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May 22, 2024

Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under RIGHT NOW!

I found two large bins full of my old trading cards the other day.  There are probably thousands of baseball, basketball, and football cards in that bin.  I used to spend hours as a kid going through those cards.  Unfortunately, I chose not to open the bins.  If I had opened those bins, I’d still be in that storage unit going through open trading cards. 

I remember that there were two boxed sets of baseball cards I would go through the most:  The 1996 Upper Deck Collectors Choice set and the 1994 Upper Deck set.  The latter was the first boxed set I bought as a kid.  I thought the set was so cool.  In addition to the regular player cards, it also had special cards like Top Prospects, Home Field Advantage, 1993 Fantasy Team, and Star Rookies.  The Star Rookie cards that year featured players like Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, and some guy named Michael Jordan.  Talk about a list of big names and Hall-of-Fame resumes!

The ’94 Upper Deck set also had cards titled, “The Future is Now.”  It highlighted star players 25 years old or younger with their age and position.  These guys were either All-Stars or players of All-Star level talent on the rise during the 1993 Major League Baseball season.  I thought that these cards were so cool back in the day!  You may have heard of some of these guys on those special edition cards: Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, and Ken Griffey, Jr.  All four of those dudes are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yeah, I think Upper Deck got it right in 1994.

It got me thinking.  There is a LOT of young talent on Major Leagues Baseball rosters right now. Upper Deck no longer produces baseball cards.  If they did though, who would they feature on those special edition cards today?  Who in today’s game would be on baseball cards titled, “The Future Is Now?”  The players would have to be 25 years old or younger.  That eliminates All-Star players like Yordan Alvarez, Rafael Devers, Shane McClanahan, and Julio Urias who just turned 26.  Don’t get me wrong – those dudes I just mentioned are STUDS.  Should I include young guys who have showed flashes of talent but haven’t been able to stay on an MLB Field yet, like Oneil Cruz or Jordan Walker?  Do I include players who have showed flashes but haven’t played the equivalent of a full season yet like Gunnar Henderson, Josh Jung, and Josh Lowe?  What about guys who had one good year but have struggled in year two – like 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II and 2023 AL All-Star Alejandro Kirk?

This was not an easy task, but I managed to narrow it down to a Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under list as of today.  I could have expanded the list to 50 players.  That doesn’t roll of the tongue very well though.  Plus, I don’t have THAT kind of time.  First let’s start with the guys that just missed my cut.  I put them into three sub-categories:

Young Bucks on the IL: These are players who have shown flashes but are currently on the IL.

Dylan Carlson (OF) St. Louis Cardinals

Oneil Cruz (SS), Pittsburgh Pirates

Dustin May (P) Los Angeles Dodgers

Too Soon To Tell: These players are having breakout 2023 seasons in their years 2 or 3.  Anyone can have a good year once.  Can they sustain their success?

Michael Harris II (OF), Atlanta Braves

Josh Jung (3B), Texas Rangers

Josh Lowe (OF), Tampa Bay Rays

Christopher Morel (UT), Chicago Cubs

Jesus Sanchez (OF) Miami Marlins

Bryson Stott (2B), Philadelphia Phillies

Rookies Just Getting Started: The guys are in their first full MLB Season.

Francisco Alvarez (C), New York Mets

Brett Baty (3B), New York Mets

Hunter Brown (SP), Houston Astros

Bryce Elder (SP), Atlanta Braves

Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees

That’s 15 talented players who are 25 years old and under who DID NOT make the cut.  Yet.  They are talented enough.  I’d love to have any of these guys on my squad.  These rankings will probably ebb and flow over the course of the 2023 season.  Guys like Jung and Lowe could be AL All-Stars this year.  My list is solely based on today – June 4, 2023.

Here are my Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under RIGHT NOW!  Let the debate begin…

All stats displayed are as the morning of June 4, 2023.

