Creating a 25-Man Roster of MLB's Future Superstars
There are two boxes a player must check to become an MLB superstar.
First, he has to be unusually talented on the field. Second, that skill needs to translate to that player developing an exceptionally high profile around the game.
Since the following 25-man roster consists of future—not current—superstars, only prospects and players with less than one year of MLB service time have been included. That means there won't be any sightings of Jose Fernandez.
You also won't find Masahiro Tanaka on this team because the New York Yankees' right-hander is already such a prominent figure both nationally and internationally. Plus, even if he's not a superstar on the field just yet, he's certainly getting paid like one.
The following squad consists of 11 pitchers and 14 position players. The idea was to build a team that could actually compete in a game, which means some of the standouts will be out of position. In particular, I had to get creative with the bullpen because it's almost impossible for a middle reliever to ascend to superstar status.
Now, let's take a look at who made the cut.
The Starting Staff
1. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
With a 1.91 ERA, Sonny Gray is third in the American League in that category. The right-hander has a devastating curveball and demonstrates "poise beyond the years," as Dallas Braden of ESPN's Baseball Tonight notes.
2. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
The right-hander for the Kansas City Royals doesn't just throw heat. According to Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post, the rookie also utilizes a "sinker, changeup, curveball and cutter." That arsenal has helped the 22-year-old post a 1.50 ERA, which is the lowest in the AL.
3. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
After breaking into the St. Louis Cardinals rotation a season ago, Michael Wacha is enjoying a tremendous start to his first full MLB campaign. The right-hander owns a 2.55 ERA and has racked up 50 strikeouts in 42.1 innings.
4. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Every rotation needs a lefty. Paxton is currently on the DL, but the 25-year-old impressed with a 2.25 ERA in his first two outings of 2014. Last September, the Seattle Mariners starter posted a 3-0 record and a 1.50 ERA in four starts.
5. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander is the only member of this staff who has yet to make his MLB debut. Archie Bradley is on the Triple-A DL with a flexor strain in his elbow, but the 21-year-old is one of the most promising arms in the minor leagues. Entering 2014, MLB.com ranked Bradley as the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball.
Just Missed the Cut
- Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
- Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
- Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants
- Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
- Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
As mentioned in the intro, constructing the bullpen required considerable creativity. First, aside from closers, there really aren't any MLB relievers who reach superstardom. Second, most of the big-name bullpen arms are actually converted starters.
As a result, this group of pitchers consists of two current relievers, one pitcher who has worked in both roles and three starters who have been converted. To be clear, I expect the starting pitchers listed below to remain starters with their respective organizations. However, they will be pitching in relief on this team.
Long Reliever: Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Jesse Biddle is one of the premier left-handed pitchers in all of the minor leagues. The 22-year-old is currently pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies' Double-A affiliate where he's compiled 45 strikeouts in 39.1 innings.
Middle Reliever: Heath Hembree, RHP, San Francisco Giants
On this team, Heath Hembree is just a middle reliever. However, he absolutely has the arm to close out games for the San Francisco Giants in the future. The 25-year-old right-hander currently has six saves for the club's Triple-A affiliate. Of course, with Sergio Romo locking down the ninth inning in San Francisco, the team can afford to be patient with Hembree.
Middle Reliever: Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
Dellin Betances is just another bullpen arm on this team. However, like Hembree, the 6'8" right-hander has the potential to be a closer down the line. In 15.2 innings, Betances has struck out 28 batters.
Setup Man: Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Taijuan Walker, who is currently on the DL with a shoulder injury, is undoubtedly a starting pitcher. According to Baseball America, Walker is the No. 11 prospect in the game. On this team, though, the 21-year-old is the top right-handed setup man.
Setup Man: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Andrew Heaney is off to an excellent start for the Miami Marlins' Double-A team. In six outings, the No. 9 overall selection from the 2012 MLB draft has turned in a 2-1 record and 2.45 ERA. The way he's pitching, the 22-year-old could join the Marlins staff later this season.
Closer: Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez has the electric stuff to be a future closer. He's not needed in that role for the St. Louis Cardinals, but on this team, that's exactly the job he takes on.
Just Missed the Cut
- Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Gary Sanchez is off to a monster start in Double-A in 2014. The 21-year-old has already connected on seven doubles and four home runs in his first 24 contests. The right-handed hitter has also collected 20 RBI and posted a .286/.375/.495 slash line. Plus, the backstop has an impressively strong arm behind the plate.
