Want to Feel Old? The Best Player in Every MLB Organization Born in the 2000s

Joel ReuterNovember 27, 2022

Want to Feel Old? The Best Player in Every MLB Organization Born in the 2000s

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    Julio Rodríguez
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    On March 31, 2019, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Elvis Luciano became the first player born in the 2000s to reach the big leagues.

    In the years since, a wave of talented young players who weren't even born when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were chasing down Roger Maris during the 1998 season has descended on Major League Baseball.

    2022 Rookie of the Year winners Julio Rodríguez and Michael Harris II both fit the bill, but all 30 teams have a handful of talented players either in the big leagues or rising through the minor league ranks as top prospects whose birth certificates show a birthday sometime in the 2000s.

    Are you ready to feel old?

    Ahead is a look at every MLB organization's best player born in the 2000s, with players selected based on current tools, recent production and long-term upside.

American League East

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    Gunnar Henderson
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    Baltimore Orioles: SS/3B Gunnar Henderson (Born: 6/29/2001)

    Henderson raised his prospect status as much as anyone in 2022, emerging as one of the game's elite up-and-comers before making his MLB debut on Aug. 31. He logged a 123 OPS+ in 132 plate appearances and should settle in alongside Adley Rutschman as one of the faces of the franchise.

    Boston Red Sox: SS Marcelo Mayer (Born: 12/12/2002)

    Tip of the cap to Triston Casas, who debuted in September and should get every chance to win the starting first base job next spring, but it's Mayer who has the highest ceiling among the Red Sox's young talent. He hit .280/.399/.489 with 45 extra-base hits in 91 games between Single-A and High-A in his first full professional season after going No. 4 overall in the 2021 draft.

    New York Yankees: SS Anthony Volpe (Born: 4/28/2001)

    Oswald Peraza beat him to the majors and Jasson Dominguez gets more buzz, but Volpe is the best young player in the Yankees pipeline. The 21-year-old logged an .802 OPS with 35 doubles, 21 home runs and 50 steals in 57 attempts in 132 games in the upper levels of the minors, and he's a safe bet to debut early in the 2023 campaign.

    Tampa Bay Rays: SS Wander Franco (Born: 3/1/2001)

    Still only 21 years old, Franco already has 153 MLB games and 6.1 WAR under his belt over the past two seasons. A quad strain and a fractured hamate bone cost him time in 2022, but he's just scratching the surface of his long-term potential and an 11-year, $182 million extension will keep him in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.

    Toronto Blue Jays: C Gabriel Moreno (Born: 2/14/2000)

    The Blue Jays have an enviable problem with three viable starting options behind the plate. After Moreno hit .319 with a 111 OPS+ in 73 plate appearances in his debut, the team could consider trading Danny Jansen or Alejandro Kirk to address the need for pitching help while also clearing a path for the former top prospect.

American League Central

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    Bobby Witt Jr.
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    Chicago White Sox: SS Colson Montgomery (Born: 2/27/2002)

    Montgomery showed more polish than one would expect from a player his age as he climbed two levels to reach Double-A in his first full season in the White Sox system. The 6'4", 205-pound infielder may outgrow shortstop, but it's clear he has the bat to handle a shift to the hot corner after he hit .274/.381/.429 with 30 extra-base hits in 96 games.

    Cleveland Guardians: RHP Daniel Espino (Born: 1/5/2001)

    Catcher Bo Naylor and outfielder George Valera are also worth a mention here for the Guardians, but no one in their system has a higher ceiling than that of Espino. The 6'2" right-hander has 221 strikeouts in 133.2 innings in the minors since going No. 24 overall in the 2019 draft, and with a fastball that touches triple-digits and a wipeout slider he has some of the most electric stuff in all of the minors.

    Detroit Tigers: OF Riley Greene (Born: 9/28/2000)

    Greene may not have made the instant impact many were expecting, but he still finished his rookie season with a respectable .253/.321/.362 line and 1.4 WAR in 93 games. The 22-year-old also played a better-than-expected center field (2 DRS, 2 OAA), further adding to his long-term upside for the rebuilding Tigers.

    Kansas City Royals: SS/3B Bobby Witt Jr. (Born: 6/14/2000)

    Ugly defensive metrics at shortstop (-19 DRS, -8.4 UZR/150) dragged down Witt's overall value, but he was as advertised offensively with a dynamic mix of power (57 XBH, 20 HR) and speed (30/37 SB) in his rookie season. A full-time move to third base seems likely, where he could settle in as a perennial All-Star in the coming years.

