MLB: 6 Best Pitchers Under 25 Years Old

Stephen MeyerDeputy MLB EditorFebruary 15, 2012

MLB: 6 Best Pitchers Under 25 Years Old

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    There is an incredible amount of young pitching across the league and it has been instrumental in creating a more exciting product on the field.

    Finding a young ace to anchor your staff not only saves you upwards of $150 million on the free agent market, but also provides the foundation for multiple years of World Series contention.

    Some starters have just graduated from the “under-25” category such as David Price and Felix Hernandez, but there are plenty more in the pipeline to carry the torch moving forward.

    Some notable names that have been omitted from the list include:

    1. Michael Pineda: Needs to prove the second-half fade was simply fatigue and not a sign of things to come.

    2. Brett Anderson (still just 23): Needs to prove his electric arm can stay healthy for a full season.

    3. Trevor Cahill: Needs to prove 2010 was the rule as opposed to the exception.

    4. Craig Kimbrel: Needs to prove he can bounce back from a poor September and a personal collapse in big spots. He would have been No. 7 on this list for what it’s worth.

    5. Neftali Feliz: Needs to prove he can successfully transition into the rotation.

    Feel free to make the case for any of these omissions in the comment section or add more of your own, as I would love to debate some baseball with all of you.

    Here we go, starting off with a young flamethrower from Tampa Bay at No. 6:

6. Matt Moore

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    Key Stat: 11 K, 0 ER in First MLB Start

    A Google search for ‘Matt Moore’ will first return countless links associated with the embattled Miami Dolphins quarterback of the same name.

    But that is all about to change when the 22-year-old future ace is unleashed on MLB over a full season.

    With just one pro start on his resume at the time, Moore was cold-blooded against a top Texas lineup in the ALDS—allowing just one run in 10 IP. The Rays responded by locking him up at a discount rate through as late as 2019.

5. Mat Latos

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    Key Stat: 11th Round Pick in 2006 Draft

    Over 72 MLB starts, Mat Latos has an identical 1.15 WHIP and virtually identical opponent OPS whether pitching in the friendly confines of Petco Park or on the road.

    This proves to me that he is not simply a product of a spacious ballpark and should thrive in hitter friendly Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

    Latos is an imposing figure at 6’6” and is blessed with a swing-and-miss slider that held batters to a .164 AVG in 2011.

4. Madison Bumgarner

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    Key Stat: Just 2.1 BB/9 as a Giant

    Following up a stellar rookie campaign in which he went eight shutout innings in a crucial World Series Game Four, Madison Bumgarner thew 200+ innings and was in the top 10 in MLB with a 4.15 K/BB ratio in 2011.

    Bumgarner has my preseason pick as a 2012 MLB All-Star and I am convinced he will have a monster season behind Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain this season.

    He has impeccable control, solid velocity, a big-game mentality and is under team control until 2017.

3. Jeremy Hellickson

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    Key Stat: 7-3, 3.21 ERA in AL East

    The reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson, had a remarkable season in a division littered with three of the top six offenses in all of baseball.

    Though not capable of missing a ton of bats, Hellickson’s ability to change speeds, hit spots and pitch well beyond his years will make him a success for the next decade.

    He may very well be the Rays’ No. 4 starter by season’s end, highlighting how many electric arms they have at their disposal.

2. Stephen Strasburg

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    Key Stat: Paid $182,291 per strikeout in 2011

    Stephen Strasburg had a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery as a 96 MPH average fastball, 0.71 WHIP and 12:1 K/BB ratio proved his arm is as horrifying as ever.

    What’s even more impressive about those numbers is Strasburg threw 73.4 percent fastballs, up 16 percent from 2010, in order to play it safe and reduce the strain of his curve on his recovering elbow.

    It’s more than just unfair how unhittable Strasburg is, it’s like Steve Nebraska (of "The Scout" fame) has transitioned from movie character into reality.

1. Clayton Kershaw

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    Key Stat: Youngest NL Cy Young since 1985

    He is the NL Cy Young Award winner. He lead MLB in wins, strikeouts, ERA, H/9 and WHIP. He’s logged 716 innings before his 24th birthday.

    Clayton Kershaw is a specimen Los Angeles has not seen since Koufax and is arguably the best pitcher in baseball in any age group—forget about those under 25.

    Not bad production for his $500,000 salary last season, huh?