AVG = Batting Average, HR= Home runs RBI = Runs Batted IN, SB = Stolen Bases, OPS: On-Base Plus Slugging, WAR: Wins Above Replacement, ERA = Earned Run Average, K’s = Strikeouts, SV = Saves, K’s/9IP = Strikeouts per 9 innings

#25 – Alejandro Kirk (C/DH), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .262 AVG. 2 HR, 15 RBI, .693 OPS, 0.6 WAR

Kirk is off to a slow start in 2023.  He was a 2022 AL All-Star after hitting .285 with 14 homers.  He put up similar batting splits during 60 games in 2021.  He’s up here due to the position he plays but could fall out of the Top-25 list if his production doesn’t pick up soon.

#24 – Jack Suwinski (OF) Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .235 AVG, 11 HR, 29 RBI, .850 OPS, 1.4 WAR

The Chicago-native has shown some pop from the left side of the plate for the surprising Pirates.  He’s coming of a rookie season where he hit 19 homers in 106 games, tied for most among NL rookies.  Look for Suwinski to be in the middle of the Pirates lineup for years to come.

#23 – Corbin Carroll (OF) Arizona Diamondbacks

Age : 22

2023 Stats: .282 AVG, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 16 SB, .870 OPS, 1.9 WAR

Carroll could have easily been added to the my “Too Soon To Tell” list.  However, he’s been a key part of the Diamondbacks surprising most people by being at the top on the NL West standings.  Carroll possess an all-around game and could represent the D’Backs in this year’s Mid-Summer Classic.

#22 – Hunter Greene (SP), Cincinnati Reds

Age : 23

2023 Stats: 1-4 record, 3.92 ERA, 88 K’s

Forget about Greene’s win/loss record.  Yes, it not good.  However, his success is due to a 100-mph fastball and being effectively wild.  Greene is third in the NL in strikeouts and second in strikeouts per 9-innings.  Wait until he REALLY figures it out.  It’s going to be scary.

#21 – Triston McKenzie (SP), Cleveland Guardians

Age : 25

2023 Stats: N/A

McKenzie almost made my “Young Bucks on the IL” list.  He’s set to make his season debut today!  McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA for the Guardians last season.  He has posted over a strikeout per inning and a 3.68 ERA since his MLB debut in 2020.  I think he has future ace written all over him.

#20 – George Kirby (SP), Seattle Mariners

Age : 25

2023 Stats: 5-4 record, 3.04 ERA, 58 K’s

I believe Greene and McKenzie are more talented.  Kirby pitches better in pressure situations.  He made his debut in 2022 and was a key part in the Mariners clinching their first postseason appearance since 2001.  Not only did he go 8-5 with a sub-4 ERA, but he didn’t give up an earned run in 8 Postseason innings, 7 of those against the World Series Champion Astros.

#19 – Jhoan Duran (CP), Minnesota Twins

Age : 23

2023 Stats: 1-1 record, 1.17 ERA, 8 SV, 12.8 K/9IP

Haven’t heard of Jhoan Duran?  You will soon.  Duran is the next great closer with a 100-mph fastball.  He has been lights out since the Twins called him up last season.  He posted a 1.86 ERA with 11.8 K’s per 9 innings in 67.2 innings last season.  Duran has been even better so far in 2023.

#18 – Andrew Vaughn (1B), Chicago White Sox

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .257 AVG. 7 HR, 39 RBI, .776 OPS, 0.6 WAR

The third-overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft has been solid, but not spectacular.  White Sox fans are expecting more from Jose Abreu’s replacement in season 3.  Vaughn’s 162-game average so far is an batting average of .255, 20 homers, and 83 runs batting in.  Again solid, not spectacular.

#17 – William Contreras (C), Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .241 AVG. 7 HR, 19 RBI, .758 OPS, 1.2 WAR

It pays to be a catcher.  Contreras was a first-time All-Star last season for the Braves.  He hit 20 homers with an OPS of .860 in just 97 games.  The kid is talented and plays better defensively than his older brother, Wilson.  He’s also been a part of postseason teams.  That could happen again in Milwaukee.

