With the new baseball season upon us, it's a great time for every fan to feel energized and optimistic about their teams chances in 2017, unless you're a San Diego Padres fan. Honestly, they should just abandon all hope now. Joking aside, the opening week of baseball is always one of the most exciting times of the year. It means summer time, bbq's, and fireworks are all just around the corner. Baseball is officially back.
To celebrate the new season, let's take a second and reflect on each team's most untouchable player. Sometimes the most untouchable player is the face of the franchise, while other times it is a new, up and coming prospect who is just waiting to breakout. For purposes of this list, the only players considered are either on the current MLB opening day rosters or are prospects who will likely be brought up in early May (thus, giving their respective teams another year of control... aka the Kris Bryant rule).
Granted, circumstances will change as the season goes along and some teams may choose to sell-off their talent in hopes of shortening a potential rebuild. Contending teams will look to add some of these players in an effort to solidify their playoff spots and compete for a World Series. Regardless, these are the players who are untouchable as it stands today. Who is your team's most untouchable player? Continue reading to find out.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
The Diamondbacks farm system is in dire need of replenishing after the team traded its top prospects to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher Shelby Miller prior to last season. That trade appears to have backfired on the D-backs, as Miller was so terrible in 2016 that the team actually demoted him to Triple-A halfway through the year. Although the Diamondbacks don't have any flashy young prospects, they do have some great talent at the major league level.
Paul Goldschmidt is the face of the Arizona franchise and has proven himself as a perennial NL MVP candidate for the snakes. Goldy has power to all-fields and a tremendous approach at the plate. He is also a gold-glove caliber defensive first basemen. If the Diamondbacks start slowly in 2017 it could be tempting to trade the All-Star first baseman to replenish their farm system, but don't count on it. (Bonus Note: Goldschmidt is my early pick for the 2017 NL MVP award).
29 Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson, SS
As mentioned above, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded their top prospects to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Shelby Miller prior to last season. One of those prospects was Dansby Swanson, the former #1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Swanson was a standout player in college and led his Vanderbilt team to an NCAA World Series Championship in 2014. Swanson was named the World Series MVP as well.
To no surprise, Swanson was selected with the #1 overall pick in the following draft and was viewed as player who would not need much time to develop before joining the major league club. This held true as Swanson joined the Atlanta Braves down the stretch of the 2016 season. Swanson performed well and was a breath of life for the rebuilding Braves franchise. Look for big things from Swanson in 2017.
28 Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado, 3B
Very few players could walk on to the field in Baltimore and make fans forget (at least somewhat) about the great Cal Ripken, Jr., but that is exactly what Manny Machado has been able to accomplish since making his major league debut in 2012. Machado possesses the rarest blend of power, speed, fielding, arm-strength, and mental tenacity that only the all-time greats have. Not saying that Machado is a legend yet, but he's well on his way.
Machado is only 24 years old at the start of the 2017 season and yet he's already been a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner. In 2016, Machado hit .294 with 37 HRs and 96 RBIs, marking his second straight season of 35 or more home runs. Given his youth and extreme talent, it's safe to say that Machado will be in an Orioles uniform for the near, and distant, future.
27 Boston Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi, OF
This was a tough decision given the girth of uber-talented youth that the Red Sox meticulously acquired over the past several seasons. Given the Red Sox have three of the best pitchers in baseball (Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price), one would assume that one of those guys would be considered untouchable. On the other side of the ball, the Red Sox have some very special offensive talents that they recently showcased, including Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr.
But the player that has received the most hype throughout the Red Sox organization is rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi. This kid was the best college baseball player in 2015 and has the awards to prove it. Drafted just one year ago, Benintendi is already ready to become a starter for the powerful Red Sox lineup. If he lives up to the hype, Benintendi could be one of the greatest players in recent Red Sox history and here's to betting that management keeps him around long enough to see that come to fruition. Thus, the kid is untouchable.
26 Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B
Yes the Chicago Cubs have some incredible youth talent that helped win them their first World Series Championship in over 100 years, but is this really even a question? Of course Kris Bryant is the most untouchable player on the Cubs. If another GM even so much as looks at Bryant the wrong way, Theo Epstein should step-in to set him straight!
Teams just don't let go of 25-year-old MVPs that are built like a Greek god and have bone structures to make the female fan-base swoon. Bryant is an incredible player and is quickly becoming the face of one of the most historic franchises in MLB history (sorry Rizzo). He's not going anywhere anytime soon and he will remain in the NL MVP race for the next decade or so.
