Which MLB Team Has the Most Elite Young Talent?

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2017

Which MLB Team Has the Most Elite Young Talent?

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Our mission: Identify which MLB team has the most elite young talent heading into the 2017 season.

    First, we needed to determine what constitutes "young talent," and for the sake of this exercise, we focused on players 25 years old or younger.

    That age was based on how old a player will be on June 30.

    From there, we needed to devise a scoring system to make it easy to compare all 30 teams' young talent.

    Here's what we came up with:

    • Established MLB Stars (10 points): Players with at least one 5.0-WAR season to their credit or a zWAR of at least 5.0 for the upcoming campaign were worth the most. These players have already established themselves as All-Star level performers or are expected to do so in 2017. A total of 11 players qualified.
    • Budding MLB Stars (5 points): Players with at least one 2.0-WAR season to their credit or a zWAR of at least 2.0 for the upcoming season. A 2.0 WAR is generally identified as the baseline for an everyday player, and producing at that level before the age of 26 is a good sign of a bright future.
    • Consensus Top Prospects (2 points): Players who appear on both the Baseball America and MLB.com top-100 prospect lists for the 2017 season.
    • Other Top Prospects (1 point): Players who appear on just one of those top-100 prospect lists for the 2017 season.
    • Tiebreaker: If two clubs had the same number of points, the total number of players who qualified served as the tiebreaker.

    There were a few players who fell outside of those parameters who probably deserve attention: Kyle Schwarber (CHC), Nomar Mazara (TEX), Orlando Arcia (MIL) and Jose Berrios (MIN) jump to mind.

    For the most part, though, that formula provided us with a good picture of how all 30 teams stack up in terms of high-end young talent.

                                               

    Note: The zWAR totals come courtesy of the ZiPS projection system, which was created by Dan Szymborski and can be found on FanGraphs. They are used as a prediction model for the upcoming season.

No. 30 to No. 11

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    SS Francisco Lindor /
    SS Francisco Lindor /Jason Miller/Getty Images

    30. Kansas City Royals: 0 points

    • None

                          

    29. San Francisco Giants: 3 points

    • RHP Tyler Beede (2 pts), IF Christian Arroyo (1 pt)

                         

    28. Seattle Mariners: 4 points

    • OF Kyle Lewis (2 pts), OF Tyler O'Neill (2 pts)

                                       

    27. Texas Rangers: 8 points

    • 2B Rougned Odor (5 pts), OF Leody Taveras (2 pts), LHP Yohander Mendez (1 pt)

            

    26. San Diego Padres: 9 points

    • RHP Anderson Espinoza (2 pts), CF Manuel Margot (2 pts), RF Hunter Renfroe (2 pts), RHP Cal Quantrill (2 pts), LHP Adrian Morejon (1 pt)

                 

    25. Los Angeles Angels: 10 points

    • CF Mike Trout (10 pts)

                     

    24. Arizona Diamondbacks: 11 points

    • LHP Robbie Ray (5 pts), RHP Taijuan Walker (5 pts), LHP Anthony Banda (1 pt)

                 

    23. Miami Marlins: 12 points

    • CF Christian Yelich (10 pts), LHP Braxton Garrett (2 pts)

                 

    22. Tampa Bay Rays: 14 points

    • LHP Blake Snell (5 pts), SS Willy Adames (2 pts), RHP Jose De Leon (2 pts), RHP Brent Honeywell (2 pts), OF Jake Bauers (2 pts), 1B Casey Gillaspie (1 pt)

                 

    21. Atlanta Braves: 15 points

    • SS Dansby Swanson (2 pts), 2B Ozzie Albies (2 pts), LHP Kolby Allard (2 pts), RHP Mike Soroka (2 pts), RHP Ian Anderson (2 pts), SS Kevin Maitan (2 pts), LHP Sean Newcomb (2 pts), OF Ronald Acuna (1 pt)

                      

