MLB's Fresh All-25-and-Under Roster After Wave of Star Prospect Call-Ups
Here's a dream assignment for any general manager worth his salt: Look around the league and construct a 25-man roster using only players age 25 and under.
There's an embarrassment of riches in that age bracket, including All-Stars and MVPs, as well as fresh faces who have arrived in the latest wave of September call-ups.
The ground rules:
- To qualify, a player must be age 25 or younger as of this writing (Sept. 6).
- Extensive experience is not required; we're looking at potential as well as past production. But all players must currently be on a big league roster (we made exceptions for notable injury comebacks).
- We're trying to build a balanced 25-man contingent, so that means taking two catchers, a functioning bullpen, etc.
Finally, before we get started, here's a partial list of the players it was most difficult to omit:
Jose Ramirez, INF, Cleveland Indians; Eugenio Suarez, INF, Cincinnati Reds; Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets; Alex Bregman, INF, Houston Astros; Miguel Sano, INF, Minnesota Twins; Trea Turner, INF, Washington Nationals; Javier Baez, INF, Chicago Cubs; Joey Gallo, 3B/OF/DH, Texas Rangers; Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs; Yoan Moncada, INF, Chicago White Sox; Zach Davies, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies; Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (.276/.344/.527, 28 HR, age 24)
Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians (Double-A: .297/.346/.490, 14 HR, age 21)
After busting out as a rookie in 2016, Gary Sanchez has avoided the sophomore slump, posting an .870 OPS while gunning down an impressive 36 percent of would-be base stealers.
Forget catchers under 25. Sanchez is challenging the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey for the title of best backstop in baseball, period.
Francisco Mejia has barely sipped his first cup of coffee after a call-up to the pennant-chasing Cleveland Indians, but the 21-year-old proved himself with an impressive showing at Double-A and looks like their catcher of the future.
As Ben Axelrod of WKYC.com put it: "Given both [Roberto] Perez and [Yan] Gomes' inconsistencies at the plate, the following month could serve as an audition of sorts for the Indians' top-ranked prospect heading into the 2018 offseason."
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (.309/.390/.499, 19 HR, age 23)
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (.271/.329/.481, 26 HR, age 23)
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (.315/.396/.556, 20 HR, age 22)
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs (.289/.406/.531, 25 HR, age 25)
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles (.272/.327/.497, 30 HR, age 25)
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Minnesota Twins (.306/.352/.539, 30 HR, age 25)
Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (.270/.349/.608, 36 HR, age 22)
Here we find an absolute treasure trove of talent.
Begin with the impossible question of who to start at shortstop: the Dodgers' Corey Seager (5.6 WAR by FanGraphs' measure), the Indians' Francisco Lindor (4.0 WAR) or the Astros' Carlos Correa (4.0 WAR despite missing extensive time to injury).
Sure, you could slide one of them to third base, but that position is occupied by either National League MVP Kris Bryant or three-time All-Star Manny Machado.
Machado's teammate, Jonathan Schoop, gets the nod at second base, while powerful Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger—who can also play the outfield—holds down first base.
There is no bad permutation here, and whichever guys sat on the bench would be some of the best pinch-hitters/defensive replacements imaginable.
Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals (.326/.419/.614, 29 HR, age 24)
Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees (.277/.412/.573, 38 HR, age 25)
Christian Yelich, CF, Miami Marlins (.287/.370/.449, 16 HR, age 25)
Mookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox (.259/.338/.431, 18 HR, age 24)
Andrew Benintendi, LF, Boston Red Sox (.276/.360/.438, 19 HR, age 23)
The status of Bryce Harper's injured knee sparks troubling questions for the Washington Nationals heading into the stretch run and postseason.
The status of Harper as one of the game's premier talents is not in doubt. If anything, it's mind-blowing that he is still just 24 years old after a career that has already included a Rookie of the Year Award, an NL MVP trophy and five All-Star selections.
Yankees rookie Aaron Judge has been in an extended, strikeout-prone slump, but he belongs on this team for his excellent overall 2017 season and massive power potential.
Speaking of power, the shadow of Giancarlo Stanton's home run binge has obscured Christian Yelich, who is putting together a stellar campaign for the Miami Marlins and is one of MLB's most underrated up-and-coming studs.
A season after finishing second in AL MVP balloting, Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts has taken a step back, as Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer outlined. He is still a tantalizing, multitool player, though, with a cavernous ceiling.
The same can be said for fellow Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who will probably lose AL Rookie of the Year honors to Judge but is doing all Red Sox Nation hoped for and more.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (183 IP, 3.34 ERA, 192 SO, age 25)
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets (2016 stats: 2.60 ERA, 183.2 IP, 218 SO, age 25)
Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees (3.03 ERA, 169.1 IP, 201 SO, age 23)
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers (3.83 ERA, 164.2 IP, 114 SO, age 24)
Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (3.72 ERA, 142.2 IP, 148 SO, age 24)
After twirling a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts on Labor Day, the St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Martinez is the ace of our under-25 staff.
He'd get a run for his money from a healthy Noah Syndergaard. The New York Mets right-hander has been out since April 30 with a right lat injury, but he threw a successful one-inning rehab outing Saturday.
We'll need to see the crackling stuff and prolonged health in MLB action, but it's impossible to omit a guy who has posted a 2.92 ERA with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings across 361 big league frames.
Speaking of strikeout artists, the Yankees' Luis Severino has averaged 10.7 per nine while posting a 3.03 ERA in a breakout, All-Star season.
Detroit Tigers righty Michael Fulmer is on the disabled list with numbness in his pitching hand, but the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year has put together an All-Star campaign of his own.
In a dismal season for the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola has been a bright spot, delivering on his potential and posting 3.5 WAR, tied with Fulmer for second-most behind Severino (4.9) among pitchers 25 and under.
Corey Knebel, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (1.25 ERA, 64.2 IP, 109 SO, 32 SV, age 25)
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (3.41 ERA, 58 IP, 75 SO, 35 SV, age 22)
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.29 ERA, 62.2 IP, 68 SO, age 25)
Edwin Diaz, RHP, Seattle Mariners (3.39 ERA, 58.1 IP, 79 SO, 31 SV, age 23)
Alex Claudio, LHP, Texas Rangers (2.59 ERA, 73 IP, 50 SO, 7 SV, age 25)
Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A/Triple-A: 2.18 ERA, 148.2 IP, 147 SO, age 21)
After notching a franchise-record 13 saves in August, Milwaukee Brewers closer Corey Knebel was named the NL Reliever of the Month. Really, he's been doing it all season, and he has emerged as one of the best ninth-inning options in baseball.
It's been a disappointing season for the Toronto Blue Jays overall, and Roberto Osuna has joined the "party," blowing a league-leading nine saves. His stuff and potential are elite, though.
Converted starter Archie Bradley has been a revelation in the 'pen for the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a 1.29 ERA. Edwin Diaz of the Seattle Mariners and Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers give our under-25 bullpen a fine righty/lefty duo, along with a combined 38 saves this season.
Finally, we're cheating a little with Jack Flaherty, whom the Cardinals called up after trading veteran starter Mike Leake to the Seattle Mariners.
The plan for Flaherty is clearly to make him a starter; that's the role he played in a so-so debut against the hapless San Francisco Giants.
There wasn't a space for Flaherty in our rotation, though, and he deserves inclusion for the impressive 4.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio he posted between Double-A and Triple-A, a mark that would rank seventh among MLB qualifiers and make him an ideal candidate for high-leverage, late-inning situations.