#16 – Jazz Chisholm, Jr. (2B/SS), Miami Marlins

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .229 AVG. 7 HR, 16 RBI, 14 SB .694 OPS, 0.1 WAR

Chisholm isn’t lighting the world on fire in 2023, but he has the talent to do so.  He was an All-Star in 2022 where he hit .254 with 14 homers and 12 stolen bases in 60 games before injury.  In 2021, Chisholm hit .248 with 18 homers and 23 stolen bases.  The kid can play.  Will he live up to his talent?

#15 – Bobby Witt, Jr. (SS), Kansas City Royals

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .236 AVG. 10 HR, 27 RBI, 18 SB .702 OPS, 0.6 WAR

Tihe 2nd overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft is a huge part of the Royals’ future.  Kansas City’s young shortstop hit .254 with 20 homers, 80 RBI, and stole 30 bases in his rookie campaign.  He’s followed that up with a solid start to 2023.  Witt is super talented and should be in the Royals lineup for a long time.

#14 – Alek Manoah (SP) Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 25

2023 Stats: 1-6 record, 5.46 ERA, 48 K’s

This season has gotten off to a rocky start for Manoah but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt – for now.  The fiery right-hander went 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in his rookie 2021 season.  Manoah was an All-Star in 2022 after going 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA.  He has had trouble locating the strike zone in 2023.  I expect him to turn it around soon.

#13 – Luis Robert, Jr. (OF), Chicago White Sox

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .251 AVG. 13 HR, 30 RBI, .808 OPS, 2.4 WAR

Robert SHOULD be higher on this list.  The 2020 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up is a five-tool talent.  He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season since the COVID-shorten 2020 season.  This is Robert’s 4th major league season.  He hasn’t played 100 games in a single year!  His 162-game averages are a batting average of .282, 28 homers, 93 RBI, and an OPS of .808.  Robert is All-Star caliber when healthy.

#12 – Nolan Gorman (2B/3B), St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 23

2023 Stats: .276 AVG. 14 HR, 44 RBI, .927 OPS, 1.8 WAR

Of all the Cardinals’ current young core prospects, which include Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, and Dylan Carlson, Gorman is the best so far.  He’s on his way to becoming an All-Star this season with his performance at the plate.  He’s among the NL league leaders in homers, OPS, and is 2nd in RBI.  The scary thing is that he’s only 23!

#11 – Jeremy Pena (SS), Houston Astros

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .257 AVG. 8 HR, 26 RBI, .755 OPS, 1.9 WAR

Making Astros fans forget about Carlos Correa is no easy task.  Jeremy Pena did just that in 2022, hitting .253 and producing Correa-like numbers of 22 homers and 63 RBI.  His impact helped the Astros win the World Series last season.  Pena has followed up his rookie season with a solid start to 2023 and figures to be a big part of the Astros’ plans going forward.

#10 – Adley Rutschman (C), Baltimore Orioles

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .282 AVG. 8 HR, 28 RBI, .832 OPS, 1.9 WAR

The AL Rookie of the Year runner-up is arguably the face of the Orioles youth movement.  Rutschman was the #1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.  It’s easy to see why.  Not only is the second-year backstop an above-average catcher already, he’s an All-Star caliber hitter with a great eye at the plate.  Did you know that Rutschman is leading the AL in walks?  I expect him to earn his first All-Star next month.

#9 – Emmanuel Clase (CP), Cleveland Indians

Age : 25

2023 Stats: 1-4 record, 3.21 ERA, 18 SV

How good has Emmanuel Clase been since his Major League Debut?  This is season, one where he currently leads the majors with 18 saves, is a down year.  Clase was an All-Star in 2022 and led the big leagues in Saves with 42.  He also posted an ERA of 1.36!  Clase in his fourth MLB season.  His career ERA is 1.72 and he has 85 career Saves.  Yeah, that’s good.

#8 – Wander Franco (SS) Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .305 AVG. 7 HR, 29 RBI, .860 OPS, 3.6 WAR

Who is MLB’s current leader in WAR?  Wander Franco.  He’s such an exciting and talented player that the Tampa Bay Rays (yes THOSE Rays) signed France to an 11-year, $182 million deal.  The next step is for Franco to stay healthy.  His 162-game splits have him hitting .289, 16 homers, 78 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and 8 triples.  Franco will be a perennial All-Star if he continues to stay on the field and produce.

