A cadre of youthful Latinos will determine the winners of the 2020 baseball season.
There’s no doubt the kids are coming: both Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto, at 21, are barely old enough to vote – even if they were eligible.
Ronald Acuna Jr., age 22, wants to add a Most Valuable Player trophy to the National League Rookie of the Year award he won two years ago.
And Ozzie Albies, 23, is not only Acuna’s closest friend but the NL’s shortest player; he’s generously listed at 5’8″ tall in the Atlanta media guide.
These are just some of the talented kids who are going to make this truncated season easy to watch – even with no fans in the stands.
The following young Latinos, all still in their 20s, are most likely to succeed:
1. Ronald Acuña, Jr. – Before the coronavirus pandemic stopped baseball in its tracks with two weeks to go in spring training, this righthanded powerhouse from Venezuela suggested he become the first 50/50 player in baseball history. Only a late-season groin pull cost him a 40/40 season last year but Acuna still finished with 41 homers plus a league-best 37 stolen bases. His 127 runs scored also led the National League. Once he learns to reduce his strikeout rate, he’ll become a strong MVP contender.
2. Nolan Arenado – He’s won three home run crowns and seven Gold Gloves for his third-base play with the Colorado Rockies. At age 29, however, this son of a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother is getting restless playing for a non-contender and asked to be traded earlier this year. No matter where he plays, he’s going to win an MVP or two before he’s through.
3. Vlad Guerrero Jr. – Moved from third to first base by the Blue Jays this spring, this muscular Dominican is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. If he follows in his father’s footsteps, he could make the Guerreros the first father-and-son players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Like Acuna, he hits the ball a long way.
4. Pete Alonso – Though born in Tampa, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year traces his Latino heritage to his Spanish-Italian father. His 53 home runs last year were most ever hit by a rookie and the most ever hit by a Met. At age 25, the Polar Bear have a long run in the big leagues.
5. Juan Soto – With Bryce Harper fleeing to Philadelphia as a free agent last year, this Dominican outfielder supplied plenty of lefthanded power (34 home runs) in the lineup of the World Champion Nationals. He doesn’t run or field like Acuna yet but is improving in both areas.
6. Manny Machado – A big-leaguer for eight years at age 27, he’s hit more than 30 home runs five years in a row, excelling in both leagues. A Florida native of Dominican extraction, he’s stationed at third only because the Padres also have Fernando Tatis, Jr.
7. Ozzie Albies – Overshadowed by Acuña in Atlanta, this switch-hitting second baseman from Curacao led the NL with 189 hits and a .389 average against lefthanded pitchers. He’s hit 24 homers two years in a row and shows signs of being the NL’s version of Jose Altuve, another little man with a big stick.
8. Gleyber Torres – Trying to return to shortstop after spending his early Yankees career at second, Torres is the same age as Albies (23) but with more size and more power (38 HR). If he batted exclusively against Baltimore pitching, he might lead the American League in home runs.
9. Javy Baez – An All-Star at both second and short for the Cubs, this Puerto Rican power-hitter pounded 29 home runs last year but enters the walk year of his contract hoping to be more consistent. At age 27, he’s already played six seasons, all in Chicago.
10. Eugenio Suarez – This 28-year-old righthanded slugger from Venezuela plays his home games in the league’s biggest bandbox, Great American Ballpark, but has improved his power output four years in a row, finally reaching 49 last season.
• Eduardo Rodriguez, 27, Red Sox LHP (Venezuela) – surprised with 19-6 mark
• Jose Berrios, 25, Twins RHP (Puerto Rico) – consistent for three years
• Luis Castillo, 27, Reds RHP (Dominican) – won 15 in bandbox ballpark
• Gary Sanchez, 27, Yankees C (Dominican) – 34 homers in 106 games
• Luis Robert, 22, White Sox OF (Cuba) = about to realize huge potential
• Francisco Lindor, 26, Indians SS (Puerto Rico) – AL’s best shortstop
• Fernando Tatis Jr., 21, Padres SS (Dominican) – 42 extra-base hits in 88 games
• Carlos Correa, age 25, Astros SS (Puerto Rico) – great talent if healthy
• Yoan Moncada, age 25, White Sox 3B (Cuba) – developing slugger
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