There’s been a lot of stories to be had this season, but what’s really ran the course of the season is the youth movement that’s being served. Yet another highlight of it was served when the Chicago Cubs made a long-term deal with Starlin Castro, putting away the 22-year-old until nearly his 30th birthday last week. That follows on the heels of the rise of the Washington Nationals, Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates, all pushed by young pace-setters that have shook up the establishment in both leagues this year.
However, when it’s broken down, who really are the best of the best when it comes to baseball’s precocious youngsters? While previous early bloomers such as Ryan Braun, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Justin Verlander are moving out of the youth movement stage and into perennial standard bearers, the more recently debuted ballplayers are arguably making the biggest impact of any age group across the game. So in my most recent leap of ranking-based faith, here are the 25 best players 25 years or younger in the game today.
Before we get started, here’s a few guys just claimed by their 26th year but who would’ve definitely found a spot on this list a year ago: Felix Hernandez, Mark Trumbo, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Evan Longoria, Todd Frazier, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
25. Brett Anderson (24): There’s a reason he’s still been consistently considered the ace of the A’s despite missing most of the last two years. When he’s out there, he’s as good as it gets, as the one run surrendered in his first 20 innings back healthy shows. He has won all three starts since his return.
24. Mike Moustakas (23): The raw power of the Moose is clear, and he’s still figuring it all out. He’s come back from a light rookie year with 19 homers headed into the last month of the year for Kansas City.
23. Austin Jackson (25): The perfect centerfielder for the enormous outer territory of Comerica Field, Jackson has the highest average on balls hit in play over the last three years (.374) playing for the Detroit Tigers.
22. Alcides Escobar (25): It’s easy to not be noticed at being the best at something when you play in Kansas City, but Escobar has a rightful claim to the title of best glovesman at shortstop in baseball.
21. Wade Miley (25): The Diamondbacks’ surprise rookie lefty hurler has gone from last pitcher to make the rotation to being an All-Star and 20-win candidate in a few months.
20. Manny Machado (20): The second youngest player on this list, it’s eerie how much the Oriole resembles A-Rod at the same age in both frame (6’3, 185) and early impact (extra bases on 8 of first 15 hits).
19. Jeremy Hellickson (25): Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year doesn’t have a ton of wins, but still has nasty stuff that will let him pitch for a long time, which his 3.18 career ERA for the Rays is a preview of.
18. Eric Hosmer (22): There’s been a lot of worry about how his second year has gone (.240, 12 homers, .310 on-base %), but settle down. Being the by-far best player on an MLB squad at 22 is a tough haul on anybody, and the prophecy of The Hos as the leader of the Royal revival will be fulfilled.
17. Anthony Rizzo (23): He’s been everything he was billed as being as the Red Sox’s, Padres’ and Cubs’ top prospect over the last two years. After being traded for all the right reasons over the past two years, he’s finally settled in one place, where he’ll stay for awhile: third in the Cubs’ lineup.
16. Jason Heyward (23): In year three, his average is up over 50 points, and he’s pushed his homer total up 10 from a year ago. What’s more: The Brave has just as many home runs and doubles as the much more heralded Andrew McCutchen.
For the top 15 of the list, including what may seem like a shocker at the top, considering what’s going on this summer, head over to THE CHEAP SEATS at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/youth-movement-baseballs-top-25-25-and-under/
And for more on the day-to-day of the game, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan