Which MLB Team Has the Most Elite Young Talent?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2018

Which MLB Team Has the Most Elite Young Talent?

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Our mission: Identify which MLB team has the most elite young talent heading into the 2018 season.

    First, we needed to determine what constitutes "young talent," and for the sake of this exercise, we focused on players 25 years old or younger.

    That age was based on how old a player will be on June 30.

    From there, we needed to devise a scoring system to make it easy to compare all 30 teams' young talent.

    Here's what we came up with:

    • Established MLB Stars (10 points): Players with at least one 5.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 5.0 for the upcoming campaign were worth the most. These players have already established themselves as All-Star-level performers or are expected to do so in 2018. Ten players qualified.
    • Budding MLB Stars (5 points): Players with at least one 2.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 2.0 for the upcoming season. A 2.0 WAR is generally identified as the baseline for an everyday player, and producing at that level before the age of 26 is a good sign of a bright future.
    • Top Prospects (1-3 points): Using the top 100 prospect lists from Baseball AmericaMLB.com and ESPN.com, prospects were awarded one point for each list where they made an appearance.
    • Tiebreaker: If two clubs had the same number of points, the total number of players who qualified served as the tiebreaker.

    There were a few players who fell outside of those parameters but probably deserve attention:

    • Albert Almora Jr. (CHC)
    • Brian Anderson (MIA)
    • Josh Bell (PIT)
    • Greg Bird (NYY)
    • Edwin Diaz (SEA)
    • Maikel Franco (PHI)
    • Josh Hader (MIL)
    • Austin Hedges (SD)
    • Dinelson Lamet (SD)
    • Nomar Mazara (TEX)
    • Kyle Schwarber (CHC)
    • Julio Urias (LAD)
    • Bradley Zimmer (CLE).

    For the most part, that formula provided us with a good picture of how all 30 teams stack up in terms of high-end young talent.

                

    Note: The zWAR totals come courtesy of the ZiPS projection system, which was created by Dan Szymborski and can be found on FanGraphs. It was used as a prediction model for the upcoming season.

No. 30 to No. 11

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    30. Kansas City Royals: 0 points

    • None

          

    29. Seattle Mariners: 2 points

    • Kyle Lewis (2)

         

    28. San Francisco Giants: 3 points

    • Heliot Ramos (3)

          

    T26. Miami Marlins: 9 points

    • Lewis Brinson (3), Monte Harrison (3), Sandy Alcantara (2), Jorge Guzman (1)

         

    T26. Pittsburgh Pirates: 9 points

    • Mitch Keller (3), Austin Meadows (3), Shane Baz (2), Ke'Bryan Hayes (1)

          

    25. Chicago Cubs: 15 points

    • Javier Baez (5), Ian Happ (5), Addison Russell (5)

         

    24. Los Angeles Angels: 15 points

    • Shohei Ohtani (5), Jo Adell (3), Jahmai Jones (3), Jaime Barria (1), Kevin Maitan (1), Brandon Marsh (1), Chris Rodriguez (1)

         

    23. Detroit Tigers: 16 points

    • Michael Fulmer (5), Alex Faedo (3), Matt Manning (3), Franklin Perez (3), Beau Burrows (1), Daz Cameron (1)

         

    T21. Arizona Diamondbacks: 20 points

    • Archie Bradley (5), Taijuan Walker (5), Ketel Marte (5), Jon Duplantier (3), Pavin Smith (2)

         

    T21. Texas Rangers: 20 points

    • Delino DeShields Jr. (5), Joey Gallo (5), Rougned Odor (5), Leody Taveras (3), Willie Calhoun (2)

         

    19t. St. Louis Cardinals: 21 points

    • Paul DeJong (5), Luke Weaver (5), Jack Flaherty (3), Carson Kelly (3), Alex Reyes (3), Tyler O'Neill (2)

         

    19t. Toronto Blue Jays: 21 points

    • Roberto Osuna (5), Aaron Sanchez (5), Anthony Alford (3), Bo Bichette (3), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3), Nate Pearson (2)

