MLB Predictions: Elvis Andrus and the Top Player 25 and Under on Each MLB Team
Major League Baseball has always been about player development and young stars stepping up when the game is on the line.
For many teams, that young talent is hard to come by.
This list takes a look at the top players for each franchise under 25 years old.
The rankings will be based on division, starting with the American League East and progressing through the entire MLB.
The list begins with the Baltimore Orioles.
AL East: Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz, Pitcher
Brian Matusz is easily the best young pitching prospect in the Baltimore Orioles system at this point.
Matusz has made appearances for the Orioles in the last two seasons and has been adjusting to the game well, as he has posted a 15-14 overall record in 40 starts.
Matusz should have some increased firepower to help him out this season, as the Orioles acquired Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero.
Matusz is currently listed as the No. 2 pitcher in Baltimore's rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie.
Even though he has battled through injuries during this spring training, Matusz is expected to resume throwing over the weekend and return to the mound next week.
Boston Red Sox: Yamaico Navarro, SS
Yamaico Navarro played 20 games with the Boston Red Sox last season before eventually being sent back down to the minor leagues to finish out the year.
Navarro hit an unimpressive .143 with the Sox despite have a solid season in the minor leagues. Covering stints in both Double-A and Triple-A, Navarro hit a combined .274 and drove in 61 runners in 104 games.
The Red Sox currently have Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie listed on the depth chart before Navarro, which should make fans think that he will not be starting anytime soon.
Even though Navarro may need some more minor league experience, do not be surprised to see him back with Boston within the next year.
New York Yankees: Eduardo Nunez, SS
Eduardo Nunez did a nice job last season filling in for both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on several occasions.
Nunez played in 30 games with the Yankees last season at only 22 years of age. He may have a more expanded role with the Yankees, as he is listed as the official backup at both third base and shortstop.
It is reasonable to believe that Nunez will not be a consistent starter with the Yankees anytime soon, as the franchise has a history of fielding their team through money rather than the farm system.
Either way, Nunez is still a young prospect with a huge upside, as he hit .280 last season with one home run and five stolen bases.
Tampa Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson, Pitcher
Jeremy Hellickson is the fifth starter on a Tampa Bay Rays rotation that has impressed every baseball fan around the world over the last few years.
Hellickson appeared in 10 games last season, posting a 4-0 record and a 3.47 ERA. Those are impressive numbers for a pitcher who is only 23 years old and was drafted in the fourth round almost six years ago.
Hellickson should continue to be a factor in the Rays rotation this season. The Rays should have plenty of opportunities to get Hellickson some innings, and he may even be a great fantasy option for a spot starter.
Toronto Blue Jays: Travis Snider, RF
Travis Snider first burst onto the baseball scene as a 20-year-old right fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
Since that season, Snider has not quite lived up to the hype but is only 23 and has plenty of time to improve his game.
Snider has improved on his numbers every season in the major leagues but is still bolstering a below-average .255 at the plate and is becoming a player who can fall victim to hot and cold streaks.
Snider improved his home run total from nine in 2009 to 14 in 2010 while playing in only half of the regular-season games the Jays had scheduled.
Toronto hopes Snider can become more of a consistent player for the team down the road, but in the mean time, he is only set to make a little over $400,000 in 2011 and will more than likely serve as an outfield utility man.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox: Dayan Viciedo, 3B
Dayan Viciedo has only played in 36 games in his Major League career, but he has made a great impression on the management of the Chicago White Sox.
Viciedo hit .308 in his limited appearances along with five home runs and 12 runs batted in.
These numbers have fans and writers questioning if it is the right time to make him an everyday player.
Viciedo is only going to be 22 this season and had some fielding issues during his time in Chicago last year.
In 21 games at third base, he committed four errors but did not commit any at his other positions (first base).
The White Sox have better options than Viciedo at the third base position right now, but do not be surprised to hear his name at some point this season.
Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley, CF
Michael Brantley was one of the few things that Indians fans enjoyed talking about last season as the Tribe hobbled to a last-place finish in the AL Central.
Brantley played in 78 games last season as he filled in for Grady Sizemore. He would eventually lose his starting job after some sub-par performances but seemed to get better as the year progressed.
So far in his career, Brantley has played in exactly 100 games for Cleveland and is hitting .264. Brantley only has three home runs but usually finds a way to put the ball in play, as he only struck out 38 times in 297 at-bats.
Detroit Tigers: Alex Avila, Catcher
Alex Avila ended 2010 slightly disappointed in his performance and wondering what the Detroit Tigers organization would do with him during the offseason. Fortunately for him, he is back in spring training and is fighting for a backup position on the team.
Last season, Avila played in 104 games but struggled heavily at the plate, as he posted a .238 batting average. Avila did managed to put seven balls out of the yard, but the Tigers hoped for more production out of their starting catcher.
Avila is only 23 years old and has a good body of work underneath him to build off of for the future.
