These five rookie debuts should be one of the best parts of the 2018 season
2017 was an incredible year for baseball, and some of the game's youngest players helped make that happen. Think of how many rookies made a splash this past season -- Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins -- and that's just naming a few.
When the clock strikes midnight on Sunday, though, it will be a new year, and just like Baby New Year in those glorious old claymation specials, we'll be excited to see how the next generation of rookies will introduce themselves to the baseball world.
Here are five debuts in particular that should be a real thrill in 2018.
There was no way that this list would begin with any other player. It's been ages since baseball had a true two-way superstar, and the Angels aren't the only ones who can't wait to see what Ohtani can do on the Major League stage.
Ohtani can pitch. Ohtani can hit. Ohtani can throw. In Japan, he did it all for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Incredibly, he is still just 23 years old. The best might be yet to come.
This man is so much more than one half of an all-time great photo.
Acuna only turned 20 on Dec. 18, and he is already knocking on the door in Atlanta. Baseball is supposed to get harder as you rise through the Minors, but try telling that to Acuna -- his OPS rose from .814 with the Class A Florida Fire Frogs to .895 in Double-A Mississippi and .940 in Triple-A Gwinnett. All told, he hit .325/.374/.522 in 139 games with 21 dingers -- all as a teenager.
The Braves challenged him one more time in 2017 by sending him to the Arizona Fall League. All he did was top his OPS again by batting .325/.414/.639 with seven homers in 23 games, earning AFL MVP honors:
Beware, National League pitchers.
Moving from one AFL MVP to another, Torres was the winner of that award in 2016 after an 1.158 OPS thrashing of his own. He entered 2017 as MLB Pipeline's No. 3 prospect in baseball and only needed 32 games in Double-A Trenton to earn a promotion to Triple-A Scranton.
All seemed to be going well there, too, with a .309/.406/.457 batting line in 23 games until an injury suffered on a slide into home plate on June 17 ended his season early. Fortunately, Torres' recovery is going well, and he should be ready to go in 2018. No matter where the Yankees might play him in the infield, they know that the 21-year-old has the arm to handle it:
As one of the game's elite prospects on the mound, Honeywell is seemingly on a one-man quest to bring back a somewhat-forgotten pitch -- the screwball. When thrown correctly, it's a devastating offering, as proved by Carl Hubbell at the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out future fellow Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in a row.
Fast-forward 83 years to the 2017 Futures Game -- Honeywell and his screwball unleashed a performance that would have made Hubbell proud. Alex Verdugo, Amed Rosario, Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. all fell victim to Honeywell's masterful work, a performance that earned him the Futures Game MVP:
Honeywell's screwball also helped him fan 172 batters in 136 2/3 innings of Minor League ball, mostly in Triple-A Durham. It won't be long before Major Leaguers are forced to see how they fare against the talented 22-year-old.
While Honeywell prefers to stymie batters with an unusual pitch, Kopech relies on good old-fashioned heat: His fastball has been clocked as high as 105 mph.
Kopech reached 101 in his perfect one-inning stint at the 2017 Futures Game, and he struck out 172 hitters in 134 1/3 innings last season in the White Sox organization. Sure, Kopech might only have three Triple-A starts under his belt, but velocity like that is simply not going to be hidden in the Minors for long.
Of course, this is just a small sample of all the terrific rookies who could make an impact in 2018. Anyone could be the next to steal the show.