Selecting MLB's All-Under-25 Team, Position by Position

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2015

Selecting MLB's All-Under-25 Team, Position by Position

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Established big league stars make the big dollars and generally represent the face of their respective franchises, but young up-and-coming players are often the most exciting guys on the roster.

    Cost-effective players with a dynamic skill set can make a real difference for a team looking to make a run at a title, and the following will highlight those emerging stars.

    What follows is a position-by-position look at Major League Baseball's All-Under-25 Team.

    Some specifics before we begin:

    • MLB Experience: Only players with major league experience were considered, so while guys like Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Jon Gray and Noah Syndergaard are close to big league ready, they don't qualify here just yet.
    • Production vs. Upside: Eligible players were chosen based on their current skill level and production, not on their ceiling and future upside.
    • Injured Players: While they may not currently be playing, injured players like Jose Fernandez, Marcus Stroman and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Rendon were still considered for this list.

    A full starting lineup of position players, a starting pitcher and a reliever were selected to this under-25 team. Also included at the end is a look at what a full 25-man roster of under-25 players might look like, so check that out as well.

Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

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    Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    Born: May 10, 1990 (24 years old)

    Player Overview

    Salvador Perez broke into the league as a 21-year-old in 2011, showing enough over the course of a 39-game debut to earn a five-year, $7 million extension from the Kansas City Royals. That has quickly become one of the best bargains in baseball.

    His overall offensive game is still a work in progress, evidenced by his .260/.289/.403 line last year, but he did set career highs with 28 doubles and 17 home runs.

    It's his defense that makes him an easy choice here.

    His 5.7 dWAR over the past three years ranks second only to Yadier Molina (6.3), and he's caught 34.7 percent of would-be base stealers over that span.

    Add in his durability, as he played an impressive 150 games last season, and he's an easy choice as the backstop on this team.

    Honorable Mentions

    Mike Zunino, SEA (24)

First Base: Jon Singleton, Houston Astros

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Born: September 18, 1991 (23 years old)

    Player Overview

    Now that Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo and Eric Hosmer have all turned 25 years old, it's admittedly slim pickings at first base. In fact, the choice here is a player who actually opens the season in the minors after a somewhat disappointing debut last year.

    The Houston Astros acquired Jon Singleton back in 2011 in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    They thought highly enough of him to sign him to a five-year, $10 million extension just two days after he made his big league debut.

    While he had 13 doubles and 13 home runs in 310 at-bats, Singleton hit just .168/.285/.335 with 134 strikeouts in the process, and he finds himself in Triple-A to begin the year.

    That said, there is still plenty of time for him to sort it out and become a force in the middle of a young Astros lineup.

    Honorable Mentions

    None

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Born: May 6, 1990 (24 years old)

    Player Overview

    After back-to-back solid seasons to kick off his time as the Houston Astros' everyday second baseman, Jose Altuve broke out in a big way last year.

    The 5'6" spark plug led the American League in batting average (.341), hits (225) and stolen bases (56) while making his second All-Star appearance, winning the Silver Slugger award and finishing 13th in AL MVP voting.

    Even if he regresses some, which is a distinct possibility given his .360 BABIP last year (per FanGraphs), Altuve should still rank among the league leaders in those three categories once again in 2015.

    The Astros took a big step forward last year, improving their win total by 19 games, and they should only get better in the years to come.

    Altuve figures to be at the center of all of that, and with option years, he could be in Houston through the 2019 season. And all for the low, low price of $23 million combined.

    Honorable Mentions

    Scooter Gennett, MIL (24)
    Joe Panik, SF (24)
    Kolten Wong, STL (24)

Third Base: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Born: June 6, 1990 (24 years old)

    Player Overview

    This one was the toughest decision by far, and you can certainly make a strong case for both Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado to be the pick here.

    That said, Anthony Rendon gets the nod after his breakout 2014 season.

    The No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft, Rendon showed flashes as a rookie over 98 games in 2013, then officially broke out last season in what was his first full year in the majors.