    20. Milwaukee Brewers: 16 points

    • RHP Zach Davies (5 pts), CF Lewis Brinson (2 pts), LHP Josh Hader (2 pts), OF Corey Ray (2 pts), RHP Luis Ortiz (2 pts), 2B Isan Diaz (2 pts), RHP Brandon Woodruff (1 pt)

                 

    19. Detroit Tigers: 17 points

    • 3B Nick Castellanos (5 pts), RHP Michael Fulmer (5 pts), LHP Daniel Norris (5 pts), RHP Matt Manning (2 pts)

                   

    18. Cincinnati Reds: 17 points

    • SP Brandon Finnegan (5 pts), 3B Eugenio Suarez (5 pts), 3B Nick Senzel (2 pts), LHP Amir Garrett (2 pts), LF Jesse Winker (1 pt), RHP Robert Stephenson (1 pt), LHP Cody Reed (1 pt)

                   

    17. Oakland Athletics: 18 points

    • LHP Sean Manaea (5 pts), 3B Ryon Healy (5 pts), SS Franklin Barreto (2 pts), LHP A.J. Puk (2 pts), 3B Matt Chapman (2 pts), RHP Jharel Cotton (1 pt), RHP Grant Holmes (1 pt)

               

    16. Toronto Blue Jays: 19 points

    • RHP Aaron Sanchez (5 pts), RHP Roberto Osuna (5 pts), 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2 pts), RHP Sean Reid-Foley (2 pts), OF Anthony Alford (2 pts), IF Lourdes Gurriel (1 pt), SS Richard Urena (1 pt), 1B Rowdy Tellez (1 pt)

     

    15. New York Mets: 20 points

    • SP Noah Syndergaard (10 pts), OF Michael Conforto (5 pts), SS Amed Rosario (2 pts), 1B Dominic Smith (2 pts), RHP Justin Dunn (1 pt)

                

    14. Pittsburgh Pirates: 20 points

    • LF Gregory Polanco (5 pts), RHP Jameson Taillon (5 pts), CF Austin Meadows (2 pts), RHP Tyler Glasnow (2 pts), RHP Mitch Keller (2 pts), 1B Josh Bell (2 pts), SS Kevin Newman (2 pts)

                            

    13. Chicago White Sox: 21 points

    • LHP Carlos Rodon (5 pts), SS Tim Anderson (5 pts), 2B Yoan Moncada (2 pts), RHP Lucas Giolito (2 pts), RHP Michael Kopech (2 pts), RHP Reynaldo Lopez (2 pts), C Zack Collins (2 pts), RHP Carson Fulmer (1 pt)

                  

    12. Baltimore Orioles: 22 points

    • 3B Manny Machado (10 pts), RHP Dylan Bundy (5 pts), 2B Jonathan Schoop (5 pts), C Chance Sisco (2 pts)

                 

    11. Cleveland Indians: 22 points

    • SS Francisco Lindor (10 pts), 3B Jose Ramirez (5 pts), C Francisco Mejia (2 pts), CF Bradley Zimmer (2 pts), RHP Triston McKenzie (2 pts), 1B Bobby Bradley (1 pt)

10. Washington Nationals (24 Points)

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    RF Bryce Harper /
    RF Bryce Harper /Harry How/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RF Bryce Harper244.49.921.5
    SS Trea Turner243.53.53.8
    RHP Joe Ross242.52.13.5

                                

    Top 100 Prospects: 4 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    OF Victor Robles137
    RHP Erick Fedde5260

                                                 

    Team Overview

    The Washington Nationals would have ranked higher on this list if they had not traded away a pair of consensus top-100 prospects in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the deal to acquire Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox. 

    They still have Bryce Harper, though.

    The 2016 season was not the encore performance to his 2015 NL MVP he was hoping for, but there's plenty of reason to think he'll bounce back. His 21.5 career WAR is the second-highest among active players 25 or younger (Mike Trout).

    In almost any other season, Trea Turner would have walked away with Rookie of the Year honors after hitting .342/.370/.567 with 35 extra-base hits and 33 stolen bases in 73 games, but alas, he was matched up against the Dodgers' Corey Seager for the honor.

