New MLB rookie rankings illustrate how the Cubs have found early success

Shota Imanaga and Michael Busch have helped their new team weather some key early season injuries and get off to a strong start in April.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

Without 40% of its projected Opening Day starting rotation since the fifth inning of the first game of the season and, now, down its dark horse NL MVP candidate, April has gone about as well as possible for the Chicago Cubs, who entered this weekend's four-game set against the Marlins at Wrigley at 11-7, just a half-game out of first in the division.

The latest MLB rookie rankings from FOX Sports paint a pretty clear picture of how Craig Counsell's club has overcome those obstacles with two of the top three rookies in the game calling Wrigley Field home in first baseman Michael Busch and left-hander Shota Imanaga.

Cubs have thrived early, thanks to Shota Imanaga and Michael Busch

We're only weeks into his Cubs tenure, but the Busch trade looks like it has the makings of an all-time heist job on the part of Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins. Jackson Ferris, the pitching prospect who went to the Dodgers in the deal, has a high ceiling, sure, but Busch is showing he's ready to not only play at the big league level but thrive.

The former top prospect has shown a great feel for the strike zone, and there's not much he hasn't done well to this point. He ranks in the top 5% of the league in average exit velocity and rarely chases outside the zone. Busch has obliterated fastballs, hitting .378 against them on the year. With Suzuki sidelined and Cody Bellinger off to a slow start, the rookie first baseman has been the linchpin in the Cubs offense and it's scary to think what the lineup could look like at full strength this summer.

Meanwhile, the impact of Imanaga may somehow be even greater than that of Busch given the Cubs' depleted pitching staff. Had he initially struggled to adjust to the league (which could still, and probably will, happen), it would have felt like a far more dire situation in Wrigleyville. Instead, the left-hander is yet to allow a run in three starts, scattering just nine hits in those outings.

Imanaga will hit some bumps in the road as the league's hitters adjust to his attack plan, but his stuff will play. After Steele left his Opening Day start injured, Cubs fans were pounding the panic button. Little did we know, Imanaga would immediately rise to the challenge and help keep the rotation afloat while his fellow left-hander recovered from his hamstring injury.