Sometimes you can tell which MLB players are poised for a big season. Sometimes, the hints lie in the previous season’s performance — while the overall numbers may be underwhelming, there can be a huge surge in production for the latter part of the season. Sometimes, they’re returning from injury, or got a badly-needed change of scenery.
Whatever the reason, there are definitely some MLB players poised to have a big year. Here are five worth keeping an eye on.
The Washington Nationals will have to shuffle around their batting order to offset the loss of Anthony Rendon, and one young star could be a beneficiary.
Nats manager Davey Martinez said on Saturday that he is considering moving outfielder Victor Robles to the No. 2 spot or even the leadoff spot.
“I’d like to see him move up, but we’ll see how it plays out,” said Martinez, per Jessica Camerato of MLB.com. “Right now, you’ve still got Trea Turner, you’ve still got Adam Eaton. Those two guys, for me, they get things going, one-two. Obviously we’re in search for a third hitter, but we’ve got options. We could mess around with that a little bit, so we’ll see what happens.”
The 22-year-old Robles got some run near the top of the order last season but mostly hit out of the bottom third of the lineup instead. He turned it into a .255/.326/.419 slash line with 17 homers and 65 RBIs in 155 games.
Robles’ potential appeared to make the Nats balk on some blockbuster trades this winter, and now it will be time to see if that was the right decision.
- Victor Robles
The Washington Nationals would prefer to keep one particular young member of their World Series-winning core.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported on Thursday that the Nats are reluctant to make outfielder Victor Robles available in trade talks for third basemen Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.
Washington has a hole to fill at third after All-Star Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels in free agency. But the 22-year-old Robles racked up 17 homers, 65 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases in his first full season in 2019, making him a difficult piece to part with.
While Robles makes more sense as a trade chip than, say, Juan Soto or Carter Kieboom, the Nats have other available options that do not involve parting with their young talent.
The Washington Nationals were robbed of a potential rally in the bottom of the seventh inning on Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night by a bad call from home plate umpire Lance Barksdale.
Victor Robles was batting with a full count and a runner on first with two outs and his Nats down 4-1 to the Houston Astros. The 3-2 pitch from Gerrit Cole was on the upper edge of the strike zone and outside. Robles took the pitch and started to head to first but was called out on strikes by Barksdale.
MLB.com tracked the pitch as being outside (see ball labeled “6”):
What a godawful call by Lance Barksdale on strike three. (6) pic.twitter.com/ShGtLutG1H
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 28, 2019
A gift For Cole pic.twitter.com/L43EgNUI6K
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 28, 2019
The worst part for the Nats is the timing. Juan Soto had homered in the inning and Ryan Zimmerman later walked. Cole was towards the end of his outing, so if that had been a walk, he probably would have been pulled and a reliever would have had to enter the game in a tough situation. Instead, relief pitcher Joe Smith got to begin the bottom of the 8th with a clean frame.
Victor Robles’ home run on Wednesday night gave most Washington Nationals fans a reason to celebrate, though one probably feels differently about it.
A fan sitting in center field near the bullpen took Robles’ home run ball off the head. The fan actually had a glove and made an attempt to catch it but missed and ended up being struck by the ball:
Right to the dome. OOF. pic.twitter.com/U6tmc5pdLQ
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 16, 2019
Here’s what it looked like from a distance:
We're playing the Mets, so here's another Victor Robles HR video.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 16, 2019
We’re hoping the fan ended up OK despite being hit.
Who’s going to win Rookie of the Year in the American and National League in 2018? It’s way too early to tell, but we can make some educated guesses as to who will land in the conversation.
Some candidates are obvious, while other potential top rookies are still in the minor leagues for various reasons, awaiting the call to the majors. That isn’t necessarily a hindrance, as we’ve seen players who started their seasons in the minors come up and win the award before.
Here are ten rookies who could certainly have a major impact at the MLB level in 2018.
1) Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Like it or not, Ohtani does qualify as a rookie, and he has to be the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year. His debut on the mound will have done nothing to hurt that notion. While he had some shakiness early on, he pitched well and looked impressive. The fact that he will also get the opportunity to hit can only help him. He got a hit in his first MLB at-bat, then homered in his first home at-bat as part of an impressive three-hit night. Ohtani does so much well that he has to be at the top of the list at this stage.
2) Ronald Acuna, Braves
Acuna isn’t even in the majors right now, with the Braves keeping him down to manage service time. Once he’s up, he may take the league by storm quickly. Arguably the top prospect in baseball, Acuna hit .325 across three levels of the minors last season, and he’s probably ready for the bigs now. There’s plenty of precedent for late arrivals to win Rookie of the Year, and Acuna could well be the latest if he comes up in May and starts hot.
Expanded rosters change Major League Baseball in a big way in the month of September. The ability to carry up to 40 players on the big-league team gives clubs the opportunity to do much more than when they are limited to 25 players. They can load their bullpen with every conceivable matchup; pile up potential pinch hitters; and, for clubs out of contention — and even a few teams still in it — expanded rosters offer teams the chance to assess some of their top prospects.
Here’s a list of 12 top prospects who have already been called up to the majors in either August or September that are worth watching when they get opportunities down the stretch.
Lucas Giolito, SP, White Sox
Giolito arrived in August — not for his MLB debut, which he’d already made in 2016 for the Washington Nationals, but for a stint with the White Sox that may well prove permanent. It sure looks that way based on his first five starts. He has a 2.56 ERA, 26 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, and two very strong performances against the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays, the latter featuring 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Giolito doesn’t quite have the same reputation he had when he was a Nationals super-prospect, but he clearly has something to offer at this level. He could prove the Nats foolish for trading him in the Adam Eaton deal.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals