Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger ended the Rookie of the Year Award debate early this season, all but locking up those races by the All-Star break. The only real question remaining was whether they could become the rare rookies to lead their league in home runs.
Judge still has that chance, holding a 43-39 advantage over Khris Davis as he seeks to follow Al Rosen (1953) and Mark McGwire ('87) as the only rookies to top the American League. Bellinger ranks second in the National League with 37, but Giancarlo Stanton's second-half explosion means he won't join Buck Freeman (1899), Harry Lumley (1904), Tim Jordan ('06) and Ralph Kiner ('46) as the only first-year players to pace the Senior Circuit.
Though it's obvious that Judge and Bellinger are enjoying the best seasons among the current rookie crop, who will have the best long-term career from the Class of 2017? We'll create a lot of angst in New York and Los Angeles by choosing someone else to top our rankings below. (Only players who will have exhausted their rookie eligibility by the end of the year were considered, which is why the likes of Victor Robles and Walker Buehler aren't included.)
1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox
Also No. 1 on our preseason Top 100 Prospects list, he combines pure hitting ability, power, speed and defense in a manner reminiscent of former Boston star Fred Lynn.
2. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers
Ranks ahead of Judge because he's three years younger, makes more consistent contact and can provide Gold Glove defense at first base or play all three outfield spots.
3. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
Arrived at Fenway Park at least a year ahead of schedule, made an instant impact with his bat and power while providing better-than-expected defense.
4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, White Sox
The third player in our top four originally signed by the Red Sox, he has the best power/speed combination in his rookie class and continues to improve his hitting and glovework.
5. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
His .329/.448/.691 first half may have been unsustainable, but the 40-homer pop is for real and he'll draw a ton of walks because pitchers fear his power.
6. Amed Rosario, SS, Mets
This ranking might be a bit low considering that he's a potential Gold Glove shortstop and .300 hitter with plus speed.
7. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
Quite similar to Rosario except that he plays on the other side of second base; he's also the only player born in 1997 or later on this list.
8. Manuel Margot, OF, Padres
Came as advertised -- hits for average, runs the bases well, plays a quality center field -- and also has smacked a career-high 13 homers despite calling one of baseball's worse power parks home.
9. Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
Though he's having the worst season (.236/.320/.337) of anyone on the upper half of this list, he still has the upside of a solid hitter, runner and defender with 15-homer pop.
10. Ian Happ, OF/2B, Cubs
A versatile switch-hitter who has played five positions, he's Ben Zobrist with a higher offensive ceiling and more speed, though not the same defensive prowess.
11. Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics
While his power is his sexiest tool, don't forget that he also has a bazooka arm and has saved as many runs (19) as any big league third baseman despite playing less than half the season.
12. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
Based solely on his offensive ability from both sides of the plate, he could rank at least five spots higher, though defensive limitations drop him here.
13. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Indians
His lackluster .692 OPS obscures the fact that he wins games with his power, speed and defense; he'll be a force if he solves southpaws and makes more consistent contact.
14. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies
Led the Minors with 67 homers and 217 RBIs over the past two seasons, then became the first big leaguer to go deep 18 times in his first 34 games.
15. Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees
Came into 2017 more highly regarded than Judge, and his electric bat speed immediately translated into big league production until he strained an oblique.