4. Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers), 24
Another young Cuban makes the list with Puig coming in at number four. Everyone knows Puig’s theatrics on-and-off the field but when he is on, he is one of the best players in the league. Even though we did see a drop in his average and home runs, he played 44 more games and hit more doubles and triples then his rookie campaign. With the log jam in the Dodgers’ outfield less crowded, Puig is slated in right field for the upcoming season which will make a big difference for him.
Expect a better offensive season similar to his rookie year where he hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs rather than his 2014 year where he hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 home runs. With Kemp gone to San Diego Puig will man the middle of the order for LA. They are expecting big things from him this season and you should to, only if he can keep his work ethic up and drama down.
3. Jose Altuve (Houston Astros), 24
Altuve continued his climb to being one of the best second basemen in the league with a career year last season. He led the majors with a .341 average compiling 225 hits, one of just two players (Michael Brantley the other) to reach the 200 hit plateau. He also was third in doubles (47) and second in stolen bases (56). Altuve made his second All-Star game and won his first Silver Slugger.
In 2015, I can’t see him hit .341 again but it’s not out of this world for him to hit around .310 with good stolen base numbers. Altuve is a very good contact hitter who does not strikeout much so it is easy to say he will be a .300 hitter. The Astros are still a couple of years away from legitimately contending but having Altuve and George Springer at the top of your lineup is enough for people to be optimistic.
2. Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals), 22
We have heard and created the hype around Bryce Harper since he was 16 years old, and we are all still waiting for that breakout season ala Mike Trout. His injury history has seemed to derail him in his first three seasons, playing only 100 games in 2014. Because of the injury, his numbers were down from 2013. He hit .273, which is where he has been around so far in his career. He hit only 13 home runs and struck out 104 times. If healthy, Harper is a monster and we saw that in the 2014 playoffs. He hit .294 with 3 home runs in four games.
Trout and Harper will forever be compared because they came up together with the same hype as the “next big things.” It is unfair for Harper right now because Trout is simply the better player. If Harper can stay healthy for a full season it would be fun to see the numbers he could put up. He is an extraordinary talent but his injury history will be a concern. I think he is good for 140 games, .280 with 25 home runs next season.
1. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), 23
The obvious number one choice, Trout, is a once in a lifetime talent, and he has proven that in his first three big league seasons. He has won three Silver Sluggers, made three All-Star appearances, and won the 2014 AL MVP after finishing second the previous two years. Though his average dipped to .286 and he struck out a career high, he drove in a career high 111 runs, hit a career high 36 home runs, and led the league in runs with 115. Defensively, Trout is a very good center fielder with the flare for making impossible catches.
I think Trout will get back to hitting for more contact and stealing more bases while also hitting for power. A perennial All-Star and MVP every season, Trout should hit .300 with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He is a five-tool star who I expect to take home another MVP award in 2015. Will Trout be the next $300 million man? If he continues putting up the numbers he does there will be no doubt in mind that he will get well more than Giancarlo Stanton got this offseason.