#7 – Julio Rodriguez (OF), Seattle Mariners

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .246 AVG. 10 HR, 32 RBI, 12 SB .741 OPS, 1.4 WAR

I’m a big fan of J-Rod.  I wanted to rank him higher but I couldn’t put him above the other guys on this list, yet.  Like in 2022, Rodriguez has gotten off to a slow start in 2023.  He’s coming though.  The reigning AL Rookie of the Year was a key catalyst in the Mariners’ postseason push a year ago.  J-Rod also has one All-Star selection on his baseball resume.  Look for him to be selected multiple more times.

#6 – Fernando Tatis, Jr. (SS/OF), San Diego Padres

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .258 AVG. 11 HR, 27 RBI, .816 OPS, 1.9 WAR

It seems that Tatis has been around forever, yet he’s only 24.  He was on the way to SUPER-stardom in 2021.  He made his first All-Star game, hit 42 homers, drove in 97 runs, and stole 25 bases – IN just 130 games!  Then the PED suspension and a broken wrist derailed those plans.  Tatis is back in the Padres’ lineup and is slowly heating back up at the plate.

#5 – Bo Bichette (SS), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .336 AVG. 12 HR, 39 RBI, .900 OPS, 3.3 WAR

Bichette can flat out rake.  He’s never hit under .290 in any of his first five MLB seasons.  He was an All-Star in 2021 where he hit .298 with 29 homers and 102 RBI.  Bichette then followed that up in 2022 hitting .290 with 24 homers and 93 RBI.  This season is no different.  He’s currently leading the AL with a .336 batting average.  I see Bichette being selected to his second All-Star game next month.

#4 – Spencer Strider (SP), Atlanta Braves

Age: 24

2023 Stats: 6-2 record, 2.97 ERA, 113 K’s, one cool mustache

The 2022 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up has been lights out in Atlanta.  All Strider did last season was go 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts.  That’s 13.8 K’s per 9 innings!  This season Strider leads MLB with 113 strikeouts so far which equates to 14.6 K’s per 9 innings!  He’s a power pitcher that doesn’t walk a lot of batters.  His career WHIP is 1.00.  Maybe he should be ranked higher…

#3 – Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (1B/DH), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .285 AVG. 8 HR, 36 RBI, .803 OPS, 1.0 WAR

I’ll admit that I didn’t have Vlad Jr. higher on this list.  He might have been if this list was made after the 2021 season.  Guerrero was the AL MVP runner-up after hitting .311, driving in 111 runs, and leading the AL in both home runs (48) and OPS (1.002).  He’s a two-time All-Star who followed that performance up by hitting .274 with 32 homers and 97 RBI.  Third on this list seems more that fair.

#2 – Juan Soto (OF), San Diego Padres

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .256 AVG. 10 HR, 26 RBI, .909 OPS, 2.1 WAR

Soto was the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2018 when he hit .292 with 22 homers and 70 RBI – in his age 19 season!  He’s already has won a World Series, been selected to two All-Star games, posted a 30 homer/100 RBI season, lead the majors both batting average AND in OPS (2020), and been traded.  I feel silly ranking him 3rd when his career is on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.  He has taken a slight step back over the past two seasons – which would be outstanding seasons for most players.

#1 – Ronald Acuna, Jr. (OF), Atlanta Braves

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .325 AVG. 12 HR, 32 RBI, 24 SB .966 OPS, 3.0 WAR

Acuna could be in the running for NL MVP if he continues this pace and stays healthy.  The 2018 NL Rookie of the Year has a World Series ring like Soto.  He’s a three-time, soon to be four-time All-Star.  Acuna hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs, and stole 37 bases in his age-21 season.  Injuries have robbed fans of seeing him on the field in parts of the past three seasons.  Make no mistake – Acuna is a five-tool, Hall-of-Fame talent.  Let’s see if he can make 2023 his signature season.

Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under RIGHT NOW!

