Most Latinos and Latinas are aware of their growing influence in society. In Major League Baseball, that prominence is even more powerful. I’ll be specific.
On opening day this season, over 28% of the players on big league rosters were of Hispanic heritage. And that statistic has climbed over the course of the campaign. If your team is looking good in the standings, it’s likely that Spanish-speaking talent is carrying a share of the load.
Now that September is approaching and the race to the post season is in the stretch run, the performances of these star players will be even more magnified. But which individuals will be counted on the most by their teams when it comes to playing extra games in October? Here is my list of guys, listed in order of importance, who must respond to that pressure.
10. Aramis Ramírez
The 36 year old veteran has stayed healthy this season, and that has been a huge factor in the success of the Milwaukee Brewers. Ramirez was even a starter for the National League in the All-Star game, and the Brew Crew is hoping the Dominican slugger still has enough gas left in the tank.
9. Kendrys Morales
Everybody knows the Seattle Mariners are still in contention because of Robinson Cano. But he is not Jesus, and the Mariners desperately needed more pop in their offense. That’s why the recent addition of Morales is so critical. The Cuban’s extended spring training is now over, and he needs to get hot for Seattle to reach the Promised Land.
8. Yordano Ventura
Normally, I wouldn’t elevate a pitcher to this magnitude of importance because they aren’t in the lineup every day. But Ventura holds down a key spot in the Kansas City Royals rotation, and he’s wading in uncharted waters. The thinly-built rookie is on pace to throw more than twice the number of innings ever in his young career. And if the kid starts to break down with a dead arm next month, the Royals will be in trouble.
7. Hanley Ramírez
Even though Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig play enormous roles for the Los Angeles Dodgers, this is not quite the same team without Ramirez. And the oft-injured Dominican has been extra moody lately after his contract extension was put on hold. Suck it up and play, Hanley.
6. Pedro Álvarez
How well the New York City native adapts to his new first base position will have a factor in the post season quest of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs certainly need his bat, especially since rookie Gregory Polanco has cooled off and is briefly back in the minor leagues. Alvarez, therefore, must focus at the plate and not worry about any defensive hiccups. Even as a third baseman, he was never a Gold Glove candidate.
5. Carlos Beltrán
The New York Yankees need a reasonably healthy Beltran to even entertain the thought of extending the season. No need to worry about playing right field. Ichiro has that covered. But without Beltran’s bat, the Bronx Bombers are bummers and Derek Jeter will never again play in October.
4. Ángel Pagán
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 28, 2014
The San Francisco Giants tanked after their energetic center fielder went on the DL back on June 14th. Since missing 44 games, Pagan has returned and is trying to work off the rust. He’d better hurry up or the Giants won’t even get a Wild Card berth.
3. Yadier Molina
This is another Puerto Rican who dictates his team’s success. The St. Louis Cardinals have scuffled in mediocrity since Molina went on the shelf with a torn ligament in his right thumb. If the future Hall of Fame catcher returns as expected next month, the Redbirds will be a dangerous playoff opponent.
2. Miguel Cabrera
Arguably the game’s best hitter, this might seem like a no-brainer. But Cabrera has been banged up a bit this season, and his home run production is at its lowest point since 2006. The Detroit Tigers should have run away with the AL Central, and the reason they haven’t is obvious. Come on, Miggy. You’re paid $22 million per season to jack the ball out of the park. Time to get to work.
1. Albert Pujols
It looks like a photo finish for the race in the AL West between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s. The latter team has the pitching, but have struggled offensively since trading away Yeonis Cespedes. The Angels carry the big sticks, with Pujols still commanding a lot of respect. And while King Albert has been good, he hasn’t been great. That needs to happen for the boys from Anaheim to steer clear of a do or die Wild Card scenario.