    A healthy season from Joe Ross could mean a step forward after he went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 105 innings over 19 starts a year ago.

9. New York Yankees (24 Points)

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    C Gary Sanchez /
    C Gary Sanchez /Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 10 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    C Gary Sanchez243.43.03.0
    RHP Luis Severino232.61.91.6

                           

    Top 100 Prospects: 14 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    SS Gleyber Torres53
    OF Clint Frazier3924
    OF Blake Rutherford4537
    SS Jorge Mateo8547
    RF Aaron Judge9045
    RHP James Kaprielian8758
    LHP Justus Sheffield9179

                                    

    Team Overview

    There's a reason the New York Yankees are focusing on the future for the first time in recent memory.

    That future is awfully bright. 

    MLB.com is a bit more bullish on some of the team's prospects, but no matter how you slice it, the Yankees have seven consensus top-100 guys headlining what is one of the deepest farm systems in baseball.

    Six of those seven guys are in big league camp this spring, as fans will get a firsthand look at the wave of young talent that figures to arrive over the next few seasons.

    As for this year's club, the main attraction will be Gary Sanchez, after he posted a 1.032 OPS with 20 home runs and 42 RBI in 53 games as a rookie.

    Will this be the year that Luis Severino finally uses his terrific stuff to lock down a rotation spot? He'll be given every chance this spring with two starting gigs up for grabs.

8. Minnesota Twins (25 Points)

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    CF Byron Buxton /
    CF Byron Buxton /Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    CF Byron Buxton233.01.92.1
    3B Miguel Sano242.02.12.9
    RF Max Kepler241.72.42.3
    LF Eddie Rosario251.22.23.3

                            

    Top 100 Prospects: 5 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    SS Nick Gordon6050
    LHP Stephen Gonsalves9992
    OF Alex Kirilloff-98

                                         

    Team Overview

    Is this the year that Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano finally live up to their top-prospect pedigree and take the reins of a Minnesota Twins team that lost 103 games a year ago?

    Buxton showed signs of life with a 1.011 OPS with six doubles and nine home runs in September last season, while a full-time move back to third base could help Sano settle in at the MLB level.

    Max Kepler outperformed both last season as he had a .734 OPS with 20 doubles, 17 home runs and 63 RBI to seize the everyday right field job.

    The projection systems don't love Jose Berrios, but he still has the stuff to emerge as a front-line starter despite a rocky debut last season, so he's one worth keeping an eye on.

    The same goes for prospect Tyler Jay, though an eventual move to the bullpen could cut into his long-term value.

7. Colorado Rockies (25 Points)

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    RHP Jon Gray /
    RHP Jon Gray /Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 15 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RHP Jon Gray252.62.32.6
    SS Trevor Story242.33.13.1
    LF David Dahl232.01.01.0

                                    

    Top 100 Prospects: 10 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    SS Brendan Rodgers1615
    RHP Jeff Hoffman3644
    RHP Riley Pint4651
    RHP German Marquez5373
    OF Raimel Tapia4990

                                

    Team Overview

    It looks like the Colorado Rockies might have found their staff ace in right-hander Jon Gray.

    The 25-year-old went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA (106 ERA+), 1.26 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 168 innings last season, and manager Bud Black thinks he's more than capable of improving.

    "Jon really made great strides last year in a number of areas. Performance, his confidence, really getting his feet on the ground as a major league starting pitcher," Black told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. "He's got to continue to grow, continue to pass these tests that every young player has to pass, and continue to perform like a top-of-the-rotation major league starter. He's very capable of doing those things based on his talent, his work ethic and his passion to play."

    Shortstop Trevor Story and left fielder David Dahl both impressed as rookies last season and will be looking to cement their place as part of the long-term core with a strong encore.

    It's the continued development of pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman, Riley Pint and German Marquez that could ultimately determine just how good the Rockies will be in the years to come.

