Ahead of the 2023 Major League Baseball season, Audacy Sports has identified seven rookies who could immediately become impact players for their respective teams.
Masataka Yoshida: Left Field, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox gave Yoshida a five-year/$90 million deal in free agency, and will count on him to help make up for the loss of Xander Bogaerts in free agency. The 29-year-old slashed .335/.447/.561 with 21 home runs, 88 RBIs and a 1.008 OPS for the Orix Buffaloes in 2022. The on-base machine will represent Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic before his rookie MLB season.
Andrew Painter: RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Bryce Harper is recovering from Tommy John surgery, while Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber will soon leave to represent Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. So Painter -- the No. 6 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline -- will be the focus during Grapefruit League action for the Phillies. Painter won't turn 20 until mid-April, and Keith Law of The Athletic recently suggested that the former first-round pick could benefit from some more seasoning in the minor leagues before joining the Phillies. But the defending National League Champions have an open spot in their rotation, and at the very least, Painter is a serious candidate to fill the role.
Gunnar Henderson: Shortstop, Baltimore Orioles
MLB Pipeline has Henderson ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball, and the expectation is that the 21-year-old will be the starting shortstop for the Orioles in 2023. A second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Henderson posted a .788 OPS in 34 games for the upstart Orioles a season ago. If he blossoms into the star many believe he can be, the future in Baltimore will be bright, especially considering that the O's have seven other prospects ranked in the top 100.
Kodai Senga: RHP, New York Mets
At 30 years old, Senga sticks out a bit on this list, but this will be his first MLB season after spending parts of 11 seasons in Japan. Despite winning 101 games a season ago, the Mets allowed Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt to all depart in free agency. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander will join the rotation, and Max Scherzer is back for his second season in Queens. But make no mistake, the Mets are banking on Senga's ghost fork translating to the top league in the world, and helping him to live up to the five-year/$75 million deal he received.
Corbin Carroll: Left Field, Arizona Diamondbacks
Keith Law of The Athletic ranked Carroll as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball in late January, saying that the 22-year-old is "an 80 runner by Sprint Speed, and a true center fielder who gets great reads and has the closing speed to go get the ball in the gaps." Across his first 32 Major League games a season ago, Carroll drove in 14 runs and posted an .830 OPS, enough for him to debut on Audacy's countdown of the top 10 center fielders for the 2023 season. Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic reported in February that the Diamondbacks have already begun to talk about a long-term contract with the former first-round pick's representatives.
Cade Cavalli: RHP, Washington Nationals
Nationals fans don't have much to look forward to in 2023, and probably for the foreseeable future. However, the development of Cavalli could prove to be a silver lining for a team that only won 55 games in 2022, and might actually be worse this upcoming season. A first-round pick in 2020 out of the University of Oklahoma, Cavalli posted a 3.71 ERA across 20 starts at Triple-A Rochester a season ago. The Nationals may never top the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin that helped lead them to a World Series title in 2019, but they hope that Cavalli, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore prove to be an impressive group in their own right.
Francisco Álvarez: Catcher, New York Mets
Álvarez got a cup of coffee in 2022, appearing in five games for the Mets. In 2023, the hope is that Álvarez will make a legitimate impact for the Mets in a crowded National League East, even if he ends up opening the season at Triple-A Syracuse. There are questions about Álvarez's ability to be a full-time catcher, but quite a bit of excitement about adding his bat into an already impressive Mets lineup, especially if he's able to just not be a liability behind the plate.