Some fun talent is on the rise in the National League, but can these players stay healthy enough to make an impact in 2019?
To fight the dreariness of what has been a fairly uneventful, and often frustrating, offseason, we’re taking a look at the young stars ready to advance beyond MiLB and make an impact in the majors in 2019.
Last week we took a look at the several young stars positioned for promotion in the American League this upcoming season. Today, we identify the stars-of-tomorrow in the National League.
Without further ado, here’s a glance at some of the names to keep an eye on as teams get ready for spring training, and the inevitable spring call-ups that follow shortly thereafter.
Last week’s article featured a few sons-of-former-major-leaguers, and this week’s list follows suit, as we take a look at Fernando Tatis Jr. The son of 13-year veteran Fernando Tatis, Junior is the face of the Padres rebuild, and the obvious heir apparent to takeover at shortstop.
Tatis spent all of 2018 in double-A, where he was on pace for a 20/20 season before hhe broke his thumb on a headfirst slide into second base. Over the course of 88 games, he hit for a .286 average, slugged 16 home runs, and demonstrated his speed on the bases snatching 16 stolen bases in 21 attempts. His potential as a solid everyday shortstop with speed and power can help the Padres turn around what has been a miserable eight years of sub-.500 records.
NIck Senzel, the Reds number one prospect, is also likely to get the call in 2019, but similar to Tatis (and several others on this list) is also coming off an injury-plagued MiLB tenure. Senzel suffered from vertigo, tore a ligament in his throwing hand, and then underwent elbow surgery to remove some bone spurs. Still, Senzel’s talent is hard to overlook.
He is an athletic player, who is not defined by any one position, as the Reds gave him time at second base, third base, and in the outfield. He’s a good hitter focused on making hard-contact (and subsequently sacrificing some of his raw power for an increase in batting average and extra base hits). With Billy Hamilton gone, the path is there for a solid defensive utility player in the Ben Zobrist / Marwin Gonzalez mold is open in Cincinnati.
Last year we saw just how quickly a player can ascend to the majors in a big way. 19-year-old Juan Soto barely played at all in the Minors, accumulating only 83 professional games in his life, none above the South Atlantic League. Coming off two injuries (one an ankle injury, the other a hamate injury) few people though Soto would be as impactful a major league as he was in his rookie season. The Nats are hoping to repeat that success story with centerfielder Victor Robles.
Robles was a more highly touted player than Soto during his minor league promotions, but similar to Soto, he’s coming off an injury. Robles suffered a nasty hyper-extended left elbow early in the year, and had to sit out until late-July. He ended up earning that cup-of-coffee in September, where he adjusted well, slashing.288/.348/.525.
He hits to all-fields, takes his walks, and is as fast as anyone in the league (in five MiLB seasons, he stole 129 bases at a near-75 percent success rate). A strong complement to Soto, Robles could make some noise in DC this upcoming season, as he’s slated to be the Opening Day centerfielder for the Nationals.
The lumbering first baseman, all-bat-and-no-glove profile seems to be out of vogue these days, but Mets’ slugger Pete Alonso is hoping he can keep the trend going. He tied for the most home runs in the Minors last season (36 over 132 games across double-A and triple-A), but he’s a true wildcard, because he has a DH profile for an NL team, which for the time being, will be difficult.
I’d be remiss to not include a mention of Cardinals starter Alex Reyes, who has been in the organization since 2013. He has been the Cards top-ranked prospect since 2015, and has electric stuff to backup the high ranking and expectations. As with several others on the list however, Reyes has suffered from injuries and missed time due to a drug suspension (marijuana) for a good portion of his professional career. At some point, it will become make-or-break for Reyes, who is still only 24, but still has everything to prove at the Major League level.
There are undoubtedly some potential Rookie-of-the-Year contenders in this bunch, but with most of the players on this list coming off recent injuries, it’s going to be as much about luck as it is about talent for the National League rookie class. In any case, these are some of the fun players to watch as they begin their MLB careers.
If there’s anyone you are keeping an eye-on in your own organization, let us know below! After all, this is far more fun than hand-wringing the lack of free agent signings less than two weeks away from Spring Training!
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano