The kids. The future. An incredibly essential part of any team is having good, young players and developing those players to achieve their full potential. The 25 players listed below, are quite simply the 25 best under 25.
Note: Any player that turns 26 by the end of the regular season was disqualified (I.E. George Springer)
25. Roberto Osuna: Toronto Blue Jays, CP, 20 years old
Coming out of Spring Training, there was a lot of buzz out of Toronto about two young power arms Toronto had in the form of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. Castro was given the closer job early on, but struggled after a good start and was optioned to AAA in early May before being included in the package to acquire Troy Tulowitzki. Osuna on the other hand has stuck and stuck well. He served mainly in as a middle reliever or setup man through the first part of the season, but in late June he was given the closer job and hasn’t relinquished it yet. Osuna has recorded 16 consecutive saves, and hasn’t allowed a run in 10 straight games. Much has been made of the Blue Jays potent offense, and how David Price has given them the ace they were so badly lacking, but Osuna has been somewhat overlooked throughout this rampage the Jays have been on. He’s been a huge factor in some of the wins, shutting the door on several close games in the last month or so and will without a doubt be an integral part of the Jays success in the postseason.
24. Jeurys Familia: New York Mets, CP, 25 years old
Likewise to Toronto, most of the talk around the Mets has revolved around the dynamic rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese along with the depth they have behind those five with Steven Matz and Dillon Gee. Yet in the bullpen there’s a little talked about closer named Jeurys Familia who has been nothing short of stellar this year save for a few games post all-star break. After serving mainly as a middle relief workhorse last season, Familia beat out veteran power pitcher Bobby Parnell for the vacant closer job this year due to Jenrry Mejia’s first suspension. Throughout this season, Familia has racked up 36 saves, and posted a terrific 1.78 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. David Ortiz was recently quoted as saying, “Familia, man, blowing a splitter at 95 miles per hour? Are you crazy? Nobody is going to hit that. Then 100 miles per hour? They got it.” When one of the best hitters in the last decade is throwing you praise like that, you know you’re doing something right.
23. Noah Syndergaard: New York Mets, SP, 23 years old
While Jeurys Familia is the pitcher no one is talking about, Noah Syndergaard is the pitcher everyone is talking about. After five years of being one of the most talked about pitching prospects, the flamethrowing Syndergaard was given the call in early May, and has been a vital part of the Mets rotation throughout the campaign. There is still some kinks to work out, especially Syndergaard’s below average road numbers, but that’s something that will likely come with time and experience. With the Mets looking like they will be returning to the playoffs this year, having a big, young arm in the form of Syndergaard will be a huge boost if the Mets are to make a run at the World Series.
22. Michael Wacha: St. Louis Cardinals, SP, 24 years old
Yet again, the Cardinals are looking like a World Series favorite as the season winds down, and yet again their untouchable rotation is a reason why. An untouchable rotation that doesn’t even feature ace Adam Wainwright who was lost early in the season. It certainly lessens the blow of losing him though, when you have five top notch starters following behind, a group headed by 24-year-old Michael Wacha. Just how sick is Wacha? In his career, Wacha has started 53 total games. He has allowed double digit runs zero times, and double digit hits only twice, both in his rookie year. Never in his career has Wacha allowed more than six runs, and he’s only done that once. Wacha is just Mr. Consistency for the Cards, a guy you can count on to keep you in the game every night out. If Waino is back for the postseason, Mike Matheny has already said he’ll be working out of the bullpen meaning Wacha will almost surely be the Game 1 starter of the NLDS. Something tells me he’ll be able to handle the pressure.
21. Maikel Franco: Philadelphia Phillies, 3B, 22 years old
Not much has gone right for the lowly Phillies this year. The core of their 2008 championship team has been dwindled down to just Ryan Howard, as Hamels, Utley and Rollins have all been dealt in the last 10 months. One of the few bright spots has been third baseman Maikel Franco, who after a rough start, really came into his own as a hitter, posting 13 HR and 48 RBI with a .277/.340/.490 slash before landing on the DL in August. Franco was a little iffy with the glove, committing 10 errors and having a poor defensive WAR and Range Factor, but those are flaws that can be fixed through training and experience. The truth of the matter is that it’s a dark time in Philadelphia for baseball and Franco along with Aaron Nola and Ken Giles are the glimmers of hope for the future.
