- From Ronald Acuña to Victor Robles, a large number of peloteros are going to change the way baseball looks in the future.
Opening Day is right around the corner! That means the sweet return of baseball, the gradual return of sunshine and another long, exciting season that will take us through spring, summer and the beginning of fall. It also means the beginnings of some of the most promising young players in the game. While they may not start the season in the big leagues, all of the players listed below will be on your radar either this year or next. Whether the players come from neighboring Mexico, the Central American hotbed of the Dominican Republic or as far south as Venezuela, there's a new generation of peloteros primed to make their mark on the game. Behold the top 10 Latino prospects of the 2018 season.
Ronald Acuña, OF, Braves | Venezuela
Just 20 years old, Acuña spent last season torching three levels of the minors, including a ridiculous .344/.393/.548 line in Triple A as one of the youngest players in the entire league. All that awaits now is the majors, and that won’t be far off after he hit .432/.519/.727 with four homers in 16 games of spring training. The No. 1 prospect in the game on both Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’ top-100 rankings, Acuña brings game-changing raw power, lightning-fast bat speed, top-flight speed, and a powerful arm to the field. He is the complete package, and he’ll be a big league star sooner rather than later.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays | Dominican Republic
The son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Vlad. Jr inherited plenty from his father: his power, his bat speed, and his preternatural ability to make loud contact. But unlike his dad, the younger Guerrero will try to make a living at the hot corner, hoping to stick at third base. Whether he can do that despite his big stocky body remains to be seen, but there’s no questioning his bat. At 18, he crushed two levels of A ball in 2017, hitting .323/.425/.485, to earn top-five prospect status. He’s set to begin the year in Double A, with the majors perhaps not that far off if he continues to emulate his legendary father.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox | Dominican Republic
Formerly a Cub, Jimenez’s future home shifted to the South Side when the White Sox acquired him in a trade that sent Colombian lefty Jose Quintana to Wrigley Field last summer. A highly touted prospect out of the Dominican, Jimenez quickly took to his new home by hitting .353/.397/.559 in his first taste of Double A at just 19 years old. Boasting power that earns him comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton, Jimenez could see time in Chicago as early as this summer, if everything keeps going right.
Francisco Mejía, C/3B, Indians | Dominican Republic
He’s the top prospect on one of Major League Baseball’s best teams and the Indians expect he’ll make a difference this season. Mejia is one of the most revered young catchers in baseball entering his age-22 season. While he’s slated to begin in Triple-A, his bat is considered ready for the big leagues. When he arrives in the big leagues, whether he’s a catcher or a third baseman, Mejia will be the most vaunted prospect to arrive in Cleveland since Francisco Lindor joined the team in 2015.
Alex Reyes, SP/RP, Cardinals | Dominican Republic
Whether he’s a starter or a long reliever, Reyes will be essential to the Cardinals’ success this year. The Dominican-American prospect is expected to be a part of the St. Louis rotation for years to come, as the 23-year-old is one of the most touted prospects in the National League. While you may have to wait to see some of the players on this list, Reyes will be ready in 2018.
Victor Robles, OF, Nationals | Dominican Republic
It’s hard to emphasize how dominant Robles has been in his very short professional career. Maybe try this statistic: after being promoted from High-A he played 37 games in AA Harrisburg. He proceeded to hit .324 with an .883 OPS in those games. He’s ready to contribute at the big-league level, he just needs to find a space to play.
Sixto Sanchez, SP, Phillies | Dominican Republic
Sanchez isn’t the biggest guy on the field, standing just six feet tall, and he came to professional baseball without much fanfare, having signed for only $35,000 as a teenager in 2015. But the righthander has burst onto the scene in his two seasons in the minors, impressing in two levels of Class A ball in 2017 despite being only 19 years old. Armed with a fastball that can touch 100 mph and a hard sinker, Sanchez has front-of-the-rotation potential for a Phillies team that’s rising fast. He’s almost certainly to spend all of 2018 in the minor leagues, but Sanchez is a name to remember for the future.
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres | Dominican Republic
As you probably guessed from his name, Tatis Jr. is the son of Fernando Tatis, an 11-year veteran infielder best known as the only player in major league history to hit two grand slams in a single inning. His son may have even better in store, given his high marks as a hitter and his highlight-reel defense at shortstop. Recently turned 19, Tatis got a short stay in Double A last year and will likely head back there to begin the 2018 season, but the top-10 prospect may not be long for the minors given his pedigree and talent.
Gleyber Torres, 2B, Yankees: | Venezuela
There is no shortage of star power at Yankee Stadium with the arrival of Giancarlo Stanton, but the organization may be anticipating the growth of Gleyber Torres even more. After acquiring Torres from the Cubs in 2016, the Yankees are pegging the 21-year-old, who possesses unusual power and speed for a second baseman, to be their second baseman of the future in the Bronx.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers | Mexico
The Dodgers have received (and promptly rejected) plenty of trade offers for the 21-year-old outfielder who debuted last season and is expected to be the Dodgers’ leftfielder of the future. The American-born Mexican outfielder was the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year in 2015 and has made All-Star teams every year that he’s been in the minor leagues. Expect him to be a regular contributor for the Dodgers by next season.