The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
2019 rookie class may be unparalleled

We just might be seeing one of the best crop of rookie position players to come along in a long time.  When it comes time to vote for the Rookie of the Year Awards after the regular season ends, baseball writers will likely have a bevy of impressive players from which to choose in casting their ballots.

It was widely recognized coming into the season that Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. would be at the top of the rookie class, given all the hype they had garnered during their minor-league days leading up to their debuts this year.  They had also received added attention because of their baseball bloodlines.

But what was less expected was the number of other youngsters who have progressed more rapidly than their teams figured during spring training.  These upstarts have been impressive, impactful players since they began getting regular playing time with their big league clubs.  Several of them are part of the mix of players contributing to the current home run craze.  Another major characteristic of many of the new players is that they have added value to their teams by playing multiple positions.

A number of these rookies are projecting to become cornerstones of clubs that are in re-building mode and consequently giving their fans something to dream about.

Guerrero and fellow teammate Cavan Biggio are the talk of the town in Toronto.  Guerrero was promoted at the end of April, while Biggio made his debut at the end of May.  They became the first teammates in baseball history to have Hall of Fame fathers (Vladimir Guerrero Sr and Craig Biggio).  20-year-old Guerrero currently has eight home runs and 25 RBIs, while Biggio has six home runs and 23 RBIs.  Normally a second baseman, Biggio has also played first base and outfield positions.  The Blue Jays are still a few years away from being contenders, but these two players are sure to be at the heart of the lineup.

20-year-old Tatis has lived up to pre-season expectations in San Diego.  He broke spring training camp as the Padres’ starting shortstop and has posted an impressive slash line of .324/.391/.593, to go along with 12 HRs and 29 RBIs.  At one point he had a hit in seven consecutive at-bats and has collected 13 stolen bases in addition to having a strong bat.  After several seasons of being at the bottom of the division, the Padres are only a couple of games from second place in the NL West.  Tatis is one of the main reasons for their turnaround.

Pete Alonso came out of spring training with the Mets still unsure how much playing time he would have at first base, with Dominic Smith also competing for the job.  However, by June 1 Alonso had recorded the most home runs before June (19) by a rookie since Mark McGwire in 1987.  He currently has 29 homers (second in the NL) and 66 RBI (sixth in the NL), while posting a 1.003 OPS.  He was the only rookie selected to the NL All-Star team.

Outfielder Austin Riley has made a big splash with the Atlanta Braves since his debut on May 15, further adding to the youth movement already in place there.  He had already knocked 15 home runs with Triple-A Gwinnett before being called up.  Since then, he has smashed 16 home runs to go along with 41 RBIs for the Braves.  He slugged the first 10 of his homers after only 24 games, the fastest a Braves players had accomplished this since 1930.  He was the NL Rookie of the Month for May, even though he played only half the month.  The Braves currently hold first-place in their division.

Eloy Jimenez was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic and was later acquired by the cross-town White Sox in a trade.   Now 22, he came out of spring training earning the starting left fielder job with the White Sox.  He is second on the club in home runs (15), while collecting 36 RBIs.  One of his spectacular games included a two-homer, 6-RBI performance against the Yankees.  The White Sox embarked on a re-building strategy in 2017, and Jimenez is being counted on as a foundational player in their future.

Michael Chavis initially earned his spot on the Boston Red Sox roster as a replacement for injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia.  He has since seen considerable time at first base also.  The Red Sox have been struggling so far this season, but the 23-year-old rookie has been a pleasant addition to the team, as he has responded with 15 HRs and 48 RBIs.

Pittsburgh Pirates left-fielder Bryan Reynolds hasn’t received as much ink as some of the other rookies, but his slash line of .339/.413/.518 is impressive.  The switch-hitter doesn’t hit for much power (six HRs and 29 RBIs), but he has solidified the second spot in the Pirates’ batting order with his ability to get on base.

Jordan Alvarez was a pleasant surprise in his initial call-up to the Houston Astros.  The 22-year-old hit a home run in his debut game and then accounted for four in his first five games.  The Astros are struggling to maintain a spot for the outfielder on an already deep, talented roster.  But it seems the Astros are content with using him as the designated hitter for now.  Alvarez shows a lot of maturity at the plate for his age and experience and currently has a slash line of .324/.403/1.123 to go along with his seven HRs and 22 RBIs in only 18 games.

Nick Senzel was the second overall pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 and is now the starting centerfielder for the team.  His contributions are helping the Reds stay only 3 ½ games behind the division leader.  He has 8 HRs and 27 RBIs.

The season is only half-finished, so there is still plenty of time for these players to put up bigger numbers.  Furthermore, there will be additional rookies being promoted from the minors looking to make their impact right away.

One prospect who has yet to be called up this year, but is projected to have promising potential at the major-league level, is shortstop Bo Bichette.  He is another player with the Toronto Blue Jays that has an all-star major-league father (Dante Bichette).  With the Blue Jays in a re-tooling mode involving a youth movement, he will likely get his promotion after the All-Star Game to begin getting big league at-bats under his belt.

This year’s class conjures up memories of a group of rookies from 1982 that turned out to be pretty good in their own right.  That class of youngsters included future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, and Ryne Sandberg, as well as future all-stars Steve Sax, Willie McGee, Kent Hrbek, and Chili Davis.  Another noteworthy rookie class was the 1986 group that included Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, and Ruben Sierra

Only time will tell if the 2019 group of rookies actually reaches the full potential they are demonstrating now; but with the type of performances they are presently posting, it may be sooner rather than later.

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