Here’s a list of the top ten best young hitters in Major League Baseball. This list was compiled with the mindset that I am bringing an expansion team to the MLB, and I have the full pool of all players to choose from. I based this list on players current ability and their potential to start and produce in my lineup for the next ten or more years. Now, there may be some question marks, but think of it this way: a players “prime” age is roughly between the ages of 27-32 – I am looking for players that are producing ahead of their prime.
1. Giancarlo Stanton -OF – Miami Marlins
Stanton is 22 and arguably the top power hitter in the game right now. He will headline this year’s HR Derby. Even though his batting average hasn’t been stellar over the last few years, this year he is showing signs of improvement (hitting .282 this season). Stanton can reliably get on base (career .348 OBP) and has one of the best arms in the game, finishing 2nd in assists as a right fielder in 2010 and 2011. To me, there is no other player I would rather build my team around. Stanton will be a solid producer for years and years to come.
2.Justin Upton – OF – Arizona Diamondbacks
Upton can do it all. He plays an exceptional center field, and he has one of the top bats in the game. At 24, Upton’s baseball resume is lengthy. He is a two time all-star, and finished 4th in MVP voting last year. Upton is a consistent threat to steal bases, drive in runs, and hit for power. Though he’s had a slow start this season, he’s still 24 and has one of the brightest futures in baseball.
3.Buster Posey – C/1B – San Francisco Giants
The 2010 Rookie of the Year is a no brainer to include on a list of top hitters. He is a consistent at the plate, (career .297 BA), can hit for power (18 HR’s in 2010, 10 so far in 2012) and he plays one of the most important positions in baseball exceptionally well. Posey has already won a World Series, and the Giants are definitely a better team with him in the lineup.
4.Andrew McCutchen – OF – Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen has been a great player on a very bad team, until recently. McCutchen had a bit of a down year in 2011 in terms of his batting average, but he still rocked a .364 OBP, stole 23 bases, hit 23 bombs with 89 RBI’s. For his career, he’s hitting .287 and has an All-Star appearance on his resume. McCutchen will be an MVP candidate for years to come if Pittsburgh can start to build around him.
5. Carlos Gonzales – OF – Colorado Rockies
“CarGo”, 26, has emerged of the most reliable hitters in the game over the last few years. In 2010, he finished 3rd in MVP voting, and won a Gold Glove. He owns a .303 career batting average and an incredible .357 on base percentage. Did I mention he steals bases? The last two years he’s stolen over 20 bags.
6. Adam Jones – OF – Baltimore Orioles
Jones is the oldest on the list, (will be 27 in August) but he has been one of the most exciting young players in baseball for the last few years. Since age 22, Jones has bat over .270 and an on base percentage over .310. He also has an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove.
7. Mark Trumbo – 3B – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Trumbo might be the best player on the Angels, and it seems the sports world refuses to acknowledge his existence. Last year, Trumbo hit 29 home runs, stole 9 bases, and had 87 RBI’s, and finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting. This year, he’s already hit 20 home runs and is batting .312 with a .361 OBP. Not to mention he plays outfield, first base and third base, and does so with excellence (career .990 fielding percentage).
8. Austin Jackson – OF – Detroit Tigers
After finishing 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, Jackson struggled a little bit in 2011. Jackson still boasts incredible numbers over the course of his short career. He’s stolen over 20 bases in each of his first two seasons and has a career on base percentage of .343. Jackson isn’t known for his power, but he scores runs and plays great defense. In 2010 he finished third in assists among all center fielders, and is currently first in fielding percentage among all center fielders. Also, remember that he will be hitting in front of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera for the next couple of years. That’s as close as you can get to guaranteed runs.
9. Elvis Andrus – SS – Texas Rangers
Andrus, 23, has quietly been one of the best producers on the two time American League Champion’s roster. Andrus finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, and has stolen over 30 bases in all three seasons with the Rangers. Andrus consistently gets on base (a career .346 OBP) and scores runs (averaging 95 runs per 162 games played).
10. Jason Heyward – OF – Atlanta Braves
His 2010 rookie campaign was remarkable, he was elected as an All-Star and finished 2nd in rookie of the year voting. He bat .277 with 18 homers, 72 RBI’s and 11 stolen bases. Yet he did not live up to expectations last year, when he bat .227 with 14 RBI’s. I think this is Heyward’s year to prove himself to the Braves, and the baseball world, and he is doing just fine. He currently is getting on base (.345 OBP) and has already hit 12 homers. Heyward will be in the middle of the Atlanta lineup for a long, long time.
Now, there are definitely some up and coming guys that have been left off the list. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are the two most significant. However, assuming Trout and Harper win rookie of the year, it’s not a lock that they’ll be great hitters for years to come. Remember guys like Angel Berroa, Bobby Crosby, Chris Coghlan or Geovany Soto? All of these guys are former Rookies of the Year that are now afterthoughts. Even though I believe Trout and Harper have much higher upsides and significantly more potential than any of the guys I listed, they don’t make teh cut just yet. I think they’ll both be great players for years, but until they can prove it over multiple seasons, they’ll stay off my list.
Anybody you think should be on the list?