About 8 minutes reading time.

10 Players From Outside the U.S. Who Will Make An Impact In the 2024 MLB Season

 Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network  |    Mar 26th, 2024 5:30am EDT

Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the 2024 Seoul Series game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Gocheok Sky Dome on Thursday, March 21, 2024 in Seoul, California. (Photo by Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Opening Day of the 2024 Major League Baseball season is Thursday, March 28. Across the league, dozens of up-and-coming young international players are in a prime position to have a breakout season.  

Here are 10 internationally-born players ready to make a name for themselves.  

Christopher Morel of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the 2024 Spring Training Game between San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park on Sunday, February 25, 2024 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

10. Christopher Morel, CF, Chicago Cubs (Dominican Republic) – The Cubs finished 2023 eighth in home runs in the National League, and Morel hit 26 in just 107 games. 

The 24-year-old has a lot of swing and miss in his game, striking out in 31.0 percent of his at-bats last year. If Morel can cut down on the strikeouts and continue to hit for power, there is a modest chance he could make his first All-Star team.  

Morel played 24 games for the Aguilas Cibaenas during the 2023-24 LIDOM season and hit .217 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 103 plate appearances.  

Outfielder Lee Jung-Hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes runs to first base in the bottom of the fifth inning during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Kiwoom Heroes and Lotte Giants at Gocheok Skydome on April 02, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

9. Jung-Hoo Lee, OF, San Francisco Giants (South Korea) – The 2022 Korean Baseball Organization MVP signed a six-year, $113 million contract with the Giants during the winter.  

Lee’s best attribute is his glove in the outfield, where he won five straight KBO Golden Glove Awards with the Kiwoom Heroes from 2018-22. The 25-year-old is a candidate to bat leadoff for San Francisco and will use his bat-to-ball skills to get on base for power hitters Jorge Soler and Matt Chapman.  

Lee was born in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan, while his father, Lee Jong-beom, played for the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball in 1998. Lee Jong-beom was the 1994 KBO MVP and a 13-time KBO All-Star.  

Junior Caminero of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a picture during Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 18, 2024 in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

8. Junior Caminero, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (Dominican Republic) – Caminero was optioned to Triple-A Durham to begin the 2024 season. Still, he will likely play many games with Tampa Bay this year.  

The Rays No. 1 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline made his MLB debut in 2023 after hitting 31 home runs in 117 games between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. The 20-year-old feasts on fastballs and can also play shortstop.  

Caminero put up big numbers this winter for the Leones del Escogido of LIDOM, putting up a .333/.362/.575 slash line with five home runs in 21 games.  

Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds slides into home plate to score a run past Francisco Alvarez of the New York Mets in the first inning at Great American Ball Park on May 10, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

7. Francisco Alvarez, C, New York Mets (Venezuela) – There is no question that Alvarez is the New York Mets catcher for the foreseeable future.  

He broke out in a big way last season, but at just 22 years old, there figures to be more in the tank. Alvarez smashed 25 home runs in 123 games and projects to raise his batting average from .209 in 2023 to .232 in 2024, according to Baseball Reference. He is also a strong defensive catcher, ranking in the 95th percentile for pitch framing in 2023 per Baseball Savant.  

Born in Guatire, Venezuela, Alvarez dropped out of school at 11 and received his high school diploma from the New York Mets’ Latin American baseball academy. 

Ezequiel Tovar of the Colorado Rockies throws put Will Smith of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Coors Field on September 27, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

6. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies (Venezuela) – Colorado is confident in the 22-year-old, signing him to a seven-year extension worth $63.5 million on Sunday. 

As a rookie in 2023, he started 152 games at shortstop for the Rockies. He displayed excellent defense, saving 13 runs on defense and ranking in the 99th percentile in outs above average (per Baseball Savant). Tovar struck out 166 times in 153 games, so making consistent contact is the next step in his offensive development.  

Tovar was signed as an international free agent by the Rockies in 2017 on his 16th birthday.  

Shota Imanaga of the Chicago Cubs warms up during a spring training workout at Sloan Park on February 20, 2024 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

5. Shota Imanaga, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Japan) – There were rumors that the Cubs were interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but Imanaga flew under the radar. The two were teammates in the 2023 World Baseball Classic for Samurai Japan.  

Imanaga pitched for eight seasons with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of NPB and used his changeup, curveball, and slider to combat a low 90s four-seam fastball. In 2023, he walked an outstanding 24 batters in 148 innings, maintaining incredible command.   

Imanaga is a two-time NPB All-Star and started the 2023 WBC championship against the United States, striking out seven in six innings on the way to a 3-2 win. 

Jasson Domínguez of the New York Yankees smiles during Spring Training at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 23, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images)

4. Jasson Dominguez, OF, New York Yankees (Dominican Republic) – Dominguez will not return from Tommy John surgery in his non-throwing elbow until the summer. However, the 21-year-old’s presence in the Yankees lineup is heavily anticipated. 

He may have been more hyped than any international prospect and drew comparisons to Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout. Dominguez played in eight games with the Yankees in 2023 before he was injured and hit four home runs with a .980 OPS in 33 plate appearances.  

Dominguez, born in Esperanza, Dominican Republic, is named after former New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi. 

Jackson Chourio of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on March 06, 2024 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Aaron Doster/Getty Images)

3. Jackson Chourio, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Venezuela) – Milwaukee signed Chourio to the most considerable extension ever (eight years, $82 million) given to a player who has not made his MLB debut. 

The 19-year-old possesses power and speed, making him a viable option to bat leadoff for the Brewers. According to MLB.com, he is just one of five players with 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a minor league baseball season since 1958.  

Chourio played 17 games for the Aguilas del Zulia of Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional during the 2023-24 winter season and hit .379/.453/.530 with a .984 OPS. 

Elly De La Cruz of the Cincinnati Reds flies out in the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark on March 10, 2023 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

2. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Cincinnati Reds (Dominican Republic) – De La Cruz burst onto the MLB scene last season for the Reds, stealing 35 bases in 98 games and ranking in the 98th percentile for arm strength per Baseball Savant. 

“He’s the best runner I’ve ever seen and has the most power and strongest arm I’ve ever seen,” Joey Votto said of De La Cruz in an ESPN interview with Scott Van Pelt while still with the Reds. “He has a chance to be something spectacular one day.”  

De La Cruz strikes out a lot (33.7 percent in 2023) and has a habit of chasing pitches out of the zone (24th percentile in 2023), but he is only 22. With more at-bats and experience, those numbers may drastically differ in two years. 

Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the top of the first inning during the 2024 Seoul Series game between Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 21, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)

1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Japan) – Yamamoto had a rough time in his first career MLB start, lasting just one inning and allowing five earned runs on four hits in a 15-11 loss to the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea. 

Nevertheless, MLB pitchers are not defined by one start, especially not one owed $325 million over the next 12 years. Yamamoto’s abilities and accolades as a starting pitcher in NPB are well-known, and he has too much talent to overreact to one game in the middle of March.  

Expect Yamamoto to settle into his spot in the rotation with the Dodgers and make an impact on a team with World Series aspirations.  

author avatar
Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network