The start of spring training for the 2016 MLB season marks an exciting period for baseball fans around the country with World Series aspirations. It also offers an opportunity for unproven players to showcase their talents, career minor league players and top prospects alike. In recent years we have seen a wave of talent seize this opportunity and earn a spot on their MLB affiliate at an unexpectedly young age. Traditionally prospects need years of grooming with their Major League ball club before finding success, but this new generation of ballplayers has exploded into relevance on the biggest stage.
The following list of players consists entirely of homegrown talent that franchises developed through their minor league player development system. The Royals proved with their championship this year that a club can successfully rebuild their franchise through the farm system, and a number of teams including the Astros and Cubs are following that lead. The focus of these organizations is to build their team through the draft and player development. This trend has offered prospects more of a chance to prove themselves at the MLB level and many talented young prospects have taken full advantage.
This generation of young stars is spread out around every position on the diamond and among many teams throughout the league. Some of these guys have already established themselves as superstars in MLB, while others have shown glimpses of stardom at a young age. In a time when professional athletes' training and nutrition is a precise science, this influx of young talent has been making jumping to the MLB level with unusual ease. It is a thrilling time for baseball fans around the league and this new wave of young talent offers an appealing and prosperous future for America's pastime.
25 Corey Seager
Corey Seager is considered the top prospect in all of baseball but the reason he sneaks on to this list is because of his performance for the Dodgers last fall, meaning we can technically call him an MLBer. After getting called up in September, Seager was surprisingly successful as a 21 year old rookie. He hit for a .337/.425/.561 slash line with four home runs and two stolen bases in just 27 games. Seager was so impressive in this small sample size that Don Mattingly hit him third in the Dodgers playoff lineup. Seager's prospect status inhibits him from a higher spot on this list but he is a exciting young talent poised for a very special career.
24 Jonathan Schoop
Baseball fans got their first exposure to Jonathan Schoop when he was playing for Willemstad, Curacao in the 2003 and 2004 Little League World Series. Now he is the second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. After premiering in 2013, he had a nice season in 2014 before battling injury last season. Schoop possesses great power for a second baseman and has hit at least 15 home runs in each of the last two years, including in this past season when he only played in 86 games. 2016 is an important season for Schoop at age 24 and, if he can stay healthy, he is ready to establish himself as an offensive threat in the AL East.
23 Jorge Soler
This Chicago Cubs' outfielder had a roller-coaster of a season last year before thriving in the playoffs. The young Cuban has shown flashes of greatness during his two years in MLB, but has lacked consistency. This is a common part of the learning curve for all Cuban players and Soler is no exception. The 24 year old outfielder has eye popping raw power at the plate and a cannon of an arm from the outfield, and the Cubs hope Soler will turn the corner this season and earn himself a job in their every day lineup.
22 Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco was a highly regarded outfield prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates and got his first call up midway through the 2014 season. Then last season, he secured a full time outfield job in the Pirates' lineup. He is known as a speedster on the base paths and stole 27 bases last season while also contributing nine home runs with a .256 batting average. The Pirates are expecting more out of the 24 year old as he continues to develop and are relying on him as a building block of their future as they try to keep stride with their rivals in the ultra-competitive NL Central.
21 Francisco Lindor
During his rise through the Indians' farm system, there were never questions about Lindor's ability to play defense at shortstop. The concern surrounded his bat tool. In June, the 22 years old was called up to Cleveland for the first time and proceeded to silence his critics by hitting for a .313 batting average with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 99 games. Lindor will look to build upon this success in a full campaign with the Indians this year. He is already one of the top shortstops in baseball and he will only improve as he continues to mature.
20 Carlos Martinez
The 24 year old right-handed pitcher had a nice campaign in 2015 before the Cardinals shut him down for the remainder year in September due to a concerning shoulder strain. Carlos Martinez has a fastball in the mid-90s with a deceptive change up and slider. The Cardinals organization is being cautious with Martinez's rehabilitation so far in spring training, as he has yet to face live hitters. Nonetheless, the Cardinals have a way with young pitchers and Martinez is no exception.
19 Miguel Sano
It is obvious the Twins want Sano's bat in the lineup but they are uncertain about what position this 22 year old will play. Sano played third base as a minor league prospect and then found time at both the hot corner and as the designated hitter last season for the Twins in his first exposure to MLB. He played 80 games after his call up and hit 18 home runs with a .269/.385/.530 slash line. Heading into this season. the Twins are testing Sano's defensive ability in right field but not matter what position he ends up playing, he will contribute. He is part of the core of a promising group of young players for the Twins.
