MLB Power Rankings: Buster Posey and the 25 Best Non-Pitchers 25 and Under
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey looks supernaturally natural at home plate.
The 2010 National League Rookie of the Year hit .305 with 18 home runs in the 2010 regular season, then helped lead the team to its first World Series title since 1954. Posey coolly strokes the ball with power to the opposite field and seems never to miss when an opposing pitcher makes a mistake.
Posey also possesses maturity beyond his years when it comes to handling pitchers and calling a game, making him a complete package and a blue-chip prospect. Yet he is not the most talented or exciting young player in the league.
Major League Baseball is teeming with guys who will play their age 25-or-younger seasons in 2011, but who are already among the elite producers in the game.
Where do your team's young anchors fit? How many make the list of the top 25? The answer might tell you a lot about the future for your team.
25. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
Sandoval seems ill-placed on this list, which says everything there is to say about his 2010 season.
He fell off from a rookie breakout season of .330/.387/.556 and 25 home runs in 2009 to a meager .268/.323/.409 line and 13 homers in 2010. Affectionately known, when hot, as the Kung Fu Panda, Sandoval has heard criticism for being entirely too out of shape in 2010.
If he returns in better form and can hit the cover off the ball again in 2011, the Giants have to be the favorites to win the NL West again and can make a serious challenge to the Phillies.
Sandoval ranks here for his great rookie year and his offensive upside, but he falls this low on the demerit of his off-year in 2010.
24. Ben Revere, Minnesota Twins
Revere, 22, narrowly qualifies for this list.
Players need to have appeared in the big leagues to be here and Revere had only 30 plate appearances with the Twins last season. At Double-A, though, he hit .305 and stole 36 bases.
This guy has the long-term potential to become Denard Span redux, a fast, left-handed hitter who can provide little power but has patience and defends center field ably. The Twins will not need him as a starting outfielder this season, but he could find a lot of time as a roving fourth outfielder given even one or two injuries to the fragile, and largely immobile, Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer.
23. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays
With the departure of Carl Crawford, the Rays have an outfield opening for Jennings, long considered the heir apparent to Crawford.
Like Revere, Jennings had extremely limited playing time at the big-league level in 2010. He has a bit more power potential than does Revere, though, and the same skill set in other areas. B.J. Upton gives Tampa the luxury of keeping Jennings in one or the other corner spot, making him even more valuable defensively.
22. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
Average power, the ability to make consistent contact and a good, athletic frame make Ramos a valuable long-term option at catcher for the Nationals. Snagging him in return for rent-a-closer Matt Capps from Minnesota made GM Mike Rizzo look really shrewd.
Ramos will turn 24 in August, but by then he should be the Nats' full-time catcher. His defense is now solid, he continues to profile as a solid hitter for average and his 220-pound frame permits him to muscle up on occasion.
21. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
Trading Zack Greinke had to be a bitter pill for the Royals organization and its fans, but Escobar is the best of a few players who promise to make that trade worthwhile.
First of all, here's a fun fact: Depending on your defensive metric of preference, Escobar was either 13 or 20 runs better with the glove in 2010 than former Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who was sent to Milwaukee.
Overall, Escobar has all the tools to become one of the league's elite defensive shortstops. He doesn't hit a lick, but then he is just 24 and has room to improve. Great defensive shortstops usually get about five years to prove conclusively they cannot hit before anyone even begins to give up on them.
20. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros
Playing for his fourth organization in two years, Wallace seemed doomed to be shuffled about by teams who would rather use his tools as trade chits than develop those tools properly.
The lack of consistency has unquestionably set back the progress of the slugging Wallace. Houston intends to keep him, though, so he should finally get a chance to put his smooth swing together with a coherent plate approach and reap the benefits in 2011.
19. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh has shined its organizational spotlight on Alvarez, who will be asked to carry the load as the team's primary power threat in 2011. He climbed exceptionally quickly through the system after being drafted in 2008. In fact, as a professional, he has 56 home runs in two seasons at four different levels, including 16 in 386 plate appearances for the Pirates this year. Alvarez is nothing special with the glove at third base, but if his power is as real as it seems, he can easily move to first base in a year or two.
18. Delmon Young, Minnesota Twins
It's stunning to think that Young really is just 25, given how long he has been around the league already.
He leads players on this list easily with 675 hits and almost 2,500 career plate appearances. In 2010, he broke out and showed his full potential by cutting down on strikeouts and hitting the ball in the air. He is a crummy fielder, but if he can maintain the swing and plate approach he used in 2010 for the Twins, he will have no trouble keeping a job.
17. Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics
This might catch some people off guard. It may even sound like heresy. I don't much care. Daric Barton has the very real opportunity to be remembered as the best defensive first baseman of all-time and could very feasibly have a better career then Keith Hernandez.
All Barton did at age 24 was post a .393 on-base percentage and lead the league, rather comfortably, in fielding runs saved by a first baseman. He also led the league in walks, with 110, despite hitting just 10 homers, a testament to his remarkable plate discipline.
Barton gets too little love as a star in Oakland. If he played for the Mets, he would be even more wildly popular than Ike Davis is because he is better than Davis.
16. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
Many an alarmist White Sox fan began to bury Beckham as a bust after his nightmarish first half in 2010, during which he hit .216/.277/.304 in 304 plate appearances. Even manager Ozzie Guillen began to give up on Beckham, who accrued only 194 plate appearances after the All-Star break.
Of course, it might have been fewer if Beckham had not absolutely cut loose to the tune of .310/.380/.497. Lost in all the kerfuffle of what might have been going wrong was the fact that Beckham spent that first half learning to play second base for the first time. He played through injuries for much of the year before succumbing and all-but shutting it down for the final three weeks.
Incidentally, Beckham has already become a deft pivot man on double plays and has only to improve his range by anticipating a bit better in the field to become a complete player.
15. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Yes, although he turns 25 in May and needs to hurry up and show it, Wieters remains an exceptionally high-ceiling talent who could battle Joe Mauer for American League catching supremacy before it's all over.
Considering the low bar set by the average catcher in today's game, Wieters' 2010 batting line of .249/.319/.377 is not even all that bad. He obviously needs to do better to merit this sort of placement on the list, but I believe he will.
He has now learned to handle big-league pitching staffs and can focus a bit more on his offense now that his game-calling and control of the running game are not under incessant media scrutiny.
14. Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals
Some rather inexplicable friction arose between Rasmus and manager Tony LaRussa near the end of the season, but they will have to get over it: Rasmus has proved too good for the Cardinals to simply trade him on the basis of personality issues.
He slugged his way to a great .276/.361/.498 line with 23 homers in his first full season and he plays quietly efficient, even excellent, defense. St. Louis needs him as a third power threat in the lineup, where he functions almost exactly the way Jim Edmonds used to.
13. Logan Morrison, Florida Marlins
Morrison reached base at a .393 clip in half a season of big-league ball in 2010, and while he lacks the power of an ideal corner outfielder, he has a promising future.
Morrison is also a good kid off the field, though it will be interesting to see how the untimely loss of his father this winter impacts his ability to prepare for the season. Morrison is the perfect guy to overcome something like that at a young age, though, and should use his dad’s memory to push himself even harder.
12. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Not withstanding an ugly collision at home plate that ended his season and put him in an air-cast, Santana had a fairly successful rookie campaign.
He beat the life out of the baseball before going down, finishing with a batting line of .260/.401/.467 in 192 big-league plate appearances. Santana is a bright spot in a rather gloomy Indians system, so the team has to hope he will be back at full strength come Spring Training.
11. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
To put Austin Jackson’s Rookie of the Year campaign into perspective, Curtis Granderson hit 24 home runs in fewer than 500 plate appearances for the New York Yankees in 2010. Yet almost no one believes New York was right to trade Jackson in order to get the four-time All-Star.
Jackson batted .293 with a .345 on-base percentage as the Tigers’ leadoff man and played an excellent defensive center field. Jackson made a play in the ninth inning of Armando Galarraga’s failed bid for a perfect game that, had things broken differently thereafter, would be remembered alongside DeWayne Wise’s excellent catch during Mark Buehrle’s 2009 perfecto.
10. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Defensive metrics available in this brave new world of baseball data are the pride and joy of statistically-inclined nerds everywhere.