20. Anthony Rendon: Washington Nationals, 3B, 25 years old
After a breakout season in 2014 which saw him hit 21 homers, knock in 83 runs and slash .287/.351/.473, Rendon has taken a step back largely due to health issues. Through 50 games and 189 AB’s, he only has three home runs and 14 RBI. Not quite the numbers he posted last year, but despite this he’s still one of the best young players in baseball. Another possible reason for Rendon’s struggles is he’s had to adjust to a new position. After playing third primarily last season, Matt Williams elected to leave Yunel Escobar there once Rendon returned from injury, and instead placed him at second base. It realistically may be be safe to consider this a lost year for the former Rice Owl, and it’s also safe to assume that he’ll be back to where he was when he’s healthy the full year.
19. Eric Hosmer: Kansas City Royals, 1B, 25 years old
After a roller coaster first couple years, it looks like Eric Hosmer may be finally coming into his own as a star. Hosmer’s career started well in 2011 as he hit .293 with 19 home runs, only to follow that with a .232/.304/.359 slash and an ugly -0.7 WAR. Then the next year he was back, upping his average to .302 and a much more satisfying WAR of 3.6. The trend continued though, as he only managed nine home runs last season and a .270 average while missing time with injury, though he was clutch for the Royals in the postseason. He has since rode that postseason success into this campaign, and knocking in 77 runs, with 14 home runs and hitting .311/.372/.471, by far the best numbers of his career whilst playing solid defense at first too. Next season though, will be a big one for the former top prospect. Hosmer will be 26 at the start of the 2016 campaign, and the question will be whether or not he can consistently put up good numbers, or is his career just going to be up and down, up and down.
18. Mookie Betts: Boston Red Sox, CF, 22 years old
I’ll admit it. I didn’t think much of Markus “Mookie” Betts when he came up last season despite good numbers, and I really didn’t think much of him when he struggled early on in this campaign. Now I’ll openly admit though that I’m wrong, as Betts has proven he’s indeed a very good baseball player. Much was made of Betts speed and his flashiness with the glove, but he didn’t get a whole lot of attention on power and he’s managed to crank out 13 bombs and 62 RBI along with swiping 17 bases. What makes Betts so fun to watch though is his ability to do crazy things in center, and has already made several sensational grabs. Likewise to Bryant, Betts would be a surefire pick for the AL ROY, if it wasn’t for that fellow named Carlos Correa. It’s been a long year for Red Sox fans, but players like Betts, Bogaerts, Swihart and even Travis Shaw are showing what the future could behold at Fenway.
17. Trevor Rosenthal: St. Louis Cardinals, CP, 25 years old
For the last few years, Trevor Rosenthal has been good but not great. While he’d generally get good numbers in the saves category, he’d lose a few games, blow a few saves and his WHIP and ERA would generally be high for a closer. This year though, it has all seemed to come together for the young phenom. Rosenthal is going to easily shatter his career high in saves, and has been nothing short of lights out for the Cards this year, only blowing two saves while recording 42. You could say pretty safely that Rosenthal has been the best closer in baseball this year. His WHIP isn’t fantastic as he does tends to walk batters, but they rarely come across to score due to the amount of strikeouts he records. He also has the highest WAR of any NL reliever. The Cardinals went to the NLCS last year despite the fact Rosenthal struggled throughout the season and the postseason. Just imagine how dangerous they will be this year with the form he’s in.
16. Joe Panik: San Francisco Giants, 2B, 24 years old
Joe Panik is one of the best players in baseball no one is talking about, and what he really is is an old school second basemen. Nowadays, most second basemen are either big power guys like Brian Dozier or pre-Mariners Robinson Cano or they’re blazing speed guys like Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve. Panik however, is similar to guys like Jason Kipnis and D.J. LeMahieu. He’ll never hit 25-30 home runs nor will he ever steal 40-50 bases. Panik is a guy who will hit for a high average, get on base a ton and play above average a defense. He truly defines what a great #2 hitter is. The great thing for Panik is he never has to be that speedster or power bat because of the team the Giants have around him.