6. Boston Red Sox (26 Points)

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    RF Mookie Betts /
    RF Mookie Betts /Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RF Mookie Betts245.79.617.6
    SS Xander Bogaerts243.34.68.9
    LHP Eduardo Rodriguez232.12.53.0

                          

    Top 100 Prospects: 6 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    LF Andrew Benintendi11
    3B Rafael Devers1817
    LHP Jason Groome4341

                               

    Team Overview

    Even while David Ortiz was playing his final seasons in a Boston Red Sox uniform, it was clear a changing of the guard was happening, as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts took over as the faces of the franchise.

    Betts was the most dynamic player in baseball not named Mike Trout last season, adding 30-homer power to an already impressive array of tools and finishing second to Trout in AL MVP voting.

    Bogaerts also muscled up to hit a career-high 21 home runs while ranking second on the team in runs (115) and fourth in RBI (89) to win his second consecutive Silver Slugger.

    This is another team that would have ranked higher had it not been for a busy offseason on the trade market.

    Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are both consensus top-100 prospects who were shipped to the Chicago White Sox in the Chris Sale blockbuster.

    Eduardo Rodriguez is the wild card here and perhaps on Boston's roster in general. He'll battle Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz for a rotation spot this spring and has legitimate front-line potential if everything clicks.

    Can't forget to mention No. 1 overall prospect Andrew Benintendi, who will break camp as the starting left fielder and heavy favorite for AL Rookie of the Year honors.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (28 Points)

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    RHP Carlos Martinez /
    RHP Carlos Martinez /Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RHP Carlos Martinez253.35.49.3
    RHP Michael Wacha221.83.05.7
    LF Randal Grichuk251.63.26.0

                             

    Top 100 Prospects: 8 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    RHP Alex Reyes414
    RHP Luke Weaver5068
    C Carson Kelly6539
    SS Delvin Perez8691

                                  

    Team Overview

    Unfortunately, Alex Reyes won't suit up for the St. Louis Cardinals this season, as he had Tommy John surgery.

    He's still an incredibly valuable asset with a bright future, though.

    Michael Wacha and Randal Grichuk have both plateaued in their development, but the same can't be said for emerging ace Carlos Martinez.

    The 25-year-old signed a five-year, $51 million extension this winter that includes a pair of option seasons that could keep him in St. Louis through 2023. That's a huge investment in someone who was headed to arbitration for the first time, but he's made it clear he's a long-term piece.

    The continued development of catching prospect Carson Kelly will be worth monitoring closely, as incumbent backstop Yadier Molina gets set to enter his age-34 season.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (28 Points)

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    RHP Aaron Nola /
    RHP Aaron Nola /Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RHP Aaron Nola243.91.91.8
    CF Odubel Herrera253.04.28.0
    RHP Vincent Velasquez252.91.71.9
    3B Maikel Franco242.01.72.5

                         

    Top 100 Prospects: 7 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    SS J.P. Crawford126
    CF Mickey Moniak1719
    C Jorge Alfaro4172
    RHP Sixto Sanchez80-

                            

    Team Overview

    The Philadelphia Phillies are several years into the rebuilding process, and they may be ready to start pushing back toward contention after adding a handful of solid veteran pieces to the young core this offseason.

    That being said, it's the continued progression of that young core that will determine when they're ready to contend again.

    Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez both showed flashes of front-line potential last season but wore out down the stretch and dealt with arm issues as well.

    The ZiPS model is bullish on Nola, whose 3.9 zWAR ranks 15th among all starting pitchers for the upcoming season.

    Prospects J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro should settle in at the MLB level at some point during the upcoming season, while Maikel Franco will look to improve on a somewhat disappointing .733 OPS from a year ago.

