Way-Too-Early Predictions for the 2020s MLB All-Decade Team

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2020

Way-Too-Early Predictions for the 2020s MLB All-Decade Team

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    A year ago, fellow MLB writer Zachary Rymer and I were putting the finishing touches on B/R's 2010s MLB All-Decade team to wrap up a memorable 10 seasons of baseball.

    It will be another nine years before the All-Decade discussion surfaces once again, but it's never too soon to start predicting who might find their way onto the 2020s roster.

    Based on age, established skill set and future expectations, the following 10 players make up our way-too-early predictions for the best of the best for the upcoming decade.

    The 10-man roster consists of a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, center fielder, right fielder, right-handed pitcher and left-handed pitcher.

    Also included is a "Next 5" list that serves as each position's honorable mentions.

    Let the debates begin.

Catcher: Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Adley Rutschman is going to be the face of the Baltimore Orioles franchise the second he arrives in the big leagues.

    That could be as soon as 2021 despite the fact he's played just 37 games in the minors since going No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft.

    A switch-hitter with an advanced hit tool and plus raw power, he hit .411/.575/.751 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI in 57 games during his junior year at Oregon State, drawing twice as many walks (76) as strikeouts (38).

    He's also a Gold Glove-caliber defender behind the plate, giving him all the tools to be a perennial All-Star and the centerpiece of Baltimore's rebuild.

         

    Next 5

    • 1. Will Smith, LAD
    • 2. Joey Bart, SF
    • 3. Tyler Stephenson, CIN
    • 4. Sean Murphy, OAK
    • 5. Luis Campusano, SD

First Baseman: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    It's fair to say Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has yet to live up to lofty expectations, but that doesn't mean his MLB career is not off to an impressive start.

    He has a 109 OPS+ in 757 plate appearances at the MLB level, including 24 extra-base hits in 243 plate appearances this past season, and he doesn't turn 22 years old until March.

    The Blue Jays might give him another opportunity to man third base this coming year, but the smart money says he'll spend the bulk of the decade at first base given his defensive limitations and the abundance of infield options in the Toronto farm system.

    He was the first prospect ever to receive an 80-grade hit tool from MLB.com for a reason, and once he hits his stride in the big leagues, he has a chance to be a generational talent offensively.

            

    Next 5

    • 1. Cody Bellinger, LAD
    • 2. Spencer Torkelson, DET
    • 3. Andrew Vaughn, CWS
    • 4. Pete Alonso, NYM
    • 5. Triston Casas, BOS

Second Baseman: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Ozzie Albies made his MLB debut at the age of 20 in 2017.

    He was an All-Star the following year, and in 2019, he was one of the most productive players at his position, leading the NL in hits (189) while posting a 113 OPS+ with 43 doubles, eight triples, 24 home runs, 86 RBI, 102 runs scored and 15 steals.

    He sometimes gets lost in the shadow of superstar teammates Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr., but his future is every bit as bright for an Atlanta Braves team built for long-term success.

    And while second base is always a tough position to project due to the fact that many middle infielders are developed as shortstops in the minors before shifting to the other side of the bag in the big leagues, Albies is a safe bet to be among the best at his position for the foreseeable future.

          

    Next 5

    • 1. Gleyber Torres, NYY
    • 2. Brandon Lowe, TB
    • 3. Gavin Lux, LAD
    • 4. Keston Hiura, MIL
    • 5. Cavan Biggio, TOR

Shortstop: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    The big question here is when wunderkind Wander Franco will arrive for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    With an 80-grade hit tool, 60-grade power and all the requisite skills to be a good defensive shortstop, he has superstar potential and could quickly emerge as one of the best players in the game. At the same time, he's still just 19 years old, he has yet to play above High-A, and the Rays have never been one to rush prospects to the big leagues.

    With that in mind, Fernando Tatis Jr. is a fairly easy choice here.

    The 21-year-old slumped down the stretch in 2020 and missed out on NL MVP honors as a result, but he still posted a 155 OPS+ with 17 home runs, 45 RBI, 11 steals and 2.8 WAR in 59 games to cement his place as one of the most exciting young players in the game.

    The best is yet to come.

               

    Next 5

    • 1. Bo Bichette, TOR
    • 2. Francisco Lindor, CLE
    • 3. Wander Franco, TB
    • 4. Corey Seager, LAD
    • 5. Bobby Witt Jr., KC

Third Base: Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    This was a tough choice.

    Ke'Bryan Hayes racked up 1.9 WAR over just 24 games in his first taste of MLB action last season, hitting .376/.442/.682 with 14 extra-base hits in 95 plate appearances and showcasing the elite defensive skills that have long drawn rave reviews in the minors.

    His .450 BABIP raises some obvious regression red flags. But even if he's a .275 hitter with 40-double/20-homer power going forward, his defensive value on top of that will make him an elite player.

    Alec Bohm also looked like the real deal, hitting .338/.400/.481 in 44 games while only scratching the surface of his significant raw power. However, there's a real chance he could move across the diamond to first base at some point, and his lack of defensive value is what ultimately pushed him behind Hayes by the slimmest of margins.

