Major League Baseball is set to return on July 23rd, and in baseball’s long and storied history, there has never been a season with so much uncertainty. Between the rule changes, condensed schedule, and veteran players opting out of play, we are going to see many more young players make an impact in 2020 than ever before.
Fortunately for baseball, we have never seen more talented players under the age of twenty-five at one time in MLB history than we have playing right now. Many of the game’s best players are very young, and this year, those players are going to be the face of the league as many veteran players are choosing to opt-out of playing this season, or will struggle to stay healthy with the highly condensed schedule and increased workload.
If I had to assign a theme to this season, outside of the obvious Corona Virus situation, I would call 2020 a youth movement. This year is going to be all about the young, up and coming players, and in this article, I am going to give you the top five players under twenty-five that are going to affect your Major League Baseball bets in 2020. Let’s get started!
Ronald Acuna Jr – Atlanta Braves
Entering the 2018 MLB season, Ronald Acuna Jr was the top prospect in all of baseball. After a late April call up in 2018, Acuna hit the ground running in the Big Leagues, and went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award, as well as snag some NL MVP votes along the way. Oh, and did I mention that he was the youngest player in the Majors at the time?
While 2018 was a coming-out party for Acuna Jr, in 2019, he established himself as a legit superstar and became the youngest player in MLB history to sign a $100+ million contract at just twenty-one years old. The Braves locked up Acuna for the next eight years in a deal that is going to look like a bargain for years to come.
Ronald Acuña Jr. already has 30 bombs. He’s 21 years old. Best contract in baseball. Ain’t close. pic.twitter.com/RdUv12ex2s
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 9, 2019
In 2019, Acuna Jr smashed 41 home runs, while driving in 101 RBI, stealing 37 bases, and hitting .280. He made his first National League All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger Award, and finished in fifth place in the National League MVP voting.
Acuna Jr has a combination of elite speed, a power bat that can hit for average, and an above-average glove. The scary part for the rest of the NL East Division is that he is almost certainly going to get better as he still hasn’t hit his prime physical age yet.
If all Acuna Jr does is continue at this torrid pace for the next decade, he will be a Hall of Fame level player that will be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate. If he makes another step forward in 2020, as he did in 2019, he could end up being the best player in all of baseball. He is that good.
Of all of the Baby Braves young players, Acuna Jr stands head and shoulders above the rest. He will be the anchor for this Atlanta team in 2020, and I think he continues to develop and gets even better this season. After finishing up his monstrous season in 2019, the first thing he said was that he wants to push to join the exclusive 40/40 club. Not many guys are going to finish up a career year like Acuna Jr had and tell you how they want to do more, this kid is different and very special.
No. 40 was a no-doubter.
Ronald Acuña Jr. needs three stolen bases in the #Braves' final 8 games to become the youngest man to join the 40-40 Club. He'd be just the fifth player in MLB history to accomplish that feat.pic.twitter.com/9ZcuWkix4Z
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) September 20, 2019
Keeping Acuna on the field and in the batter’s box is going to be a major key to success for Atlanta in 2020. If his name is penciled in on the lineup card, opposing teams are going to have to plan on how to deal with his bat. The Braves are my current pick to win the NL East Division, and Acuna is on the very short list of NL MVP favorites.
Juan Soto – Washington Nationals
How is Juan Soto still only twenty-one years old? Soto was the runner up to Acuna for the NL ROY in 2018, but it feels like he has been around much longer than that. Maybe it is because when he got his first taste of prime-time playoff baseball in 2019, he put his Washington Nationals team on his back and led them to the first World Series title in franchise history?
While Stephen Strasburg won the World Series MVP Award, and Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon got most of the media coverage, in my opinion, it was Soto that was the real reason why the Nationals won the World Series last season. Soto hit a blistering .333 in the Fall Classic, slugging 3 home runs and driving in 7 RBI.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 31, 2019
And remember, it was Soto that had the clutch 3 RBI double against the Milwaukee Brewers in the bottom of the eighth inning of the NL Wild Card game, with the Nationals trailing 3-1 and down to just four outs left in the game. The Nats wouldn’t have even made it to the World Series without Soto’s clutch hitting, and his 5 home runs and 14 postseason RBI ranks his 2019 playoff performance as one of the best of all-time, for a player of any age.