On the Bench
Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox
There's a lot to like about a switch-hitting catcher—especially one with Blake Swihart's offensive skills. In 2014, the 21-year-old is batting .302 with five doubles in his first 21 Double-A games.
Just Missed the Cut
- Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets
- Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers
First Base: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Jose Abreu* just won't stop hitting home runs.
In his first 32 games for the Chicago White Sox, the first baseman has been unreal. The right-handed hitter leads MLB with 12 home runs and owns a .617 slugging percentage.
Second Base: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Hitting .405 with 10 doubles in his first 26 games, Mookie Betts is making the transition to Double-A look easy. The 21-year-old has already stolen 13 bases in 2014. A season ago, the right-handed hitter recorded 39 steals while splitting time between Low-A and High-A.
Third Base: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
With a .232 average in 22 games, Nick Castellanos isn't exactly tearing it up as the Detroit Tigers new third baseman. However, considering that he's still just 22 years old and was a .303 hitter in parts of four minor league seasons, it should only be a matter of time before he breaks through.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
As Peter Gammons explains, Xander Bogaerts is just one of those players "whose m.o. is to continually get better." That's scary since the 21-year-old shortstop has already been a key contributor for a team that won the World Series.
On the Bench
Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
Scout.com's No. 4 overall prospect, Addison Russell is progressing rapidly through the Oakland Athletics' minor league system.
The shortstop is currently on the DL with a torn hamstring, but the 20-year-old has already made it to Double-A. Last year, Russell collected 29 doubles, 17 home runs and 21 steals for the club's High-A affiliate and also took part in the All-Star Futures Game. He could debut for Oakland later this season and should be ready for a full-time job by Opening Day 2015.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
The first overall selection in the 2012 draft, Carlos Correa is already creating a ton of buzz.
The shortstop is just 19 years old and currently playing for the Houston Astros' High-A affiliate. However, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, Correa was the "best player" in the Astros' entire spring training camp. One scout told Gammons that the right-handed hitter will be the top prospect in all of baseball by the end of 2014.
Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Jon Singleton is another Astros' minor league infielder with an extremely bright future. The 22-year-old first baseman has already clubbed seven doubles and 10 home runs in his first 29 games in Triple-A in 2014.
Just Missed the Cut
- Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
- Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
- Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
*Note: I've included Jose Abreu and not Masahiro Tanaka because the Cuban slugger arrived in MLB as a much smaller star than the Japanese right-hander.
As I mentioned in the intro, being a superstar isn't just about success on the field; it's also about a player's profile off it. To underscore this claim, I'd point to their respective contracts. Abreu received a six-year, $68 million deal, but Tanaka landed a seven-year, $155 million contract.
Left Field: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton is the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. Last year, the right-handed hitter totaled 19 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs and 55 steals while splitting time between two of the Minnesota Twins' Single-A affiliates. This year, he has only played in one game after he sprained his wrist in spring training. However, now that he's healthy, he should be back on the fast track to the big leagues.
Center Field: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton has game-changing speed. After swiping 75 bases in the minor leagues a season ago, Hamilton has already collected 11 steals in 2014. The Cincinnati Reds' leadoff man is also heating up at the plate, hitting .333 in his last 10 contests.
Right Field: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
Scout.com's No. 6 overall prospect, Gregory Polanco, is on the verge of making his MLB debut. The 6'4" left-handed hitter is currently batting .378 with six doubles, three triples, four home runs and six steals in 28 Triple-A contests.
On the Bench
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With a .319 average in parts of six minor league seasons, Oscar Taveras can definitely hit for average. In 2014, he's also demonstrating some impressive pop. In his first 28 games for the St. Louis Cardinals' Triple-A club, the left-handed hitter has already tagged five home runs.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Like Polanco and Taveras, Joc Pederson is nearly ready to break into the big leagues. The left-handed batter was tabbed the Hitting Prospect of the Month by MLB.com after posting a .398/.504/.663 slash line with six home runs in April.
Just Missed the Cut
- George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
- Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
- Billy Hamilton, CF
- Byron Buxton, LF
- Jose Abreu, 1B
- Gregory Polanco, RF
- Gary Sanchez, C
- Xander Bogaerts, SS
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Mookie Betts, 2B
- Sonny Gray, SP
The Starting Lineup
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.