A line-up of baseball’s best twenty-five and under talent
Catcher: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, Age 24
2016 Stats: 53 G, 20 HR, 42 RBI, .299/.376/.657, 34 R, 12 2B, 2.6 WAR
After debuting for the Yankees in August, Sanchez went on a historic tear, hitting 20 home runs in only 201 at-bats, leading to a 1.032 OPS and a runner-up finish in the AL Rookie of the Year race. In the minor leagues, the knock on Sanchez was always his defense, but he impressed in the majors, with a .991 fielding percentage, and a 41% caught stealing rate. As the leader of the Yankees Baby Bomber rebuild, Sanchez has positioned himself to be one of the game’s best catchers for years to come.
First Base: Wil Myers, San Diego Padres, Age 26
2016 Stats: 157 G, 28 HR, 94 RBI, .259/.336/.461, 99 R, 29 2B, 28 SB, 3.2 WAR
A little bit of cheating was done by including Myers on this list, as no everyday first baseman is 25 or younger this season. Despite being only 26 years old, the Padres are Myers’ third team in his career, but he will be in San Diego for the foreseeable future, having agreed to a six-year, $83 million contract extension this offseason. The extension was deserving, as Myers made his first All-Star team in 2016 after switching to first base, displaying a rare balance of power and speed for the position. So far in 2017, Myers is on fire to start the season, with 3 HR and 9 RBI in only 57 at-bats, hitting .368/.383/.684 overall.
Second Base: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, Age 24
2016 Stats: 152 G, 11 HR, 76 RBI, .312/.363/.462, 84 R, 46 2B, 22 SB, 3.9 WAR
Somewhat lost in the Indians deep lineup, Ramirez quietly broke out in 2016, hitting .312/.363/.462, with 46 doubles and 22 steals. Although he played third base for the Indians run to the World Series (Where he hit a solid .310 in the seven-game classic), Ramirez has shifted to second base due to injuries to Jason Kipnis and has excelled thus far, hitting .362/.418/.617, with 3 HR and 13 RBI in only 47 at-bats. This offseason, Ramirez agreed to a five-year, $26 million extension to remain in Cleveland, giving the team another dynamic, young talent to build around as they look to maintain control on top of the American League.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, Age 23
2016 Stats: 158 G, 15 HR, 78 RBI, .301/.358/.435, 99 R, 30 RB, 19 SB, 5.7 WAR
Nobody ever questioned Lindor’s glove, which was long regarded as one of the best in baseball when he was in the minor leagues and has continued to amaze in the majors, with the 2016 AL Gold Glove and Platinum Glove Awards as evidence. Yet no one predicted Lindor to hit big league pitching so well, with a career .308 AVG, and a stellar 15 HR and 78 RBI in 2016. In the Indians run to the World Series, Lindor was right in the thick of things, hitting .310, and playing all fifteen games as the anchor of the Cleveland lineup. This season, Lindor is off to a scorching start, hitting .346/.417/.673 with 4 HR and 8 RBI in 52 at-bats, which given his sterling defense, could put Lindor squarely in the middle of the AL MVP discussion by season’s end.
Third Base: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles, Age 24
2016 Stats: 35 HR, 86 RBI, .294/.343/.533, 105 R, 40 2B, 6.7 WAR
Despite the fact that this is his sixth season in the major leagues, Machado is still only 24 years old, having made his debut with the Orioles in 2012 at the age of 19. One of the game’s premiere superstars, Machado has proven to be able to do it all, with back to back to top-five finishes in the AL MVP voting, having averaged 36 HR, 91 RBI, 10 SB, 104 R, 35 2B, .290/.351/.518, and 6.8 WAR. Defensively, Machado is a two-time AL Gold Glove Award and a Platinum Glove Award winner, with back to back top six finishes in Defensive War. As long as Machado can stay healthy, an AL MVP Award is likely to be in his future, as there are few if any players in baseball that can match his combination of power and defense.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, Age 25
2016 Stats: 29 HR, 100 RBI, .315/.441/.550, 123 R, 116 BB, 32 2B, 30 SB, 10.5 WAR
The unquestioned best player in baseball and the reigning AL MVP for the second time in his career, Trout has already been named to five All-Star teams and been named game MVP twice, and has won five Silver Sluggers and the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award. Trout has never finished below second in the AL MVP voting in his five seasons in the major leagues, and is coming off a season where he led the AL in walks, OBP, and runs scored, while narrowly missing his second 30/30 season by one home run. Trout has led the AL in WAR every year his career, compiling 47.8 WAR (an average of 9.6) in five seasons, the best five-year start in baseball history. Trout has shown no signs of slowing down in 2017, as despite playing on an Angles team that is likely to miss the postseason yet again, Trout is hitting .327/.414/.633 in 49 at-bats, along with 3 HR and 3 SB.
