The Super Bowl is over and it was a game to remember. While many folks tuned in to see Usher, a glimpse of Taylor Swift or the high dollar commercials, real football fans were on the edge of their couch. As most of us know, the battle went into overtime and the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas Chiefs edged the San Francisco 49ers to win their second straight crown. A dynasty in the works? Perhaps. But now it’s time to switch gears.

A couple of days prior to the Super Bowl, nearly 37,000 Latino baseball fans showed up at Loan Depot Park in Miami to watch the Caribbean Series championship game between Venezuela’s Tiburones de La Guaira against the Dominican Republic’s favored Tigres del Licey. And with future Hall of Fame candidate Miguel Cabrera and Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres among the crowd, the South Americans prevailed 3-0 to win the title for the first time as a republic since 2009. Also, La Guaira’s manager Ozzie Guillen would very much like to get another shot to be the boss of a big league team. The time is ripe as an average of 25% of MLB rosters contain players of Hispanic descent, some teams more and others less. But as clubs now assemble for spring training in Arizona and Florida, young Hispanic player invitees to camps are at an even higher percentage.

With that in mind and as a former scout for two major league organizations, I’m going out on a limb and predict the clubs I think will dominate in 2024, according to their league and divisions. That is a bit tricky since there are several high profile free agents still on the market who remain unsigned, and many teams are already dealing with injuries. But here we go.

National League East

Division Winner, Atlanta Braves

In the hunt…Phillies, Mets and Marlins

The Braves just have too many horses in the lineup, led by Ronald Acuna, Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna. That said, the pitching rotation could be an issue. This is a very competitive division, and every club has a shot to sneak into the post season except the Nationals. I feel sorry for Dave Martinez.

National League Central

Division Winner, St. Louis Cardinals

In the hunt…Cubs and Reds

The Cardinals muscled up on pitching this winter, and should be the team to beat. The Cubbies are always an enigma, while the Reds are probably the most dangerous on paper. Don’t expect the Brewers to repeat as champs this year after losing ace pitcher Corbin Burnes and others via free agency.

National League West

Division Winner, Los Angeles Dodgers

In the hunt…Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks

The Dodgers will run away early as always. Shohei Ohtani should hit plenty and could make a difference in the team’s post season performance. But the Giants will be better and the Padres will be as good as their pitching permits. Don’t see the D-Backs contending like they did last season. That’s just my read.

American League East

Division Winner, New York Yankees

In the hunt…Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays

The trade with the Padres for Juan Soto put the Bronx Bombers over the top. They will have the best pitching too, if Carlos Rodon and Nester Cortes have comeback seasons as projected. The Blue Jays will make some noise if they hit to their potential. The Orioles have a nice young team, but don’t have the firepower to repeat at the top in 2024.

American League Central

Division Winner, Minnesota Twins

In the hunt…Tigers, Guardians, Royals

The Carlos Correa-led Twins will take the title again, but a couple of clubs have improved and will make this race competitive. The Tigers will start to roar and could be last year’s version of the Orioles, although not quite to that extent. And Kansas City was very aggressive in the off season, especially in the pitching department, picking up quality free agent starters Michael Wacha and Puerto Rico’s Seth Lugo.

American League West

Division Winner, Houston Astros

In the hunt…Rangers, Mariners

Despite being World Series champs, the Rangers will lose out to the Astros, who always win the AL West. Bruce Bochy’s team simply got hot at the right time, and they will need to do that again this year. But Houston, with all its talent, will need to learn how to win at home. Now that Dusty has retired, perhaps the team will feel less pressure. As for Seattle, a club that is stronger on paper than the Rangers, they will need to learn how to win in September.

Key Latino Players To Watch

Juan Soto, Yankees

As previously stated, the 25 year old Dominican will be instrumental in the Yankees success, especially with the short right field porch. And it was a bold gamble, since Soto will become a free agent next season and New York hopes to resign him.

Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays

The pudgy Mexican catcher had a down year in 2023 plagued with injuries, and as a result, his numbers were down. But Kirk, only 25, is a power guy and an important element in the Jays dangerous lineup that includes Vlad Guerrero Jr. and others.

Carlos Correa, Twins

The 28 year old Puerto Rican makes crazy money ($32 million) with overall production that doesn’t match. If Carlos can dominate like he did in 2021 with the Astros during “Correa time,” the Twins could go deep in the post season.

Yordan Alvarez, Astros

The Astros super star DH says he wants to play more in left field this season. That’s great, but the team needs Yordan’s bat more than his glove, and the 27 year old Dominican had considerably less at-bats last year than he did in 2022 and 2021. Whatever the case, I’m certain new manager Joe Espada’s main concern is a healthy Alvarez, who went yard 31 times in 2023 after only 410 times at the plate due to nagging injuries.

Francisco Alvarez, Mets

One of the best kept secrets outside of Queens is the Mets 22 year old catcher. Although not arbitration eligible until 2026, the New York front office is expected to lock in the Venezuelan receiver to a long term deal sometime during spring training. Known for his defensive skills and rocket arm, Alvarez launched 25 bombs last year in just 382 at-bats, and will need to hit even more if the Mets are to challenge the favored Braves for the division title.

Elly de la Cruz, Reds

The Reds are probably the ultimate dark horse in the NL Central, but how they end up in the race will depend a lot on the progress of Elly de la Cruz, the team’s 21 year old phenom. Will the Dominican youngster play shortstop or third base? Will one of his home runs break a record in exit velocity? How close will the kid come to breaking Rickey Henderson’s stolen base mark? Nobody knows the answer to these questions. But any Reds fan will simply tell you that watching Elly perform is worth the price of admission.

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

It wasn’t long ago that Fernando signed a massive multi-year pact and was considered San Diego’s shortstop of the future. But a lot has happened since then, and the player Hispanics call “El NiƱo found himself entertaining fans in right field and winning a Gold Glove. Now because of his speed and rocket arm, Tatis Jr. may now move over to center field as the Padres adjust to a lower payroll and try to regain the club’s success of 2022. Still only 24, Fernando’s offensive numbers were above average in 2023, but will need to improve on his walk to strikeout ratio.

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Esteban "Steve" Randel is a veteran journalist specializing in current events, sports, politics and Hispanic cuisine. He is the former publisher of "The Latin Athlete" and a longtime activist in the SoCal Hispanic community.

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