I found two large bins full of my old trading cards the other day.  There are probably thousands of baseball, basketball, and football cards in that bin.  I used to spend hours as a kid going through those cards.  Unfortunately, I chose not to open the bins.  If I had opened those bins, I’d still be in that storage unit going through open trading cards. 

I remember that there were two boxed sets of baseball cards I would go through the most:  The 1996 Upper Deck Collectors Choice set and the 1994 Upper Deck set.  The latter was the first boxed set I bought as a kid.  I thought the set was so cool.  In addition to the regular player cards, it also had special cards like Top Prospects, Home Field Advantage, 1993 Fantasy Team, and Star Rookies.  The Star Rookie cards that year featured players like Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, and some guy named Michael Jordan.  Talk about a list of big names and Hall-of-Fame resumes!

The ’94 Upper Deck set also had cards titled, “The Future is Now.”  It highlighted star players 25 years old or younger with their age and position.  These guys were either All-Stars or players of All-Star level talent on the rise during the 1993 Major League Baseball season.  I thought that these cards were so cool back in the day!  You may have heard of some of these guys on those special edition cards: Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, and Ken Griffey, Jr.  All four of those dudes are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yeah, I think Upper Deck got it right in 1994.

It got me thinking.  There is a LOT of young talent on Major Leagues Baseball rosters right now. Upper Deck no longer produces baseball cards.  If they did though, who would they feature on those special edition cards today?  Who in today’s game would be on baseball cards titled, “The Future Is Now?”  The players would have to be 25 years old or younger.  That eliminates All-Star players like Yordan Alvarez, Rafael Devers, Shane McClanahan, and Julio Urias who just turned 26.  Don’t get me wrong – those dudes I just mentioned are STUDS.  Should I include young guys who have showed flashes of talent but haven’t been able to stay on an MLB Field yet, like Oneil Cruz or Jordan Walker?  Do I include players who have showed flashes but haven’t played the equivalent of a full season yet like Gunnar Henderson, Josh Jung, and Josh Lowe?  What about guys who had one good year but have struggled in year two – like 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II and 2023 AL All-Star Alejandro Kirk?

This was not an easy task, but I managed to narrow it down to a Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under list as of today.  I could have expanded the list to 50 players.  That doesn’t roll of the tongue very well though.  Plus, I don’t have THAT kind of time.  First let’s start with the guys that just missed my cut.  I put them into three sub-categories:

Young Bucks on the IL: These are players who have shown flashes but are currently on the IL.

Dylan Carlson (OF) St. Louis Cardinals

Oneil Cruz (SS), Pittsburgh Pirates

Dustin May (P) Los Angeles Dodgers

Too Soon To Tell: These players are having breakout 2023 seasons in their years 2 or 3.  Anyone can have a good year once.  Can they sustain their success?

Michael Harris II (OF), Atlanta Braves

Josh Jung (3B), Texas Rangers

Josh Lowe (OF), Tampa Bay Rays

Christopher Morel (UT), Chicago Cubs

Jesus Sanchez (OF) Miami Marlins

Bryson Stott (2B), Philadelphia Phillies

Rookies Just Getting Started: The guys are in their first full MLB Season.

Francisco Alvarez (C), New York Mets

Brett Baty (3B), New York Mets

Hunter Brown (SP), Houston Astros

Bryce Elder (SP), Atlanta Braves

Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees

That’s 15 talented players who are 25 years old and under who DID NOT make the cut.  Yet.  They are talented enough.  I’d love to have any of these guys on my squad.  These rankings will probably ebb and flow over the course of the 2023 season.  Guys like Jung and Lowe could be AL All-Stars this year.  My list is solely based on today – June 4, 2023.

Here are my Top 25 MLB Players 25 or Under RIGHT NOW!  Let the debate begin…

All stats displayed are as the morning of June 4, 2023.

