Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. Could Dominate The 2020s
To see our full list of 20 stars who will define the 2020s, click here.
One of the strongest indicators of future stardom is mastery of the major leagues at a young age.
That being the case, a trio of young National League stars is well positioned to dominate the coming decade, complete with all-star nods, MVP awards and postseason heroics.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. could also be taking their first steps toward being recognized as all-time greats.
Few players in history have combined offensive production and youth to the same degree as Acuña, Soto and Tatis. See below:
Young stars Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. have produced at a rate at least 30 percent better than league average, as measured by Baseball-Reference.com’s park-adjusted OPS+ metric. They are three of just 16 players in the integration era to hit that 130 OPS+ benchmark while batting 350 or more times before turning 22 years old.
|3||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||Padres||2019||2019||20-20||372||152|
|10||Ken Griffey Jr.*||CF||Mariners||1989||1991||19-21||1805||135|
|13||Ronald Acuña Jr.||CF||Braves||2018||2019||20-21||1202||131|
|15||Tony Conigliaro||RF||Red Sox||1964||1966||19-21||1657||130|
An asterisk (*) denotes a player who went on to a Hall of Fame career
A young power trio like Acuña, Soto and Tatis comes along every so often. Most recently, the trio of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were rookies in 2012. At 20, Trout was the old man of the group. In the mid-1990s, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra debuted in succession to form the holy trinity of American League shortstops.
But Acuña, Soto and Tatis are notable for how fully formed they are in the batter’s box in their early 20s.
Soto is the most accomplished of the trio. The left fielder hit his way to Washington as a 19-year-old in 2018 then for an encore helped the Nationals win the first World Series in franchise history in 2019. He always seemed to be in the middle of an October rally, delivering a clutch hit or reaching base to set up a Nationals scoring strike.
Soto’s career .403 on-base percentage is the highest of the integration era for a player with 1,000 plate appearances under his belt before turning 21.
Acuña arrived with more fanfare than Soto and has captured the most mainstream attention of the trio. The center fielder won the BA Minor League Player of the Year award in 2017, won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2018 as a 20-year-old and then flirted with a 40-40 season in 2019 while placing fifth in the NL MVP race.
Acuña has helped lead the Braves to consecutive NL East division titles. It seems like only a matter of time before the young Atlanta core breaks through in October.
Tatis arrived in the majors ahead of schedule in 2019, when the 20-year-old made the Padres’ Opening Day roster. San Diego kicked future salary considerations down the road when they turned over shortstop to Tatis, the crown jewel of a vaunted farm system that aims to help the Padres snap the third longest postseason drought in baseball.
Tatis did his part to make the Padres fringe wild card contenders in the first half of 2019, but a back injury sidelined him in the second half and kept him out of action after Aug. 13. Still, he made a big impression on observers and finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
That won’t be the last time Acuña, Soto or Tatis makes a play for major award hardware. The kings of swing have the whole 2020s ahead of them as they embark on a decade of domination. Enjoy the ride.