Which rookies are doing the job in 2010? In pondering the answer to this question, the focus is not on those rooks who have the most future potential. Rather, it's on which rookies, regardless of ceiling, have contributed the most in 2010. In some instances, these top-performing rookies also have a great deal of promise. In other instances, it's guys reaching heights that few predicted. So while we wait on Mr. Strasburg's arrival ... — Dayn Perry
Wade Davis, Rays
Davis got knocked around by the Red Sox earlier this week (his ERA jumped from 3.35 to 4.01), but his performance in 2010 remains solid. He's solidified the back of the Tampa Bay rotation, and he has much potential going forward. Davis needs to show better control, but armed with a hammer curve and a fastball that touches the mid-90s, he could be a force for years to come.
Hisanori Takahashi, Mets
As a 35-year-old rookie, Takahashi's ceiling is necessarily limited, but there's no questioning the value he's provided the Mets this season. After a strong showing in long relief, Takahashi recently earned a spot in the Met rotation, and he responded by dominating the Yankees. He's deceptive and adept at changing speeds, and he misses bats. Expect big things from him as a starter.
Starlin Castro, Cubs
As a recent call-up, Castro hasn't logged as much playing time as some others on this list, and he's struggled defensively. At the plate, however, he's lived up to the press clippings and then some. Castro's numbers: A batting line of .350 AVG/.409 OBP/.500 SLG, as many walks as strikeouts, and all this as a shortstop who's also the youngest player in the majors. As implied earlier, Castro needs to show some skills growth with the glove, but his bat is tremendous and will be an asset at any position. He's the homegrown star hitter the Cubs haven't enjoyed in quite a while.
Ike Davis, Mets
Davis is already a bit of a cult hero in Queens, and a .290 AVG/.398 OBP/.477 SLG has a little something to do with that. Davis needs work on defense, but he's done nothing but hit since he graduated from short-season ball in 2008. Davis will probably never be an MVP-caliber performer, but he will be a useful part of the Mets' lineup for a long time. He's also stabilized a position that was an absolute sinkhole for the Mets in 2009.
Brennan Boesch, Tigers
The Tigers' outfielder has big-time pop from the left side, and this season he's proving it: 16 extra-base hits in 98 plate appearances and a .617 SLG. Boesch's power stroke is legitimate, but it's the only sure part of his game. Still, he's producing in a big way in 2010. The overall numbers will come down, but he'll remain a serious power threat. His emergence is a big reason that Detroit is hanging in the playoff race.
David Freese, Cardinals
The Cards' rookie third basemen faced some personal challenges over the winter (of his own making) and then faced a tough position battle in spring training. Perhaps he emerged from all that a better player. Thus far, Freese is hitting .315 AVG/.391 OBP/.456 SLG, and he's also been an exceptional defender at the hot corner. At age 27, Freese certainly can't be considered an elite prospect, but the Cards figure to be strong at the position for at least the next half-decade or so.
Mike Leake, Reds
Leake made the rare leap straight from amateur status to the majors, and he's justified the Reds' uncommon faith. Leake boasts a sub-3.00 ERA in 52.1 innings, and he's been Cincinnati's top starting pitcher. Oh, and Leake's also hitting .353. He's a four-pitch guy, but he's got enough plus stuff to continue thriving at the highest level. At age 22, Leake, barring injury, has good things ahead.
Austin Jackson, Tigers
Jackson, the former Yankee farmhand who came to Detroit in the winter blockbuster that sent Curtis Granderson to the Bronx and Edwin Jackson to Arizona, has been the AL's top rookie so far. At present, Jackson is third in the AL in hits, and he also boasts an OBP of .393. The slick-fielding center fielder is also on pace for 42 doubles this season. With Jackson's high strikeout rate, that lofty batting average probably isn't sustainable, but he's a legit talent.
Jason Heyward, Braves
Every so often, the hype is justified. Coming into the 2010 season, Heyward was ballyhooed to extremes, and the pressure was squarely upon him — not only to produce but also to lift a struggling Atlanta offense. He's done that and more. Heyward boasts an outstanding batting line of .290 AVG/.409 SLG/.580 SLG, and he's on pace for 99 walks and 76 extra-base hits. As well, Heyward is fielding his position quite well, and he could challenge the NL rookie record for home runs (38, held by Frank Robinson and Wally Berger). Savor him for the next 15 years or so — he's easily got the highest ceiling of any player on this list.
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
It takes a special rookie performance to bump Heyward from the top spot, but the Cardinals' young lefty has given us just that. His 1.28 ERA (!) ranks second in the NL, and he's given up only one home run in 49.1 innings. Moreover, Garcia has notched a quality start in seven of eight outings this year, and in his only "non-quality" start he worked five scoreless innings. Garcia's injury history will always be a concern, but his good velocity and wipeout breaking ball add up to ace potential.