Major League Baseball is entering an ice age.
It is no secret hitting has been down around the league in 2011, and this follows a loose trend since the so-called "end" of the so-called "Steroid Era." This year, more than any recent one, has seemed to decidedly favor the pitchers, leaving the hitters out in the cold.
Perhaps then it is for this reason that Major League Baseball has seen a significant quantity of young players making significant contributions at the major league level in 2011.
Here is a look at the top six major league hitters under the age of 23.
Elvis Andrus, the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year runner up, is better known (and renowned) for his defense, but in his third full season at the age of 22, he is developing into an efficient, if not terribly valuable, hitter.
For the third straight season, Andrus has now stolen 30-plus bases and is four steals away from No. 100. He also leads the AL in sacrifice hits for the second straight year, while hitting .280 on the season.
Andrus will not be winning any batting titles or home run crowns any time soon, but he is coming around.
Baseball people are just going to have to pretend not to notice what is happening with Heyward, because we all love him so much. This 21-year-old is (and will be) an excellent hitter, he just does not look like it right now.
In his second full year at the age of 21, Starlin Castro is leading the NL in at-bats and hits, while batting .314 with eight triples and 12 stolen bases.
Not bad for such a young kid.
It is difficult to believe Eric Hosmer has already played 81 games for the Kansas City Royals. This kid, all of 21 years old, has 10 home runs, 47 RBI and a .282 average while playing his home games at pitcher-friendly Kauffmann Stadium.
Strangely, while eight of his 10 home runs have come on the road, Hosmer is hitting .312 with an .806 OPS at home versus hitting .250 with a .745 OPS on the road. Hosmer will have to improve upon that next season.
For all the Jason Heyward hype, his roommate and fellow 21-year-old Freddie Freeman is the one who's been really impressive in Atlanta this season.
After a sluggish start, Freeman is hitting .296 with an .836 OPS (130 OPS-plus),15 home runs, 55 RBI and 28 doubles.
He looks like the first baseman of the future everyone hoped he would be.
There are some very good young hitters making some very nice contributions around the major leagues in 2011, but none strikes the fear into the hearts of pitchers the way a major league veteran would like Mike Stanton.
Stanton is only 21 years old, but he stands like a man; 6'5" and 235 pounds of sheer muscle upon muscle. Through 108 games in 2011, Stanton has already launched 25 home runs, good for fifth in the league, to go with 19 doubles and five triples.
Stanton is still developing as a hitter, and his road numbers have lagged behind his home numbers in 2011. But if his road numbers ever catch up...look out.