With the Super Bowl just closing up, all eyes have turned towards baseball and the beginning of Spring Training. MLB is eager for games to get started and take away the attention from the recent Astros’ sign-stealing controversies.
Lucky enough, the game is loaded with a number of young stars. While Mike Trout has long been the undisputed best all-around player in the game, guys like Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich have been challenging him for the title. Here are the best hitters entering the 2020 season.
Since his first call up in 2014, Mookie Betts has absolutely raked for the Boston Red Sox. His power began to show up in 2016 and since then he’s been a perennial 30-30 threat.
He was awesome in 2019, batting .295 with 29 homers, 80 RBI’s, 16 steals and an astonishing 135 runs scored. He will, however, no longer be hitting in the middle of the Sox’ lineup. Betts was recently traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers where he will team up with 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger.
In his initial debut in 2016, it seemed like big-league pitching was a bit too much for him. He only hit .179 and struck out in 44% of his at-bats. The next season was profoundly different.
Judge was the MVP runner up in 2017 as he hit .284, slammed 52 dingers and knocked in 118 runs. That level of success has continued for the slugger, though he has struggled to stay healthy. Judge and the Yankees are hoping for an injury-free season in 2020.
Pete Alonso was a capable slugger in the minors. Scouts wondered if he’d make enough contact to be a successful Major Leaguer. From the day he joined the Mets lineup, the answer was a resounding yes.
The hulking first basemen set the rookie home run record in 2019 by swatting 53 home runs. He became an absolute fan favorite in New York thanks to his talent and charisma. He hopes to smack homers at the same rate in the upcoming season.
JD Martinez was very much a late bloomer. He spent many years in the Astros system before Houston gave up on his and he signed with Detroit. The slugger broke through in 2015, hitting 38 home runs.
Since then, Martinez has been one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. Now a member of the Boston Red Sox, he is a perennial threat to hit 40 home runs. He has also cut his strikeouts and upped his walks each season.
It might be hard for some fans to believe, but Freddie Freeman will be playing his 11th season for the Braves in 2020. He started at the tail end of a Braves dynasty and is now keying the franchise’s recent resurgence.
He essentially does everything a baseball player can do at an elite level. His power took a while to develop but in 2019 he left the yard 38 times. Patient and powerful, Freeman is a nightmare match-up for the pitchers of the National League.
Charlie Blackmon has served as one of the league’s few five-tool players since his debut in 2011. He put it all together for the first time in 2014 when he hit 19 home runs and stole 28 bases.
The bearded center fielder has made the National League All-Star team 4 times and won the Silver Slugger Award twice. He is stealing fewer bases these days, but still hitting a ton. He batted in .314 2019 with 32 homers.
A native of Aruba, Bogaerts was a top prospect almost since the time he signed with the Red Sox at the age of 16. He was in the majors for good by the age of 20.
Being so young when he made his debut, it took a while for Bogaerts to completely tap into his skill set. It all came together for the shortstop in 2019 when he hit .309 with 33 homers, 117 RBI’s and 110 runs scored.
Before he could become a superstar in the Major Leagues, Rizzo had to overcome a different battle. The top prospect was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2008. He beat the disease and was dealt to the Cubs in 2012.
Rizzo has been a key member of the outstanding Cubs teams of the last decade. He has made the All-Star team 3 times and helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016. Rizzo had maybe his best season in 2019 sporting a .925 OPS.
If you could carve the perfect third baseman out of a block of granite, it would probably look something like Nolan Arenado. The Colorado Rockie star has already made 5 All-Star teams in his 7 seasons.
As good as an offensive talent as he is, Arenado maybe even better on defense. He has taken home the Gold Glove Award in each of his 7 seasons in the bigs. In 2019 he batted .314 with 41 home runs and 118 RBI’s.
Some guys are just ready from the moment the first step up to the plate. Juan Soto came up to the Majors at only 19 years of age. And he was an above-average player from the beginning.