With Rendon bolting Washington for the sunny skies of Los Angeles, Soto will now take his place as the face of the Washington Nationals franchise, and rightly so. The Nats couldn’t win a World Series with their previous teenage phenom, Bryce Harper, but the Soto era in Washington is off to a fast start. And when you look at how much money the Nats are going to be paying Soto in 2019, a mind-bogglingly low 630K, Soto is the best value in the Major Leagues.
Washington isn’t going to get a pass on paying Soto for long, though, as they are going to have to pay him soon, and I could see his deal easily surpassing the $100 million deal that Acuna signed last year. With Rendon leaving town, you have to wonder if Washington is going to be content with their recent World Series title and not give Soto the long term contract he deserves, as they are likely at least a player or two away from having a real shot at defending their World Series title.
I think the Nationals will do the right thing and give Soto a long-term contract, as letting a player that is this good, this young, would be an impossible to defend decision. I’m not sure the Nationals have enough firepower in 2020 to truly compete, but if Soto is on the field, you need to make sure you take him into account, particularly against right-handed pitching, where he hit 28 of his 34 home runs last season.
Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox
Rafael Devers is another guy that has a ton of experience for a player of his age. Devers is still just twenty-three years old and already has 335 Big League games under his belt. 2019 was his second full MLB season as a regular everyday player, and Devers showed that he can flat out hit the baseball. Devers finished in the top ten in nearly every American League hitting statistic last season.
- 359 Total Bases (1st)
- 54 Doubles (1st)
- 201 Hits (2nd)
- 129 Runs (2nd)
- 115 RBI (4th)
- .311 Batting Average (5th)
- .555 Slugging (9th)
- 5.8 WAR (5th)
- .916 OPS (9th)
The one area of concern for Devers though, has been his defensive play at third base. Devers has finished second in the American League in errors at third base in each of the last two seasons. That is not to say that he doesn’t occasionally make some flashy plays at the hot corner, but he does get reckless with many of his throws.
If it weren’t for human backstop Mitch Moreland, a former Gold Glove winner, playing at first base for Boston last year, Devers would have had even more errors. His struggles on defense are the only thing that is keeping him from the top tier of young stars with guys like Ronald Acuna Jr and Juan Soto. Being a defensive liability isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be, and I could see Devers eventually shifting to a designated hitter role at some point in his career.
Defensive struggles aside, the sky is the limit for Devers at the plate. He has a violent swing and punishes the baseball when he makes contact. He will lose some of his ability to drive in runs in 2020 as his battery mate, Mookie Betts, left town to join the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he should still get plenty of opportunities to get pitches to hit as he is going to hit in front of sluggers like JD Martinez and Xander Bogarts in the Red Sox lineup.
Rafael Devers is in the lineup today. Yesterday, he rejoined the Red Sox after a COVID-19 exposure scare and said he's "in good shape" and ready to go.https://t.co/pkD4FzIbWp
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 10, 2020
The Red Sox are going to be involved in a lot of high scoring games this year. They have a potent lineup, even without Mookie’s bat, and the pitching staff is in shambles. They traded away David Price, Chris Sale is out with Tommy John surgery, and the bullpen is going to be awful.
That tells me that Devers is going to get a chance to swing freely a lot this year, and he is going to pile up the stats. The Red Sox aren’t going to be playing for a lot of one-run innings in 2020, and you can expect Devers to be even better at the plate this year than his breakout campaign last year!
Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees
It is hard to stand out in a lineup that features multiple former batting champions and league home run leaders, but Gleyber Torres has still found a way to get noticed in the Big Apple. After a highly successful rookie season in 2018 that saw him finish third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, Torres got better in nearly every way in 2019.