           

    Next 5

    • 1. Alec Bohm, PHI
    • 2. Alex Bregman, HOU
    • 3. Matt Chapman, OAK
    • 4. Josh Jung, TEX
    • 5. Kody Hoese, LAD

Left Field: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Juan Soto is already the best left fielder in baseball, and he just turned 22 years old in October.

    He led the National League in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.695) and OPS+ (212) in 2020, tallying 14 doubles, 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 47 games to finish fifth in NL MVP voting despite having little protection in the Washington lineup.

    Players just don't post 20.9 percent walk rates in their age-21 seasons while also winning batting titles and maintaining elite-level power production.

    Soto looks like one of the safest picks around to be a star for the next decade.

            

    Next 5

    • 1. Eloy Jimenez, CWS
    • 2. Kyle Tucker, HOU
    • 3. Christian Yelich, MIL
    • 4. Julio Rodriguez, SEA
    • 5. Riley Greene, DET

Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Mike Trout will be 37 years old in 2029, and expecting him to still be producing at an all-world level at that point in his career is foolish.

    However, he's more than capable of doing enough over the next five or six years to solidify the choice in center field.

    Through nine full seasons in the majors, he has never finished lower than fifth in American League MVP voting, and he's just now entering what is generally considered a player's prime. If he racks up 50.0 WAR by the end of the 2025 season, he could coast to being the best center fielder of the decade.

    Despite struggling mightily in September, Chicago White Sox rookie Luis Robert is still a superstar in the making, and he has the best chance of giving Trout a run for his money.

           

    Next 5

    • 1. Luis Robert, CWS
    • 2. Jarred Kelenic, SEA
    • 3. Trent Grisham, SD
    • 4. Cristian Pache, ATL
    • 5. Heliot Ramos, SF

Right Field: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    With Cristian Pache knocking on the door in Atlanta, it's only a matter of time before Ronald Acuna Jr. shifts over to right field full-time in deference to someone who could be a perennial Gold Glove winner up the middle.

    That immediately moves Acuna to the top of the list in right field.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers are banking on Mookie Betts continuing to produce at an elite level after signing him to a 12-year, $365 million extension that runs through the 2032 season. He can perform at a high level over the life of that deal, though, and still be overtaken by one of the most dynamic young players in baseball for the top spot among right fielders.

    After a 41-homer, 37-steal season in 2019, Acuna showed a vastly improved approach at the plate in 2020, posting a career-high 155 OPS+ while raising his walk rate from 10.6 to 18.8 percent. That's a good sign he still hasn't reached his peak, and that should be a scary proposition for the rest of the league.

           

    Next 5

    • 1. Mookie Betts, LAD
    • 2. Alex Verdugo, BOS
    • 3. Kyle Lewis, SEA
    • 4. Dylan Carlson, STL
    • 5. Jo Adell, LAA

Right-Handed Pitcher: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Already one of the best young pitchers in baseball, Walker Buehler got even better during the 2020 postseason to help the Los Angeles Dodgers win a World Series title.

    In five playoff starts, he had a 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 25 innings, limiting opponents to a .196 batting average and tossing six innings of three-hit, one-run, 10-strikeout ball in Game 3 of the World Series.

    Shane Bieber had a brilliant season in 2020 and isn't going anywhere, but Buehler's feel for pitching, electric stuff and friendly home ballpark have him poised to be a perennial NL Cy Young contender and the ace of the Dodgers staff going forward.

    Still, don't sleep on Ian Anderson, who has looked flat-out dominant during his brief time in the majors. He always appeared to have the highest ceiling of any Atlanta pitching prospect, and he looked comfortable under the bright lights of the postseason.

          

    Next 5

    • 1. Shane Bieber, CLE
    • 2. Ian Anderson, ATL
    • 3. Sixto Sanchez, MIA
    • 4. Casey Mize, DET
    • 5. Nate Pearson, TOR

Left-Handed Pitcher: MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Betting on a pitcher who has yet to make his MLB debut is always risky, but MacKenzie Gore has a chance to be special.

    The No. 3 overall pick of the 2017 draft was dominant while splitting the 2019 season between High-A and Double-A at the age of 20, posting a 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 101 innings. A contending San Diego Padres team is not going to be able to keep him down much longer.

    With four pitches that garner a 60 grade from MLB.com and a deceptive delivery that features a high leg kick and hides the ball well, all from an athletic 6'2", 197-pound frame, he checks all the boxes to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for a long time.

    We haven't seen the best of Jesus Luzardo in Oakland yet, and a healthy Brendan McKay could be a huge part of the future in Tampa Bay. However, there's no southpaw with a higher ceiling over the next 10 years than Gore.

         

    Next 5

    • 1. Jesus Luzardo, OAK
    • 2. Max Fried, ATL
    • 3. Julio Urias, LAD
    • 4. Brendan McKay, TB
    • 5. Nick Lodolo, CIN

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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