The Youngster Takeover: MLB’s 25 And Under Team
It’s a new generation of baseball. Former faces of the MLB like Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols are no longer at the top of the game. There are no more guys who will annually go for 50 homeruns a year, despite what Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera are doing this season. But the brand of baseball we’re seeing is more exciting than ever. The influx of young talent is incredible, and fun to watch. This “25 And Under” team features kids that are already stars, and should make you a bigger baseball fan for years to come.
C – Salvador Perez, Royals – 23 – Perez slides in nicely, as guys like Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, and Carlos Santana just missed the age cutoff. Perez’s biggest asset is his play behind the dish. He led the league in caught stealing percentage last year at 42% and is following that up with an excellent 2013 campaign at 35%. At the plate, Perez rarely strikes out, and is one of the better situational hitters in the game. He earned himself a well-deserved All-Star bid this year.
Next up: Wilin Rosario, Rockies – 24
1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks – 25 – Goldschmidt had a solid 2012, but has really burst onto the scene with his MVP-candidate season this year. He mashes the ball to the tune of a .930+ OPS, with 31 HR’s and 106 RBI…so far. And there’s still a month to play. He’s also no slouch on the base paths with 18 steals last year, and 13 this season. How much do pitchers fear Goldschmidt? He leads the NL with 14 intentional walks. He earned his first of what will be many All-Star nods this year.
Next up: Freddie Freeman, Braves – 22, Eric Hosmer, Royals – 23
2B: Jose Altuve, Astros – 23 – Unless your looking in the low-level minors, there aren’t many bright spots for the ‘Stros. Altuve is one of them. Standing 5’5’’, it’s hard not to automatically root for the little guy, but his play gives you reason to like him too. He’s a sparkplug at the top of the lineup, stealing 30+ bases in back-to-back years to go along with his average, hovering around .280. Altuve will hold down the fort until the likes of Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Mark Appel, and Delino DeShields graduate to the bigs.
Next up: Jedd Gyorko, Padres – 24
3B – Manny Machado, Orioles – 21 – For as much talent as there is at the 3B position, Machado is kind of a no-brainer. If he didn’t come up at the same time as some guys named Trout and Harper, he would’ve grabbed even more attention. He currently leads the AL in hits and doubles, and as a natural shortstop, made the transition to 3B look as effortless as possible. There’s not much more to say about Machado, he is going to be the best at his position for many years to come.
Next up: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays -23, Kyle Seager, Mariners – 25
SS – Jean Segura, Brewers, 23 – At the time of the Zack Greinke trade to the Angels, many people thought the Brewers didn’t get enough in return. They got three of the Angels top ten prospects, and after seeing the play of Segura, those talks have been put aside. He is electrifying. He doesn’t have the true power he displayed the first month of the season, but that’s not going to stop him from being an annual .300 hitter with 40+ steals with great defense at a critical position up the middle. Segura is the real deal.
Next up: Andrelton Simmons, Braves – 24, Jurickson Profar, Rangers – 20
OF – Mike Trout, Angels – 22 – Trout is really the only shoe-in in the outfield, a position which has a wealth of depth. This guy is truly unbelievable. He is hands down the best player in the game, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, they’re wrong. He can hit anywhere in the order, he wreaks havoc on the base paths, and plays as one of the top CF’s in the game. He’s one of three hitters with an OPS greater than 1.000 and easily leads the league in WAR. There is no doubt if you were building a team, he is pick #1.
OF – Bryce Harper, Nationals – 20 – Harper has had an injury-plagued season, his numbers haven’t been terrific, and he seems to stir up some emotions in the clubhouse. So why is he on the list? He’s a kid, literally. He can’t even (legally) buy himself a beer. He oozes with raw talent, and no matter what his attitude is, any team would love to have him. His plate discipline is ever improving as evidenced by his increased walk percentage and lower strikeout rate. Great things are ahead for Harper.
OF – Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – 23 – Stanton is one of the premier power hitters in the game, with over 100 HR’s so far in his young career. And that mostly came being the only threat in a very weak Marlins lineup. He’s now joined by the likes of Logan Morrison, Christian Yelich, and Jake Marisnick, which will hopefully land Stanton some protection, and possibly lead to even bigger numbers. If the Marlins want to be seen as anything but perennial losers, they must extend Stanton’s contract.
Next up: Starling Marte, Pirates – 24, Wil Myers, Rays – 22, Yasiel Puig, Dodgers – 22
SP – Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 25 – It’s Kershaw’s sixth season in the bigs, so it’s hard to believe he’s still so young. Words can’t really describe the kind of year he is having, easily on par, if not better, than the 2011 MVP season of Justin Verlander. The crazy thing is he’s still getting better, setting a career-low walk rate. If the Pirates win the division, Andrew McCutchen could steal some MVP votes, but he is the only other guy I could see winning. Kershaw is easily the best pitcher in baseball.
SP – Jose Fernandez, Marlins – 21 – With the year he’s having, it’s hard to remember Fernandez is only 21 years old, and had never thrown a pitch above A-ball before this year. He is already the ace of an ever-improving Marlins staff, and will be a fixture among the names of top pitchers in the game for years to come. It’s his first season in the big leagues, so his innings will be capped within another start or two, but Fernandez will certainly garner some Cy Young votes.
SP Matt Harvey, Mets – 24 – It’s not only a blow to the Mets, but a blow to baseball, to see Harvey go down with his UCL (Tommy John ligament) injury. The decision to have surgery or not should come within the next couple weeks. Harvey was on pace for way over 200 innings and strikeouts, and I think everyone is hoping he comes back just as dominant. He was a huge bright spot in an otherwise awful Mets season.
SP Chris Sale, White Sox – 24 – Coming in at 6’6’’, 180 pounds, Sale is a tall drink of water, with a very deceptive, funky delivery. It’s obviously getting the job done, as he’s looked every part of an ace on a fairly poor White Sox team. His name should be thrown in with Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, and Felix Hernandez as the best arm in the AL. There were rumors of the Sox having him on the block, and if they try to move him in the offseason, they will get a huge haul for the two-time All-Star.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants – 24 – Bumgarner seems to just get better and better with each passing year, even as the rest of his teammates haven’t showed up to play this season. He’s signed to an extremely team-friendly deal through 2017, and is a core player for the Giants future.
Next up: Shelby Miller, Cardinals -22, Matt Moore, Rays – 24, Julio Teheran, Braves -22, Mat Latos, Reds – 25, Mike Minor, Braves – 25
RP – Craig Kimbrel, Braves – 25 – No reliever has been as dominant over the past three seasons as Kimbrel. He’s led the NL in saves the past two years, and is on pace to do the same this year. He owns a ridiculous 15.1 K/9 and 4.6 K/BB over his career. There’s no reliever in the game I’d rather have.
RP – Aroldis Chapman, Reds – 25 – Chapman’s a straight flamethrower, having fastballs that come in anywhere up to 103 mph. The Cuban defect has posted a 14.5 K/9 over his career, and is one of the most intimidating pitchers to face. It will be interesting to see if the Reds will try to convert him into the rotation, where he could probably be more valuable. Right now, it seems he’s quite comfortable closing out games.
Next up: Rex Brothers, Rockies – 25, Addison Reed, White Sox – 24