After months of anticipation, the top prospect in baseball will make his season debut Friday, testing his considerable power and advanced batting eye against the best pitchers in the world.
For Blue Jays fans, the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. represents a legitimately exciting moment. In honour of Guerrero Jr., we close out the first month of the season by highlighting the most exciting player on all 30 teams (previous week’s rankings in parentheses)…
1. (1) Los Angeles Dodgers
We’re a month into the season now and Cody Bellinger’s somehow slashing .426/.500/.894 with 12 home runs.
2. (2) Houston Astros
Carlos Correa was the first-overall pick seven years ago, so it’s easy to forget that he’s just 24 years old. If his .882 OPS offers much indication, the back issues that bothered him a year ago seem to be resolved.
3. (4) New York Yankees
Normally, the Yankees have plenty of exciting players to choose from, but injuries make Aaron Judge an easy choice. He has an on-base percentage around .400 with plenty of power, as usual.
4. (8) St. Louis Cardinals
Jack Flaherty’s swing-and-miss stuff makes him worth watching every time he takes the mound. Even if the results haven’t been there for him just yet, expect big things the rest of the way.
5. (3) Tampa Bay Rays
If you’re a Rays fan, Tyler Glasnow’s start has to be incredibly exciting. The 6’8″ right-hander averages 96.7 m.p.h. with his fastball and has a 1.53 ERA in the early going.
6. (9) Washington Nationals
By the time most players reach the age of 34, they’re well past their prime. Somehow that logic doesn’t apply to Max Scherzer, who continues to excel even as his 35th birthday approaches. So far this year, his average fastball velocity has actually gone up to 94.6 m.p.h.
7. (10) Chicago Cubs
Whether he’s applying tags or avoiding them, Javy Baez does things few other players can. Now the Cubs’ starting shortstop, he enters the weekend with eight homers and a 1.002 OPS.
8. (7) Boston Red Sox
After a slow start to the season, Mookie Betts has looked more like himself of late. Last week he went 11 for 26, reinforcing his status as the most dynamic player on a talented Boston team.
9. (13) Cleveland Indians
A high ankle sprain delayed Francisco Lindor’s debut until last weekend. Now that he’s back, Cleveland’s lineup gets some much-needed help.
10. (5) Philadelphia Phillies
Let’s not over-complicate things here. The most exciting player on the Phillies is Bryce Harper, even if he’s slowed down a little after that great start.
11. (15) Minnesota Twins
No disrespect to Byron Buxton, but the choice here is Willians Astudillo. The generously built utility player combines exceptional contact skills with defensive versatility in his own distinct style.
12. (11) New York Mets
With Jacob deGrom sidelined, the Mets’ pitching isn’t as impressive as usual, but rookie Pete Alonso already has eight homers and a team-leading 1.086 OPS.
13. (6) Milwaukee Brewers
What a start for Christian Yelich, who now belongs in any conversation about the game’s best players. He already has 13 home runs and a .793 slugging percentage — pretty remarkable, especially for someone who hadn’t hit more than 21 home runs until last year.
14. (12) Atlanta Braves
There’s been no sign of a sophomore slump for Ronald Acuna Jr.; if anything, he’s getting better. In the early going he has improved his walk rate, strikeout rate, batting average, OBP and slugging compared to last year’s spectacular debut.
15. (14) Oakland Athletics
He’s not the best player on the Athletics, and he might not even be the best defender on the team due the the presence of Matt Chapman, but Ramon Laureano’s combination of speed and arm strength allows him to make some memorable highlight-reel catches.
16. (20) San Diego Padres
It’s exciting enough when a 20-year-old shows up and hits from day one, but Fernando Tatis Jr. has also stolen five bases and shown off his plus arm at shortstop.
17. (19) Colorado Rockies
Maybe at some point the novelty will wear off, but we’re not close to that point with Nolan Arenado, who combines elite third base defence with exceptional power.
18. (22) Arizona Diamondbacks
How about the late-game heroics of Christian Walker? From the seventh inning on, he has seven home runs and a .607 batting average.
19. (16) Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have more exciting players than most re-tooling teams, but Mitch Haniger’s combination of defence and hitting ability stands out.
20. (17) Pittsburgh Pirates
If Josh Bell keeps this up, he’ll have a breakout season with the Pirates. The switch-hitting first baseman has a .961 OPS after 23 games.
21. (18) Los Angeles Angels
This is any easy one. Mike Trout does it all, but how about his ratio of 27 walks to 12 strikeouts? Incredible. Through 23 games he has a Bonds-esque .515 OBP.
22. (23) Cincinnati Reds
This has to be Yasiel Puig, right? Even on a team with Joey Votto and Luis Castillo, Puig’s tough to beat for entertainment value.
23. (24) Toronto Blue Jays
He hit .331/.413/.531 in the minors despite being years younger than most of his competition. He’s still just 20, but by all accounts Vlad Jr.’s bat will play at the highest level.
24. (21) Texas Rangers
For years, Adrian Beltre was the Rangers’ most exciting player. Now that distinction goes to Joey Gallo, who combines a strong throwing arm with upper-deck power.
25. (25) Detroit Tigers
Matt Boyd has shown signs of breaking out on a rebuilding Tigers team with a career-best 31 per cent strikeout rate and a 3.16 ERA.
26. (26) San Francisco Giants
Now in his 11th big-league season, Madison Bumgarner keeps getting results for a Giants team in transition. And if that 3.66 ERA doesn’t get your attention, he’s fun to watch at the plate, too.
27. (27) Chicago White Sox
Not only does Tim Anderson show lots of emotion on the field, he’s having his best season yet with a league-leading .383 average.
28. (28) Kansas City Royals
Even though the Royals might lose 100 games, Adalberto Mondesi is worth watching every night. His speed has allowed him to steal 53 bases in approximately one season’s worth of at bats. Seven of those have come this year to go along with his .824 OPS.
29. (29) Miami Marlins
If the Marlins had held onto Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, they’d be a pretty interesting team. But they didn’t, so the most interesting thing to watch here might be Trevor Richards’ change-up.
30. (30) Baltimore Orioles
While it’s probably a stretch to call anyone on the Orioles ‘exciting,’ Trey Mancini has six homers with a .997 OPS.