Dan's Dugout: How Latino Stars Will Do in 2017 • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: How Latino Stars Will Do in 2017


Look for Latino stars to have more influence on this year’s pennant races than ever before.

Not only are there more of them but many of those already there are just reaching their prime.

Aroldis Chapman, the lefthanded flamethrower, not only helped pitch the Chicago Cubs to the World Series but helped them win it – something that had not happened since 1908.

Chapman is back with the Yankees, thanks to free agency, and should start racking up saves once the bell rings in April. But many other Latinos will be influential too. Here’s an educated guess as to which Latino stars will shine in 2017:

Jose Altuve is living proof that good things come in small packages

Jose Altuve is living proof that good things come in small packages

Jose Altuve – With the possible exception of Mike Trout, this diminutive Venezuelan is the best player in the American League. He’s topped 200 hits three years running, won two batting crowns, and could even blossom into a 30/30 guy after adding power to his resume.

Jose Bautista – Back with Toronto after a disappointing sojourn into free agency, this Dominican slugger needs a comeback at age 36 before he can test the market again.

Carlos Beltran – If age and knees allow, this switch-hitting Puerto Rican powerhouse will thrive in Minute Maid Park and boost the Astros into the playoff picture. He previously played for Houston in 2004.

Adrian Beltre – At 38, this Gold Glove third baseman from the Dominican has his sights set on 500 home runs and a Hall of Fame niche.

Robinson Cano – After struggling during his first two seasons in Seattle, this ex-Yankee second baseman found his former power stroke last summer. His lefthanded power could propel the Mariners to their first World Series berth.

Starlin Castro – He not only filled the void created by Cano’s departure in New York but also added power last season. At 27, this Dominican infielder has a bright future.

Aroldis Chapman – Only 29, Chapman has been a bullpen force since 2012. Nobody throws harder than the crowd-pleasing Cuban but he does have occasional wild spells.

Bartolo Colon – Few free agents sign at age 43 but this rotund righthander throws strikes and eats innings. With decent support, he could win a dozen or more, hoist Atlanta out of the NL East basement, and approach the Latino record of 245 wins held by Dennis Martinez.

Bartolo Colon is closing in on the Dennis Martinez mark for most wins by a Latino pitcher

Bartolo Colon is closing in on the Dennis Martinez mark for most wins by a Latino pitcher

Miguel Cabrera – At 34, this four-time batting champ is still going strong. He probably won’t repeat his Triple Crown season of 2012 but the Venezuelan first baseman remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League.

Yoenis Cespedes – Now that he has contract security, this Cuban import should be able to relax and contribute to his contending club. CitiField isn’t a great home run target, however, and the outfielder’s mind seems to wander on occasion.

Carlos Correa – At 22, the sky’s the limit for Houston’s Puerto Rican shortstop. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year could have 30/30 seasons in his future.

Nelson Cruz – A Dominican slugger who produces 40 home runs a year is rare, so the Mariners will keep their designated hitter happy.

Johnny Cueto – San Francisco’s righthanded ace, this compact Dominican starter is a great No. 2 to Madison Bumgarner. He’s a strong candidate to reach the 20-win circle.

Edwin Encarnacion brings his bat to Cleveland this year Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Edwin Encarnacion brings his bat to Cleveland this year
Credit: Bill Menzel

Edwin Encarnacion – Jumping from Toronto to Cleveland could hurt the home run count of this Dominican first baseman but he’ll still do better than Mike Napoli, the man he replaces.

Marco Estrada – The Mexican righty has found a home north of the border, where he should be a rotation mainstay for the Blue Jays again.

Jaime Garcia – Another Mexican with a live arm, Garcia gives the Braves the lefthanded starter they desperately needed. At age 30, he’ll be a double-digit winner if he stays healthy.

Carlos Gomez – The 31-year-old Dominican outfielder showed signs of recapturing his former form last season and should give Texas a solid bat if that trend continues.

Yasmani Grandal – After hitting 27 homers in 126 games last year, this Cuban import is entrenched as the top catcher for the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers.

Felix Hernandez – At 31, the Venezuelan righty already has won two ERA crowns and a Cy Young and pitched a perfect game. He’ll not only top the Seattle staff but remain one of the top pitchers in the American League.

Odubel Herrera – Philadelphia has an up-and-coming star in its Venezuelan leadoff man. He also plays a solid center field.

Kelvin Herrera – His ability to throw hard and work often allowed Kansas City the luxury of trading erstwhile closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler.

Ender Inciarte – Coming off a Gold Glove season in his first year with the Braves, the valuable Venezuelan finished 2016 with a flourish after a faltering start. Atlanta refused multiple offers to trade him.

Francisco Lindor – Cleveland’s Puerto Rican shortstop possesses power, speed, a good glove, and World Series experience. Plus he’s only 23.

