The Young Guns: Felix Hernandez and the Top 10 MLB Pitchers 26 and Younger
Every team wants one, he's more important than a power hitter, a shut down closer, or a super utility man. Every team wants a young No.1 starter at or under the age of 26; a young superstar pitcher you can build your team around, one less spot in the rotation that you have to worry about.
You hold on to these pitchers like your life depends on it, and you overprotect that arm like you overprotect your child. Because your entire franchise is on that throwing arm, and everybody knows that throwing arms are made out of glass.
For this list, I am looking for several things: past performance, injuries, contribution to the team, pure stuff, and whether or not their future is looking bright.
Every pitcher under or at 26 or under in the majors is eligible, injured or not.
10. Tommy Hanson
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Hanson, along with Jair Jurrjens, who just barely missed the cut, are the future 1-2 punch of a young and talented Braves rotation.
In two seasons in the big leagues, he has averaged 11 wins a season and an ERA just a hair over 3.00. Had the bats behind him contributed more, he would've been able to total another couple wins. He's a work horse as well, pitching 200+ innings last year.
At the ripe age of 24, he could, with another above-average-year, find himself in the top five once the big guns find themselves a year too old.
9. Madison Bumgarner
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The Giants are just overloaded with young pitching talent, from Tim Lincecum to Matt Cain, and now to Madison Bumgarner.
This kid's barely allowed to drink and he already has 120+ innings under his belt and a career ERA of 2.90. Now, that might not be saying much considering he has only been in the majors for a couple years, but there's no reason to believe he can't continue his success.
For Bumgarner, the skies the limit. And he's slid very nicely in the to the Giants' rotation.
8. Yovani Gallardo
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I'm probably going to take a lot of heat for this. But, while Gallardo has established himself as the ace of the Brewers, he has yet to put together a full season where his ERA is under 3.50 or a season where he was won 15 or more games.
Gallardo is great and has all the potential in the world, but not having one breakout season yet has shied me away from putting him higher on this list.
Entering his fifth major league season, there's a good chance he could have that breakout season. Especially with the Brewers considered contenders again.
7. Clayton Kershaw
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Fun fact about Kershaw: his anagram says "lanky ace throws". An anagram is when you mix up a person's name to find a hidden message.
Kershaw is underrated; you'd think playing in Los Angeles, the second biggest city in America, he'd be able to attract more attention, but that's not how it's worked so far.
While his win/loss record hasn't been very impressive, he has amassed a very good 3.17 career ERA, and he has more strikeouts than innings pitched in his career; something not many pitchers can say they've done.
He's the unquestionable ace of the Dodgers, and he's only 22.
6. Trevor Cahill
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After a very mediocre rookie season, Cahill broke out for a 2.97 ERA and 18 wins despite playing on a very mediocre A's team.
Whether he can prove last year wasn't a fluke, we'll have to see. But as of right now, he is the ace and the future of the A's rotation, with Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez right behind him.
If the A's are able to have the breakout season everybody is expecting them to have, Cahill could take that next big step to elite status, despite being just 22.
5. Mat Latos
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Before the season began, nobody outside of San Diego had ever heard of Mat Latos, and even that was questionable. Now, you better get to know the guy because he just might be the next big thing.
He's an intimidating presence on the mound. Just look at the guy! 6'6," 225-lbs machine with a windup so fast that you'll miss it if you blink.
Latos was one of the main reasons why the Padres were able to make a playoff push deep into the season, with his 2.92 ERA and 14 wins.
4. Stephen Strasburg
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Let me emphasize something real quick: in my list of what I was looking for, I said it doesn't matter whether there injured or not, but how bright their future looks.
Strasburg's future has Cooperstown written all over it. One MLB scout said it best when he was in the minors: "When he gets to the pros, he will immediately become the best pitcher in the big leagues."
It was pretty hard to disagree with him; that is, until he injured his arm had to get Tommy John surgery. A lot of pitchers throw harder after surgery, and Strasburg was throwing pretty hard before...
Whether or not he can build on the legacy he's already created, we'll have to find out. Stay tuned.
3. David Price
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David Price had a "Cy Young Award"-type of year last year. He had 19 wins, 2.72 ERA, 200+ innings pitched and he made the playoffs, though they fell to Texas in the first round.
He is one of the few pitchers on the list with a lot of playoff experience, pitching in the likes of the ALCS when he was just 22.
He did lose some of his big bats in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, and the two main pieces of the bullpen in Rafael Soriano and Dan Wheeler left as well. So there will be a lot of added pressure on his shoulders to deliver.
However, he is obviously among the elite young pitchers.
2. Tim Lincecum
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Tim Lincecum is the oldest on this list—at the very ancient age of 26—but he is one of the most marketable figures in baseball. The hair, the personality, the windup and the dominance.
Lincecum has one of the most devastating changeup in baseball. A 98 MPH fastball followed by a change-up from THAT windup? C'mon, that's just not fair.
It was pretty easy to tell that hitters were figuring him out, but a 16-10 record, 200+ innings, and a 3.43 ERA is something that'll catch your eye.
With the two Cy Young Awards and the World Series ring, it was really hard to put this guy as No. 2, but there's one man who is simply BETTER than Lincecum. There, I said it, that man is...
1. Felix Hernandez
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When you're 19 and already people are calling you the king, you know you're probably doing something right. Oh yes, it's good to be king, and oh yes, it's good to be the reigning A.L. CY young award winner.
You've heard it all before: because of his mediocre 13-12 record the voters start digging deeper, then realized he really was the king, and he ended up with the Cy Young Award.
His numbers were that of a legend in his prime; we're going to throw the 13 wins out of the window. He started every game possible, led the league in innings pitched by a landslide, was one strikeout away from being first in that category, led the league in ERA and the list goes on and on.
Had he played for any other team besides the Mariners (and maybe the Pirates), he would've easily had a 20-win season. I couldn't even fathom the type of year he could've had if he had played for a team like the Yankees or Phillies.
He already has six years under his belt, 1150+ innings, four shutouts, 70+ wins, and over a 1000 strikeouts. He's done more in his six short years than most pitchers have done in a career...and he's still only 24.
To dispell all the trade rumors, Felix Hernandez loves Seattle, Seattle loves Felix Hernandez, and the king lives happily ever after.