He will also be able to learn from one of the best catchers in the league in Victor Martinez.
Kansas City Royals: Jeremy Jeffress, Pitcher
Jeremy Jeffress had an amazing ride last season, as he managed to play his way throughout every minor league affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers and eventually made 10 appearances for the team in relief.
Jeffress was eventually traded in the offseason to Kansas City in the same deal that brought former Royals ace Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.
Jeffress can quickly become the best option for the Royals in their bullpen and should have plenty of chances now that Kansas City's rotation has been weakened.
Jeffress was drafted as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and was also ranked the 100th best prospect in the nation in 2009.
Minnesota Twins: Alex Burnett, Pitcher
Alex Burnett became a very reliable option in the bullpen for the Minnesota Twins last season as he appeared in 40 games and posted a 2-2 overall record.
Burnett did have a high ERA at 5.23, but he only lost two games on the season and was called upon when Minnesota had leads of two or more runs.
Burnett got a good amount of work in during 2010 and should only get better in 2011.
This offseason, Burnett stated that he "want(s) to get better control of his breaking ball and work the rest of his pitches off of that."
Minnesota can always use the bullpen help, as many trade rumors are swirling around members of its starting rotation, most notably Francisco Liriano.
AL West: Anaheim Angels: Peter Bourjos, CF
Peter Bourjos may not have had a great season at the plate in 2010, but made up for it with his fielding ability and superior skill on the base paths.
In 51 games in center field, Bourjos only committed one error in over 400 innings but hit a miserable .204 at the plate.
Bourjos also managed to steal 10 bases in limited opportunities on the bases.
The 2011 season should be a defining one for Bourjos, as he will either be a backup in the majors or the starter in Triple-A. He has shown great potential, but it is hard to tell how good Bourjos will be with his limited playing time.
Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson, Pitcher
Brett Anderson will enter his third season as a starter for the Oakland A's with a lot to prove.
After his astounding rookie season in 2009, where he started in 30 games and posted an 11-11 record, Anderson was disappointing last season, only pitching in 19 games but posting a great ERA of 2.08.
Anderson also came in sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2009.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez, Pitcher
"King" Felix Hernandez has basically been a revelation for the Seattle Mariners since he claimed a spot in the rotation in 2005.
Now entering his seventh season, Hernandez came into the league when he was only 19 and was effective immediately as he went 4-4 in 12 starts.
His career numbers to date include an overall record of 71-53 and an ERA a little over 3.00.
Hernandez is set to make $10 million this season and his salary will nearly double to $18 million in 2012.
Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus, SS
Elvis Andrus is one of the most solid young baseball players in the Major Leagues, and he is only 21 years old.
In his first season, Andrus finished second in ROY voting and in his second made the All-Star team.
Andrus has played in a total of 293 games for the Rangers and has hit .266 to go along with a .336 on-base percentage.
One knock on Andrus may be his lack of power at the plate, as he has only hit six home runs in his first two full seasons at Texas.
Although what he lacks in power he makes up for in true baseball grit. Andrus finished first last season in sacrifice hits and finished first in 2009 in total putouts by a shortstop.
NL East: Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, RF
Jason Heyward is becoming one of the best young power hitters in the league and is drawing attention equal to that of Albert Pujols during his first two seasons.
Heyward finally found his way to the big show last season and struggled at times, but eventually came away with 18 dingers and a batting average of .277.
Heyward was voted to the All-Star team in his first season. He also finished 2010 ranked 20th in MVP voting and second in the ROY voting.
Heyward is already a fan favorite in Atlanta, as he has now been labeled at the "J-Hey Kid" and has been the focus of numerous fan sites on the Internet.
Florida Marlins: Logan Morrison, LF
Logan Morrison is one of many young talents that the Florida Marlins will be fielding this season.
Morrison played in 62 games with the Marlins last season after working with the team during spring training for three years.
Morrison impressed enough last season to be named the starting left fielder for Florida this year and should be hitting near the top of the lineup.
The 2010 season ended for Morrison on a high note, as he finished out the year hitting .281 and posted a slugging percentage of .447.
New York Mets: Ike Davis, 2B
Ike Davis was one of the many players whom the New York Mets were forced to introduce last season, and he played better than anyone expected.
Davis hit 19 home runs and displayed good gap power by slapping 33 doubles.
The Mets will more than likely still have Davis as their starting first basemen this season and give him an opportunity to grow into one of the best young infielders in the league.
Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown, RF
Domonic Brown has been all over the baseball headlines, as he suffered a broken hand that may result in surgery.
Brown did well enough in his 32 appearances last season to get the Phillies wondering if he could contend for a starting position this year.
This injury will undoubtedly set him back from where he wants to be but will also give him a little more time to hone in his abilities.
Brown was not having a very good spring training, as he recorded one hit and nine strikeouts in 16 plate appearances.
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Pitcher
Stephen Stasburg took over the baseball headlines last season when he made his debut for the Washington Nationals.
