Felix Hernandez and MLB's "All 25-and-Under" Team
The youth movement is on in major league baseball and it's only getting stronger. With the draft taking place just a couple weeks ago, you are seeing teams build from within more so than depending solely on the free agent market. Even the Yankees are holding on to home grown talent and not trading away top prospects like they used to do under King George.
We will look at the all under 25 team in major league baseball this week. Each position will have a representative to go along with five starting pitchers and a closer. No DH will be assigned. As usual, if you have somebody you think should be on ahead of a player mentioned, throw him out there to discuss otherwise enjoy these future (and present day) studs.
Catcher: Buster Posey
Posey is already a World Series champion, rookie of the year and arguably one of the best catchers in baseball. He was a stabilizing force last year for the Giants pitching staff and hit third for the champions. Unfortunately, he won’t get to replicate those feats this year as he injured his knee in a home plate collision earlier this year and is out for the year.
First Base: Eric Hosmer
Hosmer may be a stretch at first base but the numbers he has put up since joining the Royals have been pretty impressive. He has five home runs, 22 rbi and his hitting .286 for the Royals. He was the third overall pick in 2008 and is one of a handful of top prospects that should be invading Kansas City by next season.
Second Base: Neil Walker
Walker, along with Andrew McCutchen, is giving hope to the fans of Pittsburgh. So far this year he has eight home runs, a .266 batting average and has knocked in 45 runs. His career high for rbi was 66 last year so undoubtedly that number will fall sooner rather than later. A converted third baseman, he got his chance in 2010 to be the everyday second baseman for the Pirates.
Third Base: Evan Longoria
A three time all star and rookie of the year in 2008, his numbers this year haven’t been anything spectacular but look at what he’s done prior to this season. He’s averaging over 27 homeruns a season as well as driving in 100 runs a season. Those numbers may not be copied this season but the talent is there for the Rays to reload and allow Longoria to put up the numbers he’s averaged over his first few major league seasons.
Shortstop: Starlin Castro
Quickly becoming the face of the Cubs franchise, Castro is hitting .315 with one home run and 32 rbi. He will fly by last year’s numbers of three home runs and 41 rbi posted last season. He is a quick, slick fielding shortstop who the Cubs, and their fans, have high hopes on.
Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez
“Car-go” parlayed last year’s monster season into an even bigger contract. The Rockies felt it necessary to lock up their young outfielder and why not? He hit 34 home runs, drove in 117 and swiped 26 bases last year. Oh and he also hit .336 and won the gold glove and silver slugger at his respective position. There was some talk about his number being inflated because of the thin air in Denver but is he can duplicate half of what he did last year, the Rockies will have themselves a solid nucleus with Car-go and Tulo moving ahead.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen
Like Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen is a bright spot in a promising future for the Pirates. He is averaging 27 stolen bases, 14 home runs and 55 rbi for the Buckos. The rbi numbers aren’t anything spectacular but when you consider who has been hitting in front of him his first few years, you can see why they are so low. His legs are what makes things happen for him and give the Pirate fans optimism that their long years of suffering (since 1992) may soon be coming to an end.
Outfield: Justin Upton
The former number one overall pick, Upton has been a starter with the Diamondbacks since his full time arrival in 2008. He has a rare combination of speed and power and was selected an all star in 2008. Pundits are hoping his numbers can increase but paired with Chris Young in the outfield, the D-Backs have something special brewing in the desert.
Starting Pitcher: David Price
Selected first overall in 2007, Price put up his best season in 2010 being named an all star and finishing second in the AL Cy Young award balloting. He struck out 188 batters and posted a 2.72 ERA along with winning 19 games. A lot of people remember Price for the final four outs he pitched in 2008 to lead the Rays to their first ever World Series appearance. Along with Evan Longoria, the Rays have a solid foundation with their two young stars for years to come.
Starting Pitcher: Tommy Hanson
So far this year, Hanson has posted an 8-4 record with a 2.48 ERA. He was Baseball America’s number one prospect in 2009 and hasn’t disappointed the pitching rich Braves. His best year was in 2009 when he went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He struggled a bit last year but definitely deserves to be ranked among the best under 25 pitchers in the majors today.
Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez
Probably the crown jewel of under 25 pitchers, King Felix has already won a Cy Young award and has the big contract usually reserved for pitchers in their mid to upper 20’s. Along with Ichiro, Felix is the face of the Mariners franchise today. Although is 2009 numbers were better than his Cy Young award winning season last year, Hernandez has been a model of consistency and a true number one pitcher for the M’s.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw has a 32-26 career record but the number that stands out the most is his career ERA of 3.19. He also has struck out 603 batters in 581 innings. At age 23, he’s already been an Opening Day starter and pending the financial outlook for the Dodgers should be a mainstay atop the Dodgers rotation for the next few years.
Starting Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo’s numbers mirror Kershaw’s but he’s also been in the big leagues a year longer. Gallardo is the number one pitcher on the Brewers staff and has the makings of something special. His 43-26 record with a 3.70 ERA is solid enough. What’s more, he pitches for a small market team that doesn’t get a lot of air time (nationally) but when the Brewers traded for former Cy Young pitcher Zack Grienke, it was Gallardo who remained the man atop the rotation.
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
This was one of the toughest positions to call simply because there are about three stud closers under the age of 25. Neftali Feliz was the rookie of the year last year for the Texas Rangers but hasn’t had the year he had last year. Drew Storen of the Nationals has the makings of saving a ton of games, especially when Strasburg comes back next year and Jordan Walden of the Angels is putting up rookie of the year numbers. I decided to go with Craig Kimbrel for this reason: he started the year as the closer on a pennant contending team and hasn’t done much to lose that role. He has 54 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched to go along with his 18 saves. Last year, his first in the big leagues, he was 4-0 with a .44 ERA accompanied by 40 strikeouts in a little over 20 innings. When Billy Wagner retired this year, the Braves didn’t miss a beat by handing the job to Kimbrel.