As much fun as it would be to believe that the Royals are the only team with young talent, sadly this is not the case. Along with the Royals, teams such as the Braves, Rays, Rangers, Reds and Indians are loaded with premium players who are 25 or under. The following is a list of the Top 60 players currently 25 or under. Sadly, the man who sat atop rankings like this for the past few years, Evan Longoria, is no longer with us as he turned 26 last week. Also recently turning 26 and no longer eligible are David Price, Gio Gonzalez, and Adam Jones. On to the list.
Top 60 Players 25 and Under
1. Felix Hernandez (25)- Only fitting to top the list in his last year of eligibility. Has put together three straight seasons of at least 5.5 WAR. How long does he stay in Seattle?
2. Clayton Kershaw (23)- Can the Royals get a mulligan on their 2006 draft pick?
3. Madison Bumgarner (22)- Might seem a little high, but a 5.5 WAR season at his age is too impressive to ignore. Plus, he actually underperformed his peripherals as far as ERA goes.
4. Stephen Strasburg (23)- Came back from Tommy John surgery effectively. Strikeouts were a little down, but his control was better overall. Had less hit and miss stuff, but he wasn't mixing up his pitches as much in 2011 as in 2010 while working his way back from the injury of last year.
5. Mike Stanton (21)- Already having hit 56 home runs by age 21, the power potential is amazing. Will be interesting to see how the new ballpark in Miami plays.
6. Dustin Ackley (23)- Looks poised to replace Chase Utley as the most underrated second baseman in the game. Questions about his defense have been quieted by his stellar play at the position.
7. Matt Wieters (25)- Found his power stroke this season as his ISO jumped 60 points from 2010. Maybe a little high overall, but gets bonus points for position played.
8. Justin Upton (24)- Hard to rank him lower than Stanton as Upton is an elite five tool player. The three year age difference puts Upton just a tick below Stanton.
9. Andrew McCutchen (25)- Another five tool player, who saw his power and defense improve this year. Also saw his batting average dip as he began to hit more flyballs than groundballs.
10. Jason Heyward (21)- Too hard to ignore the season he had in 2010 as a 20 year old rookie. Saw an increase of 159.5% in his IFFB rate which partly caused his BABIP to plummet to 260. Expect the needed adjustments to be made.
11. Carlos Gonzalez (25)- His numbers dropped, but he still posted a 4.1 WAR season. Like Heyward, Gonzalez saw his IFFB rate jump 58.3%.
12. Brett Lawrie (21)- Burst onto the scene in August, and posted 2.7 WAR in just 43 games. While his numbers may not be sustainable, he'll be helped out value wise as it appears he'll stick at third base.
13. Mike Trout (20)- Initially struggled out of the gate in his MLB debut, but finished nicely when recalled for a second run in the big leagues. If the Angels have it in them to sit Vernon Wells, Trout could jump up the rankings in 2012.
14. Yovani Gallardo (25)- Everything is there to be a dominant pitcher for awhile. Has seen his BB/9 drop by two since a worrisome rate of 4.56 in 2009.
15. Alex Avila (24)- Seemingly came out of nowhere this year, as he found his power stroke in seeing his ISO jump 99 points. His BABIP may not be sustainable as he saw it jump 88 points even though his GB rate dropped 13.1%. Will still be valuable given he plays catcher, but maybe never this valuable again.
16. Matt Moore (22)- Dominant in the minors this year at AA and AAA, quickly became the #1 pitching prospect in baseball. The dominance remained once he donned a Rays uniform.
17. Eric Hosmer (21)- A surprise call up in May to the Royals, Hosmer put together an impressive rookie season. Needs to improve his walk rate.
18. Michael Pineda (22)- Questions remain as he is basically only has a two pitch repertoire, but you can't argue with the results. Led all starters with a swinging strike rate of 11.8%.
19. Buster Posey (24)- Hard to rank him due to injury and some scary things that were developing with him in 2011 in that he saw his ISO drop 95 points, and his K rate spike by 30.5%. Still, he saw his walk rate jump by 42.6% and he still plays catcher, hopefully the bad signs of 2011 are just small sample size for him.
20. Bryce Harper (18)- The top prospect in baseball for 2012 as Trout and Moore will relinquish their eligibility, the sky is the limit for Harper. Has plate discipline, power, speed, basically a potential monster.