18 Eduardo Rodriguez
This 22 year old southpaw was acquired by the Red Sox at the 2014 trade deadline in exchange for Andrew Miller and made his MLB debut last season. The young Venezuelan posted a respectable 3.85 ERA in his 21 starts for the Red Sox and finished the season with a 10-6 record. Earlier this spring, Rodriguez twisted his knee while running drills in preparation for this season but remains on pace to be ready for Opening Day. He has the potential to become the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff and Boston fans have high expectations of the young lefty.
17 Odubel Herrera
After the Texas Rangers declined their option to include Herrera on their 25-man roster after the 2014 season, making him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, the Phillies selected him with their eighth overall pick. He has since made the transition from middle infield to the outfield and asserted himself as a factor in the Phillies' rebuilding process. He had a good swing from the left-handed batters box and is set to begin the year as the starting center fielder for the Phillies. The rebuild has only just begun in Philadelphia, but Herrera is one of the assets on their roster that they can to build around.
16 Addison Russell
Addison Russell headlined the trade in 2014 that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland in exchange for a collection of prospects. He was finally called up midway through the 2015 season to fill the Cubs' void at middle infield and promptly moved Starlin Castro over to second base on a permanent bases. Although he did not overwhelm at the plate in his first taste of MLB pitching, he proved he can play shortstop at the next level and earned the trust of the Cubs' management with his performance. He has solidified himself as the shortstop on the North Side of Chicago and is ready to help the Cubs' World Series aspirations.
15 Yordano Ventura
The 24 year old Dominican native has an outstanding repertoire of pitches lead by a fastball in the mid-to-high-90s. The right-handed pitcher now has two full seasons of MLB competition under his belt but seemed to regress in his development last season. After posting a 3.20 ERA in his rookie year he followed that up with a 4.08 ERA in 2015. Hopes are still high for Ventura in Kansas City and the expectation is that he will eventually assume the role of their ace. He will need to tackle the learning curve of becoming an MLB starter, but has all the tools needed to do so.
14 Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman missed most of last season after tearing his ACL in spring training but returned in time for the Blue Jays playoff run. In those four starts down the stretch run, he performed like an absolute ace. The young right handed pitcher is a gritty comptetitor that embraces the big stage and pitches on emotion. The 24 year old stands only 5-foot 8-inches on the mound but challenges hitters with a fastball in the mid-to-low 90s and can mix in a nasty slider or pull the string on a change up. We have yet to see the best from Stroman and he will be a staple in the Blue Jays rotation as they seek to repeat in the AL East.
13 Lance McCullers
With their second pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, the Astros, at the beginning of their rebuilding process, selected McCullers with the 41st overall pick. Thanks to a lucrative bonus the team convinced him to sign out of high school and the 22 year old right-handed pitcher looks every bit worth the investment. He works off of his mid-to-high 90s fastball with a change up and sharp curveball that leave hitters looking silly. He has all the attributes of an ace and is a potential future Cy Young Award winner.
12 Xander Bogaerts
A highly touted shortstop during his rise through the Red Sox minor league system, Xander Bogaerts struggled a bit in his first full season with the team in 2014. Then last year, he was one of the most improved players in the league by making significant improvements both at the plate and in the field. Although he didn't hit for as much power as he did in 2014, he made adjustments to his approach and boosted his slash line to an impressive .320/.355/.421. The power potential could blossom in the next few seasons and there is no doubt that Bogaerts will play shortstop at Fenway Park for many years to come.
11 Kyle Schwarber
Kyle Schwarber was drafted as a catcher out of the University of Indiana in the 2014 draft and was heralded as a pure power threat. Last year in the minors, he was asked to learn how to play the outfield, which allowed the Cubs to call him up in only his second season of professional baseball. In the 69 games for the Cubs, he had a .246/.355/.487 slash line with 16 home runs and 43 RBI. It remains to be seen whether he will find a home in the field but the bat plays anywhere. If you want a quick taste of his raw power take a look at this home run he hit against the Cardinals in the NLDS. Wow.