    Shuffling between second and third base, he hit .287/.351/.473 with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, 87 RBI, 17 steals and an NL-high 111 runs scored. That was good for a 6.5 WAR and a fifth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    Sidelined with a sprained left knee to begin this season, Rendon should return soon, and his performance will be one of the big keys to the Washington Nationals living up to lofty expectations.

    Honorable Mentions

    Nolan Arenado, COL (23)
    Nick Castellanos, DET (23)
    Manny Machado, BAL (22)

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Born: October 1, 1992 (22 years old)

    Player Overview

    There is no shortage of shortstop talent in the minor league ranks these days, headlined by Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager. However, there is no slam-dunk choice here at the big league level, and in the end, it boiled down to Xander Bogaerts versus Danny Santana.

    Santana was the better performer as a rookie, hitting .319 and posting a 3.9 WAR, but that average came with a .405 BABIP (per FanGraphs) so he could have a hard time repeating.

    Meanwhile, Bogaerts has likely only scratched the surface of his vast potential, but he was still productive playing all of last season at the age of 22. He posted a .660 OPS with 28 doubles and 12 home runs last year and could be in for a big sophomore season as he settles in at the shortstop position and is surrounded by a stacked lineup.

    Honorable Mentions

    Chris Owings, ARI (23)
    Danny Santana, MIN (24)

Left Field: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Born: December 5, 1991 (23 years old)

    Player Overview

    One-third of what many consider to be the best outfield in baseball, Christian Yelich turned a breakout 2014 season into a seven-year, $49.5 million extension that will keep him in a Miami Marlins uniform through at least 2021.

    "He's hungry, and that's what you want," said manager Mike Redmond (per ESPN). "You want young guys to come to the big leagues, and they aren't satisfied with one good year. They want to be better, and that's how you build championship teams, is to have young players that are hungry and want to win, and will do whatever they can to help the ballclub."

    Yelich hit .284/.362/.402 with nine home runs and 54 RBI, also leading the Marlins with 94 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.

    On top of his advanced offensive skills, he was also among the league's best defensive left fielders, with a 14.1 UZR/150 and 13 DRS (per FanGraphs). Both metrics were good for second among qualified left fielders, trailing only Alex Gordon, and they earned him the first of what could be many Gold Glove awards.

    Honorable Mentions

    Oswaldo Arcia, MIN (23)

Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Born: August 7, 1991 (23 years old)

    Player Overview

    Honestly, were you expecting anyone else here?

    Mike Trout is not only the best player in the game under the age of 25, he's arguably the best player in all of baseball period.

    Detractors will point to his increased strikeout rate and decrease in batting average last season, but he still posted a .939 OPS with 36 home runs, 111 RBI and 115 runs scored. That was good for a 7.9 WAR, and earned him the first MVP award of his career after finishing second to Miguel Cabrera the previous two seasons.

    In fact, his 28.2 WAR over the first three-plus seasons of his career is already good for 42nd among active position players.

    With Derek Jeter riding off into the sunset, a strong case can be made for Trout being the face of the sport.

    Honorable Mentions

    Mookie Betts, BOS (22)
    Billy Hamilton, CIN (24)
    Kevin Kiermaier, TB (24)
    Wil Myers, SD (24)
    Marcell Ozuna, MIA (24)
    Joc Pederson, LAD (22)

Right Field: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Born: December 7, 1990 (24 years old)

    Player Overview

    Bryce Harper has as high a ceiling as any player in the game, and this could very well be the year he puts it all together. However, since we're basing this on proven production as opposed to potential and upside, the choice here has to be Yasiel Puig.

    And that's not to say that Puig can't also get an awful lot better in the years to come, as he has been dynamic at times in his two big league seasons, but he's also been prone to prolonged slumps.

    Even with some dry spells, he still finished last season with a .296/.382/.480 line that included 37 doubles, 16 home runs, 69 RBI, 92 runs scored and 11 stolen bases for a 5.4 WAR.

