It's hard to sit here and hammer away at letters on a keyboard declaring players who have reached the ultimate level of the game a bust, regardless of their age or sport. These guys have put in their time, honed their skills, have put on a professional uniform, stepped out in front of thousands of fans and at the end of the day cashed a cheque that has many more zeros than many of us will ever see.
With that being said, what we armchair sports fans like to do is predict which young players will be the stars of tomorrow, and who should be on a YMCA roster with the rest of us. As we inspect and dissect the following twenty individuals, we have chosen to steer clear of pitchers, who for the most part are the easiest ones to define as a star or bust when it comes to baseball because they for the most part are the focal point of the game. It would have very easy to list players such as Aaron Judge, Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts, but those are household names and too easy. For most MLB fans, the following twenty names are familiar, but we want to bring awareness to the casual fan. We have also chosen to select those who have played for four years or less.
Most of these young players have the opportunity to see their careers take a turn for the worse, but we hope that, regardless of our list, at least ten of them take a turn for the better and prove us wrong.
20 Courtney Hawkins (Bust)
He was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the thirteenth pick in the 2012 draft and considering the string of bad luck the club has experienced since that time, it may or may not be directly related to the rookie bust. All kidding aside, you cannot blame the misfortunes of an entire franchise on an eighteen year old kid. However that same kid did not appear to put in enough work to warrant the high selection after spending his first year in single-A, hitting an ugly .178 avg in 383 appearances at the plate. After being ranked as the team's top prospect in 2012/13, he would quickly see his value drop to the high 20s a few years later and now the power hitting outfielder is struggling to maintain a spot in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
19 Joey Gallo (Star)
Regardless of what corner he is playing for the Texas Rangers, the fourth year pro is one of the most sought after players in the current trade market for justifiable reasons. Yes, the Rangers are underperforming this season (make that last season as well) and chances are the pressures of trying to come up with something big each night have started to weigh down the slugger, who in his third full season (he only played 17 games in 2016) has whiffed at the ball a league leading 142 times as of this writing. However as one of the best young power hitters in the game, Gallo, as much as he wants to win, has to take some of the mental pressures off of himself for the second half of the season, realizing the Rangers aren't going to be contending for a playoff spot. Remember the Jordan Rules? Well teams have installed the Gallo Rule as the defensive shift has had an impact on the 24 year old this season. As the league leans towards bombs and walks rather than singles and doubles, there is still a chance that Gallo can become a star for whatever team he ends up playing for.
18 Dustin Ackley (Bust)
Technically Ackley is still tied to the major leagues, as he is part of the Los Angeles Angels system, but how the once second overall pick in the 2009 draft has fallen. Selected by the Seattle Mariners, the centre fielder played a respectable 635 games during his time in the bigs (between Seattle and the New York Yankees), but chances are high that in the world of hindsight, the M's would have much rather gone with Mike Trout (arguably the best player currently in the game) or A.J. Pollock if they needed an outfielder or found a way to fit (6x All-Star) first baseman Paul Goldschmidt into the system. Just imagine if the M's selected Trout, he may have given Ken Griffey Jr. a run for his money as the best player in team history. With Ackley's .243 avg, 42 HR and 201 RBI over the course of his 584 games, The Kid's title was never in jeopardy.
17 Addison Russell (Star)
He was part of the Chicago's first World Series Championship parade since the Cubbies last won in 1908. Add in being named to the All-Star game in just his second season and the future looks bright for the Cubs to remain among the leagues best when it comes to post-season conversations. Already one of the best defensive players in the league. Russell (aside from home runs) is once again nearing similar numbers to what he put up during the 2016 season. After battling injuries and issues on and off the field last season, it is inviting for Cubs fans, teammates and management to see Russell bounce back to the level of play that he set the bar at during their magical run to the title. While Javier Baez may be getting a lot of shine for his play this season, don't sleep on the contributions from Russell, who will be needed for another run at the championship.
16 Alex Yarbrough (Bust)
When you are drafted in the fourth round and 147th overall, some may think that there isn't high expectations for success. However in the case of the Los Angeles Angels selection in the 2012 draft, there was thought that the team had found their future second baseman. After having success in the minor league during his time with the A and AA programs, the same level could not be maintained at the AAA level when he joined the Salt Lake Bees and batted only .236 with 48 RBI over the course of 128 games. Still only 26 years old, Yarbrough has a chance to catch on with his new club, the Miami Marlins, who by all accounts are in a full rebuild.
15 Willson Contreras (Star)
Hey, would you look at that, another Cub in the lineup. While Russell holds down the infield, teammate Contreras controls the game behind the plate. Named to this year's All-Star roster, the 26 year old, third year pro has been in talks for National League MVP. Although his number of bombs to the outfield have fallen off this season, Contreras' batting average and on base percentage numbers have increased, numbers far more important than hitting a few more dinger. When it comes to the defensive side of the plate, there are few that can match the fire and passion of the catcher from Venezuela. A quick note for those that are trying to steal second or beat the tag at home, don't! With impressive pop time and a cannon for an arm, runners need to think twice. As for those trying to touch the plate on the way in, Contreras sets up like a brick wall.
