The 2019 MLB regular season produced a ton of high-octane results from teams that were making strong cases for a postseason appearance. And even for the teams that struggled throughout the season, they still all had one thing in common.
Rookies that debuted in 2019 or had their status as rookies carry over from the 2018 MLB season pushed their way to the top of the popularity leader board this past season, taking the league over by storm and showcasing what fans have to experience for the next 10+ seasons.
From long balls and clutch hitting to lights out pitching and shutdown stuff, this class of rookies did not disappoint. And while this list is far from exhaustive in terms of showcasing all of the talents that debuted last year, it helps narrow it down to the five most influential and important players that we as fans were able to watch.
Here are five of the best players that became rookies or carried over their rookie status into 2019 – the health of the sport of baseball looks to be in good hands with these players for many, many more years to come.
First Baseman, New York Mets
The easiest entrant on this list was the Polar Bear himself, Pete Alonso, as his infectious appreciation for the game translated when he stepped in between those two chalk lines. Even for the New York Mets, who undoubtedly struggled to live up to their preseason hype train that followed them everywhere that they went, Alonso helped present their fan base with a reason to be content with looking ahead to 2020 and beyond.
53 long balls, 120 runs driven in, and 72 walks was a huge welcome party into the MLB for Alonso, and he only projects to develop his game into a more polished form as he gets more playing time. The starting job is his to keep, and while Alonso should regress a bit due to teams pitching around him and going after other members in the batting order, Alonso’s presence in the middle of the lineup alone makes him one of the most dangerous hitters across baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Third Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays
Baseball being in his blood has painted his life’s goal since he burst onto the scene, but for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., his natural-born talent has pushed him farther than any other aspect could have.
Joining what has so far shaped up to be one of the best landing spots possible in Toronto for the young infielder, Guerrero has been able to create a presence of his own, keeping with him the lore that his father blessed the game with but also being able to create his own moments, which will ultimately take him the farthest.
Paling in comparison to the numbers that Alonso put up, Guerrero’s first season started in April, which put him on a more drawn-out plan to make his impact felt at the big-league level, rather than throwing him in right away and potentially hurting his future upside. 124 games played and 118 starts is a hefty number for a first-year player, but the 20-year-old was very quick to quell any concerns people may have about how he would stack up against his fellow MLB competition.
The Blue Jays are slowly clawing their way back into the postseason picture, and even though 2020 will probably not be their season yet again, the odds of Guerrero Jr. helping this team clinch a playoff berth at some point during his MLB career is a pretty easy milestone to bet on.
Designated Hitter, Houston Astros
Now, a caveat here is quite necessary, due to the recent sanctions handed down by the MLB to the Houston Astros for their heinous interaction and commitment to tarnishing the sport of baseball by seemingly cheating their way to a World Series title. With that being said, the amount of damage that Yordan Alvarez was able to do as the team’s main designated hitter should still be recognized, even with the team facing major scrutiny.
Alvarez was a big-time power threat for this team in 2019, and his nasty plate approach was quite an introduction for pitchers throwing to him this year. 27 home runs in only 313 at-bats are quite a feat, and while direct player involvement in the cheating scandal is hard to determine at this moment, for Alvarez to hit as well as he did does not necessarily lend itself to the team’s cheating.
Nonetheless, Alvarez’s 2019 campaign was one for the books, and his deep, deep moonshots that he seemingly hit on a nightly basis should continue into 2020 and beyond. And if they do not – well, let’s just say we can start to piece together which players bought in and which players were out on the sign stealing.
Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates
In what was yet another lost season, Bryan Reynolds fighting for the National League Batting Title was something that was not projected coming into the year at all.
Both offensively and defensively, Reynolds was one of the Buccos’ main offensive catalysts in 2019, finishing with a .314 batting average on the year, as well as high finishes in most other offensive categories as well.
The Pirates need players to build around for their future, and Reynolds easily projects to be one of those players. A key cog in their outfield, Reynolds looks to become this team’s superstar as soon as 2020, which can only help drag the hapless Pirates out from the cellar that they are in in the NL Central division.
Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves
Our final player on this list reps the blue and red for the NL East-winning Atlanta Braves, who are seemingly on the cusp of repetitive WS berths, but are just in need of a final piece or two. Starting pitcher Mike Soroka did everything that he could do in his freshman season, leading many to believe that this team already has their ace of the future on their squad.
13 wins against only 4 losses is a hugely impressive first full season for Soroka, who made five starts in 2018 to help jump-start his professional career. While the Braves are betting on their low payroll and young studs to lead them to the promised land, Soroka looks to be heading up the vast majority of the pressure for the team’s starting rotation.
An All-Star Game appearance to boot as well for his 2019 season, Soroka is firmly entrenched on the Braves’ roster and looks to be the guy that they have been waiting on to come through their minor-league system. While Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, among others, have helped shore up this team’s positional ranks, Soroka is that guy helping lead the team’s pitching revolution for 2020 and beyond.