2017 was a banner year for rookies across Major League Baseball. Aaron Judge became the first rookie to hit 50+ home runs and Cody Bellinger broke the NL rookie record for home runs with 39. Matt Olson and Rhys Hoskins came on late in the season and set the league ablaze with their home run clout, as well. Andrew Benintendi and Paul DeJong had notable rookie campaigns, and Matt Chapman and Manuel Margot flashed some impressive leather on defense.
In compiling the 2017 MLB All-Rookie team, Kyle Glaser of Baseball America had this to say about this year’s class of first-year big leaguers:
The rookie class of 2017 was record-breaking at the top, deep through the bottom and filled with top prospects showing flashes of their excellence. As time wears on, it will be no surprise if this rookie class stands the test of time as one of the best.
The 86-win Milwaukee Brewers relied heavily on young and inexperienced players during their breakthrough season following a brief rebuild, and two of those players were recognized by BA as All-Rookie performers in 2017:
C Manny Pina
Pina wasn’t your typical rookie, as he made his first Opening Day roster this year at age 29 after 12 years in professional baseball. Pina began the season by splitting duties behind the plate with Jett Bandy, but eventually took over the lion’s share of the playing time behind the plate until a thumb injury sidelined him for the final week and a half of the regular season. Manny’s slash of .279/.327/.424 (94 wRC+) was well above what the league-average catcher produced in 2017, and he contributed 9 home runs, 43 RBI, and 2 steals across 359 plate appearances. Pina was stellar behind the plate as well, including 7 pickoffs and a 36% caught stealing rate. His pitch framing was slightly below-average (-1.0 Framing Runs) but overall his contributions were valued at +3.0 Fielding Runs Above Average and +13 Defensive Runs Saved.
LHP Josh Hader
Hader was considered to be the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball by multiple outlets when the season began, and he showed why with an electric rookie season that began when he was called up to the big leagues in June. Pitching in a true fireman role, Hader tossed 47.2 innings across 35 appearances out of Milwaukee’s bullpen. Hader threw a fastball that averaged close to 95 MPH nearly 82% of the time this season, but for the most part batters still couldn’t touch him. The 23 year old tallied a 2.08 ERA along with a 68 FIP- and 81 DRA-, striking out 12.8 per nine innings while holding opponents to a .154 average. Even though he did dole out his share of walks (4.2 BB/9), he kept his WHIP to 0.986 by virtue of allowing only 25 hits on the year. The club has yet to decide if Hader will be used as a starter or reliever next season, but he should play an integral part in the team’s future in either role.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs