Spring Training is under way and MLBbros are already making an impact. As we always do about this time, here’s our Top 10 Black and brown players entering the 2023 MLB season.
1. Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge sits atop the throne as the best MLBbro in the game entering 2023 after launching an American League record 62 home runs and narrowly missing out on becoming the 16th player to win a Triple Crown.
The 2022 season for Judge will go down as one of the greatest single seasons for any professional athlete in sports history. He led the Majors in almost every offensive category and played a Gold Glove caliber center field with all eyes on him. Over the off-season Judge earned himself a nine-year $360 million deal with the Yankees in addition to becoming the team’s first captain since the retirement of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.
2. Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts has been one of the most consistent players in the Majors since his debut in 2014.
Since then, he’s accrued seven consecutive All-Star appearances, an MVP, a 30-30 season, six Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger Awards.
Last year Betts, who will be representing the culture for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic had his best season since he became a Dodger in 2020. He hit 35 home runs and slugged .533 with 82 RBI.
3. Triston “Dr. Sticks” McKenzie
Triston McKenzie is one of the top young arms in the game and he comes into 2023 with a puncher’s chance to become the first Black pitcher to win the Cy Young Award since David Price in 2012.
Mckenzie posted a 2.96 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 2022 and allowed a batting average against of .201. All of those put him in the top 10 amongst all Major League pitchers.
4. Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson is the unspoken hero and originator of the “Let the kids play” movement and like wine he will continue to get better with time.
Anderson, who won the Major League batting title in 2019 did not play competitive baseball until his junior year of high school, started for the American League at shortstop in last year’s All-Star Game.
He has hit over .300 for four consecutive seasons and will join Betts in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA.
5. Marcus Semien
Marcus Semien won the inaugural 2021 MLBbro Player of the Year Award for his record breaking 2021 which saw him hit 45 home runs, the most ever by a second baseman. Despite a slow start at the plate, Semien who led the American League in games played and at-bats, stole a career-high 25 bases.
His 81 RBI, five triples, 26 home runs, 31 doubles and 162 hits were all top four among his position peers.
6. Cedric “CM Storm” Mullins
Cedric Mullins is a five-tool player and is living proof that size does not measure heart in baseball. In 2021, the 5-foot-8 Mullins became the first Baltimore Oriole to join the 30/30 club.
Last season Mullins’ career-high 34 steals were the third most in baseball and he was one of the main catalysts for the massive and somewhat unexpectedly quick turnaround for the O’s franchise. He will also be joining Team USA during the World Baseball Classic.
7.” Money” Michael Harris
The 2022 National League Rookie of the Year took the Majors by storm with his combination of power and speed on offense to go along with being one of the best defenders in baseball.
Last year Harris finished with both 20 home runs and 20 steals, so with a full season and experience under his belt he will look to join Mullins as a member of the 30/30 club.
8. Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Jazz Chisholm AKA “The Bahamian Blur” is one of the most explosive players in the Majors and will become the first Bahamian born athlete to be on a video game cover when he graces the cover of MLB The Show 2023. Before a back injury ended his 2022 campaign, Chisholm, who was named an All-Star, led Miami in almost every offensive category.
Let’s shock the system! 🎷😎 Introducing Jazz Chisholm as the cover athlete for MLB The Show 23.
Devin Williams “Airbender” changeup is one of the nastiest pitches in baseball and it has helped him rise into the conversation of best closer in the Majors.
Williams became the Brewers full-time closer after last season’s trade deadline, finishing with 15 saves, 96 strikeouts and a 1.93 ERA. Williams is the only Black pitcher on the roster for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
10. Byron Buxton
The difference between being ranked at 10 and being in the top three is simply availability for Byron Buxton. Big Bux has played less than 100 games every year since 2017 due to different injuries, but when in the lineup, he stands as one of the best all-around players in the Majors.
He showed what he can do against the league’s best when he hit the game-winning home run in Los Angeles during his first career All-Star Game.
The Miami Marlins have accrued some young talent over the last couple of years with reigning Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara and All-Star second baseman/centerfielder, Jazz Chisholm AKA “Bahamian Blur” leading the pack.
In fact, Chisholm became the first Bahamian-born player to make an All-Star roster in 2022. While those are the cornerstones of the rebuild going down in South Florida, manager Skip Schumaker is looking to add more talent to the roster. That may come in the form of the sweet-hitting Xavier Edwards, who’s looking to make the 26-man opening day roster at second base.