Francisco Lindor has become one of the AL's top young stars Photo Credit: Frank Hyatt

Francisco Lindor has become one of the AL’s top young stars
Credit: Frank Hyatt

Starling Marte – A fine outfielder who’s become a 30/30 candidate, this 29-year-old Dominican moves to center this season as the Pirates shift incumbent Andrew McCutchen. He figures to be one of the league’s best in his new spot.

Carlos Martinez – Just 25, he’s already bumped Adam Wainwright from the top of the St. Louis rotation.

Victor Martinez – The 38-year-old Detroit DH is a lifetime .300 hitter whose days as a 30-homer, 100-RBI performer might be behind him.

Yadier Molina – An on-the-field quarterback for the Cardinals, Yadi remains a Gold Glove catcher even though his bat is starting to fizzle as he approaches his 35th birthday.

Kendrys Morales – He has the power to duplicate or exceed the power output of Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto. Signed as a free agent, he could emerge as a 40-homer slugger in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.

Ivan Nova – This former Yankee found a new life in Pittsburgh, where he’s emerged as one of his team’s top starters.

Roughned Odor – Like Robby Cano, he’s a lefthanded second baseman with power. Texas is happy to have the 23-year-old Venezuelan.

Roberto Osuna – Toronto’s closer seems to be improving as he gains experience. And he’s only 22.

Jhonny Peralta – His offense beats his defense but the Cardinals can’t complain. The versatile Dominican can play both shortstop and third base.

Salvador Perez – Kansas City found a Gold Glove catcher when this Venezuelan reached the majors in 2011. His power output has improved five seasons in a row.

Martin Prado – One of the game’s most versatile players, Prado plays everything but the bass fiddle. He’s most adept at second or third and is an ideal No. 2 man in the Miami lineup.

Yasiel Puig – If he ever gets his head screwed on straight, this Cuban slugger could become one of the game’s most dynamic players. A minor-league exile last year might have straightened out the 26-year-old outfielder.

Albert Pujols is still slugging Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Albert Pujols is still slugging
Credit: Bill Menzel

Albert Pujols – He’s 37 and beset by injuries but this three-time MVP remains one of the most feared sluggers in the game. He’s won all three components of the Triple Crown but not in the same season.

Jose Quintana – The only question about this quality lefty is where he spends this season. The White Sox spent the winter trying to swap him for a haul of blue-chip prospects.

Hanley Ramirez – He not only made a smooth transition from third to first last year but banged 30 home runs for the Red Sox, thanks in part to friendly Fenway Park. If he stays put, he could do it again at age 33.

Jose Reyes – With David Wright’s availability uncertain, this former shortstop could wind up as the regular third baseman for the Mets. Not as quick as he once was, the switch-hitting Dominican still offers surprising speed plus power.

Francisco Rodriguez – No longer the closer who saved a record 62 saves in 2008, he’s still capable of approaching 40. At 35, he shows flashes of the old K-Rod with surprising frequency.

Danny Salazar – Had he not been injured last October, the Cleveland Indians would have won the World Series. The 27-year-old Dominican righthander is a fine starting pitcher.

Anibal Sanchez – A solid starter when healthy, Sanchez once pitched a no-hitter.

Gary Sanchez – A catcher with clout, he should have been AL Rookie of the Year last year. The Yankees are so high on him that they traded veteran incumbent Brian McCann.

Pablo Sandoval – Boston is betting on this former World Series MVP to round into shape and reclaim the third base job he blew last season. The Panda, who switch-hits, should find The Green Monster a friendly target.

Pablo Sandoval hopes to win back his third base job with Boston

Pablo Sandoval hopes to win back his third base job with Boston

Miguel Sano – Not yet 24, this Dominican slugger gives Minnesota much-needed power.

Carlos Santana – Yet another switch-hitter, Santana has spent his entire career in Cleveland. If healthy, he could blossom into a 30-homer man.

Ervin Santana – At 34, his arm has lots of mileage – like his baseball resume. But the veteran righthander can be a reliable starter if healthy.

Jean Segura – Known more for speed and defense than power, this Dominican infielder brings his act to the Angels, who acquired him from Arizona in a puzzling off-season swap.

Alfredo Simon – He’s 36 but this rubber-armed Dominican righthander still throws well enough to win more than a dozen times as a starter.

Jorge Soler – Blocked in Chicago, the versatile Soler should receive regular playing time in Kansas City, which landed him in an even-up swap for closer Wade Davis. He had 12 homers in 86 games for the Cubs.

Julio Teheran seeks more support in Atlanta

Julio Teheran seeks more support in Atlanta

Julio Teheran – A 2016 National League All-Star, Teheran could have sued his Braves teammates for lack of support. At 26, the Colombian righty is the unquestioned ace of the Atlanta staff.

Yasmany Tomas – A Cuban without a position, he provided plenty of power (31 HR) for Arizona last year but would be better deserved as a DH.

Jonathan Villar – He runs, switch-hits, and plays good defense at second base. Milwaukee has a coming star in this 25-year-old Dominican.

Edinson Volquez – A 33-year-old righthander who has bounced around more than a ping-pong ball, he’s good for more than a dozen wins but needs to restrain his temper on the field.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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