Baseball For The Ages Comes Back To Life

At Baseball America, we love to compile rankings. We’ve been ranking league and organization top prospects for more than 30 years. The 25th anniversary of the Top 100 Prospects list will arrive next year. And in this issue’s Prospect Pulse, we’re reviving an old feature from Baseball America’s past.

For years, BA ranked the top players in baseball from age 12 to 25 (and sometimes beyond). We’ve brought that back with a tweak. These rankings focus only on players in pro ball, from age 16 (the youngest of last summer’s July 2 international signees) to age 25. Ages as of April 1, 2014.

First let’s break the prospects down by age:

Leonardo Molina

Leonardo Molina (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Age 16

1. Leonardo Molina, of, Yankees: He’s not as polished as Eloy Jimenez (Cubs), but Molina may have louder tools. A true center fielder with bat speed and an ability to square up the ball, he’s a key player in the Yankees’ long-term plan to get younger.

2. Luis Encarnacion, 3b, Phillies

3. Marten Gasparini, ss, Royals

4. Ricardo Sanchez, lhp, Angels

5. Ricardo Cespedes, of, Mets

Age 17

1. Julio Urias, lhp, Dodgers: The majority of 17-year-olds on this list spent their first pro seasons in the complex leagues. Urias spent his handcuffing low Class A Midwest League hitters, and some scouts said he could have handled an assignment to a higher level. It’s not impossible that Urias will be big league ready right around the time he turns 19.

2. Eloy Jimenez, of, Cubs

3. Gleyber Torres, ss, Cubs

4. Luis Torrens, c, Yankees

5. Michael de la Cruz, of, Pirates

Adalberto Mondesi

Raul A. Mondesi (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Age 18

1. Raul A. Mondesi, ss, Royals: His .261/.311/.361 line may not look all that impressive, but of the 51 middle infielders in the South Atlantic League who posted 250 or more at-bats, Mondesi’s .672 OPS ranked 14th best. And he did it while playing most of the year as a 17-year-old.

2. Austin Meadows, of, Pirates

3. Dominic Smith, 1b, Mets

4. Franklin Barreto, ss, Blue Jays

5.  Christian Arroyo, ss, Giants

Age 19

1. Carlos Correa, ss, Astros: The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft started slowly, but he quickly caught up and then surpassed his Midwest League competition. With Correa jumping to the much better hitting conditions at high Class A Lancaster, the Astros may be looking at a midseason decision of whether to keep him on a one-level-a-year pace or to speed up his timetable.

2. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Nationals

3. Albert Almora, of, Cubs

4. Corey Seager, ss, Dodgers

5. Clint Frazier, of, Indians

Age 20

Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

1. Byron Buxton, of, Twins: Baseball’s best prospect will play the entire season as a 20-year-old, beginning the year in Double-A. Will he finish the year in Minnesota? Fellow Twins prospect Miguel Sano may end up reaching the big leagues after Buxton now that he’ll miss the 2014 season after having Tommy John surgery this spring.

2. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins

3. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians

4. Addison Russell, ss, Athletics

5. Rougned Odor, 2b, Rangers

Age 21

1. Bryce Harper, of, Nationals: Take a look at baseball’s best and most promising age group. Harper already has established himself as the cornerstone of the Nationals’ lineup and as a 21-year-old, his best is still to come. Jose Fernandez and Manny Machado also have starred at the big league level, while Xander Bogaerts and Jurickson Profar will be big league regulars this year. This loaded top five doesn’t include Oscar Taveras, Archie Bradley or Javier Baez.

2. Jose Fernandez, rhp, Marlins

3. Manny Machado, 3b, Orioles

4. Xander Bogaerts, ss/3b, Red Sox

5. Jurickson Profar, ss, Rangers

Age 22

Mike Trout

Mike Trout (Photo by Tom DiPace)

1. Mike Trout, of, Angels: It’s hard to imagine that Trout could get any better than he already is. He’s baseball’s best player even though he’s playing at an age where many of his peers are still looking to make their big league debuts. Michael Wacha has done some big league damage himself, while the final three on the list all could reach the big leagues in the next year.

2. Michael Wacha, rhp, Cardinals

3. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs

4. Gregory Polanco, of, Pirates

5. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Rockies

Age 23

1. Yasiel Puig, of, Dodgers: Puig-mania took over Los Angeles last season. For an encore, he’ll look to provide the same combination of speed, power and defense he gave the Dodgers last year—but with a little more consistency. It’s a pretty good group of 23-year-olds when a 2013 rookie of the year has to settle for second place and an all-star catcher ranks fourth.

2. Wil Myers, of, Rays

3. Gerrit Cole, rhp, Pirates

4. Salvador Perez, c, Royals

5. Zack Wheeler, rhp, Mets

Age 24
stephen-strasburg-2013-ew
1. Stephen Strasburg, rhp, Nationals: This was a tough call picking from a group of six solid candidates (Jean Segura just missed the list). Madison Bumgarner is more consistent than Strasburg and comes with a shorter injury history, but Strasburg is more dominant. Stanton also has dominated at times but had a modest 2013 season.

2. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Giants

3. Giancarlo Stanton, of, Marlins

4. Freddie Freeman, 1b, Braves

5. Andrelton Simmons, ss, Braves

Age 25

1. Chris Sale, lhp, White Sox: Surprisingly, the 25-year-old group is one of the weakest. Sale is one of the better starters in the American League. Matt Harvey was sensational last year before an elbow injury led to Tommy John surgery. Elvis Andrus is one of the better young shortstops in the league. But compared to the star potential of the 21- and 22-year-olds, this group looks less impressive.

2. Matt Harvey, rhp, Mets

3. Elvis Andrus, ss, Rangers

4. Starling Marte, of, Pirates

5. Brandon Belt, 1b, Giants

Editor’s Note: The list originally had Lucas Giolito incorrectly slotted among the 18-year-olds. The list has been updated with Giolito properly listed among the 19-year-olds.