15. Kris Bryant: Chicago Cubs, 3B, 23 years old
So yes, ladies and gentlemen. Here is the golden boy, Kris Bryant. I know some people may be surprised he’s not higher, but while Bryant is without a doubt fantastic, he has his share of flaws. The biggest one, is his NL leading 160 strikeouts, along with his total inability to hit with two strikes. Bryant’s also had some inconsistencies, including a brutal month of July. Despite all this though, the kid is still something else. He’s been everything the Cubs have wanted, knocking 21 balls out of the park, driving in 80 runs and hitting .265/.367/.480. Bryant is also solid at the hot corner, and has shown the ability to play the OF if necessary. His 3.9 WAR also leads all rookies not named Duffy or Betts, and he’d likely be running away with the NL ROY if it weren’t for that pesky 3B in San Francisco, who we’ll get to later. For once, it’s a good time to be a Cubs fan and this guy is a big reason why.
14. Shelby Miller: Atlanta Braves, SP, 24 years old
Poor Shelby Miller. He may actually be the unluckiest pitcher baseball has ever seen. Despite the fact that he has Cy Young caliber numbers, Miller hasn’t won since May 17th when he came close to no-hitting the Marlins. In the time that has spanned between Miller’s last win, we’ve crowned a Stanley Cup champion, an NBA champion, the Premier League ended and began again and Japan won another Little League World Series. It’s been nearly four months and 19 starts since Miller has won. His ERA is a dominant 2.56, and opponents are only hitting .227 against him yet his W-L record is a lowly 5-12. Even Fernando Rodney and his sky high ERA have more wins than Miller! Wins and losses aside, Miller has been stellar for the Braves after being acquired for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in the offseason. While Miller posted good numbers in St. Louis, it seems that the Houston native is finally finding his groove and has all the makings to be an ace in this league.
13. Matt Duffy: San Francisco Giants, 3B, 24 years old
When it was reported in the offseason that San Francisco had made a big effort to resign Pablo Sandoval, I for one was surprised. To start, the Panda has always been a good player, but he’s definitely most recognized for the unbelievable 2012 playoff year. Besides that, he was mainly a .270-.280 hitter with decent power who got on base. The other reason I was surprised, was the fact that under Sandoval at 3rd, the Giants had a hot prospect in Matt Duffy, who posted respectable numbers in limited 2014 action. Now in full 2015 action, those respectable numbers have becoming outstanding numbers as Duffy has burst on the scene and has all the Giants faithful saying “Pablo who?”. While Sandoval has withered in the cold of Boston, Duffy has blossomed in the San Francisco sunshine. He is considered a favorite for the NL ROY, and has solidified an elite infield with Crawford, Panik and Belt. Like Panik, Duffy is never going to be a 30 Home Run guy, but he is much more of a run producer than his teammate and does have a little more pop. On top of that, Duffy has been solid at the hot corner, only committing nine errors with solid range and a good defensive WAR.
12. Miguel Sano: Minnesota Twins, INF/DH, 22 years old
As I was first compiling this list, I didn’t even include Miguel Sano in the top 25. Then he started hitting home runs, but then he quickly stopped hitting them. Sano then began clubbing them, and clubbing a lot of them. Sano isn’t hitting 331-foot fly balls that barely clear the left fielder’s outstretched glove. He’s hitting 400-foot moonshots that are landing in the upper deck. Sano has struck out a considerable amount, but that’s not uncommon for a young power hitter with a swing as mighty as his. What makes Sano stand out though, is apart from the power and the strikeouts, he’s done a terrific job hitting for average and has a tremendous .402 OBP which is a rarity amongst young power hitters. Not often do you see young guns with the raw power that Sano has, able to hit for average (see Pederson and Zunino.) Sano was brought up as a third basemen, but it very much seems that he’ll be handling the DH duties rather than playing the field where he’s not spectacular. Sano has 14 Home runs and 41 RBI in only 50 games. That would put him on pace for 45 bombs and 132 RBI in a 162 game season. Safe to say this kid is going to have quite the career.
11. Gerrit Cole: Pittsburgh PIrates, SP, 24 years old
Similarly to Shelby MIller, Gerrit Cole was a very good pitcher his first two seasons, but this year has began breaking through as a star. Cole has slipped a little posting a good, but not great August before being hit hard in his first September start, but he still has a terrific 2.64 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Cole has also been terrific at not giving up the long ball, only yielding nine home runs throughout 173.2 innings this year, despite the fact that his ground ball to fly ball ratio is nearly even. What makes Cole so deadly is some of the movement on his pitches. Likewise to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, Cole’s pitches dip and dive and move to where they can be unhittable if he’s on his game. He’ll be the Pirates starter in the WC game, and at 24 is looking at a likely Cy Young within the next couple years.