Torres hit 38 home runs, drove in 90 RBI, and hit .278 last year for the Bronx Bombers. He made his first All-Star team and finished 17th for the AL MVP. Torres has bounced back and forth between second base and shortstop, and that versatility has allowed the Yankees to keep their best bats in the lineup day in and day out.
Torres was once the centerpiece of the trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to Chicago for their World Series title. But in true Yankees fashion, they got their cake and ate it too, as they were able to snatch Chapman back just a year later, and now have Torres, who is poised to be one of the best players in the game for the next decade.
We're ready, I guess 🤷🏽♂ pic.twitter.com/G9WDA2Ef2t
— Gleyber Torres (@TorresGleyber) June 18, 2020
Shockingly, the biggest issue that could hold Torres back in 2019, is playing time. While he has certainly earned the right to play every day, the Yankees have a glut of elite infielders, as Miguel Andujar, who missed all of 2019 with an injury, is back and healthy in 2020, and will compete with Torres for playing time. Remember, it was Andujar who finished ahead of his teammate Torres, in the 2018 ROY voting, and when you look at their numbers side by side, Andujar was better in every major statistical category.
That leaves New York with the decision to either choose between Torres or Andujar at shortstop or push out DJ LeMahieu at second base to make room for both guys. All LeMahieu did last year in his first season in the Bronx is hit .327, smash 26 homers, and drive in 122 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense at second base and nearly taking home league MVP honors. He ain’t going anywhere.
Only the Yankees ever have problems like this, and Andujar has made it clear he is willing to play a utility role for New York this season if that is what the team needs. That tells me that we are going to see a lot of Torres this year, and I would expect to see big things from him in 2020.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres
I am not sure there is a single player in the Major Leagues that made people’s jaws drop more than Fernando Tatis Jr did last year for the San Diego Padres. He is the definition of a young and exciting ballplayer that can do it all. Tatis Jr only played basically half of a full season last year before injuries ended his rookie campaign. That makes the stats he was able to rack up that much more impressive.
Tatis Jr hit 22 home runs, drove in 53 RBI, stole 16 bases, scored 61 times, and hit .317. If you extrapolate that production to a full 162-game season, he would have over 200 hits, 40 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and 118 runs scored. Take a look below at those season-long projections and how well they stack up to a National League mystery player to be named later.
|Category||Fernando Tatis Jr||Mystery Player|
Now, we all know that staying healthy is part of the game, and just because you had high-level production for half of the season, it doesn’t mean you will do it the entire year. But with this being our first look at Tatis in the majors, we have to assume that as he gained more experience, he was likely going to get better, not worse. Oh, and who was that mystery player from above, you ask? Just 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger. Yeah, Tatis Jr is that good.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 4, 2019
The Padres went out and added some veterans to a team that has a good core of young talent with guys like Tatis Jr, Manny Machado, and Chris Paddack. They added impact players Tommy Pham, Drew Pomeranz, Zach Davies, Jurickson Profar, Emilio Pagan, Juan Lugares, and Trent Grisham. They won’t be able to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West title as LA is too loaded, but they are absolutely in the mix for the National League Wild Card.
The basement on Tatis Jr is immeasurable high. He did strike out a lot last season and had an absurdly high average on batted balls in play, which might tell you that he got a bit lucky with some of his hits. But when you see this kid play, he just moves at a different speed than everyone else on the field.
He could very easily end next season as one of the top five players in the National League, and if the Padres want any chance to hang with the Dodgers this year, they are going to need Tatis Jr on the field the entire season.
The 2020 baseball season is going to be a year of change. The rules are different, the rosters are different, the schedule is different, but one thing that remains the same, is that the teams with the most talent, are going to find ways to win games.
The guys listed above all have MVP level potential and can single handedly win you a bet and are players that must be taken into consideration whenever you are looking to handicap a game that they are playing in.
With just 60 games to figure things out this year, the season is going to be over before we know it, and if you want to make money betting on Major League Baseball in 2020, you need to start doing your homework now. Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to The Sports Geek all season long where we bring you all of the sharp MLB betting advice that you crave!