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The best rookie season for each MLB franchise

In recent years, it has become an annual event to have an eye-popping rookie emerge on the MLB scene. From Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger shattering home run records two years ago to Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto having a pair of the best 20 (or younger) seasons ever and Pete Alonso's jaw-dropping homer spree of this summer, rookies have been all the rage. 

Are they even the greatest rookie showings ever for their own teams? Here's a look at each franchise's greatest debut season of all time.

 
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Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb (2003)

Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb (2003)
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Just three years after being an eighth-round pick, Webb made a substantial impact upon his arrival in the majors. The future Cy Young Award winner posted the fourth-lowest ERA in the National League at 2.84 while making 28 starts. Webb finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

 
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Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna (2018)

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna (2018)
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Accompanied by a superstar-sized level of buzz surrounding his arrival, Acuna did not disappoint. Reaching Atlanta as a 19-year-old, Acuna set a handful of early-age records en route to helping the Braves to a playoff appearance and capturing NL Rookie of the Year for himself. Among those marks include becoming the youngest player to homer in five consecutive games and youngest to hit a postseason grand slam.

 
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Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr. (1982)

Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr. (1982)
Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

The future Ironman made an immediate impact, homering in his first at-bat of the season. On May 30, he missed his final game for the next 16 years. Then on July 1, he moved to from third base to shortstop, where he would craft his legendary career. Overall, Ripken hit 28 home runs with 93 RBI and 32 doubles to win AL Rookie of the Year.

 
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Boston Red Sox: Fred Lynn (1975)

Boston Red Sox: Fred Lynn (1975)
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In the summer of '75, Lynn reached heights that no rookie before him (and only once since) had, winning both AL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. As a 23-year-old, Lynn led the league in doubles (47), runs scored (103), slugging percentage (.566) and OPS (.967) while finishing second in batting average at .331. Lynn also won the AL Gold Glove in center field and made the first of nine consecutive All-Star appearances.

 
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Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu (2014)

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu (2014)
Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB via Getty Images

In his first season after defecting from Cuba, Abreu immediately emerged as one of the game’s best hitters. He became the first player in history to win AL Player and Rookie of the Month Awards twice in the same year, doing so in April and August. Abreu joined Albert Pujols, Ted Williams and Hal Trosky as the only rookies in history to total 30 home runs, 30 doubles, 100 RBI and hit .300 as a rookie.

 
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Chicago Cubs: Kerry Wood (1998)

Chicago Cubs: Kerry Wood (1998)
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The flame-throwing Texan was a bona fide sensation in the summer of '98, instantly becoming the hardest-to-hit pitcher in the game. In his fifth career start, Wood tied the MLB single-game record with 20 strikeouts against the Astros, breaking the rookie record by two. Overall, Wood allowed the fewest hits per nine innings in the NL (6.3) and set an all-time rookie record for strikeouts per nine innings, with 12.6.

 
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Cincinnati Reds: Frank Robinson (1956)

Cincinnati Reds: Frank Robinson (1956)
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Robinson hit the first 38 of his eventual 586 career homers in his first season as a major leaguer with the Reds, tying the then-record for rookies in the process. Robinson also hit .290 while leading the NL in runs scored, with 122. In addition to claiming NL Rookie of the Year, Robinson also finished in the top 10 of NL MVP voting and made his All-Star debut.

 
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Cleveland Indians: Shoeless Joe Jackson (1911)

Cleveland Indians: Shoeless Joe Jackson (1911)
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Jackson made a historic impact in his first full season, hitting for a still-standing rookie record of a .408 batting average. He finished second in the majors in average, behind only Ty Cobb, while leading the league in on-base percentage (.468) and personal highs of 41 stolen bases and 337 total bases. Jackson finished fourth in AL MVP voting in the process.

 
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Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki (2007)

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki (2007)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

On the heels of winning team MVP in spring training, Tulowitzki hit .291 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI while posting the highest fielding percentage by a rookie shortstop in MLB history (.989). Tulo’s rookie campaign also saw him complete the 13th unassisted triple play in MLB history. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and helped the Rockies to their first World Series appearance.

 
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Detroit Tigers: Mark Fidrych (1976)

Detroit Tigers: Mark Fidrych (1976)
Photo by Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Known for his quirky demeanor and antics on the mound, "The Bird" became a sensation during his rookie campaign with Detroit. Fidrych won 19 games while leading the American League in ERA (2.34) and complete games (24), including a pair of 11-inning shutouts. His 9.6 WAR is the highest by a rookie pitcher in MLB history.