AVG = Batting Average, HR= Home runs RBI = Runs Batted IN, SB = Stolen Bases, OPS: On-Base Plus Slugging, WAR: Wins Above Replacement, ERA = Earned Run Average, K’s = Strikeouts, SV = Saves, K’s/9IP = Strikeouts per 9 innings

#25 – Alejandro Kirk (C/DH), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .262 AVG. 2 HR, 15 RBI, .693 OPS, 0.6 WAR

Kirk is off to a slow start in 2023.  He was a 2022 AL All-Star after hitting .285 with 14 homers.  He put up similar batting splits during 60 games in 2021.  He’s up here due to the position he plays but could fall out of the Top-25 list if his production doesn’t pick up soon.

#24 – Jack Suwinski (OF) Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .235 AVG, 11 HR, 29 RBI, .850 OPS, 1.4 WAR

The Chicago-native has shown some pop from the left side of the plate for the surprising Pirates.  He’s coming of a rookie season where he hit 19 homers in 106 games, tied for most among NL rookies.  Look for Suwinski to be in the middle of the Pirates lineup for years to come.

#23 – Corbin Carroll (OF) Arizona Diamondbacks

Age : 22

2023 Stats: .282 AVG, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 16 SB, .870 OPS, 1.9 WAR

Carroll could have easily been added to the my “Too Soon To Tell” list.  However, he’s been a key part of the Diamondbacks surprising most people by being at the top on the NL West standings.  Carroll possess an all-around game and could represent the D’Backs in this year’s Mid-Summer Classic.

#22 – Hunter Greene (SP), Cincinnati Reds

Age : 23

2023 Stats: 1-4 record, 3.92 ERA, 88 K’s

Forget about Greene’s win/loss record.  Yes, it not good.  However, his success is due to a 100-mph fastball and being effectively wild.  Greene is third in the NL in strikeouts and second in strikeouts per 9-innings.  Wait until he REALLY figures it out.  It’s going to be scary.

#21 – Triston McKenzie (SP), Cleveland Guardians

Age : 25

2023 Stats: N/A

McKenzie almost made my “Young Bucks on the IL” list.  He’s set to make his season debut today!  McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA for the Guardians last season.  He has posted over a strikeout per inning and a 3.68 ERA since his MLB debut in 2020.  I think he has future ace written all over him.

#20 – George Kirby (SP), Seattle Mariners

Age : 25

2023 Stats: 5-4 record, 3.04 ERA, 58 K’s

I believe Greene and McKenzie are more talented.  Kirby pitches better in pressure situations.  He made his debut in 2022 and was a key part in the Mariners clinching their first postseason appearance since 2001.  Not only did he go 8-5 with a sub-4 ERA, but he didn’t give up an earned run in 8 Postseason innings, 7 of those against the World Series Champion Astros.

#19 – Jhoan Duran (CP), Minnesota Twins

Age : 23

2023 Stats: 1-1 record, 1.17 ERA, 8 SV, 12.8 K/9IP

Haven’t heard of Jhoan Duran?  You will soon.  Duran is the next great closer with a 100-mph fastball.  He has been lights out since the Twins called him up last season.  He posted a 1.86 ERA with 11.8 K’s per 9 innings in 67.2 innings last season.  Duran has been even better so far in 2023.

#18 – Andrew Vaughn (1B), Chicago White Sox

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .257 AVG. 7 HR, 39 RBI, .776 OPS, 0.6 WAR

The third-overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft has been solid, but not spectacular.  White Sox fans are expecting more from Jose Abreu’s replacement in season 3.  Vaughn’s 162-game average so far is an batting average of .255, 20 homers, and 83 runs batting in.  Again solid, not spectacular.

#17 – William Contreras (C), Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .241 AVG. 7 HR, 19 RBI, .758 OPS, 1.2 WAR

It pays to be a catcher.  Contreras was a first-time All-Star last season for the Braves.  He hit 20 homers with an OPS of .860 in just 97 games.  The kid is talented and plays better defensively than his older brother, Wilson.  He’s also been a part of postseason teams.  That could happen again in Milwaukee.