25 Chicago White Sox: Yoan Moncada, 3B
When you're the top rated prospect in all of baseball, you're damn near untouchable, which is what made it so shocking when the names were announced in the Chicago White Sox trade of ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox. It makes sense, however, as Sale is arguably a top-3 pitcher in all of baseball so it would take a massive prospect to pry him from Chicago.
Enter Yoan Moncada, a infield prospect who is built like an NFL linebacker. The Cuban native gained international recognition with his natural power and speed, and was eventually signed by the Red Sox in 2015 to a international signing record of $31.5 million. The money apparently hasn't gone completely to the 21-year-old's head as of yet given the growth he has shown in his time in the minors. Moncada looks poised to breakout in 2017 and should join fellow Cuban Jose Abreu in the White Sox lineup for years to come.
24 Cincinnati Reds: Adam Duvall, OF
Adam Duvall seemingly came out of nowhere in 2016 and quickly passed Joey Votto as the most untouchable player on the major league roster. After making his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2014, Duvall was traded to the Reds in the summer of 2015. In his first plate appearance as a Red, Duvall smashed a home run and the rest has been history.
Clearly given natural strength and a smooth power stroke, Duvall is becoming one of the most feared sluggers in the game. In his first full season in the majors, Duvall hit 33 home runs and added 103 RBIs, while being named to his first All-Star team. Given that Duvall is still under team control with his contract for several more seasons is what really makes him untouchable. Watch for Votto to pass the torch to the young slugger in 2017.
23 Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
The Cleveland Indians made a surprising run to the World Series in 2016 and a huge part of their success could be attributed to Francisco Lindor. As a rookie, Lindor finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year award voting and really set the stage for a breakout second season. Lindor didn't disappoint, as he was voted to his first All-Star game in 2016.
What makes Lindor special to the Indians isn't just his on-field ability, it's also his outgoing charisma and ability to make baseball fun again. He is not one to hide his love for the game behind ancient traditions and old-school styles. Lindor is entertaining to watch and has the skillset needed to back up his swagger. Many around the league expect Lindor to become a household name in the MLB by the end of the 2017 season. Keep your eye on this stud in fantasy drafts this season.
22 Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
If Mike Schmidt and Barry Bonds had a child, they would create Nolan Arenado. While that's a bit of an exaggeration, nobody in the league has been closer to a second-coming of the legendary third-basemen than Nolan Arenado, except he may have even more power at the plate. Arenado is incredible on both offensive and defensive, but doesn't get as much attention as he deserves due to playing on the bottom-feeding Colorado Rockies.
Just how good is Arenado? Well he's only 25 years old and he has already won four Gold Glove awards at the hot corner. He also has already hit 111 career home runs, including a a National League best 41 homers in 2016 (technically he tied with Carlos Carter). There are stretches where Arenado is absolutely dominating and carries the Rockies well-rounded offense. It appears Arenado will be in Colorado for the long run and it's easy to imagine him threatening the career home run records given his advantage of playing 81 games a year in the batter friendly Coors Field.
21 Detroit Tigers: Michael Fulmer, SP
The Detroit Tigers have some established veterans who still perform at an extremely high level, such as Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. While they are the most valuable players for this franchise in terms of winning games, it's easy to imagine them being shopped around at the trade deadline if the Tigers stumble out of the gates in 2017. This would obviously signal the end of an era and the beginning of a serious rebuild in Detroit.
Rebuild or not, Michael Fulmer is certain to be a part of the teams future plans. Fulmer made his major league debut in 2016 and he did not disappoint. In 26 starts, he racked up 11 wins and finished the season with an impressive 3.06 ERA. For his efforts, Fulmer was awarded the AL Rookie of the Year. The kid is untouchable at this point in his career.
20 Houston Astros: Carlos Correa, SS
The league has seen an influx of talented young shortstop over the past few seasons and Carlos Correa is perhaps the best of the bunch. After being selected with the top overall pick in the 2012 draft, Correa worked his way up the minor league system and made his major league debut during the 2015 season. He ended up hitting 22 home runs in his first season and was named AL Rookie of the Year.
In 2016, Correa picked up right where he left off. Although his power numbers regressed slightly, it was clear that Correa was gaining confidence and was becoming the star presence that the Astros so badly needed. The fact that Correa is now entering his third season at the age of 22 is mind-blowing. The sky is the limit for this young man and the Astros will benefit from his immense talent for years to come.