10. Xander Bogaerts: Boston Red Sox, SS, 22 years old
Maybe it’s just something about Red Sox players, but similarly to Mookie Betts, I didn’t think Xander Bogaerts was anything special coming into this year. He’d shown flashes his first two years, but I didn’t see anything to make me believe he had superstar potential. Just like his teammate though, Bogaerts has proved me wrong, and can very clearly play this game and play it very well. Bogaerts doesn’t have much power, but is magnificent with runners in scoring position hitting .378/.394/.487 in those situations, to give him 63 RBI, good for 3rd amongst shortstops in the MLB. With the amount of RBI he’s had, combined with great hitting numbers and a terrific glove, you could make a pretty solid case that Bogaerts has been the 2nd best SS in baseball this year.
9. Carlos Correa: Houston Astros, SS, 20 years old
Why is Bogaerts only 2nd you ask? He’s 2nd because of this kid in Houston by the name of Correa, and yes at 20 years old Carlos Correa has been the best shortstop in baseball this season. Coming into this season, I had concerns about Correa. Not that he wasn’t immensely talented, but I wondered how a young prospect would be able to bounce back from a major injury after Correa fractured his fibula in June of last year. Apparently very well. Correa made his MLB debut on June 8th, and has been simply sensational ever since. He’s powered out 16 home runs along with 45 RBI while hitting .276/.345/.513. On top of that, he can flash the leather too, making a solid number of dazzling plays at short. He can also run a little bit too, swiping 11 bases and only getting caught three times. Correa has hit a bit of slump lately, but that could likely be attributed to a nagging hamstring injury. While Mookie Betts has had a good season, Correa has been marvelous and is going to likely runaway with the AL ROY.
8. Jose Fernandez: Miami Marlins, SP, 23 years old
It’s pretty easy to figure out what has hindered Jose Fernandez from already having a Cy Young. After a brilliant rookie year which saw him NL Rookie of the Year Fernandez has struggled terribly with injuries. After needing Tommy John last year, Fernandez landed back on the DL after seven starts this year with a strained bicep. Despite the injuries, Fernandez has been able to prove he’s something special on the mound. Fernandez has compiled a 20-8 record over three years, and is yet to be defeated at Marlins Park. One of the most amazing things about Fernandez is how little hits he gives up. Across his 43 starts, Fernandez has only given up 181 hits, just slightly over four per game. Fernandez has also racked up punchouts, while at the same time not giving batters free passes. If Fernandez can keep himself off the DL, he really has a chance to be one of the very best in the business.
7. Jose Altuve: Houston Astros, 2B, 25 years old
Doesn’t it feel like Altuve’s been around forever? It’s amazing that at 25, Altuve is already in his 5th year in the league and the scrappy second basemen has made a pretty good name for himself. Altuve has established himself as a terrific hitter, literally regardless of where the pitch is. Part of what makes him so exciting is the fact that Altuve will swing at just about anything, even leaping to swing at a pitch last year. Nine times out of 10, he puts the ball in play, and usually for a base hit. Altuve is also stellar on the basepaths, swiping 36 bases this year after picking up 55 last season. He can hit for contact, runs well, plays above average defense and has a little pop for a guy who only stands at 5’6 and weighs 165 pounds. He’s hit a career high 11 long balls this season, and is on pace for a career high in RBI’s. If he has any flaws, it’s that he doesn’t walk often, and his extra base hit numbers are considerably lower than last year, but that’s really about all there is to critique about this kid.
6. Sonny Gray: Oakland Athletics, SP, 25 years old
If you were to ask someone to name the top starter in the AL, you’d probably hear the names Hernandez, Price, Sale, Keuchel and Archer. Probably not many will mention the name Sonny Gray, but he just might be the best hurler the AL has to offer. Gray isn’t the sexy pick by any means, largely because he doesn’t throw gas or rack up strikeouts. What Gray does provide is tremendous consistency, rock solid outings and a straight filthy 12-6 curveball. Gray also just continues to get better and better. Last year, Gray’s control wasn’t fantastic and he walked 74 batters. This year, he’s only walked 47, a significant decrease and a decrease which has helped him put up a terrific 1.00 WHIP, and has the Cy Young race in a dead heat between him and Keuchel. Keuchel has Gray on strikeouts and ERA, but there’s still time for Gray to close strong and capture his 1st of what should be multiple Cy Youngs.
