Bryce Harper and the Under-25 All-Star Team
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Bryce Harper was hit in the back with a 2-0 pitch by Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies on May 6.
Hamels has hit five batters on average each season in his brief seven-year career, but this one was different. The Washington Post reports that he later admitted that he hit Bryce Harper on purpose. He wanted to welcome Harper into the league and followed a vintage Roger Clemens, who would often hit guys for staring him down.
Seeing Hamels hit Bryce Harper made me think.
I thought about how silly "the code" is that players live by. It made me think about if this really is the best way to get more kids playing baseball.
Then it made me think about whether or not a team of young players (like Bryce Harper) all under 25 would be able to beat a team of MLB All-Stars.
I think this is the best way to salvage the joke that the All-Star game currently is—put everyone under 25 on one side, and everyone else on the other.
This would be a great way for baseball to showcase their young talent (guys like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw), and I think the game would be really competitive. Leave the postseason reward (home-field advantage in the World Series for the league who wins) out of the All-Star game and put a show on for the fans of all ages.
I think that in 2012, an under-25 team would beat an All-Star team of over-25 players.
Under 25: Infielders
Lawrie & Wieters—young talent in AL East.
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C—Matt Wieters (25)
Drafted fifth overall in 2007, Matt Wieters is currently tied at eight with Mike Napoli for the most home runs by any catcher in baseball. He has an OPS of .903. He hit 22 HR and drove in 68 in 2011 in 139 games. He also won a Gold Glove last year and was named to the All-Star team. Could he be the hall-of-fame catcher everyone thought he would be when he was in the minors?
1B—Freddie Freeman (22)
Freeman (who was also drafted in 2007) hit 67-21-76 in his rookie season with the Atlanta Braves. He finished in second in NL rookie of the year voting in 2011. He currently has six HR and 28 RBI in 33 games. Could he hit 35 in just his second season?
2B—Jason Kipnis (25)
Jason was draft in the second round in 2009 by the Cleveland Indians. In just 36 games last year, he hit 24-7-19-5. In 33 games this year, he has put up almost the same numbers (22-6-22-6). He leads the MLB in RBI for second basemen. He only needs to hit 14 HR and steal 14 more bases for a 20-20 sophomore season. So much for the sophomore slump.
SS—Starlin Castro (22)
Starlin Castro just turned 22 and is entering his third season. He is batting .331 with 12 stolen bases. He finished fifth in rookie voting in 2010, and last season was an All-Star. Last season he had the fourth-highest amount of hits in the league with 207 hits. He could very soon be challenging for a batting title.
3B—Brett Lawrie (22)
Brett Lawrie is the first player on this list to not be drafted by his current team, but was selected 16th overall in 2008 by Milwaukee. In just 43 games in his rookie season, Brett hit 26-9-25-7 and .293. He might not even be the best 3B on his team, but he is on pace for a 78-15-84-15 season in his second year. He could hit a 20-20 in 2012 if he begins to play up to his talent.
Under 25: Outfielders
Justin Upton would be on the under-25 All-Star team for the last year in 2012.
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LF—Desmond Jennings (25)
Desmond will turn 26 in October, so he still counts for 2012. He was drafted in 2006 in the 10th round by Tampa Bay. He has played in 111 games over three seasons and if you were to pro-rate his numbers over a 162-game season, they would equate a pretty good season—101-19-56-44. He finished seventh among AL rookie of the year voting in 2011. 2012 will be his first full season and currently he is one of the top 10 best MLB outfielders.
CF—Bryce Harper (19)
Bryce Harper was taken first overall in 2010 by the Nationals. There has not been a player to arrive in the majors with as much hype as Harper since Alex Rodriguez or Miguel Cabrera. Unlike most on this list, he does not have the history of success in the bigs yet. He has 14 games under his belt, but has six doubles, six walks, and an OPS of .663. Not bad for a very raw 19-year-old rookie learning as he goes. Thanks to injuries, he will be sticking with the Nationals. The baseball world is waiting with anticipation for Bryce Harper to catch up to his hype, but he will soon enough.