19 Kansas City Royals: Raul Mondesi, 2B
The Royals are a franchise that depends on player development to maintain a high level of performance, while simultaneously keeping a low budget. They have shown that they can produce legitimate talent from their minor-league levels as many of the stars of the team from their recent World Series run were all brought up slowly through the Royals system.
However, the Royals front office is going to have to make tough decisions as many of those stars are now getting ready to cash in on big-time contracts. Thus, it is vital that the 21-year-old Raul Mondesi continues to progress with his bat and become a star at second base for the squad. If he performs to his capability, he could be the first in the next wave of young Royals prospects set to keep the team competitive while on a budget. Mondesi is definitely a fantasy sleeper for his base-stealing ability.
18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout, CF
This is another no-brainer. It's really remarkable what Mike Trout has accomplished in his career thus far and if you need a refresher, here you go: two AL MVP awards; five All-Star Nominations; five Silver Slugger awards; and he was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 2012. That would be a historic list of awards for a Hall-of-Fame candidate, yet Trout is still only 25 years old!
As the face of the franchise and possibly the best player in professional baseball, Trout should remain in Los Angeles for the remainder of his career. It's just unimaginable for any situation to arise that would pry Trout away from the Angels organization at this point. Trout is my early selection to win the AL MVP award in 2017 (honestly, Trout is so good that he's my early MVP selection every year).
17 Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, SP
No pitcher in the MLB has the ability to dominate like Clayton Kershaw when he performs to his full capability. Kershaw is a generational talent and gives the Los Angeles Dodgers an almost guaranteed win every five days, so long as they are able to provide him with at least one or two runs on offense. It almost looks too easy at times for Kershaw on the mound, he's that good.
As a three-time Cy Young Award winner and former MVP, opposing batters have night terrors the night before facing Kershaw. His strong fastball, coupled with his dominating breaking ball often leaves hitters scratching their heads after each strikeout. In a division that features extremely talented arms (Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Zach Grienke), Kershaw is the cream of the crop. Look for him to bounce back with a vengeance after his injury riddled 2016 season.
16 Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton, OF
There are times where it's hard to believe that Giancarlo Stanton is really a human being. The man is built like a mythical creature as he stands 6'6" and weighs 245 lbs of pure muscle. With his physical stature, it's expected that Stanton will hit some towering home runs, but the way the ball just jumps off his bat is simply unbelievable. This trait makes Stanton a must-watch player whenever he steps into the box.
After Jose Fernandez's tragic and untimely death last season (Fernandez would have been the Marlins most untouchable player), Miami needs Stanton to help stabilize the franchise as they continue to build towards becoming a potential playoff team. Given that Stanton recently signed a whopping 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins, it appears that both sides are focused on building something special in Miami for the foreseeable future.
15 Milwaukee Brewers: Lewis Brinson, OF
Although Lewis Brinson was optioned back down to Triple A at the end of the 2017 Spring Training, he is included on this list because of the likelihood that he will be brought up in early May, a move done to ensure the Brewers gain an extra year of control on his contract. Brinson is the number one rated prospect in the Brewers systems and he showed why in spring training by putting up solid offensive numbers.
Brinson has the skill-set to be a true five-tool outfielder in the majors. His presence at the plate is very mature for a player that is only 22 years old, and his power will only continue to progress as he gets older. Brinson may not be in the league yet, but expect him to take it by storm sometime in 2017. For a team in need of future stars, Brinson is the definition of an untouchable, pro-ready prospect.
14 Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF
Before being called up from the minors in 2015, Byron Buxton was labeled as the #2 overall prospect in all of baseball. Although his play so far has left many fans longing for more production, his overall ceiling remains extremely high. In fact many were quick to write off Buxton as a major bust until his superb ending last season.
Buxton finally flashed his skill set in the last two months of the 2016 season in which he hit .287 and launched 9 home runs in only 113 plate appearances. His defense has also been strong and could cause Twins fans to have flashbacks to the days when Tori Hunter patrolled center field in Minnesota. The Twins would be wise to hang on to the potential that Buxton brings to the table.
13 New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard, SP
The New York Mets have a great team filled with valuable weapons, such as Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson, but nobody is more valuable than their star-pitcher Noah Syndergaard. When he made his big league debut in 2015, it was obvious that Syndergaard had over-powering stuff and would one day be an ace for an MLB team, but nobody could have guessed it would happen so soon.