10 Michael Wacha
This Texas A&M product took the fast track to his Major League ball club. After getting drafted 19th overall in the 2012 Draft, Wacha debuted for the Cardinals in 2013 and has had an important role on their pitching staff ever since. After battling shoulder problems in 2014, he responded last season by posting a 17-7 record with a 3.38 ERA. Wacha has the potential to become an ace in the coming years as he continues to improve and for now is an elite middle of the rotation starter for the Cardinals.
9 Noah Syndergaard
Otherwise known his superhero lookalike Thor, Noah Syndergaard is an imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot 6-inches and 240 pounds. This past season was his first full season in MLB at just 23 years old and the right-handed pitcher overwhelmed hitters with his electric fastball that touches 100 mph. Syndergaard has openly stated his desire to stay a Met for life and fans have high hopes for the future. If the Mets are going to achieve their World Series aspirations, they will need greatness from Syndergaard.
8 Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez missed the majority of last season after getting Tommy John surgery in May of 2014. Upon his return, he looked the Fernandez of old. He features a fastball that sits 96-98 complemented by a sneaky change up and devastating slider. He made 11 starts last year and finished with a 6-1 record and 2.92 ERA. At the Winter Meetings, there were trade rumors surrounding Fernandez, but the Marlins decided to hold on to their 23 year old ace. It looks like he will stay in Miami, but no matter where he plays, Fernandez is a dynamic young pitcher that can anchor a pitching staff.
7 Mookie Betts
This former middle infielder converted to the outfield in the minors in order to expedite his progress to the Red Sox and he patrolled center field at Fenway Park last year in a stellar rookie campaign. He established himself in the Red Sox lineup by hitting 18 home runs with 21 stolen bases in 145 games. With the emergence of Jackie Bradley Jr, Betts will move to right field this season, but his superior athleticism should allow him to make the transition with ease. He is legitimate 20 home run and 20 stolen base threat, and at just 23 years old is a star of the present and future in Boston.
6 Carlos Correa
The first overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Astros was called up to the big leagues in June and exploded on to the scene in one of the greatest seasons baseball fans have ever from a 21 year old rookie. In just 99 games, Correa hit 22 home runs to the tune of a .279/.345/.512 slash line, and was also a threat on the base paths with 14 stolen bases. Correa won the AL Rookie of the Year in his first taste of MLB and, at just 21 years old, is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball.
5 Nolan Arenado
The 24 year old third baseman is entering his fourth campaign with the Rockies after a tremendous season in 2015, in which he hit for a .287/.323/.575 slash with 42 home runs. He is a pure hitter that reaps the benefits of Coors Field and plays Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner. The Rockies hope to build around Arenado as they develop their rich farm system and work their way back to relevance in the NL West.
4 Kris Bryant
After spring training last season, it was clear Bryant was ready to play for the MLB club. Instead, the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A in order to manipulate his service time and restrict his free agency eligibility for an additional year. Bryant and his agent have since filed a grievance against the Cubs. It is unclear how this situation will unfold, but there is no doubt that the 24 year old third baseman is destined for greatness.He is an exceptional talent at third base that will serve as the cornerstone of the Cubs as they strive to break their dreaded curse.
3 Manny Machado
Unfortunately, Manny Machado has been hindered by knee injuries so far in his young career and had to get surgeries after both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Last year, he responded to critics of his health by playing in all 162 games for the Orioles. It was great to see him healthy because when he is the field he is one of the absolute best in all of baseball. He proved it last season by hitting .286 with 35 home run, 86 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. After debuting at 19 years old, he remains just 23 years old headed into this season. The Orioles have found themselves a superstar.
2 Mike Trout
Mike Trout has already completed four full season with the Angels at only 24 years old and is a multifaceted talent. Although his stolen bases have waned in the past two years, he plays great defense in center field and has increased his power as the stolen bases have diminished. Last season, he hit 41 home runs with a .299/.402/.590 slash line. Trout is destined to go down in MLB history as one of the greatest players of this generation. He is arguably the best player in baseball and, in the biggest debate in baseball, there really is no correct answer.
1 Bryce Harper
Coming off of a season in which he was rewarded with the National League MVP, Harper has already established himself as one of the best players in the league at only 23 years old. A prolific hitter from the left handed batters box, he tied Arenado for the National League lead in home runs last season with 42 while hitting for a .330 batting average. 2015 was the best statistical year of his career and if he continues to improve the sky is the limit. The young Nationals' outfielder is on pace for a Hall of Fame caliber career.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!