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American League rookie race features three future stars

You may have seen the tweet the other day from ESPN Stats & Information that pointed out rookies hit 150 home runs in August, the most ever by a rookie class in one month.

Of course, not all rookie classes included Miguel Sano.

In fact, in some regards it's been the Year of the Rookie. Back on Aug. 11, my ESPN Stats & Info colleague Paul Hembekides reported that the 2015 rookie class had already recorded the highest single-season cumulative WAR of any rookie class in history. With 49.5 Wins Above Replacement via FanGraphs, the 2015 class had already edged past the 1987 class that included Mark McGwire, Kevin Seitzer, Devon White, Mike Greenwell, Benito Santiago, Matt Nokes, Ellis Burks, Terry Steinbach and Joe Magrane; and the 2007 group that included Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, Hunter Pence, Josh Hamilton, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Lincecum and Yovani Gallardo.

Now, both of those stats I just cited are a little misleading when comparing 2015 to all of baseball history; there are more teams now than for most of MLB's past, so those 2015 numbers are reflective of quality and quantity.

There seems to be little doubt, however, that the 2015 group features both. Most of the talk all season has been about the National League rookie race since guys like Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang have been up all season (or, in Bryant's case, much of the season).

But the three rookies you want for the next decade may be the three midseason call-ups in the American League who have star written all over them: Sano, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.

After hitting .278 with nine home runs in August, Sano has homered in his first two games of September. His third-inning blast to center field on Tuesday off Carlos Rodon -- another prized rookie -- was a thing of raw beauty and power, his 10th in his past 20 games and gave the Minnesota Twins first blood against the White Sox as they went on to a 3-0 victory, their 10th in 12 games.

I just wrote about Sano last week, so let's turn it over to Parker Hageman's in-depth look at Sano from earlier Tuesday, which does a great job pointing out some of the adjustments Sano has already made at the plate:

The biggest takeaway from his previous swing and the one currently employed is how efficiently he is loading/gathering before driving toward the ball. In the comparison images below, you see that in the more recent swing [middle and right], Sano is turning his hip inward slightly and staying closed on his front side.

In the earlier model [left] his hip is square to the pitcher before flying open when he would swing. This version left him less able to drive pitches on the outer-half as well as a man with his size, stature and strength should and could. The new model has allowed him to punish anything that flies from east to west in the strike zone.

Go to Parker's story for the visuals of Sano's changes. Oh, his line through his first 51 major league games: .296/.405/.620. Wow.

Correa was the first of the three called up, back on June 8, and hit two home runs in his first four games and has remained a consistent threat at the plate since, hitting .276/.345/.513, all while playing a solid shortstop. Even though he doesn't turn 21 until Sept. 22, Correa has been hitting third in the Houston lineup since June 29. In other words, it didn't take A.J. Hinch long to trust his rookie in that lineup spot. Since 1960, only six 20-year-olds have had more plate appearances hitting third than Correa has so far (218): Cesar Cedeno, Ken Griffey Jr., Bryce Harper, Rick Manning, Ed Kranepool and Claudell Washington.

Maybe that group suggests Correa's long-term stardom isn't assured, but if you're asking me if he's going to be more Ken Griffey Jr. or more Rick Manning, I think you can guess which way I'd go.

What I like most about these two is they're playing so well in the heat of the playoff races. The Astros lead the American League West and the Twins' hot streak has them a game behind the Rangers for the AL's second wild card.

Lindor is the one who kind of snuck up on us. While everyone was conceding the rookie of the year award to Correa just a few weeks, Lindor has surged into the debate:

Correa: 3.1 WAR

Lindor: 2.9 WAR

Called up a few days after Correa, Lindor was immediately installed into the No. 2 spot in the lineup but got off to a slow start, hitting .205 through his first 20 games. But he hit .370 in August and is now hitting .308/.347/.437. Lindor has actually hit better with the Indians than he did in Triple-A, so that offense has been a little bit of a surprise. What hasn't been a surprise is the terrific defense he has played so far. With seven Defensive Runs Saved, that helps close the offensive gap between him and Correa.

It certainly makes for an interesting debate. The slugger? The shortstop on a first-place team? The defensive whiz hitting .300? All I know is it's going to be fun watching these three for a long time.