 
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Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell (1991)

Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell (1991)
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After landing Bagwell as a part of what would become one of the most lopsided trades of all time from the Red Sox, Houston didn’t have to wait long to reap the benefits of its young slugger. Despite making the transition from minor league third baseman to MLB first baseman, Bagwell performed well at the plate. He hit .294 with 15 home runs and a .387 on-base percentage en route to NL Rookie of the Year honors.

 
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Kansas City Royals: Carlos Beltran (1999)

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Beltran (1999)
Photo by Albert Dickson/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

After skipping the Triple-A level altogether, Beltran opened the '99 season as K.C.'s everyday center fielder. The smooth-fielding switch-hitter spent much of the year as a leadoff and No. 3 hitter, hitting .293 with 22 home runs and 108 RBI. Beltran also stole 27 bases on the year, becoming the ninth rookie ever to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases.

 
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Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout (2012)

Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout (2012)
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

As a 21-year-old, Trout put together the greatest rookie season of all time. He set a slew of rookie records, including highest average through 100 games (.344), first to hit 30 home runs with 40 stolen bases and the first rookie ever to account for 10 or more Wins Above Replacement level. Trout led the AL with 129 runs scored and 49 steals and finished second in AL MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera — who won the first Triple Crown in 45 years — but still accounted for 3.4 win shares fewer than Trout.

 
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Los Angeles Dodgers: Jackie Robinson (1947)

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jackie Robinson (1947)
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From Fernando Valenzuela and Mike Piazza to Hideo Nomo and Cody Bellinger, no franchise has more remarkable rookie campaigns to its credit than the Dodgers. However, none stacks up to the overall impact of the debut of Robinson in 1947, of whom the Rookie of the Year Award is named in honor. Robinson proved how absurd the color barrier was during his MLB debut, hitting .297 while stealing an NL-best 29 bases. Robinson brought an incomparable level of excitement to the game while dealing with the most unbearably tense environment around his groundbreaking presence in the sport.

 
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Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez (2013)

Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez (2013)
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

After dominating at the Class-A level in 2012, Fernandez made the jump all the way to the majors the following year...and didn’t let up. The 20-year-old made the NL All-Star team and allowed the fewest hits per nine innings in the National League at 5.8. His 6.3 WAR is the fourth-best by a pitcher 21 or younger since 1900. He finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting and received 26 of 30 first-place votes for NL Rookie of the Year.

 
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Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun (2007)

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun (2007)
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Braun broke in at third base for the Brewers in ‘07 and got off to one of the fastest starts to a career in history. He needed only 87 games to reach 25 homers, the second-fastest pace ever. Overall, Braun finished in the NL top 10 in home runs (34) and batting average (.324) while leading the league with a .634 slugging percentage, highest by a rookie with at least 450 plate appearances in history.

 
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Minnesota Twins: Tony Oliva (1964)

Minnesota Twins: Tony Oliva (1964)
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Oliva led the AL in runs scored (109), doubles (43), hits (217), batting average (.323) and total bases (374) as a rookie. It would be the first of three consecutive years he led the AL in hits, making him the only player in history to lead his league in hits in his first three seasons. Following his rookie campaign, he became the first player to win Rookie of the Year and the AL batting crown in the same season.

 
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New York Yankees: Aaron Judge (2017)

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge (2017)
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Judge shattered home run records with regularly during his breakout rookie campaign en route to setting the single-season rookie home record with 52. He broke Joe DiMaggio’s previous full-season Yankees rookie homer record before the All-Star break and would go on to break Babe Ruth’s record for Yankee Stadium homers in a season with 33 of his own. Overall, Judge became the first rookie to hit 45 homers, score 100 runs and drive in 100 in a season on his way to capturing AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for MVP.

 
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New York Mets: Dwight Gooden (1984)

New York Mets: Dwight Gooden (1984)
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Pete Alonso has been incredible at the plate for the Mets but still falls short of the mark Gooden set on the mound as a rookie. Doc led the National League in six categories as a 19-year-old, including setting a still-standing record of 276 rookie strikeouts. Gooden capped the season by winning eight of his final nine starts with a 1.07 ERA while striking out 41 against one walk during the stretch.

 
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Oakland Athletics: Mark McGwire (1987)

Oakland Athletics: Mark McGwire (1987)
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Big Mac took the game by storm in ‘87, hitting a then-rookie-record 49 home runs with a .618 slugging percentage, with his rookie home run record standing for 30 years. Both figures led the American League, with McGwire breaking the former first-year record of Al Rosen by 12 long balls. McGwire finished sixth in AL MVP voting and was the unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year.