         

    18. Oakland Athletics: 21 points

    • Matt Chapman (5), Matt Olson (5), Franklin Barreto (3), Jorge Mateo (3), A.J. Puk (3), James Kaprielian (1), Jesus Luzardo (1)

         

    17. Baltimore Orioles: 22 points

    • Manny Machado (10), Dylan Bundy (5), Austin Hays (3), Ryan Mountcastle (2), Chance Sisco (2)

         

    16. New York Mets: 22 points

    • Noah Syndergaard (10), Michael Conforto (5), Amed Rosario (5), Andres Gimenez (1 pt), David Peterson (1)

         

    15. Cincinnati Reds: 24 points

    • Luis Castillo (5), Brandon Finnegan (5), Hunter Greene (3), Tyler Mahle (3), Nick Senzel (3), Taylor Trammell (3), Jesse Winker (2)

         

    14. San Diego Padres: 25 points

    • Manuel Margot (5), Michel Baez (3), MacKenzie Gore (3), Adrian Morejon (3), Cal Quantrill (3), Fernando Tatis Jr. (3), Luis Urias (3), Logan Allen (1), Anderson Espinoza (1)

         

    13. Los Angeles Dodgers: 26 points

    • Corey Seager (10), Cody Bellinger (5), Walker Buehler (3), Keibert Ruiz (3), Alex Verdugo (3), Yadier Alvarez (1), Mitchell White (1)

         

    12. Milwaukee Brewers: 26 points

    • Orlando Arcia (5), Zach Davies (5), Domingo Santana (5), Corbin Burnes (3), Keston Hiura (3), Brandon Woodruff (3), Lucas Erceg (1), Brett Phillips (1)

         

    11. Tampa Bay Rays: 26 points

    • Jacob Faria (5), Blake Snell (5), Willy Adames (3), Brent Honeywell (3), Brendan McKay (3), Jesus Sanchez (3), Jake Bauers (2), Christian Arroyo (1), Wander Franco (1)

10. Washington Nationals (27 Points)

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RF Bryce Harper254.99.926.1
    SS Trea Turner253.43.66.4
    RHP Joe Ross251.52.13.9

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 7 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    OF Victor Robles546
    OF Juan Soto564229
    SS Carter Kieboom--90

          

    Team Overview

    The readiness of top prospect Victor Robles to step into an everyday role by this time next season is perhaps the biggest X-factor facing the Washington Nationals in the anticipated post-Bryce Harper era.

    The 20-year-old is a consensus top-10 prospect and he hit .300/.382/.493 with 55 extra-base hits and 27 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A last year. Simply put, he has legitimate superstar upside.

    For now, Harper will once again be the driving force in the middle of a potent offense.

    His 26.1 WAR is good for 27th all-time for a player prior to his age-25 season.

    Trea Turner will once again be a disruptive force atop the lineup after stealing 46 bases and scoring 75 runs in just 98 games while missing time with a broken wrist.

    Joe Ross will likely miss all of the 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but with team control through the 2021 season and a 3.95 ERA in 255.1 career innings, he's still an important long-term piece.

    While prospect Juan Soto is at least a year behind Robles in terms of development, he also has legitimate superstar potential. As for Carter Kieboom, he could wind up being the centerpiece of any major trade the team makes this season.

9. Philadelphia Phillies (27 Points)

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    Aaron Nola
    Aaron NolaNick Wass/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 10 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SP Aaron Nola254.34.56.3
    LF Rhys Hoskins253.62.02.0

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 17 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SS J.P. Crawford161037
    SP Sixto Sanchez252326
    2B Scott Kingery313335
    SP Adonis Medina84-86
    OF Adam Haseley100-95
    SP JoJo Romero-59-
    OF Jhailyn Ortiz-83-
    OF Mickey Moniak--88
    C Jorge Alfaro-98-

         

    Team Overview

    Aaron Nola was quietly excellent last season, going 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 184 strikeouts in 168 innings. He's the one lock for a long-term spot in the rotation, and filling out the staff around him is the biggest question mark in the ongoing rebuild.

