As many baseball fans know, the young talent that is in Major League Baseball right now is some of the best talent at such a young age the game has ever seen.
At just 24 years old, Mike Trout is the face of baseball, and the most talented player in the league.
But Trout isn’t alone.
Seemingly every team has one or two players, both hitters and pitchers, on their current roster who you can tell right away are going to be stars in the very near future, if they’re not stars already.
The scariest part of it all is that these players haven’t even hit the prime of their careers. That’s right – Trout will probably get better. Let that sink in for a second.
It is generally understood that a player’s prime normally occurs between the ages of 28-32. The great players, obviously, keep a steady pace of greatness from their first swing or pitch until their last. Lesser skilled players do not, but the notion still applies that players typically experience their best seasons when they are between 28 and 32 years old.
Since just about every MLB team has a young player that has yet to hit their prime, I wanted to look into what an “All-Star team” of these young players would look like. Essentially, who are the best young players in the game?
For this I decided to set an age restriction. I decided that in order for a player to qualify for this team, they had to be 25 years old or younger at the All-Star break.
I picked the age of 25 as a cutoff because it’s early enough in most of these players’ careers for us as fans to have a good idea of what we should expect from them during the rest of their careers, but it also gives them room to get better.
For this team, I’m drafting 10 players.
One first, second, and third baseman, a shortstop, three outfielders, and three pitchers.
First baseman: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
2014 was his breakout season. He hit for a .286 average with 32 home runs. This year, both the home run numbers and average have dropped slightly, but he has already eclipsed the number of doubles he hit a season ago, is getting on base at a higher rate, and will drive in the most runs in a season to this point in his young career.
Rizzo, who turned 26 a few weeks after the All-Star break (just making the cut), is a two-time All-Star, is in my mind easily the best young first baseman in the league.
Second Baseman: Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
I truly believe that Joe Panik could be the next Derek Jeter-esque type middle infielder. A constant producer and threat in the lineup, and an above-average fielder who stays on his team for the entirety of his career.
That is exactly what the San Francisco Giants have in Panik.
At only 24 years old he has already proven he’s a stud, and he was an important piece to the puzzle that resulted in the Giants winning the World Series last year. Of his six hits in the last year’s Fall Classic, three went for extra bases, and he also drove in three runs.
Granted, Panik has missed time this season due to a back injury, but if he can return at full strength soon, he will be a big help to a Giants team that has taken a claim on October.
Third Baseman: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
It’s really no contest here. Manny Machado has proven this year he is one of the best hitting third baseman – and he is the best defensive third baseman – in the league.
The Baltimore Orioles have a great young player in Machado, who is only 23 years old, that they will have to lock up with a long-term contract this off season (one of the many moves they need to make.)
Machado, who has proven to be an unconventional power-hitting lead off batter for the O’s, has hit 26 home runs (second on the team) while still hitting for a good .290 average (first on the team.)
Machado is a two-time All-Star with a Gold Glove Award and a Platinum Glove Award sitting on the mantle at home. As long as he can stay healthy, Machado – along with Adam Jones – should keep the Orioles relevant for the years to come.
Shortstop: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
There are a lot of good young shortstops in the MLB right now, but it doesn’t look like most of them has quite as much potential as Carlos Correa. The Houston Astros are for real and they appear to be here to stay for a while in a disappointing AL West.
What makes the Astros interesting is that they are very willing to rely on hitting a lot of home runs in exchange for striking out at a horrendous rate.
The good new is, at least through his first 70 games, Correa hasn’t struck out a lot and has hit a good number (16) of home runs. At only 20 years old, and with less than half of a season under his belt, there is obviously a lot we haven’t seen from him.
But if his first 70 games are any indication, Correa is going to be a very good player in this league.
- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angles
He’s the face of the MLB. Was there really any doubt I was going to leave him off this list?
What hasn’t the young Los Angeles Angles slugger done in his career?
He’s won Rookie of the Year, won an MVP, has racked up three Silver Slugger Awards, and his home run-robbing catch at Camden Yards from a few years ago still plays on highlight reels.
There’s not a whole lot you can say about Trout that hasn’t been said. He’s a five-tool player that plays the game the right way.
With nearly the entire month of September left, Trout will most likely surpass his career-high in home runs and is on pace to have the best slugging percentage of his career.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
If you try to imagine what the ideal power hitter looks like standing in the right handed batters box, you should quickly picture Giancarlo Stanton. Standing at 6’6”, 240 lbs, he stands six inches and 60 pounds bigger than Hank Aaron, eight inches and 70 pounds larger than Willie Mays – two of the best right-handed hitters of all time –, and four inches taller than Barry Bonds was during the 2001 season.
In other words, Stanton is huge! He’s a natural power hitter.
The Miami Marlins gave him the most lucrative contract in MLB history for a reason. Few people can hit the ball harder or farther than Stanton. And if he can stay healthy, Stanton has the potential to give baseball fans one of the most impressive seasons, home run wise, in recent history.
3. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Most of you who read this will probably be shocked that my No. 3 outfielder isn’t Bryce Harper. Statistically, Harper is having a great season, no doubt about it.
There are some glaring differences between the two players: Haper is definitely more of a power hitter, whereas Betts is more of a singles, doubles and triples player. But, this hypothetical team I’m creating has enough power hitters on it.
Betts is also a better defender than Harper, and isn’t near the whiner that Harper is.
- Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
The MLB needed Madison Bumgarner. Major League Baseball needed a good pitcher rivalry, and there is none better in the game right now than the one between Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. I’ve often related this rivalry to the one in the NFL between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Kershaw – or Manning – is the better of the two in the regular season, and is also a few years older. Bumgarner and Brady, though, have the post season numbers and the championships that their counterpart does not.
Bumgarner, who turned 26 after the All-Star break, has played six full seasons in the majors, including this year. Three have ended with his Giants hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.
To understand Bumgarner’s greatness, look no further than his World Series success. He is 4-0 and has a save with a 0.25 ERA and 31 strikeouts in the Fall Classic.
As long as San Francisco has Bumgarner, the Giants will always be a threat in September and might as well be looked at as favorites in October.
2. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
The NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2012 is the fire-ball throwing pitcher of the Marlins.
Jose Fernandez is 20-8 with a 2.26 ERA in his interrupted-at-times career.
Injury has been what has interrupted his career. Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery last May, ending his 2014 season with a 4-2 record. Since returning from surgery this season he has had a start skipped and is currently on the 15-day DL with an arm injury.
The most impressive thing about Fernandez, besides his high-90’s fastball mixed with a variation of off speed pitches, is the fact that he is 15-0 in games pitched in the Marlins home ball park. He has yet to lose a decision at home.
For Fernandez, his biggest issue is his health. If he can find a way to stay healthy, which hopefully he can, he is going to be key in the Marlins’ future success.
3. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems hard to believe to me that Gerrit Cole is only 24 years old, probably because unlike most pitchers who get limited starts in their first year, Cole started 19 games his rookie season. He’s been a fixture in the rotation since the beginning.
Cole is certainly the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. His 15-8 record, 2.64 ERA and 168 K’s this year means he is having the best season of his three-year career.
The thing that I like about Cole is that there is consistency in his pitching from year-to-year, but there is also progression from year-to-year. That tells me we have a good idea what he is capable of, but there is also room for improvement.
It seems like Cole, just like all the players on this team, can only get better from here.