It’s finally here. Well, almost. Major League Baseball is almost back. We’re so close! So close to the return of immaculate infields, popping fastballs, and towering home runs. However, the most anticipated return is yet to come. It’s the uncontested, indisputable greatest aspect of America’s Pastime: loud and unrepentant bat flips.
The only thing that comes close to the excitement and pageantry of a deep home run is the celebration that immediately follows in its wake, as players get to cut loose and show off both their competitive drive and individual flair.
Of course, not all celebrations are created equal. Some players naturally showcase a little more enthusiasm and emotion when they come through in the clutch. This article is dedicated to those hitters, those that dare to have fun and wear their emotions on their sleeve for the benefit of fans everywhere and the game of baseball at large.
Whether you’re a first-time fan looking for an exciting player to become your new favorite or a veteran of sunflower seeds and the dog days of summer, here’s a quick round-up of six of MLB’s most entertaining and colorful players for you to keep an eye on in 2021. Pitchers, you might want to sit this one out.
One of the more underrated bat flip heroes of last year, Trevor Story never quite seems to capture the national attention that a shortstop of his talents deserves.
While Story might not necessarily be the first name that jumps to mind when you think of over-the-top celebrations, he’s been known to give pitchers a show when they miss inside the zone. What’s more, is that Story has some of the most fluid bat flips in baseball, as he gracefully lets the bat tumble away out of his backswing. You can’t teach that kind of natural swagger.
Willson Contreras holds it down for baseball’s backstops on this list, and has made a name for himself cranking home runs beyond the ivy at Wrigley. Contreras has been one of MLB’s premier catchers since he debuted in 2016, and has been rattling off dinger after dinger pretty much ever since.
And while he doesn’t always let it fly, Contreras can bat flip with the best of them when the situation calls for it. Contreras has certainly made his mark on the classic crosstown rivalry between the Cubs and White Sox during his time on the North Side, highlighted by an unreal bat launch in a heated matchup against Dylan Cease last year.
Seriously, he had to have set a record for height here, and it appropriately ended up as a finalist in our 2020 Bat Flip Thunderdome. Stand back and marvel.
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to argue Manny Machado isn’t one of the most dynamic players in Major League Baseball.
When he’s not making impossible plays on screamers down the line at third, he’s clobbering home runs into the Petco Park bleachers. Machado has taken quickly to his new home in San Diego, where he’s fit right in amongst a group of baseball’s most talented and thrilling players in the Padres.
Somehow, Machado isn’t even the best bat flipper on his own team, though that speaks more to the star power of his teammates than it does Machado. See for yourself why Manny Being Manny is one of the most exciting at-bats in baseball.
You simply cannot have a list of the most electrifying players in baseball without Tim Anderson. There is no one as effortlessly cool as T.A. when he grooves a fastball deep into the Chicago night, and few that celebrate as loudly.
The White Sox shortstop is smoother than silk when he shrugs off a bat drop to jumpstart a game, and doesn’t mind taking a glance at his handiwork as the ball leaves the yard.
He’s also liable to explode with a spear of a bat toss that would make Olympic javelin legend Jan Železný jealous. As the face of South Side baseball, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining or more beloved player than Tim Anderson.
Ronald Acuña Jr.
When Ronald Acuña Jr. exploded onto the scene in 2018, he took the baseball world by storm with his five-tool talent and impassioned play style. He was immediately catapulted to the forefront of MLB’s next generation of superstars, and took home the NL Rookie of the Year award in his debut campaign.
However, it’s Acuña’s sixth tool that lands him among the game’s premier celebrators— his penchant for jaw-dropping bat flips. There are few rivals to Acuña when it comes to clobbering mammoth home runs, and even fewer that can pimp them like the Atlanta centerfielder.
If that wasn’t enough, watch as Acuña serves his rival José Ureña some baseball karma in response to the pitcher’s beanball vendetta. Revenge is a bat flip served cold, and you can’t get much colder than Acuña’s absolutely frigid toss down the first baseline.
There’s nothing like a little baseball justice, and Acuña dealt it out in spades here.
Fernando Tatís Jr.
Okay, you can relax now.
You obviously can’t have a list of the most exciting players in baseball without Fernando Tatís Jr., and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better representative for today’s MLB. Bold, youthful, and unafraid to be himself, Tatís captivated fans across the nation with his stunning displays on both sides of the ball, from incredible diving plays to Hobbsian blasts over the Western Metal Supply building.
He’s at the center of the Let The Kids Play movement, and the face of baseball as it enters the next decade. Oh, and he’s done all of that before even completing his first full season.
Welcome to the light show.
And in the playoffs, Tatís turns bat flips into an art. It’s the dawn of a new era in San Diego baseball, one that will hopefully include many more moments like these over the next decade of Tatís’ career in the brown and gold.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)