Incoming MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is going to have a lot of his plate when he assumes the office next January. From the Pete Rose issue, to declining attendance, to attempting to remove the taint of the steroid era – a scandal that reached all the way into the Commissioner's office – from the game of baseball, there will be no shortage of things on his to-do list. But one of the more interesting, and perhaps most pressing concern will be in attempting to make America's national pastime – well – national again.
Though outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig did a lot of things wrong during his tenure, he deserves credit for doing a lot of things right. In some ways, he grew and strengthened the brand of Major League Baseball, but in other ways he may have weakened it. During his tenure, professional baseball has gone from a national sport to a more regional one. Though that also owes much to regional television network deals and the impact those have on national networks. The overall impact has lessened people's knowledge of ballplayers outside of their immediate television market.
While there are certainly some players who are transcendent, who are widely known across the nation, they are few and far between. Most regular people in New York won't have the first clue about the players on the roster down in Houston – the fantasy geeks are of course, the exceptions to that rule. But it's unfortunate that some very excellent players, who are well known in their markets, get no national run.
Commissioner-elect Manfred is going to need to address that before professional baseball descends into little more than tribal warfare. The good news for him though, is that he has some incredible young talent dotting the rosters of quite a few clubs. There are some genuinely transcendent players across the landscape of the major leagues and they can help elevate the sport as a whole. If only they can get some national run.
With that in mind, let's look at just 15 of those young, potentially transcendent players who all happen to be age 25 of younger...
15 George Springer (Houston Astros)
14 Matt Moore (Tampa Bay Rays)
13 Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins)
12 Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants)
11 Sonny Gray (Oakland A's)
10 Jose Altuve (Houston Astros)
9 Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)
8 Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)
7 Julio Teheran (Atlanta Braves)
6 Michael Wacha (St. Louis Cardinals)
5 Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
4 Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles)
3 Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)
2 Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1 Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Trout is not just the best player under 25, he very well may be the best player in all of Major League baseball. After coming up for a brief stay with the Angels in 2011 in which he belted 5 home runs in 123 plate appearances, he started off the 2012 season with the big club and began to pay immediate dividends. That season, Trout batted .326, crushed 30 homers and knocked in 83 RBI's. Oh yeah, he also stole 49 bases and had an impressive .963 OPS. In 2013, his average was .323, and he had 27 homers, 97 RBI's, and another 33 stolen bases. 2014 is something of a down year for Trout in that he's only batting .289, only has 28 home runs and 90 RBI's in his stat columns. Trout is good. Really, really good. And if he continues playing the way he has been, he could wind up being one of the best to ever play.
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