During his second season, though, he took steps towards superstardom. The native of the Dominican Republic made his first All-Star team after a breakout 2019 season. He also helped the Nationals win their first World Series title. The sky is the limit for Soto.
A near-complete product out of the University of Connecticut, Springer did not need much time in the Minor Leagues. His speed and combo profile was apparent during his 2014 rookie year, but he only hit .231.
That seems like forever ago now as Springer has become one of the better all-around players in the Majors. The outfielder has made 3 All-Star teams and won 2 Silver Sluggers. He had his all-around best year in 2019 with a .974 OPS.
Ketel Marte was a nice prospect coming up in the Seattle Mariners farm system. He was a slick defensive shortstop who had good speed and surprising pop. But no talent evaluators saw what he did in 2019 coming.
Traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018, Marte began to show signs of being a productive offensive player. He then exploded in 2019. The burgeoning star made his first All-Star team in 2019 as he hit .329 with 32 home runs and 92 RBI’s.
Anthony Rendon, drafted out of Rice University with the 6th pick in the 2011 draft was expected to hit a ton and pick it at third base. The problem was, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to do it on a regular basis.
2019 was different for the slugger though, as he helped the National win a World Series, made the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger. Rendon was rewarded for his excellent play with a $245 million contract from the Los Angeles Angels.
Cody Bellinger, the son of former New York Yankee Clay Bellinger, has been a prodigy since day one. In his first season with the Dodgers, he won the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award after slugging 39 home runs.
After a successful sophomore season in 2018, Bellinger took things to a completely new level in 2019. The first basemen/outfielder took home the National League’s MVP Award after he hit .305 with 47 home runs, 115 RBI’s, 121 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
It took Nelson Cruz a really long time to become a superstar. The slugging outfielder and designated hitter didn’t become a full time regular until he was 29 years old. He has been crushing the ball ever since.
Cruz will turn 40 during the 2020 season, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. In fact, the Dominican American seems to be getting better. In only 120 2019 games, Cruz hit .311 with 41 home runs and 108 RBI’s.
Coming out of Louisiana State University in 2015, Alex Bregman was considered a no doubt prospect. Capable of playing all over the infield, the all-around hitter was selected 2nd overall by the Astros right behind Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson.
After very little seasoning in the minors, Bregman was up with the Astros for good starting in 2016. In his young career, he has already made two All-Star teams. He finished second in the 2019 NL MVP race after putting up a 1.015 OPS.
It’s really hard to compare Mike Trout to any hitter from the last 50 years. Some may say he’s like Ken Griffey Jr., but it may be more apt to say he’s like Mickey Mantle. In short, he’s really good.
Only two things have really held Trout back; the quality of his team and his injury history. The first of those will likely be helped by a returning Shohei Ohtani and the signing of Anthony Rendon. And if Trout is fully healthy in 2020, watch out.
Christian Yelich was always a very good hitter when he played for the Florida Marlins. The tall and lanky lefty played great defense, ran the bases well and sprayed line drives all over the field.
When he was traded to Milwaukee in 2018, something clicked and Yelich became, quite possibly, the best hitter in all of baseball. Despite going through an injury-shortened season in 2019, Yelich led all the majors with a 1.100 OPS and smashed 44 homers in only 130 games.
When the Reds acquired Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers in 2015, he seemed like a really useful piece. He could play multiple positions on the infield and his above-average pop meant he should probably be in the lineup every day.
Then the power started to come in bunches. In 2017 he hit 26 home runs. Then in 2018, he improved to 34 homers. In 2019, he went completely bananas and smacked 49 dingers. The righty slugger figures to be a fixture in the Cincinnati lineup for years.
Most of the players on this list were always top prospects. That wasn’t true of Jeff McNeil who was a 12th round pick in 2013. Always a good contact hitter, he experienced a power spike in 2018 that rocketed him to the majors.
And all he done since he’s been a New York Met is rake. Over his first 815 at-bats, the utility man has hit .321 with a .383 OBP and a .513 slugging average. McNeil made his first All-Star team in 2019 and hopes for many more.