Baseball's 2022 Rookie Class: Best Long-Term Contributors

The landscape in baseball is filled with young players ready to take the mantle as league superstars. We’ve already seen flashes from last year’s rookie class and expect more to come from this group of former freshmen who should make a dent for years to come.

Julio Rodriguez, CF, Seattle Mariners

Before we get into the supporting cast, this class’s top present and future player is AL Rookie of the Year, Julio Rodriguez. The Mariners outfielder showed to be a hitter beyond his years this season at just 21 years old. Rodriquez did it all in 2022, hitting for power with 28 home runs, speed with 25 steals, and contact by hitting .284. He will have to learn some discipline at the plate after 145 strikeouts against 40 walks in 132 games, but he has every tool to be a big-time bat for years to come in the Pacific Northwest.

Jeremy Pena, SS, Houston Astros

 Jeremy Pena’s national coming out party went down when the entire world was watching for Houston’s world series run. Pena became just the fourth rookie to surpass a 1.000 OPS over a single World Series and the first position player to win the World Series MVP. The 25-year-old set that up by winning the ALCS MVP after going 6-for-17 with two homers and four RBIs across the four-game series. Pena can also do it with the glove at perhaps the most important defensive position in baseball as the first-year-man took home his first of many gold gloves to come.

Spencer Strider, SP, Atlanta Braves

Spencer Strider was in the race for Rookie of the Year for much of the season but missing the last three weeks of the regular season hurt his case. Despite finishing second for the hardware, Strider put together a fantastic campaign. The 24-year-old had a ridiculous K per inning rate, striking out 202 in 131.2 innings, showing dominance rarely seen at his age and experience level. Strider’s 2.67 ERA and 0.99 WHIP just solidified a fantastic freshman season, and he should continue to thrive in Atlanta, which has always been a top breeding ground for starting pitching.

Michael Harris II, CF, Atlanta Braves

In addition to having one of the best environments to grow pitching, the Braves also consistently have some of the best scouting in baseball. How else can you explain Atlanta boasting the top two players in the Rookie of the Year race as Michael Harris II edged Strider for the award? Harris hit nearly .300 with 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs, and 20 stolen bags. The 21-year-old did much of his damage at the bottom of the order, and moving up in the lineup to hit around superstars Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, and Matt Olson will only cause his star to rise.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates   

While the Pittsburgh Pirates may not get as much attention as the teams above, they have pumped out some pretty great prospects over the years, and Oneil Cruz fits that bill to a tee. Cruz is a massive shortstop at 6-foot-7, and with his size comes potent power. The 24-year-old had the hardest-hit ball (122.4 mph) in the Majors this season, despite only playing in 87 games. His averages are off the charts after launching 17 home runs in just half a season in 2022. The big man also has speed to burn after stealing 11 bases in just 331 at-bats.