    Slugger Rhys Hoskins posted a 165 OPS+ and launched 18 home runs in 212 plate appearances. Even if he's unable to maintain that pace over a full season, all signs point to him being a dangerous middle-of-the-order presence for years to come.

    Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford represent the middle infield of the future, and that future could come by the second half of the 2018 season.

    Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina are the team's best chance of developing another front-line starter to join Nola in the rotation, and both guys could be ready by 2019. Don't count out JoJo Romero, though, as the 2016 fourth-rounder has impressed with his advanced pitchability.

    Catcher Jorge Alfaro looks to have the inside track on the starting job for 2018, while outfielders Adam HaseleyJhailyn Ortiz and Mickey Moniak are all still in the lower levels of the minors.

8. Cleveland Indians (28 Points)

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SS Francisco Lindor245.85.715.8
    3B Jose Ramirez254.76.914.0

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 8 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    C Francisco Mejia20711
    SP Triston McKenzie331924
    3B Nolan Jones-80-
    1B Bobby Bradley-91-

         

    Team Overview

    Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor finished third and fifth in AL MVP voting last season, respectively.

    That duo has completely transformed the team's offensive attack, as Ramirez has exceeded even the wildest expectations for what he might become at the next level and Lindor is fresh off a 33-homer season in which he showed more power than anyone ever anticipated.

    Catcher Francisco Mejia and right-hander Triston McKenzie both have a chance to be impact players at the next level.

    Mejia hit .297/.346/.490 with 37 extra-base hits in Double-A and he has a cannon for an arm behind the plate. He's blocked by Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, but his bat will carry him to the big leagues in some capacity this season.

    As for McKenzie, he won't turn 21 until August and he's likely ticketed for Double-A after going 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 186 strikeouts in 143 innings in a full season at High-A Lynchburg last year.

    It's not out of the question to think Bobby Bradley and Nolan Jones could join Lindor and Ramirez in forming a dynamic, homegrown infield a few years from now.

7. Houston Astros (31 Points)

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    Carlos Correa
    Carlos CorreaElaine Thompson/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SS Carlos Correa235.76.316.3
    3B Alex Bregman233.84.15.8
    SP Lance McCullers Jr.242.52.45.0

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 11 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SP Forrest Whitley1089
    OF Kyle Tucker152117
    SP J.B. Bukauskas767476
    1B/OF Yordan Alvarez6240-

         

    Team Overview

    Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman might be the best pre-arbitration duo in all of baseball.

    Their biggest competition for that title is Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and all four of those terrific young players were on full display in the World Series last year.

    A lot of the pressure is off Lance McCullers Jr. for the upcoming season. With a full season from Justin Verlander and the acquisition of Gerrit Cole alongside Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, the Astros don't need him to be anything more than a viable No. 5 starter.

    Prospects Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker could both be perennial All-Stars at the next level, and both have been largely untouchable in trade talks.

    J.B. Bukauskas could reach the majors as quickly as anyone in the 2017 draft class, and Yordan Alvarez could be a consensus top-50 prospect by midseason if he can build off a strong pro debut last year.

6. Colorado Rockies (34 Points)

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    German Marquez
    German MarquezJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 25 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SS Trevor Story251.73.25.8
    SP German Marquez233.23.13.3
    SP Kyle Freeland252.53.33.3
    SP Antonio Senzatela232.42.12.1
    SP Jeff Hoffman252.00.4-0.3

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 9 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SS Brendan Rodgers222915
    1B Ryan McMahon633141
    SP Riley Pint99-100
    SP Peter Lambert-63-

         

    Team Overview

    It looks like Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson will occupy three spots in the rotation for the upcoming season.

    That leaves two spots for German MarquezKyle FreelandAntonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman, as the Colorado Rockies have as much viable rotation depth as any team in baseball.