#16 – Jazz Chisholm, Jr. (2B/SS), Miami Marlins

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .229 AVG. 7 HR, 16 RBI, 14 SB .694 OPS, 0.1 WAR

Chisholm isn’t lighting the world on fire in 2023, but he has the talent to do so.  He was an All-Star in 2022 where he hit .254 with 14 homers and 12 stolen bases in 60 games before injury.  In 2021, Chisholm hit .248 with 18 homers and 23 stolen bases.  The kid can play.  Will he live up to his talent?

#15 – Bobby Witt, Jr. (SS), Kansas City Royals

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .236 AVG. 10 HR, 27 RBI, 18 SB .702 OPS, 0.6 WAR

Tihe 2nd overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft is a huge part of the Royals’ future.  Kansas City’s young shortstop hit .254 with 20 homers, 80 RBI, and stole 30 bases in his rookie campaign.  He’s followed that up with a solid start to 2023.  Witt is super talented and should be in the Royals lineup for a long time.

#14 – Alek Manoah (SP) Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 25

2023 Stats: 1-6 record, 5.46 ERA, 48 K’s

This season has gotten off to a rocky start for Manoah but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt – for now.  The fiery right-hander went 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in his rookie 2021 season.  Manoah was an All-Star in 2022 after going 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA.  He has had trouble locating the strike zone in 2023.  I expect him to turn it around soon.

#13 – Luis Robert, Jr. (OF), Chicago White Sox

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .251 AVG. 13 HR, 30 RBI, .808 OPS, 2.4 WAR

Robert SHOULD be higher on this list.  The 2020 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up is a five-tool talent.  He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season since the COVID-shorten 2020 season.  This is Robert’s 4th major league season.  He hasn’t played 100 games in a single year!  His 162-game averages are a batting average of .282, 28 homers, 93 RBI, and an OPS of .808.  Robert is All-Star caliber when healthy.

#12 – Nolan Gorman (2B/3B), St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 23

2023 Stats: .276 AVG. 14 HR, 44 RBI, .927 OPS, 1.8 WAR

Of all the Cardinals’ current young core prospects, which include Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, and Dylan Carlson, Gorman is the best so far.  He’s on his way to becoming an All-Star this season with his performance at the plate.  He’s among the NL league leaders in homers, OPS, and is 2nd in RBI.  The scary thing is that he’s only 23!

#11 – Jeremy Pena (SS), Houston Astros

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .257 AVG. 8 HR, 26 RBI, .755 OPS, 1.9 WAR

Making Astros fans forget about Carlos Correa is no easy task.  Jeremy Pena did just that in 2022, hitting .253 and producing Correa-like numbers of 22 homers and 63 RBI.  His impact helped the Astros win the World Series last season.  Pena has followed up his rookie season with a solid start to 2023 and figures to be a big part of the Astros’ plans going forward.

#10 – Adley Rutschman (C), Baltimore Orioles

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .282 AVG. 8 HR, 28 RBI, .832 OPS, 1.9 WAR

The AL Rookie of the Year runner-up is arguably the face of the Orioles youth movement.  Rutschman was the #1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.  It’s easy to see why.  Not only is the second-year backstop an above-average catcher already, he’s an All-Star caliber hitter with a great eye at the plate.  Did you know that Rutschman is leading the AL in walks?  I expect him to earn his first All-Star next month.

#9 – Emmanuel Clase (CP), Cleveland Indians

Age : 25

2023 Stats: 1-4 record, 3.21 ERA, 18 SV

How good has Emmanuel Clase been since his Major League Debut?  This is season, one where he currently leads the majors with 18 saves, is a down year.  Clase was an All-Star in 2022 and led the big leagues in Saves with 42.  He also posted an ERA of 1.36!  Clase in his fourth MLB season.  His career ERA is 1.72 and he has 85 career Saves.  Yeah, that’s good.

#8 – Wander Franco (SS) Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .305 AVG. 7 HR, 29 RBI, .860 OPS, 3.6 WAR

Who is MLB’s current leader in WAR?  Wander Franco.  He’s such an exciting and talented player that the Tampa Bay Rays (yes THOSE Rays) signed France to an 11-year, $182 million deal.  The next step is for Franco to stay healthy.  His 162-game splits have him hitting .289, 16 homers, 78 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and 8 triples.  Franco will be a perennial All-Star if he continues to stay on the field and produce.

