The toughest part of ranking the greatest rookies of all time is that every player only gets one chance to be a rookie. The top rookies in MLB history aren’t necessarily the players who had great careers in the long run or have been remembered fondly by fans. Rather, the best MLB rookie seasons only boil down to the first impression that a player made.
Best MLB rookie seasons
In fact, nothing says that the best MLB rookie seasons have to be by players who became perennial all-stars or Hall of Famers.
That being said, while looking at some of the best rookie seasons of all time, it did become clear that the top rookies in MLB history were rarely one-season wonders. Most of the players on our list ended up building off of their fantastic rookie seasons and had long, successful careers.
However, we promise we only looked at that first full season in the majors when ranking the 10 best MLB rookie seasons of all time.
10. Shohei Ohtani
Needless to say, Shohei Ohtani has a leg up on most rookies because he serves as both a pitcher and a hitter. Nevertheless, he had an impressive rookie campaign, setting the stage for him to win MVP honors in 2021, three years after he was Rookie of the Year.
In his first season in the majors after coming over from Japan, Ohtani only made 10 starts on the mound, although he posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 63 batters in 51.2 innings. That was just the icing on the cake, as Ohtani was Rookie of the Year primarily because of his offense. He hit .285 with an OPS of .925 thanks to 22 home runs and 21 doubles. He didn’t even play a full season, but he did more than enough to have one of the most memorable rookie campaigns ever seen.
9. Jackie Robinson
His play on the field was the least that Jackie Robinson accomplished when he broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947.
With so many eyes on him and many wanting him to fail, Robinson hit .297 with 12 home runs, 31 doubles, and five triples for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also led the National League with 29 stolen bases. As a player, the best would be yet to come, but it was still a noteworthy rookie season from Robinson for a variety of reasons.
8. Pete Alonso
Unlike some rookies, Pete Alonso had no previous big-league experience before he was the Mets’ opening day first baseman in 2019. He hit his first career home run on opening day and proceeded to hit 52 more, setting a new rookie home run record with 53 long balls.
Alonso also won the Home Run Derby in 2019 after being named an all-star as a rookie. But he proved himself to be more than just a power hitter during his rookie season. Alonso also hit .260 with 30 doubles and 120 RBIs, which is more than enough to get him on our list of the top rookies in MLB history.
7. Albert Pujols
When Albert Pujols arrived in the majors in 2001, it was clear that he was going to be one of the great players of his generation. In addition to winning Rookie of the Year, he was also the Silver Slugger Award winner and made his first of 10 All-Star Teams that year.
Not only did he smack 37 home runs and 47 doubles but Pujols also hit .329, slugging .610 with an OPS of 1.013. Pujols had so many amazing seasons to follow that people sometimes forget just how good he was right off the bat.
6. Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza was one of a long string of players to win Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers but was undoubtedly the best of the bunch. He would also win the Silver Slugger Award and be named an all-star during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1993, setting the stage for Piazza to become the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history.
After a cup of coffee in 1993, Piazza hit .318 with 35 home runs and an OPS of .931 during his rookie season. He got even better from there, but it was still a ridiculous season for a rookie catcher.
5. Aaron Judge
After a little bit of a cameo in 2016, Aaron Judge was spectacular during his rookie season in 2017. The headline of one of the best rookie seasons of all time was Judge setting a rookie record with 52 home runs, even if he only kept the record for two seasons.
Judge was also selected to the All-Star Team and won Silver Slugger honors thanks to all of those home runs. However, he also hit .284 and posted an OPS of 1.049 while racking up 114 RBIs. It’s arguably the best season of Judge’s career and easily one of the best MLB rookie seasons we’ve ever seen.
4. Dwight Gooden
Dwight Gooden is the only full-time pitcher on our list of the greatest rookies of all time. As a rookie in 1984, he wasn’t quite as good as he was the following year when he won the Cy Young and the Triple Crown. But keep in mind that Doc was only 19 during his rookie campaign when he went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA with seven complete games and three shutouts.
As a teenager, he struck out 276 batters over 218 innings to lead the majors in strikeouts with opposing hitters batting just .202 against him. When you factor his age into the equation, this is truly one of the best rookie seasons of all time.
3. Fred Lynn
Fred Lynn ended up being a nine-time all-star, getting his first all-star invitation while also winning Rookie of the Year in 1975. Of course, he also won American League MVP that year, joining a short list of rookies to also win MVP.
That season was no fluke, as Lynn led the majors in slugging percentage, runs scored, and doubles. He hit .331, which was a distant second in the batting title race behind Rod Carew’s .359 average. Lynn also won his first of four Gold Gloves as a rookie, starting an exceptional career.
2. Ichiro Suzuki
After an accomplished career in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki was a little older than the average rookie during his first season in the majors. That being said, it’s not every year that somebody wins both Rookie of the Year and MVP, which is exactly what Ichiro did in 2001.
That was also his first of 10 consecutive all-star selections, 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, his first of two batting titles, and his first of three Silver Sluggers. With no previous experience against big-league pitching, Ichiro hit .350 with eight homers, eight triples, and 34 doubles. He racked up 242 total hits and also led the league with 56 stolen bases in a truly spectacular debut season.
1. Mike Trout
Mike Trout will likely go down as the best player of his generation, so it’s fitting that he also had one of the best MLB rookie seasons of all time.
Technically, he played 40 games the season before, but in his first full season in the majors, Trout hit the ground running. He hit .326 with 30 home runs, putting together an OPS of .963. He also stole 49 bases (leading the American League) while getting caught just five times.
In addition to taking home Rookie of the Year honors, Trout was an all-star during his rookie season, won the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award, and won the Silver Slugger Award. Trout’s rookie season was also the first time any big leaguer had 30 home runs, 45 stolen bases, and 125 runs scored, making it easy for us to put him at the top of our list.