14 Michael Conforto (Bust)
Is it possible to be an All-Star and a bust? The Mets' fourth year outfielder has been sending fans, management and teammates mixed messages for a couple of seasons now. Last year, Conforto posted numbers that would lean towards the positive, with 27 bombs, 68 RBI and a decent .279 average with a OBP of .384, although he did strike out 113 times. Sandwiched around that breakout year has been two mediocre seasons of .220 and .226 BA with 12 and 14 homers and .310 and .347 OBP. Chosen 10th overall in the 2014 draft and hitting the bigs for a 56 game audition in 2015, Conforto certainly hasn't shown the consistency that a top ten pick should, regardless of playing in the media hungry mecca of New York. Just imagine if he played for the Yankees!
13 Odubel Herrera (Star)
Two seasons ago, the Phillies centre fielder was named to the All-Star team on a season that finished with 87 runs, 167 hits, 15 homers, 49 RBI and a .286 average. This year the 26 year old potential star has surpassed the homers, RBI and is just short of matching the batting average in 200 less plate appearances and 56 games (as of this writing). Although far short of Ted Williams 84 game on base streak, Herrera started off this year reaching the bag in 45 straight games. Need more? How about five straight games hitting the ball out of the park. Right now the Phillies are sitting in first place in the NL East and even though Herrera was snubbed of appearing in the mid-season classic this year, he is a big reason why the team is chasing far more important honors.
12 Tim Beckham (Bust)
He's 28 years old, but was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the first overall pick in a draft that took place a decade ago. Clearly not everyone is ready to make the jump to the big leagues right away, but it took the third baseman five years before he pulled on a Rays jersey and that was just for a handful of games in 2013. After another year down in the minors, Beckham would exceed his rookie game limit with 82 games played in 2015 and play just one and a half more years in Tampa Bay before they parted with someone who could have been Eric Hosmer, Buster Posey or even Justin Smoak. Currently and occasionally suiting up for the Baltimore Orioles, Beckham has a career line of 354 games, 40HR, 133RBI, .256avg, .308OBP and 1 mulligan that the Rays wish they could have.
11 Trea Turner (Star)
Just because the Washington Nationals are having a season to forget, it doesn't mean that individually their roster is. In his fourth season (his third full one), the Nationals shortstop is posting career highs in most of the major stat categories. While his batting average has dropped since 2016, he has improved his on base percentage and has been a nightly fixture in the National lineup all season. Currently leading the team in stolen bases for the second straight season, if Turner can find a way to stay out of the medical room, something that impacted his performance last year, not only will he find a consistent spot in the batting order, but the Nationals may be able to turn their record around...next season.
10 Adalberto Mondesi (Bust)
Rookie of the Year, All-Star and two Gold Gloves with 271 homers, 518 RBI and a career batting average of .271. His birth name is Raul. The problem is, those are his dad's numbers, not those belonging to the Kansas City Royals second baseman. Whether you identify him as Raul or as Adalberto, either way, the youngster has a long way to go before comparisons to his dad can be made. Sure he has the one thing his dad doesn't, a World Series ring, but that came off of one plate appearance in which he struck out. Adalberto has yet to play more than 50 games in any of the three seasons he has been with the Royals and considering he was once a top prospect, a stat line of .212/.246/.322 during that audition may not carry much weight for any longer, regardless of who your dad was.
9 Cody Bellinger (Star)
Rookie of the Year, an All-Star and a starting spot on one of the most iconic sports teams in the world. Not too shabby for the Dodgers fourth round pick in the 2013 draft. In 2017, the Dodgers first baseman put up 39 homers, 97 RBI and a .267 batting average. While it would have been nice to see him match those same totals this season, the sophomore has not been as fortunate. But that shouldn't stop people from considering Bellinger as one of the great young players in the game. It would be unfair to expect the 22 year old to mimic nearly 40 home runs and 100 RBI. With about fifty games left on the schedule, it would be great to see Bellinger break out of his slump at just the right time to help the Dodgers make another World Series run.
8 Dansby Swanson (Bust)
People probably forget that the Colorado Rockies used the tenth pick in the 38th round of the 2012 draft on a young high school star. Instead of signing a MLB contract, the shortstop went to Vanderbilt University and would then be selected with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the fall of 2015, Swanson would be traded to Atlanta in a five player deal. When you consider that only nine players from that class have stepped into a major league park, Swanson's numbers aren't all that bad. While his rookie numbers were a success, .302/.361/.442/.803, it was his sophomore showing on both sides of the plate that was less than impressive. At 24 years old, Swanson's career can easily go either along the same path as his rookie year or take the dark journey of his second season.