 
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Philadelphia Phillies: Richard Anthony Allen (1964)

Philadelphia Phillies: Richard Anthony Allen (1964)
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In Allen’s first full season, he led the National League in runs (125), triples, (13), extra-base hits (80) and total bases (352). Along the way, he also clubbed 29 home runs, 38 doubles, 201 hits and drove in 91. Although the 1964 Phillies are remembered for losing a 6.5-game lead over the final week-and-a-half of the season, Allen hit over .400 during the collapse en route to a top-10 MVP finish and Rookie of the Year nod.

 
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Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Bay (2004)

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Bay (2004)
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Bay arrived in Pittsburgh late in 2003 as part of a trade for All-Star outfielder Brian Giles. Although his first full season with the Bucs was delayed until May due to offseason surgery, he made up for lost time quickly. Over 120 games, Bay hit 26 home runs and drove in 82 runs while posting the first of three consecutive years of an OPS over .900 — all en route to NL Rookie of the Year honors.

 
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San Diego Padres: Benito Santiago (1987)

San Diego Padres: Benito Santiago (1987)
Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

Santiago wasted little time in affixing himself as one of the top catchers in the game as a rookie. A lively and brilliant defender, he set a major league rookie record with a 34-game hitting streak amid a season where he hit .300 with 18 home runs and 33 doubles. Santiago won an NL Silver Slugger Award and was named unanimously as NL Rookie of the Year.

 
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San Francisco Giants: Christy Mathewson (1901)

San Francisco Giants: Christy Mathewson (1901)
Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Matty unleashed his signature "fadeaway" pitch on foes for John McGraw’s New York Giants, instantly becoming an top-tier hurler. The eventual 373-game winner won 20 games as a 20-year-old, making 38 starts and completing 36 games. Conversely, while he would go on to become one of the great control pitchers of all time, he led the NL in wild pitches as a rookie, with 23.

 
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Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki (2001)

Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki (2001)
Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Ichiro mania swept across the Pacific Ocean and into Seattle, as the Japanese superstar took the game by storm in his MLB debut season. Suzuki led the American League in hits (242), stolen bases (56) and batting average (.350), joining Jackie Robinson as the only players in history to lead their league in average and steals in the same year. Overall, he led Mariners to a record-tying 116 games, while becoming the second player to ever win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.

 
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St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols (2001)

St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols (2001)
Photo credit should read SCOTT ROVAK/AFP/Getty Images

Pujols came out of the obscurity of being a 13th-round pick two years prior to instantly becoming one of the most feared hitters in the game just 20 months later. Spending time at third and first base as well as left and right field, Pujols hit .329 with 37 homers, 47 doubles and scored 112 runs. His 130 RBI set an NL rookie record, and he ran away with Rookie of the Year honors and finished fourth in NL MVP voting.

 
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Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria (2008)

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria (2008)
Photo by Chris Livingston /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Longoria made such a strong impression upon arrival that the Rays signed him to a six-year, $17.5 million extension just six days after his MLB debut. He made good on the investment, hitting 27 home runs for the Rays and making the All-Star team as a rookie. Longoria played a central role in sending the Rays to their first World Series, where he set a rookie record for most home runs hit in a series, with four in the ALCS.

 
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Texas Rangers: Neftali Feliz (2010)

Texas Rangers: Neftali Feliz (2010)
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Feliz was moved into the closer role early in his first full season and did not let it go. Armed with a 100-plus mph fastball, Feliz converted 23 first-half saves en route to being named to the AL All-Star team. Eventually he would set a new rookie record with 40 saves on the year while leading the AL in games finished with 59. He worked an additional six scoreless frames during Texas’ ALCS and World Series appearances.

 
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Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Eichhorn (1986)

Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Eichhorn (1986)
Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

Eichhorn originally debuted during the 1982 season but missed the next three full seasons due to a shoulder injury. When he returned to action, he came with a new sidearm delivery and exceptional control that made up for his post-injury loss of velocity. He became a workhorse reliever for the Jays, owning a 1.72 ERA over 69 games and 157 innings and striking out 166 on the year.

 
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Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper (2012)

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper (2012)
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Surrounded by an unmatched level of hype as a 19-year-old rookie, Harper played with a relentless intensity upon reaching the majors. He became the third-youngest All-Star ever during the year and eventually would go on to win NL Rookie of the Year honors after hitting 22 homers and scoring 98 runs. Over the course of the year, he set all-time records for the most total bases (254) and extra-base hits (57) by a player younger than 20.

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.



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