    Puig will be counted on more than ever to be a run producer for the Los Angeles Dodgers now that Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez are gone. A step forward in his maturity could mean a big boost in his power numbers if nothing else.

    Honorable Mentions

    Avisail Garcia, CWS (23)
    Bryce Harper, WAS (22)
    Gregory Polanco, PIT (23)
    Jorge Soler, CHC (23)

Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Born: July 31, 1992 (22 years old)

    Player Overview

    Jose Fernandez is currently watching from the sidelines as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery, but he has showed enough in his 36 big league starts to earn the top spot in an impressive crop of under-25 starters.

    To this point in his career, he's been nothing short of dominant, going 16-8 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.972 WHIP and 257 strikeouts in 224.1 innings of work.

    He ran away with NL Rookie of the Year honors and finished third in Cy Young voting in 2013, and he was well on his way to impressive numbers once again last year when his season came to an abrupt halt on May 10.

    There will be some rust to shake off once he returns, but by the time we reach the end of the 2015 season he should again be the best young arm in the game.

    Rest of the Rotation

    2. Julio Teheran, ATL (24)
    3. Yordano Ventura, KC (23)
    4. Marcus Stroman, TOR (23)
    5. Taijuan Walker, SEA (22)

    Honorable Mentions

    Henderson Alvarez, MIA (24)
    Gerrit Cole, PIT (24)
    Jarred Cosart, MIA (24)
    Kevin Gausman, BAL (24)
    Drew Hutchison, TOR (24)
    Shelby Miller, ATL (24)
    Martin Perez, TEX (24)
    Michael Wacha, STL (23)
    Zack Wheeler. NYM (24)
    Alex Wood, ATL (24)

Relief Pitcher: Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Born: May 29, 1990 (24 years old)

    Player Overview

    A 21st-round pick in 2009, hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal spent the bulk of his time in the minors as a starter, but he's moved to the bullpen since reaching St. Louis.

    In 2013, he served as the primary setup man to Edward Mujica during the regular season, posting a 2.63 ERA, 1.102 WHIP and 12.9 K/9 before taking over closer's duties in October.

    With Mujica gone in free agency last offseason, Rosenthal took over as the full-time closer last year and ranked second in the National League with 45 saves.

    Granted, he did blow six saves and post less-than-stellar peripherals with a 3.20 ERA and 1.408 WHIP, but he was an effective closer for a postseason team nonetheless.

    It's still not out of the question to think the Cardinals could return him to a starting role at some point, but for the time being, he's an easy choice as the best under-25 reliever in the game.

    Honorable Mention

    Kyle Crockett, CLE (23)
    Ken Giles, PHI (24)
    Ian Krol, DET (23)
    Carlos Martinez, STL (23)
    Michael Morin, LAA (23)
    Paco Rodriguez, LAD (23)

Full 25-Man Roster

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    For the sake of expanding this argument a bit further, here is what my 25-man roster of under-25 players would look like:

    Starting Lineup

    1. 2B Jose Altuve
    2. LF Christian Yelich
    3. CF Mike Trout
    4. RF Yasiel Puig
    5. 3B Anthony Rendon
    6. C Salvador Perez
    7. SS Xander Bogaerts
    8. 1B Jon Singleton

    Bench

    C Mike Zunino
    IF Manny Machado
    3B Nolan Arenado
    OF Bryce Harper
    OF Marcell Ozuna

    Starting Rotation

    RHP Jose Fernandez
    RHP Julio Teheran
    RHP Yordano Ventura
    RHP Marcus Stroman
    RHP Taijuan Walker

    Bullpen

    RHP Gerrit Cole
    RHP Michael Wacha
    LHP Alex Wood
    RHP Carlos Martinez
    LHP Paco Rodriguez
    RHP Ken Giles
    RHP Trevor Rosenthal

    Note: Truth be told if I'm managing this team, Christian Yelich is moving to first base, Bryce Harper is playing left field and Mookie Betts is taking Jon Singleton's spot on the roster. For the sake of this exercise, though, that seemed like cheating.

    All stats and player ages courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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