#7 – Julio Rodriguez (OF), Seattle Mariners

Age: 22

2023 Stats: .246 AVG. 10 HR, 32 RBI, 12 SB .741 OPS, 1.4 WAR

I’m a big fan of J-Rod.  I wanted to rank him higher but I couldn’t put him above the other guys on this list, yet.  Like in 2022, Rodriguez has gotten off to a slow start in 2023.  He’s coming though.  The reigning AL Rookie of the Year was a key catalyst in the Mariners’ postseason push a year ago.  J-Rod also has one All-Star selection on his baseball resume.  Look for him to be selected multiple more times.

#6 – Fernando Tatis, Jr. (SS/OF), San Diego Padres

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .258 AVG. 11 HR, 27 RBI, .816 OPS, 1.9 WAR

It seems that Tatis has been around forever, yet he’s only 24.  He was on the way to SUPER-stardom in 2021.  He made his first All-Star game, hit 42 homers, drove in 97 runs, and stole 25 bases – IN just 130 games!  Then the PED suspension and a broken wrist derailed those plans.  Tatis is back in the Padres’ lineup and is slowly heating back up at the plate.

#5 – Bo Bichette (SS), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .336 AVG. 12 HR, 39 RBI, .900 OPS, 3.3 WAR

Bichette can flat out rake.  He’s never hit under .290 in any of his first five MLB seasons.  He was an All-Star in 2021 where he hit .298 with 29 homers and 102 RBI.  Bichette then followed that up in 2022 hitting .290 with 24 homers and 93 RBI.  This season is no different.  He’s currently leading the AL with a .336 batting average.  I see Bichette being selected to his second All-Star game next month.

#4 – Spencer Strider (SP), Atlanta Braves

Age: 24

2023 Stats: 6-2 record, 2.97 ERA, 113 K’s, one cool mustache

The 2022 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up has been lights out in Atlanta.  All Strider did last season was go 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts.  That’s 13.8 K’s per 9 innings!  This season Strider leads MLB with 113 strikeouts so far which equates to 14.6 K’s per 9 innings!  He’s a power pitcher that doesn’t walk a lot of batters.  His career WHIP is 1.00.  Maybe he should be ranked higher…

#3 – Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (1B/DH), Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .285 AVG. 8 HR, 36 RBI, .803 OPS, 1.0 WAR

I’ll admit that I didn’t have Vlad Jr. higher on this list.  He might have been if this list was made after the 2021 season.  Guerrero was the AL MVP runner-up after hitting .311, driving in 111 runs, and leading the AL in both home runs (48) and OPS (1.002).  He’s a two-time All-Star who followed that performance up by hitting .274 with 32 homers and 97 RBI.  Third on this list seems more that fair.

#2 – Juan Soto (OF), San Diego Padres

Age: 24

2023 Stats: .256 AVG. 10 HR, 26 RBI, .909 OPS, 2.1 WAR

Soto was the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2018 when he hit .292 with 22 homers and 70 RBI – in his age 19 season!  He’s already has won a World Series, been selected to two All-Star games, posted a 30 homer/100 RBI season, lead the majors both batting average AND in OPS (2020), and been traded.  I feel silly ranking him 3rd when his career is on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.  He has taken a slight step back over the past two seasons – which would be outstanding seasons for most players.

#1 – Ronald Acuna, Jr. (OF), Atlanta Braves

Age: 25

2023 Stats: .325 AVG. 12 HR, 32 RBI, 24 SB .966 OPS, 3.0 WAR

Acuna could be in the running for NL MVP if he continues this pace and stays healthy.  The 2018 NL Rookie of the Year has a World Series ring like Soto.  He’s a three-time, soon to be four-time All-Star.  Acuna hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs, and stole 37 bases in his age-21 season.  Injuries have robbed fans of seeing him on the field in parts of the past three seasons.  Make no mistake – Acuna is a five-tool, Hall-of-Fame talent.  Let’s see if he can make 2023 his signature season.