    Minnesota Twins: SS Brooks Lee (Born: 2/14/2001)

    Lee hit .357/.462/.664 with 41 extra-base hits and more walks (46) than strikeouts (28) in 58 games during his junior season at Cal Poly before going No. 8 in the 2022 draft. Whether he sticks at shortstop long term or shifts to second or third base, his polished bat should make him an impact player and one of the first from his class to reach the big leagues.

American League West

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    Logan O'Hoppe
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    Houston Astros: OF Drew Gilbert (9/27/2000)

    A breakout junior season at the University of Tennessee vaulted Gilbert into the first-round conversation, and the Astros scooped him up with the No. 28 overall selection. The 22-year-old continued to rake at the onset of his pro career, batting .313/.405/.531 in 10 games after signing, and he could be the long-term answer in center field.

    Los Angeles Angels: C Logan O'Hoppe (2/9/2000)

    The Angels acquired their catcher of the future at the trade deadline when they sent outfielder Brandon Marsh to the Phillies in exchange for O'Hoppe. Lauded for his intangibles throughout his time in the Philadelphia farm system, he has significant two-way potential after hitting .283/.416/.544 with 26 home runs in 104 games at Double-A while also throwing out 22 percent of base stealers.

    Oakland Athletics: C/1B Tyler Soderstrom (11/24/2001)

    With Sean Murphy and Shea Langeliers ahead of him on the depth chart, the Athletics gave Soderstrom regular action at first base as a means of expediting his bat to the majors. Viewed by many as the best pure hitter in the 2020 draft class, he batted .267/.324/.501 with 21 doubles, 29 home runs and 105 RBI in 134 games last season while reaching Triple-A as a 20-year-old.

    Seattle Mariners: OF Julio Rodríguez (12/29/2000)

    Rodríguez went from top prospect to bona fide MLB superstar in 2022, running away with AL Rookie of the Year honors by posting a 147 OPS+ with 28 home runs, 25 steals and 6.2 WAR in 132 games. The Mariners wisely locked him up with a long-term extension in August, and he checks all the boxes to be one of the faces of the sport for years to come.

    Texas Rangers: OF Evan Carter (8/29/2002)

    A legitimate five-tool talent, Carter hit .295/.397/.489 with 21 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs, 73 RBI, 86 runs scored and 28 steals between High-A and Double-A in his age-19 season. He also has the defensive chops to be an above-average center fielder, and he could join the top tier of prospects with a strong start to 2023 in the upper levels of the minors.

National League East

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    Michael Harris II
    David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: OF Michael Harris II (Born: 3/7/2001)

    Tip of the cap to middle infielder Vaughn Grissom, but there's no debate who the choice should be for the Braves. Harris jumped straight from Double-A to the majors in May and immediately became one of the best center fielders in baseball, posting a 135 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs scored and 20 steals in a 5.3-WAR season that earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Miami Marlins: RHP Eury Pérez (Born: 4/15/2003)

    Pérez has grown four inches and tacked on 45 pounds since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2019. The right-hander stands 6'8", 220 pounds, and his stuff has improved significantly as he's grown into his frame. He made 17 starts at Double-A as a 19-year-old and posted a 3.97 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in 77 innings.

    New York Mets: C Francisco Álvarez (Born: 11/19/2001)

    With a 55-hit/70-power offensive profile, Álvarez has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order run producer at a premium defensive position. He logged an .885 OPS with 22 doubles, 27 home runs and 78 RBI in 112 games in the upper levels of the minors, and after getting a five-game cup of coffee in September and October, he'll compete for the starting catcher job this spring.

    Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Andrew Painter (Born: 4/10/2003)

    There were five pitchers selected before Painter went No. 13 overall in the 2021 draft, but he has a chance to be better than all of them. The towering 6'7" right-hander was a man among boys in the minors last season, posting a 1.56 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a 155-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103.2 innings. With five Double-A starts already under his belt, he could make his debut by midseason in 2023.

    Washington Nationals: OF Robert Hassell III (Born: 8/15/2001)

    The prospect centerpiece of the Juan Soto blockbuster, Hassell hit .273/.357/.407 with 37 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 112 games between High-A and Double-A. He doesn't have the same offensive ceiling as James Wood, who was also acquired from San Diego in the Soto trade, but his polished hit tool, plus speed and quality defense in center field give him a much higher floor and make him the better all-around prospect.

