Contributor: John Dudley
The 2023 MLB rookie class is great. Collectors get that by now. The best thing about it is how deep the class is. I started listing hitters whose cards I don’t mind pulling and came up with over 25! names. That’s not even including pitchers. The knock on the class was that it is deeper than it is full of superstars, but I think it is time to rethink that as the top of the class all look capable of producing multiple All-Star seasons.
If I’m going to list out all the rookies I like, you can bet I’m going to rank them. I restricted the list to players who have rookie cards in 2023 products. So, unless Topps pulls a fast one with Update, no Elly de la Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, or any of the dozen or so highly touted call-ups we’ve seen in the last couple of months (2024 should be great too). I’m also forgoing pitchers as predicting the success of young MLB pitchers has turned into way too much of a crap shoot. With that said, here are the 25 guys I’m excited for that you can find in 2023 products.
Honorable Mentions: Francisco Alvarez, Oswaldo Cabrera, Nolan Gorman, Vaughn Grissom, Matt McLain, Christopher Morel, Gabriel Moreno, James Outman, Oswald Peraza, Logan O’Hoppe, Edouard Julien, Vinnie Pasquantino, Liover Peguero, Matt Wallner
If you told me twenty years from now that my honorable mentions list had two Hall of Famers on it, I wouldn’t be shocked at all. These guys have shown flashes of what they can do at the MLB level or have stellar MiLB stats to give one hope. I guarantee that you can also find many of these guys on multiple collectors’ top ten lists. Much of what kept these guys from ranking higher for me boiled down to situation. Some have a hard path to playing time, others play for moribund franchises, and for others age was a factor.
The biggest surprise on this list is that Brett Baty didn’t crack my top 25. He battled it out with Matt Wallner for the last spot, but Wallner won out as I’m biased having witnessed his power in person at USM. Even if Baty had made the list, it still would be a massive drop off from expectations. It’s worth remembering that the jump from AAA to the majors is one that is fraught with peril.
6-10 Looking Good
10. Jordan Walker
9. Masataka Yoshida
8. Josh Jung
7. Anthony Volpe
6. Triston Casas
The bottom half of our top 10 is pretty spectacular. Walker has had the lowest production out of this group, but he is incredibly young and has the potential to be the centerpiece of the vaunted Cardinals organization for years to come.
Yoshida is red hot in the hobby, but gets slotted in ninth as he is already 30 years old. He may be popular for a bit, but his ceiling is likely that of fan-favorite Hideki Matsui. That’s pretty great, but the ceiling is much higher for the rest on this list. It’s really a nod to the hobby’s Yoshida love that made me put him in the top 10.
Jung and Casas are underlooked and undervalued which seems odd to me. Volpe has plenty of hype, but as the potential future face of the Yankees, I probably should have him higher. The problem is I couldn’t figure out who to bump.
3-5 Maybe Stars
5. Michael Harris II
4. Adley Rutschman
3. Riley Greene
The next three are players I expect to make multiple All-Star games and have great careers. Sure Harris started abysmally, but he hit .167 in his first three months and .345 in the next. He’s made an adjustment and the fact he can do that at such a young age is promising.
Rutschman and Greene have both produced like stars already. Greene got derailed by an injury though and I’m not sure playing in Detroit is doing him any favors. Adley is a bonafide star already, but his age and position are big red flags. His talent is such that I’m picking his cards up anyways.
1-2 Kings of the Mountain
1b. Corbin Carroll
1a. Gunnar Henderson
I wimped out and couldn’t choose. If you made me choose between identical Carroll and Henderson cards, I’d flip a coin. Henderson is most likely the closest to a sure thing for baseball rookies, but Carroll could be a future 40-40 guy. Unsurprisingly, their cards sell for a pretty penny.
I fully expect if I revisit this list next year that there will be some serious movement. There is just too much talent in each group for one or two of these guys to not make a great leap forward. Let me know who I’m too high or too low on in the comments. Also, if you haven’t checked out the insanely useful Card Shop Live app, what are you waiting for? It’s great for breaks, personal rips, singles, and hobby info. The breakers are all heavily vetted so no shenanigans here.