The Latin American baseball players´ influence continues increasing in the MLB. During 2017, 356 players from the region had an action in the thirty different franchises, a number that means the 26% of the 1358 athletes enrolled in the championship. Once again Dominican Republic was the most represented country (152), ahead of Venezuela (110), Puerto Rico (28), Cuba (24), Mexico (15), Panama (7), Colombia (6), Curacao (5), Brazil (4), Nicaragua (3), Virgin Islands (3) and Aruba (1).
The setting for the 2018 campaign would be very similar in respect to the whole number of representatives; although, probably, the leading role of the Latin players inside all the franchises would be more noticeable. Moreover, the MLB will try to get closer to the region, by means of two matches in San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 17th and 18th where Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins play; and, on March 4th and 6th, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will travel to Monterrey, Mexico where they will play three matches.
Who are the Latin baseball players who would mostly call the attention in the coming campaign? PanamericanWorld proposes to get closer to ten of them who would play, in October, the next World Series.
CATCHER: WILSON CONTRERAS (VENEZUELA)
Salvador Pérez and Yadier Molina can be considered the two best Latin American catchers of the MLB. Both of them are stars and they have won rings of the World Series (one the Venezuelan, and two the Puerto Rican), but for the 2018 campaign, their leading roles can be challenged by the Venezuelan Contreras, at least in the offensive issue, who starts his third year in Chicago Cubs, where he tries to consolidate as the regular of the position. In 2017, he had 21 home runs and pushed 74 runs, his offensive average was 276 and his OBP was 356, although his greatest difficulty keeps on being defense since he only got the 27% of the runners trying to reach a base ahead.
FIRST BASE: ALBERT PUJOLS (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
At the age of 38 years old, this Dominican has a place assured in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; but he knows he can improve his already impressive records and especially, come to a play-off again. Six years ago, he was offered a mega contract of 240 million dollars by Los Angeles managers, but in any of the campaigns he has got closer to what he got when he dressed St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is at present the seventh among the best home-run hitters of all times in the MLB with 614 home runs, and although it is hard to surpass the leader, Barry Bonds, he could reach the 700 home runs in the next three seasons. Moreover, in his eighteenth campaign in the Major Leagues, Pujols will join the exclusive players club with 3000 hits because he will start with 2968. .
SECOND BASE: JOSÉ ALTUVE (VENEZUELA)
In 2007 the “small giant” was the best player of the season: Champion batter of the American League, champion hitter four years in a row, most valuable player of the so-called “Young Circuit” and World Series Champion with Houston Astros. For seven years in the Major Leagues, his average is 316, with 84 home-runs and 403 pushed. Without having the physical traits of Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, Altuve can be considered the most complete player of the MLB at present.
SHORT STOP: FRANCISCO LINDOR (PUERTO RICO)
Two Puerto Ricans, Lindor and Carlos Correa, keep a serious insistence about the position of best short stop in the Major Leagues. Lindor, only 23 years old, has already demonstrated that he is not only a talented player, but a star. In 2017, he got formidable statistics: 33 home-runs, 89 pushed runs, and he was a key in the bright role played in the regular season of the Cleveland Indians. That team lost in the first round playing against the Yankees; that is why in 2018, Lindor expects to improve his personal numbers… and come back to the World Series.
THIRD BASE: JOSÉ RAMIREZ (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
The Cleveland Indians decided to offer him a contract for a long time, and for sure, after observing his achievements in 2017, they realized that they had not paid enough for such a talent. In the last campaign, Ramirez was the leader with 56 two-base, 29 home-runs, he pushed 83 runs and his final average was 318..
OUTFIELDER: NELSON CRUZ (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
Cruz together with Robinson Canó, is one of the best offensive pairs in the Major Leagues. In 2017, in his third season, with Seattle Mariners, the veteran Dominican was the leader in the American League with 119 pushed runs, he hit 39 home-runs (now 323 in his 13 years career) and finished with an average of 288. If he could get similar numbers in 2018, the Mariners would be closer to come into play-offs again.
OUTFIELDER: MARWIN GONZÁLEZ (VENEZUELA)
This is one of the most useful baseball players in baseball, because of his capacity to carefully defend different positions. In 2017, he played first, second, third bases, short stop, and the outfields. His data show that he played formidably: 23 home-runs, 90 pushed runs, 377 OBP, and his offensive average was 303. Astros hopes that in 2018, the Venezuelan repeats or improves his statistical results.
OUTFIELDER: ENDER INCIARTE (VENEZUELA)
In 2017, no batter had more turns to bat than this Venezuelan, of only 26 years of age, who came to bat 662 times. Atlanta Braves continue trying to reconstruct the team, but they trust Inciarte to keep playing as their regular central outfielder. Last season, he performed very well his role as the first bat in the line-up because he had 201 hits, his average was 304, and his OBP was 350. Moreover, he outstood for his defense and he was given the Golden Glove.
OPENER PITCHER: CARLOS MARTÍNEZ (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
St. Louis Cardinals got out of play-offs in 2017 and for the coming campaign, the managers have reinforced the line-up, but it will not be enough to win the very competitive central division of the National League. To overcome the Chicago Cubs and Cerveceros, St. Louis trust Martinez to lead the line-up of opener pitchers. Last campaign, the Dominican won 12 matches, and lost 11, with an effectiveness average of 3.64.
CLOSING PITCHER: AROLDIS CHAPMAN (CUBA)
The “Cuban missile” was very unstable in 2017, to the point that he even temporarily lost his job as closing pitcher for the Yankees. Notwithstanding, he finished the campaign very well and in the play-offs he was very dominant (most of the time). Summing up, he saved 22 matches, with an average of clean runs of 3.33. For 2018, the Yankees will get a powerful offensive line-up; that is why, for sure, Chapman will have lot more opportunities to come to save matches.