We’re in a day and age where young superstars are taking over baseball. It’s an exciting time for fans and most of all, big league teams. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. making his MLB debut on April 26th at the tender age of 20 years old, it seems like prospects are rising to the big leagues at a quicker rate than ever.
This season, we have been blessed to see the likes of Pete Alonso, Michael Chavis, and Brandon Lowe absolutely rake against big league pitching. Then on the mound, guys like San Diego Padres rookie Chris Paddack has been dealing early on, dominating on a weekly basis at just 23 years old.
The youth movement is here. Here are five players who have impressed early on in the 2019 campaign.
Alonso has been one of the most impressive rookies since making the big league club out of spring training. His power has been on full display, clubbing 12 homers through 39 games so far. He’s also driven in 32 RBIs while hitting a respectable .270. His defense has been pretty solid at first base as well, making several nice plays in the first couple months of the season. Alonso has shown that he has power to all fields as well, including this opposite field bomb on May 11th:
This homer is a prime example of his maturity as a hitter. Alonso sees out of the hand that it’s a breaking ball, sits back, and drives it where it’s pitched. Four of his 12 homers this year have come off breaking balls. He’s really shown the ability to hit everything which makes him very tough to pitch against. The 24-year-old is responsible for two of the Mets hardest hit homers this year, at 114.5 mph and 118.3 mph. It’s safe to say that Alonso has big-time power.
Although utility man Brandon Lowe appeared in 43 games last season with Tampa Bay, it wasn’t until this year where the 24-year-old started to figure it out at the plate. He’s been one of the Rays’ best hitters this season, while playing all over the field, mainly at second base. Lowe is hitting .288 through 35 games while clubbing eight homers and driving in 22 runs. At just 5’10” and 185 pounds, Lowe has tremendous power and bat speed considering his small frame. He’s got a natural uppercut to his swing, which allows him to get a lot of lift behind some of these long home runs he’s hit, including this one back in April against the Toronto Blue Jays:
Lowe has proven that he’s got the ability to hit for average and power while punishing any pitch that’s been in his wheelhouse. He’s hitting .298 this year against breaking pitches, which is very impressive for a young hitter. The former third-round pick will be a mainstay in the Rays lineup for many years to come.
When the Red Sox began the year struggling immensely, they needed a spark in their lineup. Chavis, their top prospect, has brought exactly that. The 23-year-old has been absolutely mashing, going deep seven times already through just 21 games. He’s doing it from an average standpoint too, hitting .289 with 20 RBIs.
He’s been a rock in the heart of the Boston lineup since his call-up and has proven that he belongs in the big leagues. His defensive versatility has been extraordinary as well. He was mostly a third baseman in the minors, but with Rafael Devers patrolling the hot corner, he’s filled the shoes of an injured Dustin Pedroia at second base. He’s done very well too, committing just two errors in 16 starts at second. Chavis has hit several mammoth shots since his arrival in the majors, including this no-doubter way over the green monster, registering in at 451 feet. He also hit it off Kyle Freeland, one of the best lefties in the game:
The lightning-quick bat speed is evident in that homer, as Chavis turns on Freeland’s inside fastball and just keeps it fair inside the left field foul pole. It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do when Dustin Pedroia is back to full health. But one thing is for sure, they need Michael Chavis’s bat in their lineup. He’s too good to be back in Triple-A.
Kikuchi is one of the older rookies in the MLB at 27 years old but that’s because he spent the first eight years of his professional career dominating in Japan. The Mariners signed him in January to a four-year deal and it’s safe to say he’s been solid so far. Through ten starts, Kikuchi has gone 2-1 with a 3.64 ERA, while striking out 43 hitters in 54.1 innings pitched. Opposing lineups are hitting just .227 against the lefty. His deceptiveness from the left side along with his mid 90-mph fastball has helped him fit right in at the big league level. Kikuchi also has an above average 12-6 curveball that has been his best off-speed pitch. He hides the ball extremely well behind his push-off leg, which makes it very hard for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand:
With such a tricky delivery, it’s easy to see why big league hitters haven’t had much success so far off Kikuchi in 2019.
Paddack has been one of the most remarkable stories to begin the season. The 23-year-old impressed enough in the spring to earn a rotation spot with the Padres. Before his rise in the big leagues, Paddack had only pitched 37.2 innings in Double A last year. He spent most of 2018 in High-A with Lake Elsinore before getting a promotion to Double-A San Antonio at the tail end of 2018.
Through eight starts, the big Texan is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He’s struck out 49 batters in just 45.1 innings while holding oppositions to a dismal .146 average. His fastball is averaging right around 94 mph and he compliments it with a filthy changeup that sits in the mid-’80s. He’s not short of belief in himself either. After being snubbed of National League Rookie of the Month Award in April, he made it his mission to prove to everyone that he deserved the award over the Mets’ Pete Alonso. In a start last week against New York, he sat down Alonso twice on heaters up in the zone and then induced a groundout from the Mets slugger in his third at-bat:
He finished the start throwing seven scoreless, giving up just three hits while striking out nine Mets hitters. Paddack is definitely an early candidate for National League Rookie of the Year along with Alonso, but San Diego will have to put him on an innings limit as he only threw 90 innings last year in the minors after coming back from Tommy John surgery.