Latino players are at the foundation of the sport known as “America’s pastime.” According to the MLB, 25% of the active players in the league today are Latino. Additionally, since the game first began more than 2,000 players have been a part of an MLB club. Baseball itself is the national sport of The Dominician Republic, Venezuela, and Cuba. Not surprising, those Latin American countries have the highest number of players in MLB. A 2019 count had the number of Dominican Republic players at 152, followed by 100 from Venezuela, and Cuba with 29. There were 1,016 players from the United States
Being that Latinos have cemented their place in baseball since it began, there are Latino players of great significance in just about every decade. Juan Marichal was one of the first Latinos to solidify legend status in the 1960s. Known as “Dominican Dandy,” Marichal would be the first Dominicain to be inducted into The Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1983. Roberto Clemente certainly gave Marichal a run for his money. His history making Baseball Hall of Fame induction–the first Latino ever to be inducted in 1973–would solidify him as one of the best Latino players of all time. Later, names like Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz, along with others, became the poster-boys for Latino pride in baseball.
Taking a look into the 2021 MLB season, there is a ton of talent out in the field. Even though we’re only one year into a new decade, here are five Latinos who are making a case for legendary status.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego Padres)
Fernando Tatis Jr. and his family all have baseball in their blood. His father, Fernando Tatis Sr., was a third baseman for five different MLB teams in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. His brother Elijah signed on as an infielder for the Chicago White Sox in 2019.
Fernando Jr. made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres in March of 2019. He hit twice that game, and just a few short weeks later he recorded his first home run. In the limited time that Tatis Jr. has been a professional baseball player, he helped the Padres finish 2nd in the National League and gave the team their first postseason run in 14 years. In his second year, he finished second in the NL in home runs with 17 total. Those stats, along with a few others, would afford Fernando the third-highest deal in sports history-14 years for $340 million dollars. Not bad for a 22-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves)
Ronald Acuna Jr. is a right-fielder from Venezuela. Acuna Jr. made his MLB debut in 2018, and in his first year, he took the National League Rookie of the Year title. In 2019, he became an MLB All-Star and NL’s leader in stolen bases. Acuna Jr. joined baseball legends Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Jose Canseco as the only players in the history of the game to have 40 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Also in 2019, he earned a Silver Slugger award. Those are some solid stats for a 22-year old with three major league seasons to his name.
Juan Soto (Washington Nationals)
Juan Soto made his MLB debut in 2018 at the ripe old age of 19-incidentally he was the youngest player in the majors at the time. In his first game he went up to bat, swung at the first pitch, and scored a homer. Since then he hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal-though he may have ‘shuffled’ it. Soto, who comes from the Dominican Republic, is known for his signature shuffle move. He would finish second (behind Ronald Acuna Jr.) in voting for NL’s Rookie of the Year Title in that season. For his second season, he became only the fourth player to record more than 100 extra base hits before his 21st birthday. If that wasn’t enough, he helped The Nationals win the clubs first ever World Series. Despite missing a week of play last season to a positive COVID-19 test (later reported to be a false positive), Soto became the youngest player to win the NL batting title ending the short season (due to COVID-19) with a 0.351 average.
Francisco Lindor (New York Mets)
Currently ranked 10th on ESPN’s top players to watch in the 2021 season, Francisco Lindor has taken off his Cleveland Indians uniform in favor of one for the New York Mets earlier this year. Making his MLB debut six years ago in 2015, Lindor finished second in voting for Rookie of the Year. Since then, he’s earned two Gold Gloves and been an MLB All-Star four times. The shortstop, nicknamed “Paquito” and “Mr. Smile, from Puerto Rico, has 14 RBIs this preseason alone, the most of anyone else on the team right now (as of press time).
José Ramírez (Cleveland Indians)
José is the 28-year-old third baseman from the Dominican Republic, and is the veteran of our group. Ramirez made his MLB debut with the Indians in 2013 and has spent his entire professional career with the club. In that time, he has earned two All-Stars and three Silver Slugger awards. Last season, he was tied for first in the AL for runs, second in the AL for on base plus slugging (OPS), and third for doubles.