RF—Justin Upton (25)
Justin is 24 and was drafted first overall in 2005. In his third season, he hit 26 HR and stole 20 bases. He just missed the 20-20 mark in the following year. In 2011, Upton hit 31 HR and had 20 stolen bases once again. Upton is just six home runs shy of 100 at age 24, with over 300 RBI. His career OPS is .835. He is a two-time All-Star, he received MVP votes in 2009 and 2011 (getting as high as fourth place in 2011). He received the Silver Slugger award in 2011 as well. If Upton hits 34 HR for the next 12 years, a pace he could reach given his age, he will hit the 500 HR mark.
DH—Gioncarlo Stanton (22)
Gioncarlo was taken in the second round in 2007 by the Florida Marlins. In just 250 games (his first two years), Stanton hit 56 HR. He is currently on pace to hit over 30 once again. Like Justin Upton, he has the power to hit over 40. In 2011, Stanton finished 23rd in MVP voting. His career OPS is .863. He is so full of potential that he could play for another 15 years. Just hope the new Marlins park doesn't swallow some of his home runs.
Under 25: Pitchers
At 24, Clayton Kershaw has won a CY Young Award and is among the best pitchers in MLB.
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SP—Clayton Kershaw (24)
Clayton was taken seventh overall by the L.A. Dodgers in 2006. He has 49 wins in his five seasons. His career K/9 rate is 9.3. In 2011, he won 21 games and had 248 strikeouts. He has already won a CY Young Award, finished 12th in MVP votes, won a Gold Glove and was in All-Star all in one season. He also has a WHIP below one at 0.90 so far in 2012. He is the one pitcher any organization would begin a team with right now.
SP—Steven Strasburg (23)
Strasburg was taken first overall in 2009 by the Nationals. He is 9-4 in his career, but has missed a year with injuries. His career K/9 rate is 11.1 over 24 games. In 13 of his 24 games that he has started, he has seven or more strikeouts. In 2012, all of his starts have been quality starts (seven of them), and he has a WHIP of 0.91 with 51 Ks in 44 IP. He is off to a great start.
SP—Madison Bumgarner (22)
Madison has not had as much success as the other two guys mentioned, but at just 22 years old, he has won 25 of his 59 games started. Last season he had 191 strikeouts in just over 200 innings. His career WHIP is 1.23 and his ERA is 3.06. His best years are ahead of him and 2012 could be his breakout season (he already has five wins).
CL—Craig Kimbrel (24)
Craig Kimbrel broke out in 2011, earning 46 saves in Atlanta. He was taken in the third round in 2008 by the Braves. He already has 11 saves in 2012. His K/9 rate is 15.5 with a career ERA of 1.87. In 2011, he was an All-Star, was ninth in CY Young voting, 23rd in MVP voting and won the rookie of the year award. Could he get to 400 career saves?
Under 25: Bench
Jay Bruce would be a nice double-switch option in NL or DH on All-Star day.
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There is so much young talent in the majors right now that there could be a bench of players who could start for this "All-Star" team. In fact, there are still players that would not make this team. The neat thing about the 25-and-under team is that guys like Stanton and Harper could be on this team for three-to-five years.
RF—Jay Bruce (25)
Now in his fifth season, Bruce has 110 HR and 303 RBI. He has his at least 20 home runs in every season and has 10 in 30 games in 2012. He was an All-Star in 2011.
RF—Jayson Heyward (22)
Jayson Heyward has been slowed down by injuries in his short career. His 162-game average over his career shows a batting line of 82-20-69-15. But, he has more talent than that, and when healthy, he could bust out in 2012.
OF—Mike Trout (20)
Mike Trout has only played 51 games, but he is widely regarded as one of the best young prospects in the game. He has a career OPS of .747. He is on pace in 2012 to hit 103-30-88 in his second season.
INF—Jose Altruve (22)
Altruve (who was undrafted) has just turned 22 and is one of the biggest surprises in 2012. He is batting .325 and has an OPS of .726. he is on pace to hit 99-10-68-26 in his first full season.
SP—Mat Latos (24)
Latos was drafted by the San Diego Padres and was traded after the 2011 season to the Cincinnati Reds. Latos is 29-32 in his lifetime, but he has had two seasons with at least 185 Ks and his career WHIP is 1.18.