BRONX — As January nestles into 2020, only one thought looms in the minds of baseball fans: pitchers and catchers is near.
After a captivating 2019 season, there’s a spark in the air as players rejuvenate and turn the page to a new chapter in their baseball careers.
In October 2019, Major League Baseball released a postseason promo, “We Play Loud,” to highlight the passion and boisterous energy of young players who have made the game of baseball their very own (Not going to lie, I still watch it till this day to get myself pumped up for minuscule tasks. Yes, I provided a link of the video at the end of the article. Don’t worry, I gotchu.).
Baseball has come a long way since the days Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente donned a uniform, but that doesn’t mean baseball can’t evolve into a game that is louder than the crack of a bat. With a vast amount of young players stepping into the big league scene, we are witnessing the future of baseball right in front of our eyes.
Now, as a new decade emerges, we look at the Latino stars of tomorrow. Here’s a look into the rising stars that reside in the American League East:
Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
Gleyber Torres possesses the plate-presence of a ten-year veteran. His patience at the plate and ability to apply 38 home runs and 90 RBI in his sophomore season in the league makes him a force to be reckoned with in the Bronx.
Torres became a driving force for the Yankees’ offense in the 2019 postseason against the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series and against the Houston Astros in the American League Championship series. What impressed many was not Torres’ ability to pose a 1.078 OPS in the 2019 playoffs, but how Torres mastered his craft under the bright lights of New York in October.
In Game 1 of the ALCS against the Astros, Torres became the youngest player in postseason history to hit five RBI in a single postseason game.
How did a 22-year-old shine the brightest of all the notable Yankee stars on the roster in the postseason? This becomes an on-going trend throughout baseball and will be explored as we travel through each division to shine a light on baseball’s rising stars.
The two-time All-Star looks to intensify the Yankees lineup and infield, as the now 23-year-old, shifts his way to shortstop following the departure of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who signed a 1-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Notable Candidates: Luis Severino
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Soxs
Despite the Boston Red Soxs failing to reach the playoffs following a World Series victory in 2018, Rafael Devers showcased his worth as the team’s starting third baseman, proving to be a player who can provide clutch at-bats in tense situations late in games and a master with the glove at third base.
Devers has received much praise for his offensive and defensive abilities as he maintained a permanent spot in the Red Sox lineup. Three seasons into his major league career, Sanchez, Dominican Republic native, hit 32 home runs and 115 RBI with a .916 OPS in 2019. Despite slugging his first home run of the season in May, Devers’ bat remained hot throughout the season, propelling the Red Soxs to a 84-win season.
On August 18, at 22 years, nine months and 25 days old, Devers became one of the youngest players in Red Sox history to hit 100 RBIs in a season, accompanying Miguel Cabrera and Ted Williams in the Red Sox record books. Devers was also the first player in the major league baseball to cap 100+ RBIs in 2019.
No biggie, right?
It’s disappointing to say, Devers did not receive enough votes to punch a plane ticket to Cleveland for the 2019 All-Star game. Although being overlooked as an All-Star and Gold Glove candidate at third base, Devers’ quality defensive skills and offensive at-bats can earn him a selection in an All-Star game in 2020 and/or the near future — notable achievements that can boost the young 23-year-old’s resume.
Notable candidates: Eduardo Rodriguez
Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays
Willy “The Kid” Adames emerged as a highly anticipated prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays prior to his call to the big leagues in May 2018. Since his arrival to the Trop in St. Petersburg, Adames has maintained an enthused aura that gravitated a Rays team to a 96-win season and a postseason run.
The Santo Domingo native signed with the Detroit Tigers via International free agency in 2012 and was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014 in a three-team trade involving the Seattle Mariners.
Adames has a swift glove and an electric bat with commendable hand-eye coordination that has elevated the 24-year-old shortstop to a 20 home run season. As a sophomore in the league, Adames became a driving force for the Rays offense that fell short one game of advancing to the ALCS. In six postseason games, Adames posed a 1.106 OPS in the American League Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletic’s and against the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
As the Rays proved to be a legitimate threat going into the 2020 season, rising stars like Willy Adames assisted in exposing the talent that rests within a team with the third lowest payroll in Major League Baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
Now, this is a difficult one. Why? First off, the entire infield and outfield is under the age of 30 and only four pitchers on the Toronto Blue Jays roster surpass the age of 30. It’s safe to say there’s potential for many rising stars in The 6.
The youngest player on the Blue Jays roster is 20 years old and is known across baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. emerged as baseball’s most anticipated prospect in 2019. Guerrero’s debut on March 24 was highly publicized across baseball, as the husky 6’2” third baseman stepped into the batter’s box in Toronto with his father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., looking on from a Rogers Centre suite.
In his rookie season, Guerrero Jr. hit 15 home runs and 69 RBI. Though the numbers seem mediocre, it can’t take away the poise Guerrero Jr. presents on the field and in the batter’s box.
It was in July that Guerrero Jr. was invited to participate in the 2019 Home Run Derby in Cleveland that sparked excitement across the league. Guerrero Jr. did not fail to impress in his derby debut, smashing a total of 91 home runs in the tournament, but falling short in the final round against the Home Run Derby champion and New York Mets first baseman, Pete Alonso.
If the Home Run Derby gave us an indication of the raw power and strength Guerrero Jr. conquers, then we have much to look forward to in the years to come from the young Canadian-Dominican who has captured the hearts of baseball fans across the world.
Notable candidates: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Renato Núñez, Baltimore Orioles
With the departure of Manny Machado to the San Diego Padres, there was not much hope for the Baltimore Orioles in 2019. The team fell to the bottom of the American League East, surrendering a 108-loss season. However, like the Blue Jays, the Orioles have a fairly young team, with a string of veterans like Chris Davis in the lineup.
The burden of losses couldn’t bear down on Renanto Núñez’s season, as the 25-year-old starting infielder hit 31 home runs, 90 RBI and .311 OBP for the Orioles in 2019. The Valencia, Venezuela native has finally sprouted with the Orioles since signing as an international free agent with the Oakland Athletics at the age of 16.
After being shifted around the league since his September 2016 debut with the Athletics, Núñez will continue to take on a permanent role in the O’s lineup as he is expected to fill in the designated hitter slot in 2020.
Even though the Orioles lack the presence of a superstar player, Núñez doesn’t shy away from big moments as he is set to evolve into a leader in an organization that tries to find its footing in a competitive American League East division.
Next, we will look into the rising stars of the American League Central.
“We Play Loud” MLB 2019 Postseason Promo (Via, MLB)
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