Projecting who will end up in Cooperstown is a favorite hobby of baseball scholars, pundits, and fans alike. Who will stay healthy? Who will avoid the sophomore slump? And did I mention... who will stay healthy?
Players under the age of 30 likely have the bulk of their careers ahead of them. Who will go down as an All-Star, a former great or even an MVP Award winner, and be forever enshrined in the immortal halls of Cooperstown?
In no particular order, let's find out.
*This list only requires that players be under the age of 30 as of the last day of the 2011 regular season.
The best offensive catcher in baseball, Brian McCann recently made his sixth consecutive All-Star appearance in his young career. He's also well on his way to his fifth Silver Slugger Award and, if he stays healthy, could finish in the top 5 of all-time in home runs among catchers.
He'll be remembered with the all-time offensive greats at his position: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, and Mike Piazza.
Here are McCann's 2006 (his strongest offensive season) and career numbers to date:
2006: 24 HR, 93 RBI, .333/.388/.572
Career: 127 HR, 516 RBI, .291/.362/.492
Braun broke onto the scene in 2007 with one of the best rookie seasons ever, belting 34 home runs and driving in 97 in only 113 games en route to being named Rookie of the Year.
Braun has since proven that his rookie season was no fluke, as he averaged over 30 home runs and 100 RBI over his next three years in the bigs.
He's also a four-time All-Star, and if he keeps up this pace, he'll end up chasing 500 homers and a career batting average hovering near .300.
2009: 32 HR, 114 RBI, .320/.386/.551 (also led the league in hits)
Career: 144 HR, 482 RBI, .309/.369/.555
One of the more polarizing young figures in the game, Miguel Cabrera, has all the talent in the world.
The only thing that stands between him and The Hall?
He's had his problems with alcohol and the police, but Cabrera can flat out stroke. Half-way to each milestone, he has a real chance to become only the fifth player in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, after Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, and Eddie Murray.
2010: 38 HR, 126 RBI, .328/.420/.622
Career: 265 HR, 938 RBI .313/.391/.551 (1,498 hits)
He also won the AL MVP Award in 2009 and was considered one of the top offensive catchers in the game.
If Mauer's move to first becomes permanent, he'll have a real chance at reaching the immortal 3,000-hit milestone.
His career batting average and on-base percentage are .324 and .404, respectively, which is more than impressive. Stay healthy, Joe.
2009: 28 HR, 96 RBI .365/.444/.587 (won AL MVP, led the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG)
Career: 81 HR, 481 RBI .324/.404/.474 (1,038 hits)
Like Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez has his share of attitude issues. On top of that, no one would confuse Ramirez with a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop.
All that being said, Ramirez is one of the best offensive shortstops the game has ever seen.
Like Ryan Braun, Ramirez won the Rookie of the Year and his offensive numbers have only improved since he debuted.
Ramirez averaged 25 homers, 78 RBI, an impressive .313 batting average, and nearly 40 stolen bases in each of his first five full seasons.
If Ramirez can fix his attitude, he should be Hall-bound with career numbers approaching 3,000 hits and 400 homers.
2009: 24 HR, 106 RBI .342/.410/.543 (won NL batting title)
Career: 132 HR, 426 RBI .307/.381/.508 (998 hits, 211 stolen bases)
The only thing Adrian Gonzalez has going against him is his relatively late start. He debuted at the age of 22, but didn't make his first real contributions until he was acquired by the Padres at 24.
Since then, however, he hasn't looked back.
He's averaged more than 30 home runs and 100 RBI through his first five full seasons and looks primed to surpass those averages in 2011.
He is currently leading the league in batting average, hits, RBI, total bases, and doubles.
He could very easily retire with two or three MVP Awards along with 500 or more home runs.
2009: 40 HR, 99 RBI .277/.407/.551 (led league in walks)
Career: 185 HR, 602 RBI .291/.373/.516 (1,028 hits)
Between Braun and Fielder, it's going to be an exciting decade in Milwaukee. Prince has power in his blood, and he has yet failed to disappoint Brewers fans.
He's averaged nearly 40 home runs and over 100 RBI his first five full seasons while hitting a very respectable .279.
Though his numbers dipped in 2010, he looks poised to rebound in 2011, as he entered the All-Star break with 22 home runs and a league-leading 72 RBI.
If he can stay in shape, he'll retire as only the eighth man with 600 career dingers.
2009: 46 HR, 141 RBI .299/.412/.602 (led league in RBI)
Career: 185 HR, 602 RBI .281/.388/.539
A more complete shortstop than Hanley Ramirez, Tulowitzki appears to be cut from the same mold as Cooperstown legend Cal Ripken Jr.
Not only does he put up monster offensive numbers from the shortstop position, but his glove is just as strong an asset.
He won his first Gold Glove award in 2010 and is far and away the best defensive shortstop in the National League.
He'll go into the Hall with great offensive stats, but will be known for being a complete player, not just a big bat.
2009: 32 HR, 92 RBI, .297/.377/.552
Career: 109 HR, 395 RBI, .287/.359/.494