Syndergaard has been a catalyst for the New York Mets renewed success and is clearly the new face of their franchise. The hard throwing right-hander is only 24 years old and appears to be getting stronger each and every time he takes the mound. If he can handle the bright lights of New York City (which it appears he has so far), then Syndergaard will remain the Mets opening-day starter for the next decade. Teams simply don't give up 24-year-old aces.
12 New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez, C
The Yankees need a new, young star to lead the franchise to new heights and fill the gaping hole that Derek Jeter left in Yankees fan's hearts all over Manhattan. There is no better person to do so than Gary Sanchez. This bulky catcher has superstar written all over him, and will quickly have Yankees fans forgetting about the days of Jorge Posada.
Sanchez was brought up from the minors in 2016 for a total of 53 games. In that brief amount of time, Sanchez had a near .300 batting average and hit 20 homers and 42 RBIs. If he can continue even half of that production level for all of 2017, he will be a fantasy baseball monster and most likely the starting catcher in the All-Star game. Jeter who? It's all about Sanchez now in the Bronx.
11 Oakland Athletics: Franklin Barreto, SS
The Oakland Athletics have one of the most uninspiring opening day lineups in the league and should be in need of a youth movement by May. The A's will start the transition to a new era when they call-up #1 prospect Franklin Barreto from the minors sometime in 2017. Barreto was the Athletics' main prize from their trade of Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Barreto is a quick twitch athlete that possesses an innate ability to rack up singles and doubles on a consistent basis. The young infielder also is a plus runner who will pick and choose his spots to be aggressive on the base paths. Although the A's have a decent shortstop right now in Marcus Semien, look for Barreto to make his major league debut early this season and push Semien to eventually push Semien over to second base. The two will create a solid up-the-middle tandem for many years in Oakland.
10 Philadelphia Phillies: Maikel Franco, 3B
For the past few seasons, Phillies fans have been waiting for Maikel Franco to truly play up to his immense potential. They finally got a glimpse of that potential last season when he had 25 home runs and 88 RBIs. What is crazy though is that as good of a season as that is for most players, it still seems relatively small for a player of Franco's skill set.
Luckily for the Phillies, Franco is still only 24 years old and appears ready to continue his progression in 2017. If Franco can put it all together for a full season this year, he will surely join the ranks of Kris Bryant and Manny Machado as one of the great young third basemen in the MLB. A player with Franco's level of production and young age is absolutely untouchable.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole, SP
Is there a more unheralded pitching ace in the MLB than Gerrit Cole? Seriously, it's like Cole continues to rack up impressive numbers each season and put on dominating performances ever fifth night, yet fans never really hear about him. I'll be honest, I knew about Cole and how good he was but I assumed he was a veteran pitcher who was probably entering his early 30s or so, but that's not the case at all.
Cole is only 26 years old but has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2012. This guy is incredible and remains arbitration eligible for the next two seasons, keeping him relatively inexpensive (his contract is only for $3.75 million this season). While the Pirates have exciting young prospects like Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow, they don't provide the known stability and performance that Cole does. Thus, he's untouchable.
8 St. Louis Cardinals: Alex Reyes, SP
The St. Louis Cardinals were counting on a major breakout year from top pitching prospect Alex Reyes in 2017. Unfortunately, the Cardinals suffered a huge blow when they discovered this Spring that Reyes had injured his throwing arm and that the injury would require Tommy John Surgery. And with that, Reyes' 2017 season was over before it ever began.
Even despite the injury, Reyes should remain the Cardinals' most untouchable player given his incredible talent and pitching prowess. Although still a very serious surgery, Tommy John surgery no longer carries with it the negative stigma that it did in the late 90s and early 2000s. Reyes may be out for 2017, but if he's able to fully recover, he should form a formidable one-two punch with Carlos Martinez in 2018.
7 San Diego Padres: Hunter Renfroe, OF
After the San Diego Chargers opted to leave "America's Greatest City" for the bright lights of Los Angeles, the San Diego Padres are all San Diegans have (other than the gorgeous weather, beaches, and people of course). Unfortunately for them, the Padres are absolute garbage and have very little glimmer of hope for the near future. That glimmer of hope is Hunter Renfroe.
