Young stars are already leaving their mark on the 2023 MLB season at a record pace (a tip of the hat to MLB for nudging teams away from manipulating service time). Anthony Volpe, Hunter Brown and Esteury Ruiz all broke camp on Opening Day rosters, while top prospects Grayson Rodriguez and Zach Neto have already made their Major League debuts.
The result? What should be an AL Rookie of the Year race for the ages. So, now that the dust has settled on the first few weeks of the season, let’s break it down: Who’s the frontrunner? Who’s rising and falling? Who might be a dark horse? Here are the odds as of April 17th, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Updated AL Rookie of the Year odds as of April 17th
Masataka Yoshida +300 Anthony Volpe +400 Hunter Brown +550
Gunnar Henderson +700 Logan O’Hoppe +750 Grayson Rodriguez +1100
Oscar Colas +1200 Josh Jung +1200 Zach Neto +1500
Triston Casas +2000 Esteury Ruiz +3000 Oswald Peraza +3500
AL Rookie of the Year race: Takeaways and best bets
Yoshida began the year atop this list after seven years starring for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. Shohei Ohtani’s World Baseball Classic teammate has gotten off to a slow start amid a hamstring strain, but he remains the betting favorite at this point ahead of New York Yankees top prospect Anthony Volpe (himself struggling a bit in his first taste of the Majors).
Houston Astros starter Hunter Brown (1.93 ERA in three starts), Los Angeles Angels catcher Logan O’Hoppe (four homers, .865 OPS) and Esteury Ruiz (four steals already) have shot up the board, while Zach Neto and Oswald Peraza loom as recently promoted infielders who could shake things up.
Best Bet: Hunter Brown, SP, Houston Astros
Brown’s first start didn’t go too well, but he’s since responded with zero earned runs over 14 innings against the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. He’s got the pedigree — he began this season as MLB Pipeline’s No. 43 overall prospect — and with questions marks in Houston’s rotation after Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier he’ll have the chance to garner attention with big starts down the stretch as the Astros push for an AL West title. He’s the best combination of talent and opportunity on the board, and the only reason he’s not the favorite is because of big markets in Boston and New York.
Best Bet: Zach Neto, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Speaking of opportunity: In less than a year, Neto has gone from the Big South Conference to hitting in front of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Of course, when you look at his Minor League numbers — .320/.382/.492 in his first taste of Double-A as a 21-year-old — it’s not hard to see why.
The Angels are desperate for a postseason run as Ohtani’s free agency looms, so it should speak volumes that the team decided to call up its first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft this past weekend. Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher aren’t serious competition at shortstop, so Neto is going to play (and bat leadoff) just about every day unless he struggles in a way he simply never has as a pro. He won’t put up monster numbers in any one category, but all eyes will be on him — a key factor in a race that’s often decided by who’s on a contending team — and something like 15 homers, 15 steals and a .280 average will play just fine if it comes from the guy who helped keep Ohtani in L.A.