7 Max Kepler (Star)
Aside from last year's wild card game, the Minnesota Twins haven't been relevant in the MLB playoff race for most of this decade. However there are a couple of players on the roster hoping to be part of that change. In addition to Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco, 25 year old right fielder Kepler is one of the main components to turning the fate of the team around. Although he had a slow start to the 2018 season, Kepler has seen his stats improve since the All-Star break with 11 hits, 2 homers and a .268 average in the first twelve games back. While he still struggles against pitchers who throw to his side of the plate, for a player who is currently in his third full season, there is still room for improvement and a bright future for both himself and the Twins.
6 Hunter Renfroe (Bust)
Many thought that 2017 was a sign of things to come from the San Diego Padres outfielder as the rookie put up an impressive number line of 26HR, 58RBI, and averages of .231/.284/.467 in 122 games and 479 plate appearances. Unfortunately those numbers haven't been repeated in his second season as while his averages are similar his actual output as a whole is not. Last year Renfroe was caught at the plate 140 times, this season in only 69 games he has struck out 62 times. While he is still only 26 years old, next season can not come soon enough for the Mississippi native as regardless of being in San Diego or down in the minors with El Paso where he played ten games and had numbers that were actually worse than his current major league stats, 2018 has been a year to forget and hopefully not repeat in 2019.
5 Matt Olson (Star)
The Oakland Athletics are making a push to return to the post-season for the first time since 2014 as they currently chase down the Houston Astros in the AL West and battle the Seattle Mariners for the final wildcard berth. Following a quick cup of coffee with the team in 2016, the A's first baseman made MLB fans ecstatic with his 59 game performance in 2017. 24 homers, 45 RBI, .259 avg.. Now in his first full season with the club, Olson hasn't been able to repeat those same magical numbers, but his play with both the bat and glove have been a major reason for the team's success. Currently sitting on 21 HR, 52 RBI and .238 avg. Olson's mobility, range and arm have people paying equal attention to his play at the corner. Should he keep up this level of performance, Olson may be the A's best first baseman since Jason Giambi.
4 Lewis Brinson (Bust)
As stated earlier, if we could put the whole Miami Marlins franchise on this list under the "bust" tag, we would. Other than when Giancarlo Stanton was on their roster, the team was pretty much irrelevant for the past fifteen years. Now with Stanton in New York, there is no reason to even pay attention to the Marlins. With a potential to be a power and speed combo that could possibly replace Stanton's numbers, Brinson has failed to live up to the numbers that he posted in his time in Triple A. Currently hitting .186 with an OBP of .232 and an OPS of .570, Brinson's true rookie season has seen even more negativity as he has been sidelined since July 4th with a hip injury.
3 Carlos Correa (Star)
In the span of his short three and a half year career, the Houston Astros shortstop has claimed a World Series Championship, an All-Star and the Rookie Of The Year. Unfortunately for the Astros who have a slim four game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the AL West, Correa has been sidelined with a back injury for the last month. At just 23 years old, the Astros want to take every precaution in his return to health as the young star who was drafted first overall in 2012 is the future leader of the club. Need defence, got it. Need a stolen base, got it. Need a base hit, got it. Need a long bomb, got it. Need a clubhouse leader, got it. Although still a youngster, Correa plays with the mind and skillset of a grizzled vet, evident by his .276 avg with 2 homers and 5 RBI in last year's World Series championship. With a little fine tuning, Correa could surpass Adam Everett and Dickie Thon as the Astros all time best shortstop.
2 Dominic Smith (Bust)
New York Yankees = 27 Championships. New York Mets = 2. As the Clippers are to the Lakers, so too are the Mets to the Yankees and there are various reasons for that. Exhibit A, (based on recent draft classes), the Mets decided to go with first baseman, Smith. The Yanks, twenty-one picks later on the other hand drafted a man-child by the name of Aaron Judge. Considering the roller coaster ride that Smith has had through the minor league circuit and his short stint over the past two years in the majors, one would have to consider him to be a bust. When you are batting under the Mendoza line, the Mets could have been better off bringing up Tim Tebow, at least he would have sold tickets for a team that has to compete with the juggernaut that is the NY Yankees. To be fair, the struggles aren't completely Smith's fault as the Mets yo-yo him back and forth in the minors and at different positions on the field. Maybe both just need a fresh start next season.
1 Shohei Ohtani (Star)
Is there a brighter young star in the making than the Los Angeles Angels' sensation from Japan? Right now, the Angels are nine games back of a wild card spot in the AL playoff race and figure that they have a chance, which is why they are keeping Ohtani in the lineup despite potential risk of further injury to the UCL that he damaged in early June.
At the time that Ohtani injured his elbow, he was sitting on a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA. Add in a .260 BA with 9 homers and 25 RBI in 55 games and there is no doubt that the Angels have a gifted player on their roster. Right now, Major League Baseball is looking for a star to carry the league into the future and while Bryce Harper and Aaron Judge are holding their own, a player like Ohtani is a once in a generation player.