The passing of the torch happens on a seasonal basis in all professional sports, as athletes who helped transition his generation to the next one will pass the torch to the players leading the next charge of today’s players.
From the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in the NFL to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic in the NBA to Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in the NHL, it is a damn great time to be a sports fan. With the MLB, that fact is even more exemplified.
With the likes of Ronald Acuna helping bring the Atlanta Braves back into contention, to Christian Yelich and his fellow beer makers making the National League Central the league’s toughest division, the NL is set for years to come. On the American League side, Aaron Judge and his fellow mashers in the Bronx are helping show why the AL is the dominant league, coupled with the dual skills of rookie of the year Shohei Ohtani on both the rubber and at the dish helping provide Mike Trout a reason (hopefully) to stay in town.
There are certain stars that have already broken out to show that they are a part of the movement now, a la Yelich, Judge, Acuna and Ohtani, but there needs to be a bridge for players that are just on the cusp of stardom now to help the league remain America’s pastime for generations to come.
The listed members are all youthful and full of potential, having demonstrated their level of impact on the league already in either the MLB or the minor leagues, or both. Here are five members of what fans can expect to be next for the MLB.
Josh Hader – LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
In the spotlight not only for his athletic performance but for his questionable history, Hader flew onto the scene in 2018 and helped transition from being groomed as a left-handed starting pitcher to a shutdown, late-innings reliever that can be counted on to clamp down on hitters from both sides of the plate.
Obviously, lefties are brought in to handle left-handed hitters, but Hader has such deception, speed and overall overpowering stuff that it does not matter which side of the plate the hitter is standing on, they will be sitting down in short order.
Having publicly addressed and apologized for questionable racial comments made in dug-up tweets from his past, Hader will always have certain question marks surrounding his character as he goes through the remainder of his career. In a world where, unfortunately, performance overshadows and holds more value than morality, Hader has, to the public’s eye, made the necessary steps to address said issues and make sure this does not balloon up again.
What Hader brings to the Brewers is revolutionizing the game, as he is a more dominant Andrew Miller from the pen, with the added capability to cover multiple innings while shutting down a plethora of different styles of hitters.
Look for Hader to be a bullpen mainstay for the Brewers for years to come.
Juan Soto – OF, Washington Nationals
One of the more well-known names on this list, Soto is already being moved up the list due to his blistering pace and performance in his first season in the nation’s capital. Setting not only D.C. on fire but the entire league, Soto has revolutionized what teams can expect out of young players early in their careers.
Soto has been a bright spot for a team that will most likely be losing superstar Bryce Harper in free agency, so having an impressive rookie burst onto the scene to help fans forget about losing their franchise cornerstone could not have come at a better time.
Needing to work on his baserunning and his defense to truly reach his full potential, Soto has all the tools in the chest to become something that this league has not seen in a teen and young-20s player since someone by the name of Ken Griffey Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Being one of the most talked about players and having not even played a single pitch in the majors, Guerrero Jr. has all the tools to make his father look like a decent player at best. While that is in no way shade towards his pops, the younger Vlad is cut from a different cloth.
Evolving with the swagger of a Harper, combined with the sheer power of Miguel Cabrera and the patience of Albert Pujols, this kid, 20 just like Soto, is an absolute offensive freak of nature who needs to fine-tune his defensive skill set. On the same path as Soto is currently, VG Jr. has everything going for him, as playing for a team north of the border affords him a unique spotlight not given to most players.
With a focus on a minor leaguer not seen since the rise of Alex Rodriguez, the Blue Jays have an absolute force waiting in their wings to unleash and wreak havoc on the league for the next 15 years.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – SS, San Diego Padres
Another prospect whose father was a torchbearer while in the league, Tatis Jr. has it in his blood. Yet another offensive juggernaut who will be an integral part of the youthful Padres core in three-plus seasons, Tatis Jr. is a slick-fielding, offensive specimen built to dominate tomorrow.
Currently biding his time in Double-A, Tatis Jr. should make his eventual MLB debut early 2020 or late 2019 as a September call-up, it is with all prospects, calling them up early just to get a cup of coffee in the big leagues ha the potential to hurt their future development, although that will not be an issue with this Padre.
Adley Rutschman – C, Oregon State
With the inclusion of a kid currently in college, this list has officially gone off the rails. But it actually has not, and Rutschman is an absolute lock to be the best player taken in the 2020 draft.
The Baltimore Orioles may end up tanking performing poorly enough to secure Rutschman’s services, and this catcher has the absolute potential to be the next best switch-hitting backstop.
Taking a massive chance on including a college player who can have many different issues plague his career before even reaching the majors is risky, but there are not prospects like this that come every day.
The league is in great hands for its future, and there are so many more prospects that were not mentioned here that will serve as the league’s backbone until that next batch of future All-Stars make their way up the ranks to a baseball stadium near you.