McCutchen, by those metrics, rates as the worst defensive center fielder in the business. Watching him play, though, McCutchen’s athleticism makes one desperately want to throw numbers out the window and hand him the Gold Glove.
Regardless of his defensive success or failure, McCutchen is an electric offensive presence, one of the five fastest players in the game and a hitter not much different from Carlos Gonzalez really.
9. Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins
Usually a guy who hits 43 home runs in a season has a pretty tough time flying under the radar.
It gets a bit easier when you hit 21 of those bombs at Triple-A, but Stanton remains one of the less heralded, and yet brightest, young stars in the league.
He struck out 123 times in just over 350 big-league at-bats, so he clearly has a long way to go before becoming a finished product. Still, he has power to spare and he is not altogether one-dimensional. He and Jay Bruce tied for the big-league lead in right field runs-saved last season.
8. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
Bruce has hit 21, 22 and 25 homers in three big-league campaigns.
This was the first season in which he managed to stay healthy, though, and the first in which he put together a complete offensive season. A season after hitting .223, he hit .281 and drew enough walks to log a healthy .353 on-base percentage.
Add sensational defense in right field and you have a really solid young complement to Joey Votto.
7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Andrus is not, and likely will not become, the sort of hitter Starlin Castro is.
He is, however, a speed demon with soft hands at shortstop and a rocket arm. He might be more comparable to countryman Omar Vizquel, a modest hitter but an exceptional defender who runs the bases brilliantly.
Andrus’ display of all-around domination during the 2010 ALDS against the Rays should serve notice that he is the best baserunner in the league today—a consideration not to be minimized.
6. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
At the end of the 2009 season, no one would have guessed that Starlin Castro would even be in the big leagues during 2010.
A year later, the shortstop may be the cornerstone of the Cubs franchise for years to come.
He hit .300 in 125 big-league games and while he made too many mistakes on easy plays at shortstop, he also showed great range and a strong arm. Overall, Castro has a chance to become a solid all-around player in the mold of Edgar Renteria, with a ceiling more like Barry Larkin.
5. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
In his first full season, Gonzalez won the batting title, led the league in hits and total bases, slugged 34 home runs and stole 26 bases.
He is among the most electrifying offensive players in the game and never mind that the numbers are a bit inflated by his home park or that he is a relatively inept defensive left fielder.
Gonzalez is a huge part of the Rockies’ future and a solid building block for a productive offense.
4. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
He took a step back in 2010, but Upton remains an exceptionally promising young hitter and athlete.
He makes too many mistakes in the field and swings and misses too much at the plate, but he is learning to draw walks and has all the tools to be a great player for a long time.
He missed time with injuries in 2010 and he has a lot to prove in light of the six-year, $51-million contract he signed before last season. Still, Upton is a terrific talent with every chance of becoming the player he seemed poised to become after hitting 26 homers and stealing 20 bases in 2009.
3. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
If the Giants winning the World Series was not enough to put Posey on the map, the baseball writers ensured he would not go unnoticed by voting him Rookie of the Year.
Posey handles the Giants pitchers like a 10-year veteran and he slugged his way to the second-best OPS among National League catchers. In 443 plate appearances, he hit not one single infield pop-up, a testament to his level swing and selective approach.
2. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Not many 20-year-olds have had more impressive rookie seasons than Heyward, who posted a stellar .393 on-base percentage on the strength of 91 walks. He is big, imposing, has the potential to hit for prodigious power and draws walks like a five-year veteran.
If he can cut down on swings and misses, he could hit 30-to-40 home runs per season in addition to reaching base more than 40 percent of the time. Incidentally, the plus/minus system estimates that Heyward saved 10 runs in right field as a rookie, too.
1. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria is a beast. He led the Rays with 104 RBI and led the American League in OPS for players 26 or younger. Only Adrian Beltre had a higher OPS among AL third baseman. Longoria also happens to be an excellent defender and baserunner.
He won his first Fielding Bible Award as the best third baseman in baseball with the leather and stole 15 bases in 20 tries. In fact, for his career Longoria now has 41 stolen bases in 46 attempts. According to Bill James’ baserunning metrics, he was worth six extra runs on the bases this season, in addition to his contributions as a defender and slugger.