National League Central

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    Jordan Walker
    Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: OF Pete Crow-Armstrong (Born: 3/25/2002)

    The Cubs acquired Crow-Armstrong from the Mets for a two-month rental of Javier Báez at the 2021 trade deadline, and he has since climbed to the top of a deep Chicago farm system. He hit .312/.376/.520 with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 16 home runs and 32 steals, and he is widely regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in the minors.

    Cincinnati Reds: SS Elly De La Cruz (Born: 1/11/2002)

    In a Cincinnati system loaded with middle infielders, De La Cruz is the best of the bunch with one of the highest offensive ceilings of any player in the minors. The 20-year-old hit .304/.359/.586 with 68 extra-base hits and 47 steals in 120 games between High-A and Double-A, and he has the power to handle third base or the athleticism to man center field if he outgrows shortstop.

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Jackson Chourio (Born: 3/11/2004)

    The breakout prospect of the 2022 season, Chourio began the year as the youngest player in full-season ball, and he not only held his own but also thrived against older competition. He won't turn 19 until March 11, yet he has already made his Double-A debut, capping off a phenomenal season in which he hit .288/.342/.538 with 30 doubles, 20 home runs, 75 RBI and 16 steals in 99 games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates: 2B Termarr Johnson (Born: 6/11/2004)

    On the strength of the best prep hit tools to come along in years, Johnson went No. 4 in the 2022 draft and immediately vaulted to the top of the Pittsburgh farm system once Oneil Cruz moved on to the majors. His 70-hit, 60-power profile could make him a star, even if he's never anything more than an average defender at second base.

    St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Jordan Walker (Born: 5/22/2002)

    With a strong 6'5", 220-pound frame that belies his age, Walker is an imposing figure in the batter's box who has shown more overall polish than expected offensively to go along with his tremendous raw power. He hit .306/.388/.510 with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, 68 RBI and 22 steals in 119 games at Double-A, and he could wind up in right field long-term with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado occupying the infield corners.

National League West

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    Jordan Lawlar
    John E. Moore III/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: SS Jordan Lawlar (Born: 7/17/2002)

    There were only six players born in the 2000s who provided at least 1.0 WAR in 2022, and the D-backs had two of them in outfielders Alek Thomas (1.4) and Corbin Carroll (1.2). Both of those players have a chance to be cornerstone pieces, but it's Lawlar who has the highest ceiling of the bunch. The No. 6 pick in the 2021 draft hit .303/.401/.509 with 41 extra-base hits and 39 steals while reaching Double-A in his age-19 season.

    Colorado Rockies: SS Ezequiel Tovar (Born: 8/1/2001)

    This one is a toss-up between Tovar and outfielder Zac Veen, who hit .333 with 16 steals in 21 games in the Arizona Fall League. However, we'll give the nod to Tovar, who logged a stellar .319/.387/.540 line with 32 extra-base hits in 71 games as a 20-year-old in the upper levels of the minors. He could be Colorado's starting shortstop before the 2023 season ends.

    Los Angeles Dodgers: C Diego Cartaya (Born: 9/7/2001)

    Cartaya is the crown jewel in the deepest farm system in baseball. He posted an .892 OPS with 22 doubles, 22 home runs and 72 RBI at High-A and Single-A, getting on base at a terrific .389 clip thanks to a 14.2 percent walk rate. The Dodgers have no reason to rush him with Will Smith entrenched as the starter and controllable through 2025, but Cartaya could force his way into the MLB picture in the near future.

    San Diego Padres: SS Jackson Merrill (Born: 4/19/2003)

    The Padres gave up a ton of young talent in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell blockbuster, but they still have some exciting prospects. Merrill is the best of the bunch, and while he dealt with some injury issues in 2022, he still hit .339/.395/.511 with 23 extra-base hits in 55 games while showing the defensive tools to stick at shortstop.

    San Francisco Giants: SS Marco Luciano (Born: 9/10/2001)

    Luciano possesses some of the loudest raw power in the minors, and he has impressed every step of the way while facing older competition. Some of the buzz surrounding him has died down following a good-not-great season at High-A Eugene, and there's a case to be made that Kyle Harrison has overtaken him as the top prospect in the San Francisco system, but it's far too soon to give up on the 21-year-old's huge upside.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Prospect tool ratings via MLB.com.