Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting

Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting

It’s time for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to shine.
It’s time for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to shine.
Image: Getty Images

Every year we discuss how baseball’s become boring, how it could grow more enjoyable for younger fans, and how we long for legitimate progress of our national pastime.

We could develop a collection of theories as to why we generally ignore the regular season, but let’s focus on this today: Who are the players baseball fans can focus on to make this season more enjoyable, no matter their team. Not necessarily because they absolutely need to produce specific numbers, but just invoke enough energy, spirit, and visibility into a game that detractors say is lacking those things. It would help if every one one of these guys were on winning teams this season, but it would be more advantageous if they’re merely allowed to express themselves and be embraced, not just celebrated. 

Baseball clearly recognizes they need to do something; otherwise, the lineup of their Major Fest wouldn’t include names like Desus & Mero and Big K.R.I.T., nor would this commercial have some of the names we’ll touch on today.

Here are the guys who could add excitement into the game, and give it the joy it needs in the early portion of this decade.

Advertisement

2 / 8

Fernando Tatís Jr, SS, San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatís Jr, SS, San Diego Padres

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

Alright. Alright. 🎵 Bolt24 🎵

We’ve all seen the commercial, heard about the 14-year, $340 million extension, and many of us are excited about Fernando Tatís covering MLB The Show 21, which will be released in mid-April.

At 22 years old and entering his third season, Tatís is already one of the most marketable stars in baseball. The do-it-all Dominican Republic native was already fourth in MVP voting last season after finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019. The Padres were swept in the National League Divisional Series by the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, and another leap forward for the Padres would be beneficial for Tatís’ continued visibility.

MLB clearly knows the importance of Tatís’ stardom, which has to be accentuated in helping the sport grow.

Advertisement

3 / 8

Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox

Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

At the top of the list of players who need to be embraced sits Tim Anderson of the White Sox, who has to deal with shit like this because the sport is trying to be increasingly buttoned-up in a culture veering in the opposite direction. Anderson was even suspended for conduct, which was misguided at best, and bullshit at worse.

Anderson not only warrants better treatment in general, but he’s nasty. The 27-year-old Alabama native was seventh in Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, but he became a star in 2019 when he hit .335 en route to an American League batting title. In last year’s shortened season, Anderson finished seventh in MVP voting, leading the American League with 45 runs, earning a Silver Slugger, and hitting .322.

Even without Eloy Jiménez, the White Sox should be competitive in the American League Central, and Anderson would be the focal point alongside José Abreu and Tony fucking La Russa.

Advertisement

4 / 8

Carlos Correa, SS, and Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

Carlos Correa, SS, and Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

Admit it; you miss them. You miss hating on the Houston Astros after finding out they probably cheated their way to a 2019 World Series. You can’t stand how good they were during their World Series run and need something to be fired up about related to the Astros. And even if you won’t admit it, or if it doesn’t apply to you, maaan baseball could use some villains, and it ain’t hard for the average baseball fan to hate on some confident young Latino ballplayers. (I am allowed to say that here.)

Correa, my fellow countryman, and Altuve, powering the Astros to be relevant heels, would be great for the sport, even if it draws the ire of many consumers. People talk about “cancel culture,” but really, it’s rooted in hate-watching. If the Astros are juuust about playoff-level and perhaps leeean into the things people hated them for, we’ll actually have some things to talk about in that AL West division.

Advertisement

5 / 8

Francisco Lindor, SS, New York Mets

Francisco Lindor, SS, New York Mets

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

Just last night, the Mets signed Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million extension — one more “dollar” than Tatis Jr. will get over the course of his 14-year deal. It would’ve been counterproductive for Steve Cohen, who nearly invoked Pat Riley’s, “There are obstacles, but there are none,” as it relates to the Mets’ money situation, to not have gotten this deal done.

Lindor’s one of the best players in baseball, is nicknamed Mr. Smile, is the Puerto Rican face of a New York City-based organization and is now in his prime at 27 years old. He’s clearly one of the sports’ most visible athletes, which will be heightened in New York; otherwise, MLB wouldn’t have started the video from the opener with him.

Outside of last season and his first season, Lindor’s been a top-15 MVP finisher every season in the American League. Now in New York, baseball is ready for the Mets to ascend, even in the difficult NL East. If they do, we’ll all look to Lindor first.

Advertisement

6 / 8

Vladimir Guerrero Jr, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

There’s an argument to be made that Vladdy Guerrero Jr’s 2019 Major League debut was as hyped as any since at least Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper several years earlier. We’re still waiting for him to reach the level of stardom others on this list have, but many of your favorite athletes broke out in year three, even around the young age of 22.

He was sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 and quietly had a decent 60-game 2020 season, posting nine home runs and 33 RBI’s in 221 at bats. Still, Guerrero is only a .269 career hitter, with an OPS under .800. On a Blue Jays team that should improve, look for Guerrero to have a breakout season, typical of future stars in the third go ‘round.

Advertisement

7 / 8

Ronald Acuña, OF, Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuña, OF, Atlanta Braves

Illustration for article titled Vlad, Fernando, Francisco and more: The players who’ll make this baseball season interesting
Image: Getty Images

He’s an MVP-favorite for the 2021 season, he’s just 23 years old, and he’s poised to be a centerpiece for the NL East-favorite Atlanta Braves in 2021. He also starred in one of baseball’s signature 2020 moments, which led to this fantastic (and truthful) tweet, which I touched on earlier this year.

Through three seasons, the 2018 Rookie of the Year already has 81 home runs and 194 RBI’s through 2.5 seasons; he has two Silver Sluggers, an All-Star appearance, and a top-five MVP finish. He also is a career .281 hitter with an OPS above .900. Acuña, as much as anyone on this list, is a megastar waiting to happen. He’s confident, he pimps home runs, he comes through in big moments, he’s Spanish-speaking (and improving his English, which is far more complex than American natives assume), and he captures the spirit of what the sport is and where it should be going.

Lean into your Acuña stock; the ride will be worth it. Plus, he’s already done more in the playoffs than Mike Trout, but you can blame the Los Angeles Angels for that.

This list could go on forever, so if you’re mad that a guy you think should be on here isn’t, smoke some weed and relax. It’s legal in a lot of places now, including New York as of yesterday. And… enjoy Opening Day.

Advertisement

8 / 8