Rays OF Arozarena, Pirates 3B Hayes among MLB’s top rookies

MLB

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes takes part in a drill during a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

CHICAGO (AP) — A couple of postseason stars. The son of a former big leaguer. A versatile infielder from South Korea.

Here is a closer look at a handful of rookies who could play a starring role this year:

—OF Randy Arozarena and SS Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays: Arozarena helped power Tampa Bay to the World Series last year, batting .377 with 10 homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.273 OPS in 20 postseason games. The switch-hitting Franco, who just turned 20 on March 1, is widely regarded as baseball’s top prospect.

—RHP Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves: The 22-year-old Anderson was called up in August and went 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in six starts, helping Atlanta win the NL East. He also shined in the postseason, allowing just two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings.

—INF Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates: Hayes, 24, provided some hope for lowly Pittsburgh in September, batting .376 with five homers in 24 games. The slick-fielding son of former big league infielder Charlie Hayes was selected by the Pirates in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft.

—OF Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals: The athletic Carlson was promoted in August and helped St. Louis reach the playoffs for the second straight year. He batted .200 with 35 strikeouts in 35 games, but the switch-hitter just turned 22 in October, and the Cardinals think he could be a big part of their lineup for years to come.

—RHP Nate Pearson, Toronto Blue Jays: Armed with a fastball that gets into the upper 90s and a nasty slider, Pearson worked five scoreless innings in his first big league start at Washington on July 29. He went through some growing pains down the stretch last year, but that learning experience could pay off for Toronto in 2021.

—OF Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners: Kelenic’s future was in focus this spring after former team president Kevin Mather said the outfielder likely would begin the year in the minors in order to preserve another year of club control. The No. 6 pick in the 2018 amateur draft batted .291 with 23 homers over three minor league stops in 2019. A knee problem slowed him in spring training.

—LHP Garrett Crochet, Chicago White Sox: Crochet became the first player from the 2020 amateur draft to make it to the majors when he tossed a perfect inning at Cincinnati on Sept. 18. He reached 100 mph on 45 of his 85 pitches while working six scoreless innings over his first five appearances with Chicago.

—C Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds: The 24-year-old Stephenson broke into the majors in July, homering in his first plate appearance. The 2015 first-round pick is expected to take on a more prominent role this year after the Reds let Curt Casali go in December.

—RHP Sixto Sánchez, Miami Marlins: Sánchez is a key part of one of baseball’s most promising rotations, going 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in seven starts in his first stint in the big leagues. The right-hander was acquired in the February 2019 trade that moved catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia.

—OF Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles: Mountcastle made his major league debut on Aug. 21 and batted .333 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 35 games. Selected by Baltimore with the No. 36 pick in the 2015 amateur draft, Mountcastle hit 25 homers for Triple-A Norfolk in 2019.

—OF Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins: The sweet-swinging Kirilloff gets his first chance at a regular job in Minnesota after Eddie Rosario was non-tendered in December. The 23-year-old Kirilloff went 1 for 4 in Game 2 of the AL wild-card series against Houston in his first major league game.

—INF Kim Ha-seong, San Diego Padres: The 25-year-old Kim signed a $28 million, four-year deal in December, adding even more versatility to San Diego’s deep roster. Kim batted .306 with 30 homers, 109 RBIs and 23 steals for the KBO League’s Kiwoom Heroes last season.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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