Outfield: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals, Age 24
2016 Stats: 24 HR, 86 RBI, .243/.373/.441, 84 R, 24 2B, 108 BB, 21 SB, 1.6 WAR
Battling neck and shoulder injuries all throughout 2016, Harper had a “down” season by his standards, but still managed to hit 26 HR, drive in 86 runs, walk 108 times, and set a career high with 21 stolen bases. The scary thing is that Harper was able to put up mostly solid numbers while playing injured nearly the entire season, and is still only one year removed from a 2015 where he was the youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history, having hit 42 HR, 99 RBI, hitting .330 while leading the league with a .460 OBP and .649 SLG, and 118 runs scored. Finally healthy after an offseason of getting healthy, the four-time All-Star has begun to look like the Bryce Harper of 2015 thus far, hitting .333/.455/.644 with 4 HR, 13 RBI, and 12 runs in only 45 at-bats, rewarding fans who predicted he’d return to his MVP-caliber form in 2017.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox, Age 24
2016 Stats: 31 HR, 113 RBI, .318/.363/.534, 122 R, 214 H, 42 2B, 26 SB, 9.5 WAR
After a good first season in Boston where he had 18 HR, 77 RBI, 42 2B, 92 R, 21 SB, and hit .291/.341/.479 in 2015, Betts followed up his first full season with his first All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award, and a second place finish in the AL MVP voting. The Red Sox three-hitter of the future, Betts finished 2016 ranked in the top five in the AL in Total Bases (1st), WAR (2nd), Defensive WAR (2nd), AVG (2nd), Runs (2nd), Hits (2nd), Doubles (3rd) Extra Base Hits (4th) RBI (4th) and OPS (8th), while defensively finishing second in the AL in assists by an outfielder, and first in fielding percentage and doubles players turned by an outfielder. A true five-tool player, Betts should help the Red Sox get over the retirement of David Ortiz, and has the potential to join the list of legends that called Fenway Park their home.
Starting Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, Age 24
2016 Stats: 14-9, 2.60 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 31 G, 183.2 IP, 218 K, 5.3 WAR
When all is said done, the 2012 trade that landed the Mets “Thor” for 37-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey may go down as the best in franchise history. The 6-6, 240-pound righty with the long blonde hair has emerged as the ace of the Mets vaunted rotation thanks to his electric fastball that routinely reaches the upper 90s on average, and his intimidating presence on the mound. Despite battling bone spurs in 2016, Syndergaard made his first All-Star appearance and led the NL with a 2.29 FIP and 0.5 HR/9. Thor finished 2016 with a dominant start in the NL Wild Card Game against the Giants, outdueling Madison Bumgarner in an eventual Mets loss by throwing seven scoreless, two-hit, ten strikeout innings. After putting on, even more, muscle this offseason, Syndergaard has looked every bit the part of baseball’s elite in 2017, with a 0.95 ERA in 19.0 IP (2 ER allowed) without having given up a home run or a walk in any of his first three starts.
Relief Pitcher: Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays, Age 22
2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.68 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 36 SV, 72 G, 74.0 IP, 82 K, 2.7 WAR
Baseball’s youngest player when he debuted in 2015 at the age of 20, Osuna developed into one of the game’s most reliable closers in 2016, finishing sixth in the AL with 36 saves, and second in games finishes with 61. In both of his seasons in the major leagues, Osuna has posted WHIPs under 1.00, and has averaged 9.8 K/9 with a 5.86 K: BB ratio, both good if not great numbers. In the postseason, Osuna pitched in seven games, throwing eight innings without giving up a run (0.00 ERA) striking out ten batters in nine innings pitched, while only allowing four total base runners, none of which were on walks. At only 22, Osuna should give the Blue Jays a reliable closer for years to come, which is essential given their recent run of postseason success.