The 23-year-old, versatile player was traded by the Tampa Bay Rays and shipped off to South Beach on November 15th, after his first stint in Triple-A saw him hit a career-high five homers. While his deep-ball accuracy got better his batting average dropped from a career .300 hitter to .246, not all that alarming when you consider hitters usually see a drop in batting average when they become more locked-in on going yard. But for the five-foot-ten, 175-pound Edwards, that’s not who he is as a hitter. Now, he wants to revert back to his former approach at the plate.
Xavier Edwards Is Going Back To What He Knows
In a January interview with Baseball America’s Marlins correspondent Walter Villa, Edwards addressed that very thing.
“I want to get back to my game,” said Edwards.
That means hitting for average and spraying the baseball to all parts of the field. Not just swinging for the fences.
One of Edwards’ other attributes is his ability to get on-base, and then wreak havoc on opposing pitchers and catchers. In his career, he’s been successful in 82 of his 109 base-stealing attempts for a 75 percent clip.
That’s eight percent better than the MLB average of 67 percent. While that percentage might drop a bit against better pitchers, catchers and infielders at the MLB level, it shouldn’t change too drastically with Edward’s innate ability to identify the opportune moment to attempt a swipe.
Edwards is also a switch-hitter and has experience playing shortstop and third base. The one thing he prides himself on is his defensive versatility.
🚨 First Miami Marlins lineup of Spring Training 🚨
3B Jon Berti LF Bryan De La Cruz C Nick Fortes RF Jesús Sánchez SS Garrett Hampson CF Peyton Burdick DH Jordan Groshans 1B Joe Rizzo 2B Xavier Edwards
Edwards Is Attempting To Make A Talented Marlins Infield
Earning a spot on the talented Marlins infield won’t be easy, but the belief is Edwards has what it takes to make the 26-man roster. Edwards who’s familiar with the South Florida area — having played for the Rays after spending his junior and senior seasons of high school at North Broward Prep — has many rooting for his success.
One of his biggest supporters is his high school coach Brian Campbell who lauded Edwards as a player with leadership qualities that he exudes through hard work and dedication to the craft.
“He’s an amazing leader, an incredible worker and the most special I’ve player I’ve ever coached,” Campbell said. “But I’m even more proud he’s giving back to the community.”
Edwards has held a baseball camp at North Broward Prep for the last five years. It’s a free two-day experience for over 120 kids yearly.
It’s Jordan Walker’s time and the 20-year-old MLBbro from Stone Mountain, Georgia is not taking his first MLB Spring Training invite lightly.
In fact, the St. Louis Cardinals third base prospect isn’t thinking about returning to the minors. The major brands taking the field for St. Louis have recently been guys such as Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty, along with perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina and third-base wizard Nolan Arenado.
But if 2020 first round pickJordan Walker has anything to say about it, as the old guard exits, he expects his name to be mentioned as one of the Cardinals best players in 2023. Heading into spring training Walker looks ready to make the jump and infuse the Cardinals lineup with some real pop, youthful energy and an above-average glove.
Walker, MLB Pipeline’s No.4 rated prospect is coming off an impressive 2022 season with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. That’s where the sweet-swinging power hitter batted .306 with 68 RBI. Walker also went yard 19 times and accrued 20 stolen bases, nearly pulling off the very rare 20/20 campaign in the minors. For a player of Walker’s talent and skillset that was just the beginning.
Just 20-years-old, Walker also showed out in Arizona Fall League, with a .286/ .367/ .558 slash line. That also included five homers and 16 more RBI in just 21 games. There Walker spent the bulk of his time in the outfield, as he will now transition away from third-base where he’s pretty much played his entire baseball life. But with perennial Gold Glove winner the aforementioned Arenado there, the likelihood of Walker playing would only happen in emergency situations or days off for Arenado.
Walker seems to be getting comfortable in the Cards outfield, and that’s vital considering Busch Stadium has one of the bigger outfields in the majors. During a recent visit to St. Louis for Winter Warm-Up, Walker told reporters this during his media session.
“I got a chance to get a real long look at the field of Busch Stadium, and it really is giving me the push. I’m ready,” said Walker. “I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to try to make the team. So just being here gives me a little extra drive to try to make the team and be ready to go to St. Louis.”
