Mike Trout and Bryce Harper
While the farm system up-and-comers will be showcasing their skills this Sunday at the Futures Game in Citi Field, a crop of under-25 players will be awaiting their arrival to join them as part of the next generation of Major League Baseball greats.
The following are the top hitters under the age of 25–regardless of service time–during the first half of play. The choices I made for the roster is more reflective than predictive of the 2013 season and doesn’t take into account prior season’s results.
Catcher- Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
Rockies’ backstop Rosario is hitting .276 with a .197 ISO in 295 plate appearances. His defense leaves a little to be desired but his offense picks up the slack when compared to his competition, Kansas City Royals’ Salvator Perez. Although the two are pretty close in the major statistical categories, Rosario has the edge due to his .339 wOBA and 102 wRC+.
First Base- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
I really wanted to go with Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman here, but Goldschmidt’s power is too hard to ignore. He’s holding a .250 ISO through 398 plate appearances while his 21 home runs are by far the best out of the others in his age group. Goldschmidt’s strikeout rate (20.1%) is low for a slugger, he’s producing 158 wRC+, and posts a 4.1 WAR. Lastly, Goldschmidt is a great defensive first baseman, one of the best in baseball.
Second Base- Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
I’m going with Gyorko at second over Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. Gyorko has been the best offensive rookie in 2013 but will have a tough time securing Rookie of the Year due to the logjam of impressive NL rookies. Gyorko is hitting .280 with a strong .336 OBP in 259 plate appearances.
Shortstop- Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Despite the fact that Simmons struggles at the plate, his defense is completely indispensable and I will gladly make the tradeoff. I declared earlier in the season that Simmons is the best defender in the league and throughout the first half he’s lived up to that proclamation. Hitting below the league average, Simmons isn’t a strikeout risk and has the speed to make him a passable leadoff hitter. Shortstop is the most important defensive position in baseball, so why not have its best fielder play there?
Third Base- Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
A no-brainer for the spot at the hot corner, Machado is quickly becoming a star and an overall force for the Baltimore Orioles. Machado is hitting .314 (with a high .365 BABIP–a sign of potential BA regression) as well as slugging .478 to go with a .355 wOBA. Defensively, Machado has made some stellar plays and displays a prowess that rivals Simmons. All that said, Machado might just be the best young player in baseball right now.
Outfield- Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels
Trout’s rookie season of 2012 had set the bar incredibly high for himself. Regardless, his .412 wOBA and 167 wRC+ this season are nothing to scoff at. His baserunning is top-notch and his WAR is a full two wins above Starling Marte‘s 3.5, and though his defense isn’t yet up to the level it was in 2012 (13.3 vs. 0.3 in 2013), Trout is still the best overall outfielder under the age of 25.
Outfield- Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper has battled injuries this season, but that hasn’t slowed him from taking a big step forward in 2013. In 232 plate appearances, Harper is hitting just .269 but has an ISO of .264 with an OBP of .374. His defense isn’t the best in his age group but the speed and enthusiasm Harper plays with has a tendency to make up for it. A healthy second half for Harper is imperative for the Nationals’ playoff aspirations as he will need to improve upon his 1.7 WAR. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to leave a player with Harper’s skill set off this team.
Outfield- Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies
I ignore Giancarlo Stanton due to his missing a chunck of the first half, Justin Upton for his sharp decline after a torrid start and it was tough to rule out Starling Marte, but Brown is having a terrific 2013 and deserves to be recognized for it. A highly touted prospect in Philadelphia’s farm system, Brown struggled in his first few stints in the bigs. This season, it’s a different story for Brown who is hitting .281 with a .269 ISO. He’s hit 23 home runs, which tops all other young outfielders, while posting a 136 wRC+. Brown is basically the lone bright spot on an aging Phillies roster that will likely end up missing the playoffs yet again in 2013.
Designated Hitter- Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Though he’s been in the league for roughly a month and a half, the impact Puig has made on the Dodgers makes it impossible for me to leave him off the team. Puig-mania, for better or worse, has taken over Major League Baseball and he’s exactly the kind of player I want I my side. Playing every pitch, every inning like its his last, Puig bleeds passion. Hitting .392 with a .447 wOBA, there is no better player in baseball right now–not Chris Davis, not Miguel Cabrera (there, I said it). Puig might not draw a lot of walks (4.4%) but he doesn’t have to when you have a .476 BABIP. Call me a bit biased but you’d have to be crazy not to want him on your team.
Disagree? Think I overlooked someone? Let me know below. Be on the lookout of the under-25 pitching staff posting coming soon.
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