Strasburg brings a style of power pitching that the Nationals have not seen, as he consistently hits the 100 mph mark on the radar gun every game.
It will be great for baseball to see what Strasburg will be able to accomplish if he can remain healthy for an entire season.
His stats in 2010 concluded with with 12 games started, a 5-3 overall record and 92 strikeouts.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro, SS
Starlin Castro appeared in 125 games for the Cubs last season, as he served as the starting shortstop for a Cubs team that was trying to build off of younger talent.
The Cubs became high enough on Castro to name him the starting shortstop for good reason, as he posted a .300 average with the team last year.
Castro is a smaller shortstop but shows good power and speed. Many compare him to a Jose Reyes-type of player, and that type of comparison should make any Cubs fan smile.
Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman, Pitcher
Aroldis Chapman is probably the most anticipated rookie to come into the Major League scene this season.
While playing in Cuba, Chapman gained a reputation of being a huge talent and was eventually lured in by the Cincinnati Reds during the offseason.
Chapman has reached the lower 100s on the radar gun with his fastball and also has good control.
His ability to go deep into games is something that the Reds coaching staff will have to work with him on, but it is obvious that they will not be complaining.
Houston Astros: Henry Villar, Pitcher
Henry Villar is currently in the middle of fighting for a spot on a very crowded Astros pitching staff.
Villar made his first appearances with the team last season as a reliever in eight games. He has struggled this spring training to date but has three more weeks to impress the coaches.
Villar got his first strikeout of his career against Jamie Carroll in the 11th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be that type of clutch performance that the Astros will hope keeps him on the ballclub.
Milwaukee Brewers: Zach Braddock, Pitcher
Zach Braddock is an up-and-coming pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers system and should be a key part of the bullpen this season.
Braddock appeared in 46 games with the Brewers last season as he struck out 41 hitters in 33.2 innings.
Braddock came out of last season with a 2.94 ERA and a reputation of being one of the most reliable pitchers in the Brewers bullpen. He should be listed near the top of all Milwaukee's relievers after spring training.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jose Tabata, LF
Jose Tabata was only 21 years old last season as he became one of the most exciting players to watch on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bucs fans from all over quickly got behind the youngster, as he hit just below .300 and stole 19 bases.
Tabata and the other young players on the Pirates are now labeled as the players of the future, as Pittsburgh has struggled to be relevant in the NL Central for many years.
St.Louis Cardinals: Zack Cox, 3B
Zack Cox just signed with the St.Louis Cardinals this offseason but is bringing with him high expectations and excitement.
Cox has a very strong arm at third base and also good power. He has a lot of time to work in the minor league system, as the Cardinals currently have three third basemen on the roster ahead of him.
Cox's time in the Major Leagues will probably not come for several more years, but he is a name to pay attention to in the Cardinals system.
NL West Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, RF
Justin Upton is one of the cornerstones of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and has already completed four seasons at only 23 years old.
Upton first played for Arizona when he was only 19 and immediately made an impact in his second season as he hit .260 and 15 home runs.
So far in his career, Upton has hit 60 homers, but his defense is what has set him aside from other young players. Last season, Upton cut down his errors from 12 the previous year to four. He currently has 32 total errors while playing over 3,000 innings.
Colorado Rockies: Jhoulys Chacin, Pitcher
Jhoulys Chacin not only has one of the coolest names in baseball; he also has a pretty good arm.
Chacin started 21 games last season as a 22-year old and posted an overall record of 9-11.
Pitching at Coors Field in Colorado is never easy, and a 3.28 ERA posted last year was one of the best on the entire Rockies staff.
Chacin is listed as the fourth starter in the rotation behind Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Aaron Cook.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Pitcher
Clayton Kershaw was exactly the type of pitcher that Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre loved to have on his staff last season.
A tall, powerful left-hander, Kershaw has a tremendous upside, as he has great movement on his pitches, but can sometimes struggle with accuracy.
Kershaw is currently the ace of the Dodgers staff, as he went 13-10 last season and pitched over 200 innings.
San Diego Padres: Cameron Maybin, CF
Cameron Maybin has already moved around a bit in his young career, but he still has the talent to be a key part of any roster.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old has already had stints with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins before becoming a member of the San Diego Padres.
In his four Major League seasons, Maybin is yet to have consistent playing time as he only appeared in a career-high 82 games last season.
He has appeared in 168 total games while hitting for an average of .246 and a slugging percentage over .300.
San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner, Pitcher
Madison Bumgarner finishes out the list for the defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants.
Bumgarner will turn 21 this season and has already become a key part of the Giants rotation, as his career record of 7-6 spans 19 starts over two seasons.
The bulk of Bumgarner's work came last season, as he made 18 of his 19 starts and had an ERA of exactly 3.00.
Who Else Is Out There?
There are many players in the MLB that could be considered on a list such as this one. Let me know who was forgotten with your comments below!