Walker’s Strength Is Power: He Has All The Tools
Standing a towering but well-proportioned 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, with long arms, Walker is an intimidating presence in the batter’s box. The only knock on Walker at the plate could be his elongated swing, something he may look to make more compact. But even if he doesn’t, his hand speed and eye coordination are good enough that he still gets the barrel of the bat to the baseball. Walker says “it’s all in the wrist.”
If Walker’s trajectory is what most experts believe, by the age 23 he could be the best power hitter in the Cardinals organization and one of the best in all of MLB. Walker also says tough love sessions from Cardinals minor-league instructor Jose Oquendo has prepared him for this moment. He recently talked with reporters from the Cardinals spring training home in Jupiter, Florida
“A lot of work with Cheo’ (Oquendo) — route running, seeing low drives, working on my first-step quickness and stuff like that — has been really good for me,” Walker said. “In the offseason I took fly balls, but being here now with ‘Cheo’ and getting the tough-love treatment and teaching from him has really helped me. I’m ready to put what I’ve learned into a game.”
Expect to hear his name called often during the 2023 season and for years to come, Cardinals got a gem.
MLB hasn’t seen many Black third baseman. The last two of note were probably Charlie Hayes and 1987 NL MVP Terry Pendelton, considered the last great Black third baseman.
Pittsburgh Pirates star Ke’Bryan Hayes, Charlie’s son, is currently one of the rising third baseman in the game and already considered a Gold Glove caliber performer. It would be great to see two brothers holding down the hot corner like modern day Clete Boyers, for now, Walker will play anywhere he needs to play — even the outfield — to get on the field, gain MLB experience and flex his bro bombing stick.
Duval and Manatee counties in Florida have thrown bean balls to the legacy of Black baseball in American history. The impact of Hank Aaron’s greatness has literally been shoved into a dark closet as the state begins the assault on Black history. Books aimed at teaching children about how Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente overcame racism to become both baseball and American icons were removed from schools in Duvall County.
Florida Pulling Books About Black & Hispanic Legends
According to Audacy.com,“Henry Aaron’s Dream” which was published in 2010, was one of 176 books that deal with historical minority themes which have been banished in an attempt to suppress the historical impact of Jim Crow on society.
The book was one of two involving minority baseball greats that were pulled from library shelves throughout the county as the state begins its process of erasing the history of minorities from its public-school curriculum. In addition to the book chronicling Aaron’s drive to become a baseball icon, a “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” book published in 2005 reportedly has “been kept in storage with little indication of when they might return to classrooms.”
The Puerto Rican legend Clemente and Aaron are both icons in their respective communities and have had incredible impact on the shaping of this country and the global popularity of baseball.
The bill, which is a part of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ agenda to nullify slavery and its cultural influence on Black American history being taught in public schools, gives school districts the right to deem reading materials “inappropriate” if they conclude it “is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used.”
Books Must Be Approved By “Media Specialist”
The Washington Post reported in January that teachers were told books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection.
DeSantis is presumed to be one of the top Republican candidates in the 2024 Presidential race and has laid down a gauntlet that this will be one of his major platforms. However, the decision could put the state and Major League Baseball into a political quandary. Bradenton, FL, interestingly enough, is the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is the Manatee County seat.
That’s definitely something to watch as reports of what Florida’s educational system is doing continues to circulate within the MLB world. Hank Aarona nd Roberto Clemente are two of the most respected and important figures in modern baseball and American history. They endured extreme racism, socio-economic poverty, government and police oppression, while standing as voices for unheard minorities and immigrants. Accomplishing all of this with the power of baseball and the remarkably perfect way they expressed the game.
Florida Plays Historical Role In Integration Of Baseball
There are 15 teams that host spring training in the Sunshine State and historically, Florida is a state that was under the microscope of inclusion as MLB began its painful process of integration. Vero Beach became known as Dodger Town when the Brooklyn franchise began training there in 1948, leading to other teams across the country whose Black players also faced inclusion issues in hotels and restaurants, joining them.
The stories of these men are proof that anything is possible in this country and despite hardships people can rise above their conditions and create empires of legacy and hope for millions of underserved people for the future. Not sure what’s more American than that.
However, if those stories are told in print in the aforementioned counties, then they could be subject to banishment as well. That’s so MLBbro bad.