As a late September call-up in 2016, Renfroe put on quite a display of his potential for the Padres. In only 11 games last season, Renfroe hit .371 and had 4 home runs and 14 RBIs. While that level of production is unsustainable over an entire season, it would not shock anybody if Renfroe hit over 30 home runs in his true rookie season in 2017. Although the Padres will finish in last place, look for Renfroe to be in the running for NL Rookie of the Year.
6 San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, C
This was a difficult one because the San Francisco Giants have a nice mix of talented veterans and upcoming prospects that create a nice synergy in their franchise. At first glance it would seem that Madison Bumgarner would be untouchable for the Giants (and he likely is), but Buster Posey is the captain of the Giants' championship hopes.
What made this choice easier is the fact that Bumgarner would not be the dominant pitcher he is today without the guidance and pitch-calling of Posey. Not only is Posey an all-pro catcher, he is also a great face for the franchise. Always positive and always composed, Posey is the epitome of an old-school baseball catcher. He will continue to run the show in San Francisco until his playing days are over.
5 Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez, SP
Felix Hernandez (aka "King Felix") has been the ace of the Seattle Mariners since becoming their opening-day starter in 2007. Since then King Felix has shown his prowess for pounding the strike zone and racking up strikeouts at a high rate. Hernandez is only 30 years old and has already been named to 6 All-Star games and won the AL Cy Young award in 2010.
Although his star power is beginning to lose its luster, Hernandez is still very endearing to many Mariners fans and plays with a passion for the M logo on his hat. The Mariners have been dreadful for a few years now, but Hernandez seems poised to help lead them back to the playoffs eventually. The Mariners could trade their ace for a nice return of prospects, but for now Hernandez should remain off-limits.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Kiermaier, OF
Have you ever watched Kevin Kiermaier play center field? If you have, then you know why he is the most untouchable player on the Rays roster right now. Kiermaier is easily the best defensive center fielder in baseball today, which provides the Rays' pitching staff with a huge advantage. He's not bad offensively either, possessing a nice blend of speed and power.
But again, Kiermaier bread and butter is his spectacular defense. The massive range he displays in the outfield is unmatched and his ability to save runs with his defense should not be overlooked. At only 26 years old, Kiermaier will become the face of the franchise whenever Evan Longoria's career in Tampa Bay ends. After winning the Gold Glove in 2015 and 2016, Kiermaier is the betting favorite to win the award for the third straight season.
3 Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus, SS
If Yu Darvish had never been injured, he would remain untouchable for as long as his stuff remained unhittable. But his significant injury, coupled with the loss of big-hitting Prince Fielder, opened the door for Elvis Andrus to become the key to the Rangers success. With his offensive firepower and his ability to field the shortstop position at a gold-glove level, Andrus earned an 8-year, $120 million contract extension in 2013.
Although Andrus has remained a relatively quiet star in the league, his ability to impact a game in its most clutch moments is unmatched by any of his fellow Ranger teammates. Andrus may not be with the Rangers for his entire career, but as of right now, he should be considered nearly untouchable for the rest of the MLB. Key words: "for now."
2 Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson, 3B
Many of the players on this list are untouchable because of their age and long-term potential. Josh Donaldson is already well into his prime years (he's 31), so why is he the most untouchable player on the Blue Jays right now? It's because he's so damn talented, that's why. In his first season with the Blue Jays, all Donaldson did was smash 41 home runs and take home the AL MVP award.
Donaldson followed that up with another 37 home runs in 2016, thus establishing himself as one of the most feared hitters on the planet. Donaldson also brings a competitive attitude that his teammates feed off of and rally around. He's more than just a power hitter, he's a leader and a new Canadian fan favorite. The Blue Jays really lucked out when they traded for Donaldson and they should make sure they keep him for the long-term (note: Donaldson is scheduled to be a free agent in 2018).
1 Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, OF
Bryce Harper is a beast. This young man has been on the MLB radar since he was a high school phenom just waiting to become eligible for the draft. Now as a 24-year-old veteran, Harper continues to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him as a phenom (he was once referred to as "the Lebron James of baseball").
Although his antics and attitude often rub fans the wrong way, Harper is one of the most naturally talented players the game has ever seen. In 2015, Harper destroyed the competition on his way to batting .330 and hitting 42 home runs. He was named the NL MVP after that season. Talks of a contract extension have begun in Washington and it looks like Harper will be demanding over $400 million. The way MLB contracts have gone lately, the Nationals should do everything possible to keep their stud in National red.