    Incumbent shortstop Trevor Story will need to hold off prospect Brendan Rodgers as he looks to push his way into the middle infield picture.

    Rodgers, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, hit .336/.373/.567 with 47 extra-base hits in 400 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A, and he could be ready by midseason.

    Fellow infielder Ryan McMahon will be given every chance to win the starting first base job this spring.

    Riley Pint has the best stuff in the system if he can harness his command, and Peter Lambert could be the next homegrown arm to arrive on the scene after a strong showing at High-A.

5. Boston Red Sox (36 Points)

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 30 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    RF Mookie Betts255.59.524.1
    SS Xander Bogaerts253.24.611.1
    SP Eduardo Rodriguez242.32.54.8
    LF Andrew Benintendi232.82.63.1
    3B Rafael Devers212.61.31.3

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 6 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SP Jay Groome833085
    3B Michael Chavis857679

         

    Team Overview

    Only Manny Machado (27.9) and Bryce Harper (26.1) have more career WAR among players 25 or younger than the 24.1 that Mookie Betts has posted since debuting with the Boston Red Sox.

    Both Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts could be candidates for an extension sometime soon. Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season, and Betts hits the open market the following year.

    Andrew Benintendi (103 OPS+, 26 2B, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 20 SB) and Rafael Devers (112 OPS+, 14 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI) showed flashes during their rookie seasons, and both players are likely just scratching the surface of their potential.

    Once again, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be one of the biggest X-factors on the roster. Will this be the year he breaks out, or will it be another disappointing, injury-plagued campaign?

    What was once one of the best farm systems in baseball has taken a major hit over the past year as a result of trades and call-ups.

    That said, Jay Groome and Michael Chavis are still consensus top-100 guys, and there's a wealth of young pitching talent that could make that leap, led by Bryan Mata, Tanner Houck, Alex Scherff, Darwinzon Hernandez and Mike Shawaryn.

4. Chicago White Sox (36 Points)

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    Yoan Moncada
    Yoan MoncadaJose Juarez/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    SP Carlos Rodon252.51.64.2
    SS Tim Anderson250.92.83.7
    2B Yoan Moncada232.41.71.5
    SP Lucas Giolito232.31.51.0

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 16 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    OF Eloy Jimenez464
    SP Michael Kopech111110
    OF Luis Robert584628
    SP Alec Hansen574954
    SP Dane Dunning82-92
    SP Dylan Cease--61
    OF Blake Rutherford--99

         

    Team Overview

    The Chicago White Sox are rebuilding the right way.

    Blockbuster trades of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton have given them a loaded farm system, and some of that young talent has already reached the majors.

    Second baseman Yoan Moncada might have the highest ceiling of any young player in the organization, while Lucas Giolito finished the 2017 season strong and looks like a lock for the staff alongside Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer.

    Left-hander Carlos Rodon and shortstop Tim Anderson were around before the rebuild started, and they've already established themselves at the MLB level, though they're still looking for that breakout season.

    Slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez and flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech are the cream of the club's prospect crop. Both players have superstar upside and could get a taste of the big leagues by the second half of the 2018 season.

    Luis RobertAlec HansenDane DunningDylan Cease and Blake Rutherford all have a chance to be long-term pieces of the puzzle, and they all have the upside to develop into stars between now and reaching their respective ceilings.

3. Atlanta Braves (36 Points)

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    Ronald Acuna
    Ronald AcunaLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 10 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    2B Ozzie Albies213.31.41.4
    SS Dansby Swanson242.30.80.6

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 26 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    OF Ronald Acuna112
    SP Kyle Wright342630
    SP Mike Soroka276031
    SP Luiz Gohara235049
    SP Ian Anderson424851
    SP Max Fried727783
    SP Kolby Allard65-58
    3B Austin Riley54-97
    OF Cristian Pache-57-
    SP Bryse Wilson-68-
    SP Touki Toussaint-90-
    SP Joey Wentz-96-

         

    Team Overview

    The middle infield of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson figures to be a staple for the Atlanta Braves as they get ready to take the next step back toward contention.