According to an article from Forbes, the Phillies did not have an MLBbro on the Opening Day roster last season for the first time in 63 years. That will change this season with former Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker, and now Harrison joining the team. The last MLBbro to suit up for the Phillies as a full-time starter was outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Outfielder Roman Quinn played 79 games for the Phillies in 2022. And outfielder Darrick Hall ended up playing in 41 games this season for the Phillies. During that time, he batted .250, with nine home runs, and 16 RBI. He had an on-base percentage of .282, and a slugging percentage of .504.
Philadelphia will look to make another run back to the World Series – this time with a multi-talented Black utility player who can provide everything from hitting and baserunning to soul in the hole and a number of other positions. If the Phillies can make it back and Harrison is still on the team, he and Walker can become the first Phillies MLBbros to win a title since 2008.
Three MLBbros were on that team: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Tom “Flash” Gordon. Gordon got hurt and was ruled out for the season, but still received a World Series ring.
This will be Harrison’s sixth MLB team that he’s played for during his career. The two-time All-Star is still searching for his first World Series title and will have a good opportunity to do so with the Phillies. He spent the 2022 season with the Chicago White Sox and had a solid season.
Josh Harrison Is A Versatile MLBbro Veteran
In 119 games, he hit .256 with 27 RBI and 50 runs scored. Harrison can provide value at the plate and in the field. He’s the type of player that can make an impact as a starter or a player coming off the bench. You better believe the Phillies will utilize Harrison the best way they can. The 35-year-old can still play at a high level and it’s no surprise that a team like the Phillies picked him up.
Harrison is best known for his defensive abilities at second base, but this brother can play numerous positions on the field. Last season, in addition to playing second, he played shortstop, third base, left field, and made a few relief appearances on the mound. So the Phillies will definitely find somewhere to put this Swiss Army knife. And if Harrison can put up productive numbers at the plate, it’ll be difficult to keep him out of the lineup.
After all, the Yankees awarded Hicks with a seven-year $70M contract in 2019 after hitting career-highs in homers (27) RBI (79) and hits (119). Then the bottom fell out and injuries mounted, which led to Hicks hitting a total of 30 homers over the next four seasons and totally falling out of favor with the fans.
Brian Cashman Says Hicks Is Leading Candidate For Left Field
As we approach Spring Training exactly a year later, Hicks’ goals are much lower, and his job security has changed significantly. Word on the MLB streets is that the New York Yankees would prefer to trade Hicks and acquire another outfielder, ending the 10-year veteran’s roller coaster tenure in pinstripes.
However, the market for a corner outfielder is shrinking and Yankees GM Brian Cashman said during a Sunday interview on SiriusXM MLB Network Radio, that he’s still got faith in the multi-tooled Hicks and insists that he’s the frontrunner for the starting left field job.
“I suspect he will be the guy that emerges because he is still really talented and everything is there,” said Cashman, adding that Hicks is fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in the postseason. “Hopefully, we can get the Aaron Hicks we know is in there back as a consistent player for us.”
Willie Calhoun Could Challenge For Yankees LF Job
If Hicks doesn’t get the nod, Boone could choose potential over experience and give the untested Oswaldo Cabrera or Estevan Florial a shot.
Boone reportedly also mentioned minor league signing MLBbro Willie Calhoun in a recent interview with the YES Network’s Jack Curry. Calhoun has tons of potential and showed flashes, but never really got it going in Texas once he was beaned in the head.
But overall, the Yankees skipper said he feels like the 33-year-old Hicks “has a chance to really bounce back” from a 2022 campaign in which he slashed .216/.330/.313 with eight home runs and 40 RBI, lost his center field job to Harrison Bader, and told the New York Post he would be open to a trade if it resulted in more playing time.
Things really went south following an above-average 30 game stretch early in the season. Hicks floundered while Yankees fans were enamored with the record setting exploits of Aaron Judge.
Can Hicks Revive Yankees Soul Patrol (All-Black Outfield)?
If Hicks is going to re-establish himself as the third leg of a potential Yankees Soul Patrol (along with MLBbros Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) then he’s going to have to be available for more than 130 games, something he’s only done twice since 2013 and just once in the last four seasons.
With $30.5M still owed to him over the next three seasons, is going to get every opportunity to prove that he’s significantly better than he’s been able to show the past few seasons.