MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Early candidates for 2018 Rookie of the Year Awards

Early candidates for 2018 Rookie of the Year Awards

On Monday, the 2017 Rookie of the Year Awards were announced. One winner, the Yankees' Aaron Judge, was on the ROY radar  at this time last year. In the National League, Cody Bellinger was not on that list, largely because there wasn't an apparent opportunity for him to play at that time.

Of the 10 players mentioned in that story a year ago, only two -- Judge and Boston's Andrew Benintendi, the runner-up in the American League -- ended up receiving Rookie of the Year votes, showing just how tough it is to predict award winners 12 months in advance. But that won't stop us from trying again this year to project 2018 ROY Award candidates in each league.

All are on MLBPipeline.com's current Top 100 Prospects list. There is one omission, however: Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese two-way superstar should be cleared to be posted in the near future and will almost certainly be on a Major League roster come Opening Day. Whichever league Ohtani lands in, he'll automatically become a front-runner for that circuit's Rookie of the Year Award.

American League

Willy Adames, SS, Rays' No. 2 prospect
An All-Star in the Minor Leagues for each of the past three seasons, Adames' power is starting to come, with double-digit home runs and 30 or more doubles in two straight campaigns. The opportunity for playing time should be there, as there is a strong possibility that Adames will be the Rays' everyday shortstop.

Franklin Barreto, SS/2B, A's No. 1 prospect
After a solid year in Triple-A at age 21, Barreto made his big league debut in 2017, giving him a taste of what to expect. He has the benefit of being able to play on both sides of second base, and he's even played the outfield in winter ball in the past. Barreto's power and speed combo should find its way into the A's lineup regularly.

Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers' No. 2 prospect
After hitting 58 home runs in the Minor Leagues in his first two full seasons of pro ball, Calhoun homered once during his 13-game big league audition after heading from the Dodgers to the Rangers in the Yu Darvish deal. Texas moved him to left field, which should be his spot to lose in 2018.

Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays' No. 1 prospect
Many expected to see Honeywell make his big league debut late in 2017, but the Rays chose not to bring him up when rosters expanded in September. He'll get added to the 40-man roster this offseason and should be a mainstay in Tampa Bay's rotation from the get-go next season.

Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Indians' No. 1 prospect
Mejia might be a little bit more of a long shot because there isn't an obvious path to a regular spot in Cleveland, but the Indians sent him to the Arizona Fall League to play third because they think his bat is ready. And if they believe that, they'll find a way to get that bat into the lineup.

Others to watch: Chance Adams, RHP, Yankees; Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Rays; Nick Gordon, SS/2B, Twins; Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox; Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, A's; Franklin Perez, RHP, Tigers; Gleyber Torres, SS/2B, Yankees

Who could be NL ROY in 2018?

National League

Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves' No. 1 prospect
After ripping through three levels of the Minors and tearing up the AFL, there's no doubt Acuna is ready for a shot. The Braves' outfield is crowded, but he will force his way in. Acuna's ability to play all three outfield spots won't hurt.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Brewers' No. 1 prospect
Brinson may have struggled during his brief big league debut, but he still has 30-30 potential and an improved approach to help him get there. Working his way into the Brewers' outfield might be tough, but his multiple tools should help him force his way in soon enough.

Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers' No. 1 prospect
Considering he had Tommy John surgery in August 2016, shortly after signing out of Vanderbilt, Buehler reached the big leagues in 2017 way ahead of schedule. It's a very deep rotation in Los Angeles, but you can never have enough pitching, right? Assuming health, his swing-and-miss stuff will belong on a Major League staff soon.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, Cardinals' No. 3 prospect
Flaherty has very quietly evolved into one of the better, and most consistent, pitching prospects in baseball. His stuff has improved to match his advanced pitchability. Flaherty assuredly will take his 2017 big league experience and learn from it, making him a better starter in 2018.

Victor Robles, OF, Nationals' No. 1 prospect
A debate is starting, one that could go on in the NL East for a long time if things go according to plan: Robles vs. Acuna. While Robles reached the big leagues and was on the Nationals' NL Division Series roster in 2017, working his way into Washington's outfield might be tough. But he has the plus tools to do it.

Others to watch: Jorge Alfaro C, Phillies; Christian Arroyo, 3B/SS, Giants; Harrison Bader, OF, Cardinals; J.P. Crawford, SS/3B, Phillies; Scott Kingery, 2B, Phillies; Tyler Mahle, RHP, Reds; Tyler O'Neill, OF, Cardinals; Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds; Jesse Winker, OF, Reds

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.