    While both players are still looking to establish themselves at the MLB level, it's important to remember that Albies is still just 21 years old and Swanson was on campus at Vanderbilt at this time three years ago.

    Then there's outfielder Ronald Acuna, who has yet to reach the majors but already looks like a superstar.

    The 20-year-old hit .325/.374/.522 with 60 extra-base hits and 44 stolen bases over three minor league levels. All signs point to an everyday role early in the 2018 season.

    Behind him is one of the biggest crops of young pitching talent of any team in recent memory, with Mike SorokaLuiz GoharaIan AndersonKyle WrightMax FriedKolby AllardBryse WilsonTouki Toussaint and Joey Wentz all have a chance to be future rotation pieces.

    Third baseman Austin Riley might be a year away from taking over at the hot corner, while Cristian Pache might be the next teenage phenom to shoot up prospect rankings.

2. New York Yankees (37 Points)

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    Luis Severino
    Luis SeverinoBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 20 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    C Gary Sanchez253.24.17.1
    SP Luis Severino244.75.36.9
    SP Jordan Montgomery252.12.92.9

         

    Top 100 Prospects: 17 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SS Gleyber Torres655
    SP Justus Sheffield411648
    3B Miguel Andujar595465
    SP Albert Abreu779974
    OF Estevan Florial38-44
    SP Chance Adams81-75
    SP Freicer Perez-73-

         

    Team Overview

    Let's get this out of the way: Aaron Judge will turn 26 in April, so he was not eligible for this exercise.

    However, catcher Gary Sanchez and right-hander Luis Severino are both budding superstars who fit the description.

    Sanchez had a 126 OPS+ with 33 home runs in his first full season in the majors, while Severino finally turned potential into production in going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 230 strikeouts in 193.1 innings to finish third in AL Cy Young voting.

    Left-hander Jordan Montgomery might not have front-line upside, but he was a key piece in 2017 when he went 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 155.1 innings, and he'll be back in the No. 5 starter spot this season.

    Infielder Gleyber Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar could both be in starting roles before the All-Star break, and pitchers Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams may be ready to make an impact before the season is over.

    In the lower levels of the system, toolsy outfielder Estevan Florial, hard-throwing Albert Abreu and towering 6'8" right-hander Freicer Perez are ready to take over as the prospect headliners once those four players make the leap to the next level.

1. Minnesota Twins (42 Points)

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    Byron Buxton
    Byron BuxtonPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    MLB Talent: 30 points

    PlayerAge2017 zWARHigh WARCareer WAR
    CF Byron Buxton243.25.17.2
    3B Miguel Sano252.72.55.4
    RF Max Kepler251.42.44.4
    SS Jorge Polanco241.42.13.1
    SP Jose Berrios243.31.70.0

              

    Top 100 Prospects: 12 points

    PlayerBAESPNMLB.com
    SS Royce Lewis242520
    SS Nick Gordon933780
    SP Fernando Romero-4768
    SP Stephen Gonsalves97-78
    OF Brent Rooker92--
    SS Wander Javier95--

         

    Team Overview

    The Minnesota Twins claimed the No. 1 spot in our homegrown talent rankings, so it should be no surprise that they're featured prominently here as well.

    Defense and speed will again drive Byron Buxton's overall value. He was a 5.1 WAR player last season when he won his first Gold Glove and swiped 29 bases in 30 attempts.

    Miguel SanoMax Kepler and Jorge Polanco will all be key members of the offense once again and they were able to claim the top spot in these rankings, even with Eddie Rosario turning 26 and no longer included.

    On the pitching side, right-hander Jose Berrios could be ready to assume the role of staff ace after a breakout 2017 season.

    Royce LewisBrent Rooker and Wander Javier were all added to the system last summer, bolstering what was already a deep and talented system.

    Pitchers Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves could be ready to help out in the rotation this season, while Nick Gordon could wind up taking over a middle infield spot once Brian Dozier reaches free agency following the 2018 season.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.