    Odubel Herrera is already one of the greatest success stories in Rule 5 draft history, and the Phillies rewarded him with a five-year, $30.5 million extension in the offseason.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (29 Points)

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    SS Corey Seager /
    SS Corey Seager /Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SS Corey Seager234.36.16.1
    CF Joc Pederson252.83.45.6
    LHP Julio Urias202.51.01.0

                         

    Top 100 Prospects: 9 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    1B Cody Bellinger712
    RHP Yadier Alvarez2649
    OF Alex Verdugo5861
    2B Willie Calhoun9282
    RHP Walker Buehler-93

                    

    Team Overview

    Corey Seager did not look like a first-year player last season en route to unanimous NL Rookie of the Year honors and a third-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    The 22-year-old hit .308/.365/.512 with 40 doubles, 26 home runs, 72 RBI and 105 runs scored, and he's capable of even more as he continues to grow into his power.

    After falling flat in the second half of his rookie season, Joc Pederson bounced back nicely to post an .847 OPS with 26 doubles and 25 home runs as the one stable piece in the Dodgers outfield last season.

    The biggest question might be just how good Julio Urias can be in his second season.

    There's been talk of leaving the left-hander back at extended spring training in an effort to limit his innings, as the Dodgers will continue to treat the 20-year-old phenom with kid gloves.

    At some point, he's going to force their hands.

    Even with Seager, Pederson and Urias graduating the minor league ranks in recent years and Jose De Leon traded away this offseason in the deal with Tampa Bay for Logan Forsythe, the farm system is loaded with high-end talent.

2. Houston Astros (30 Points)

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    SS Carlos Correa /
    SS Carlos Correa /Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWAR High WARCareer WAR
    SS Carlos Correa 225.75.910.1
    3B Alex Bregman 223.11.81.8
    RHP Lance McCullers 232.62.44.0

                               

    Top 100 Prospects: 10 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    RHP Francis Martes 1520
    OF Kyle Tucker1935
    RHP David Paulino 5154
    RHP Franklin Perez54-
    1B A.J. Reed72-
    OF Derek Fisher-83
    RHP Forrest Whitley-84

                          

    Team Overview

    It's borderline ridiculous that an .811 OPS with 20 home runs and 96 RBI from a 21-year-old in his first full MLB season was considered by most to be a disappointing performance.

    That's the level of expectation that has been heaped on Carlos Correa.

    The thing is, he has the tools to back it up, and a run at AL MVP this season seems well within reach as he continues to ascend to superstardom.

    Joining him on the left side of the infield will be Alex Bregman, who began his MLB career with a 2-for-38 slump last season, then hit .313/.354/.577 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 34 RBI in his final 39 games.

    On the pitching side, a healthy season from Lance McCullers will be a major X-factor for the starting rotation.

    Otherwise, they could be counting on the midseason arrivals of Francis Martes and David Paulino to give the staff a needed shot in the arm.

1. Chicago Cubs (34 Points)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    MLB Talent: 25 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    3B Kris Bryant255.87.713.6
    SS Addison Russell233.24.37.6
    C Willson Contreras242.41.81.8
    IF Javier Baez241.93.42.9

                               

    Top 100 Prospects: 9 points

    PlayerBAMLB.com
    RF Eloy Jimenez1413
    2B/OF Ian Happ6328
    CF Albert Almora Jr.6475
    RHP Dylan Cease9777
    IF Jeimer Candelario-96

                                       

    Team Overview

    No big surprise here, right?

    Even with Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Hendricks aging out of this conversation as 27-year-olds, the Chicago Cubs still have the most impressive collection of young talent in the league.

    Kris Bryant has already reached that upper echelon of players, and Addison Russell has all the tools to join him soon.

    Even without a set position, Javier Baez produced a 3.4 WAR last year before breaking out in a big way during the team's championship run.

    Willson Contreras could immediately become one of the league's most productive catchers, as he gets set to handle the bulk of the backstop duties this season, following David Ross' retirement.

    Not included in the scoring is 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber, who had a 1.2 WAR as a rookie and has a 1.5 zWAR. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't consider him to be an "elite young talent."

    Even with all that young talent in the majors, the farm system is still stocked with quality prospects, including one of the game's elites in outfielder Eloy Jimenez.

    The past may have been ugly, but the present and future look incredibly bright for the North Siders.

                                                   

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, including single-season and career WAR totals, unless otherwise noted.