew Vaughn, right-hander Michael Kopech and left-hander Garrett Crochet also on tap.