21. Carlos Santana (25)- The move away from catcher began in 2011, as he saw action at 1B sixty six times. He wasn't very good at 1B either, and may eventually move to DH, which will only further diminish his value. The guy is an on base machine, but he did see his walk rate dip by 23.8%. Also saw his K rate spike by 33.8%, his LD rate drop by 27.0%, and his IFFB rate go up by 55.0%. Maybe it was a down year, or maybe he has peaked as his body type doesn't look great long term. Even with all this, he still posted a 3.8 WAR season.
22. Mat Latos (23)- Was a somewhat less effective pitcher this year than in 2010, but he was still a 3.2 WAR pitcher with good peripherals. Threw 8.0% more balls in 2011 than in 2010 which might explain the small dip in production.
23. Tommy Hanson (25)- Another pitcher who was less effective in 2011 than in years past, maybe partly due to a rotator cuff injury that may have lingered throughout the season and eventually kept him out for the final two months. He still possesses swing and miss stuff as he struck out 9.83 per nine, and produced a swinging strike result 10.0% of the time. Also saw his HR/FB rate jump 115.1%, but his HR/FB rate had previously been at unsustainable levels, so a massive jump was due one of these seasons.
24. Jay Bruce (24)- After a breakout 5.4 WAR season in 2010, fell back to a 3.3 WAR this past year. His true talent is probably somewhere in that range. Its hard to explain his drop of 37 points in BABIP in 2011 outside his LD rate dropping by 16.4%, so it appears some of the luck he got in 2010 didn't go his way in 2011. Even so, his BABIP was still a near league average 297.
25. Elvis Andrus (23)- A 4.5 WAR defense heavy player who saw significant improvements at the plate that could lead to more and more long term value. He saw his K rate drop 21.8%, his ISO jump 46 points, his IFFB rate drop 46.3%, and his LD rate rise 19.7%. Still just 23, if these improvements hold steady, a player who could raipdly rise up these rankings.
26. Cameron Maybin (24)- Now playing for his third orginazation, things seemed to take of this year as he posted a 4.7 WAR season. His biggest improvement at the plate was seen in his K rate dropping by 23.4% which meant he was just putting more balls in play. This allowed him to use his speed, and his IFH rate jumped by 59.5% and he stole 31 more bases than the year before. Might have been the recipient of some well placed luck, as not much else improved for him hitting wise.
27. Jeremy Hellickson (24)- A hard pitcher to read, as he went from a strikeout heavy pitcher in the minors to a 5.57 K/9 guy in the majors. Expect regression to the norm for him in this regard though, as he had the 24th highest swinging strike rate among starters with a rate of 9.7%. Even if he never reaches the K rates he saw in the minors, expect him to at least get to the Shaun Marcum-esque level of 7.09 K/9, as Marcum is another pitcher who consistently sees swinging strike rates of 9.4-10.7%, but has never seen his K/9 go above 7.6. Like Marcum, Hellickson throws a change up around or above 25% of the time.
28. Wilson Ramos (24)- Another catcher on the list, Ramos posted a 3.1 WAR season in only 113 games during his first season in Washington. An ISO of 177, and a BB rate that jumped 262.5% from his time in Minnesota, are good signs for the future.
29. Pablo Sandoval (25)- The Panda posted his second 5.5 WAR season out of the past three years, and appears to have settled in at third base for the time being while his body type allows it. While he could use to walk more, and easily could as only 34.9% of the pitches he saw this year were inside the strike zone, you can't deny his 379 wOBA and 237 ISO this year.
30. Starlin Castro (21)- A hard player to rank, as his hitting for the position should place him higher, but is hit in a significant way value wise when it comes to his defense. Already a poorly rated defensive shortstop during his rookie year of 2010, Castro dropped even further down to a -8.7 UZR rating during his second year in the league. His BABIP of 345 for his career may be sustainable as he hit a groundball 48.6% of the time this year, and is aided by his speed.
31. Brandon Beachy 32. Desmond Jennings 33. Asdrubal Cabrera 34. Mike Minor 35. Jordan Zimmermann 36. Logan Morrison 37. Derek Holland 38. Danny Espinosa 39. Jaime Garcia 40. Julio Teheran 41. Mike Moustakas 42. Domonic Brown 43. Johnny Cueto 44. Daniel Hudson 45. Travis D' Arnaud 46. Jason Kipnis 47. Colby Rasmus 48. Trevor Cahill 49. Billy Butler 50. Jesus Montero 51. Neftali Feliz 52. Freddie Freeman 53. Ike Davis 54. Craig Kimbrel 55. Manny Machado 56. Zach Britton 57. Aroldis Chapman 58. Brandon Belt 59. Leonys Martin 60. Vance Worley