5. Manny Machado: Baltimore Orioles, 3B, 23 years old
Since the day Manny Machado debuted, the hype meter has been filled to the max. Machado debuted in 2012, putting up solid numbers in limited at bats. The following year he was magnificent, registering a whopping 51 doubles while hitting 14 home runs and driving in 71 runs. Last year was promising for Manny, but injuries hampered him throughout the campaign, and he could never really find his groove. Not only has Machado found his groove this year, but he’s made a whole new groove. Machado has launched a career high 26 home runs with 67 RBI and a .291/.356/.495 slash, easily the best of his career. While the Orioles have struggled, Machado is a big reason they’re even sniffing the postseason, as he’s had to pick up the slack with Adam Jones not looking like Adam Jones. That’s not even half of what makes him a star though. What separates him from the rest is his unbelievable range at the hot corner. Machado has a range factor of 3.09, which is the best among AL third basemen. Considering he also has stolen 17 bases, Machado really has all the tools to be considered the sacred five tool player.
4. Nolan Arenado: Colorado Rockies, 3B, 24 years old
Nolan Arenado is simply awesome. There’s really no other way to describe just how good this kid is. He sometimes goes unnoticed just because of how bad the Rox are, but Arenado has been one of the best players in the National League this year. Arenado’s 34 long balls are good for 2nd in the NL, but he stands atop the mountain in RBI, driving in 102 already this year. Arenado’s only real flaw as a hitter is the fact that he doesn’t get on base a ton, with only an average .318 OBP. His slugging percentage is elite though, as his ability to bring in runners in scoring position. Defensively, the names like Donaldson, Seager, Beltre and Machado may get mentioned before Arenado, but the NL gold glove winner of last year very well may be the best of them all. Arenado’s 3.39 range factor is the best in the league amongst third basemen as his 2.4 defensive WAR. He also is at the top in total chances, and assists. His bat will get a lot of the attention, but make no mistake. He can pick it too.
3. Giancarlo Stanton: Miami Marlins, RF, 25 years old
Is Giancarlo Stanton the guy who can end the 60 home run drought? He’s definitely got the power to, and he was on pace to hit 60 this year before going down with injury. Either way, Stanton has a degree of raw power that we haven’t seen in the MLB in a long, long time. Stanton has hit at least 20 taters in each of his first 6 seasons, though has only driven in over 100 runs once. The big knock that comes against Giancarlo is that he doesn’t hit for great average, but he does an excellent job getting on base, consistently posting high OBP. Plus when you have the power he possesses, you can get by hitting .260 or .270. In the field, Stanton isn’t by any means an elite defender, but he’s not totally lost. Stanton isn’t like a Trout or a Harper where he’s a five tool player, but he’s got the best pop of any player on this list.
2. Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals, RF, 22 years old
After being one of the most talked about young players in recent memory, Bryce Harper has finally shown just why he’s so highly regarded. After three injury plagued, underwhelming years, Bryce Harper has become a bona fide superstar. While his 2nd half numbers have dropped a little Harper is still a top MVP candidate with his 31 deep flies, 78 RBI and terrific .331/.460/.627 slash. Harper also leads the league with an 8.0 WAR and a 1.090 OPS. There are still questions about his work ethic, and worries that it could hinder him achieving his potential, but it has to be remembered Harper is still only 22. It just seems like he’s older because he debuted at 18. It’s always the bat that gets the attention, but Harper also does a fairly good job in the field, and has top-five range amongst right fielders this year. He doesn’t quite qualify as a total five tool player, simply because his glove and speed aren’t quite elite, but regardless, Harper is still a superstar.
1. Mike Trout: Los Angeles of Anaheim, CF, 24 years old
Did you really expect to see anyone different than Michael Nelson Trout? Trout is simply the best player in baseball, and that really isn’t up for debate. This year, Trout has 33 home runs, 74 RBI and a .297/.397/.575 slash. Oh and that’s a down year for him. One of the places Trout needed improvement was in the strikeout department, where he was punched out 184 times last year. The numbers are still high, with 128 this year but it’s still an improvement for a player who needs so little of it. He also has stellar range in center, and can track down just about any ball hit his way, and some that aren’t hit his way. Realistically, there isn’t much that can be said about Trout. He’s without a doubt the best, and perfectly defines the term “five tool player.”
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