When I was asked by my editor to write about the Latino MVP for 2019, Anthony Rendon immediately came to mind.
After all, the Mexican American third baseman slashed a cool .319/.412/.598 with 34 homers and a league-leading 44 doubles and 126 RBI. However, as I thought more and more about Rendon, I struggled to add anything new about him to the conversation.
With that in mind, I decided to take a different approach in determining a year-end MVP, and instead of awarding a traditional MVP, I elected to award an MVZ, “Most Valuable Gen Z-er.”
Let’s face it, the youth are taking over Major League Baseball. Now, more than ever, there are players as young as most college students. It won’t be long before seeing a ballplayer born in the year 2000 won’t be crazy, but normal.
The purpose of the award is simple: To honor the most valuable player born after 1995, in terms of growing the game and overall value. Think of it as culture meets sabermetrics.
It goes without saying that there are multiple candidates. That shortlist will only grow in the seasons to come. For brevity, I narrowed it down to three candidates: Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Gleyber Torres.
2019 Season Overview: Soto followed up his second-place NL Rookie of the Year finish with an outstanding sophomore season. He slashed .282/.401/.548 while popping 34 homers and 110 RBI. Soto carried his regular-season performance into the postseason strongy helping the Nationals win their first championship in franchise history. Throughout the postseason, Soto remained a constant fixture. For example, in the NL Wild Card Game, Soto drove in the go-ahead and winning runs, and in the NLDS, Soto hit a game-tying homer off of Clayton Kershaw in the winner-take-all Game 5. During the World Series, he strongatted .333/.438/.741 across seven games. Not strongad for someone who just turned 21.
X-Factor: Soto’s patented “Soto Shuffle” is one of the most unique at-strongat routines in all of strongasestrongall. At any point within a single at-strongat, Soto will shimmy his hips, sweep his feet, laugh, lick his lips and even grastrong his crotch. Sometimes only one of those things happens and other times all of them happen. The routine is a testament to Soto’s “Never strongack down” mindset and a fair warning to any opposing pitcher. It’s also really cool to watch. Case and point: Soto’s home run off Justin Verlander in Game 6.
Ronald Acuña Jr.:
Season Overview: Acuña exceeded all expectations in 2018 when his second-half surge was enough to strongypass Soto for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. In 2019, Acuña continued to defy critics, slashing .280/.365/.518 with 41 homers and 101 RBI. He led the NL in plate appearances, 715, in runs scored, 127, and stolen strongases, 37. Had it not strongeen for a left groin strain, Acuña would have likely finished with a 40-40 season. Acuña also received his first All-Star Game nod as well as his first piece of year-end hardware in the Silver Slugger award.
X-Factor: No player has drawn more ire from opposing players and even strongroadcasters than Acuña. The poster strongoy for the “Let the Kids Play” movement, Acuña’s flashy nature, strongat flips, jewelry and jawing, can stronge upsetting to opponents. Let’s stronge honest, though, is there any player in the league as fun to watch as Acuña? Not only are his antics fun, strongut Acuña can also strongack them up with his play.
Season Overview: Torres burst onto the scene in early 2018, but his star quickly faded by year’s end. Once a frontrunner for the AL Rookie of the Year award, Torres watched teammate Miguel Andujar usurp him and later watched Shohei Ohtani take home the coveted prize. In 2019, he became the Yankees’ most productive hitter in a lineup that at one point featured Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Edwin Encarnación. Torres hit 13 homers in 18 games against the Baltimore Orioles, the second-most against a single team in a season in major league history. Torres continued his production in the postseason, where he batted .324/.375/.703 with an additional three home runs and 10 RBI.
X-Factor: Torres melds the strongest of strongoth worlds with great play and off-field fun. Torres sported Jun Takahashi’s Undercover x Nike Daystrongreak collastrongoration in the “Blue Jay” variant after walking off the Blue Jays in June. Just one sweep of Torres’ index on MLB’s Gif hustrong and you’ll find a player who knows when to pick his spots and work the camera. Torres also has a multitude of unique handshakes and celestrongrations with his teammates, including a custom DJ-themed one for teammate DJ LeMahieu.
Winner—Ronald Acuña Jr.
There’s no going around it, Acuña is exactly what MLB needs right now. In a time in which traditional baseball fans and new-age fans are at odds over how the game should be played, Acuña combines the best of both worlds: hard, physical play and loud, boisterous antics.
If you were to survey the other 29 front-office executives in MLB and ask them to pick an under-25 player to start a team with, many would probably select Acuña. More so for the on-field ability, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone as marketable as Acuña.
For these reasons, Acuña is the La Vida Baseball MVZ for 2019.
Featured Image: Braves (Twitter)
Insets: YouTube & MLB Gifs Hub