Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

The future is now: 3 rookies tearing up spring training

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When Shohei Ohtani took the mound for the first time as a member of the Los Angeles Angels on Feb. 24, the rookie’s debut was highly publicized and closely watched.

His initial results were mixed, but his luster remained, as one American League talent evaluator told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick the two-way player was “smart and competitive” and “the best two-way player I’ve ever seen” after he was more successful in his hitting debut Feb. 26 and struck out eight of 12 batters in a “B” game last Friday.

While the attention won’t die down anytime soon, Ohtani isn’t the only rookie turning heads in spring training.

Here are three others who deserve Ohtani-like attention:

Miguel Andujar – Yankees, 3B

The New York Yankees entered spring with some uncertainty about who would play second and third base after the team traded Starlin Castro and Chase Headley. They added Brandon Drury, who can play all around the infield, but rookie Miguel Andujar might be making a case for the Opening Day job at third.

Andujar has displayed an abundance of power, hitting four home runs and driving in eight across 19 at-bats. His four homers came in three consecutive games, bringing his spring slugging percentage to a staggering 1.158.

The 23-year-old has been so impressive that Todd Frazier – the player he could potentially replace at third after Frazier departed from the Yankees for the New York Mets – recently gave him a sparkling review.

“This kid’s got all the right tools and mindset,” Frazier told Dan Martin of the New York Post. “He worked his butt off. And he’s got that swing. It’s attack mode all the time and I love everything about that. I hope if he does get that job, he does it well, because the sky’s the limit for him.”

Fernando Tatis Jr. – Padres, SS

He may be only 19 years old, but Fernando Tatis Jr. certainly isn’t playing like someone who can’t legally buy a beer after a spring game in Arizona.

The son of former big leaguer Fernando Tatis demonstrated the qualities that made him MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 prospect against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, going 4-for-4 while driving in five runs.

“It felt great, man,” Tatis Jr. said of playing alongside major leaguers, according to Alyson Footer of “I’ve been working hard, been working every day with my hitting coach. It’s paying off right now. They’ve been telling me to stay more consistent, be a little more quiet with my swing, staying through the ball. Same swing, just more control.”

Despite hitting .381/.458/.667 in spring, he’s expected to begin 2018 in the minors for additional seasoning, but the future is certainly bright in San Diego.

Ronald Acuna – Braves, OF

The top prospect in baseball not named Ohtani, Ronald Acuna is doing everything he can this spring to prove he deserves to be the Atlanta Braves‘ starting left fielder on Opening Day.

Acuna already has a home run off formidable Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka under his belt. The mammoth shot left Tanaka looking bewildered.

After going 1-for-2 with a single Monday, the 20-year-old is hitting an astounding .435 this spring, which comes on the heels of a fantastic 2017 campaign in which he swatted .325/.374/.522 with 44 steals across three minor-league levels, and also picked apart Arizona Fall League pitching en route to a league MVP.

“I was excited to face such a tough pitcher as Tanaka,” Acuna said through a translator Friday, according to J. Scott Butherus of “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win, but I’ll continue to do what I can do, keep doing my best and try and help the team win.”

While he may not be the Braves’ Opening Day left fielder – they may hold him back to delay his future free agency – he should be in the bigs this season, which would make for some electric times in Georgia.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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