Major League Baseball is gravitating toward young talent, and quite often that talent makes an instant impact upon arrival. With the historic 2017 rookie seasons of Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger still fresh in our minds, this 2018 campaign has already revealed some game-changing first-year players who have infused their clubs with new depth and dimension, and it's not too early to start thinking about what the Rookie of the Year Award race might look like by season's end.
Continuing our weekly Baseball Writers' Association of America awards watch, we polled 42 MLB.com reporters to check in on the rooks. Not surprisingly, a certain two-way player figured prominently in our poll, though that doesn't mean he's without legitimate competition. And as tends to be the case, the Dodgers have a guy in the mix, too.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
No surprise here. It's strange to say this about a guy who received so much hype coming over from Japan, but Ohtani has actually exceeded expectations after his Spring Training struggles had some people pumping the brakes on him. In seven starts -- he's penciled in for Wednesday's game in Detroit -- he has gone 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA and a 123 ERA-plus. In 117 plate appearances, he's had a .291/.376/.553 slash line and a 155 OPS-plus. It goes without saying that there's nobody else like him, because, well, duh. But Ohtani has been significantly better than league average in both roles, which is all kinds of crazy.
2. Gleyber Torres, Yankees
If you're scoring at home, it was 40 first-place votes for Ohtani and two for Torres, who finished either No. 1 or 2 on every ballot. In other words, while Ohtani is the clear frontrunner for the honor, Torres -- thrust into the Yankees' starting role at second base -- is the guy currently in the best position to push him. Torres hit .368 with a 1.158 OPS last week to win his first AL Player of the Week honor, and he has posted a .976 OPS with nine homers for the season. The Yankees were without Aroldis Chapman for just a few months, and, in exchange, they've now got Torres for the foreseeable future. Pretty good trade.
3. Miguel Andujar, Yankees
While Torres has garnered more headlines, Andujar has more than held his own in the Yankees lineup, too. The 23-year-old has clubbed 22 extra-base hits (17 doubles, five homers) in just 44 games while posting a .822 OPS that ranks third among all rookies with at least 100 at-bats.
1. Walker Buehler, Dodgers
The Dodgers aren't responsible for every NL Rookie of the Year. It just kind of feels that way. This franchise has churned out the award's namesake, Jackie Robinson, and 18 winners (at least twice as many as any other team), including the past two -- Corey Seager in 2016 and Bellinger last year. If seven starts with a 3-1 record, 2.20 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 5.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is any indication, Buehler could fit right into that tradition. For now, he garnered 25 first-place votes in our poll.
2. Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves
The Braves and their fans have to be breathing a sigh of relief this week with the news that Acuna's left ACL injury is not as serious as it looked on Sunday. Acuna's leg buckled after he crossed the first-base bag, and he fell on his back in agony, but his knee sprain and knee and back bruises are currently considered mild. Hopefully Acuna, who came into the year as one of MLB's most anticipated prospects, will be back soon to build on his solid .265/.326/.453 slash line, five homers and seven doubles just 29 games into his big league career.
3. Christian Villanueva, Padres
We're only two months into the season, and Villanueva, with 14 homers, has already set a record for most home runs by a Mexican-born rookie (surpassing the 12 hit by Geronimo Gil in 2002). The 26-year-old Villanueva went through a franchise-record 0-for-37 slump at one point this season, but he's sandwiched really productive stretches around it to post an .873 OPS.