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Top 25: 25 And Under

Picking the best young big leaguers




At Baseball America, major league players aren't exactly off-limits, but then big league info isn't exactly "baseball news you can't get anywhere else" either. When we delve into the majors, we try to keep looking at players through the BA lens of scouting and player development. With that in mind, we present our ranking of the best 25 big leaguers 25 and under, using Opening Day 2008 as the age cutoff. Present production matters most because these are big leaguers, but future potential—as always at BA—factors into the discussion as well.

01 Miguel Cabrera, 3b
Detroit Tigers
Miguel CabreraHe's already got a World Series ring, 138 career home runs and a career .930 OPS.  So that's why Baseball-Reference.com says his closest comparison is Hank Aaron.

 
14 Cole Hamels, lhp
Philadelphia Phillies
Cole HamelsLinked with Kazmir since they tore up the Florida State League together in 2003, Hamels has less track record but helped lead the Phillies to the NL East title.

 
02 David Wright, 3b
New York Mets
David WrightWright set career highs for runs, hits, homers, walks, batting, OBP, slugging and stolen bases in 2007.  No one really thinks he's done getting better at 25, do they?

 
15 B.J. Upton, of
Tampa Bay Rays
B.J. UptonHis bat woke back up in 2007, and after a decent stint at second base, Upton seems to have found a position home in center field, where he can be brilliant.

 
03 Justin Verlander, rhp
Detroit Tigers
Justin VerlanderNo Young (or old) starting pitcher in the big leagues has nastier stuff, and Verlander learned to use it last year as his stikeouts jumped (124 to 183).

 
16 Robinson Cano, 2b
New York Yankees
Robinson CanoEven the Yankees didn't expect Cano to be this good.  He's improved defensively while posting career .314/.346/.489 numbers, and he'll be scary if he gets more selective.

 
04 Grady Sizemore, of
Cleveland Indians
Grady SizemoreHis third season actually was his worst full season as a big leaguer, yet Sizemore led the Tribe to 96 victories and the brink of the American League pennant.

 
17 Brian McCann, c
Atlanta Braves
Brian McCannMcCann found it difficult to produce an encore for his brilliant 2006 season, but he's still been more productive so far than roommate Jeff Francoeur.

 
05 Jose Reyes, ss
New York Mets
Jose ReyesSo much was expected so soon of Reyes, entering his sixth big league season.  He'll have to prove his September swoon (.205 in his last 117 ABs) was a fluke.

 
18 Nick Markakis, of
Baltimore Orioles
Nick MarkakisThe Orioles' best move in this decade was drafting Markakis as an outfielder.  He's risen above the team's troubles to show prototype right-field tools and production.

 
06 Prince Fielder, 1b
Milwaukee Brewers
Prince FielderThe best vegetarian on the list, Fielder became the youngest player in big league history to hit 50 homers.  He's claimed the Fielder name for himself.

 
19 Delmon Young, of
Minnesota Twins
Delmon YoungExpectations for Young are so outsized, he's been compared to Frank Robinson.  Look for steady improvement on his solid rookie year as he joins the Twins.

 
07 Felix Hernandez, rhp
Seattle Mariners
Felix HernandezHernandez hasn't earned his "King Felix" nickname, not yet.  But he's won 30 games before turning 22 and still seems poised for superstardom.

 
20 Chris Young, of
Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris YoungNeither outfielder named Young takes a lot of walks, and Chris has more present value as a center fielder who led his team to the playoffs as a rookie.

 
08 Hanley Ramirez, ss
Florida Marlins
Hanley RamirezIt's doubtful Ramirez will be a shortstop much longer, but as long as he produces like he did in 2007 (.332/.386/.562, 29 homers, 51 steals), it won't really matter.

 
21 Matt Cain, rhp
San Francisco Giants
Matt CainCain vs. teammate Tim Lincecum is an interesting discussion.  Cain with Lincecum is the start of a championship-caliber rotation, if the Giants can find some hitters.

 
09 Joe Mauer, c
Minnesota Twins
Joe MauerIt's a Golden Age of catchers with Mauer, Russell Martin and Brian McCann all 25 or younger.  When he's healthy, Mauer is the best of the trio.

 
22 Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
San Diego Padres
Adrian GonzalezGonzalez has lived up to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft, crushing 20 of his 30 homers last year away from spacious Petco Park.

 
10 Russell Martin, c
Los Angeles Dodgers
Russ MartinEven when Mauer is healthy, Martin is a worthy, well-rounded challenger.  He's third among these players in career steals, trailing only Reyes and Ramirez.

 
23 Alex Gordon, 3b
Kansas City Royals
Alex GordonLike Delmon Young, Gordon entered last season with such high expectations—compared by some to George Brett—that living up to them was impossible.

 
11 Troy Tulowitzki, ss
Colorado Rockies
Troy TulowitzkiTulowitzki might have rated here on his offense alone (.291, 24 homers, 99 RBIs as a rookie).  But it's his rocket arm and trend-setting defense that makes him unique.

 
24 Jeff Francoeur, of
Atlanta Braves
Jeff FrancoeurSpectacular as a rookie and easily pitched to in 2006, Francoeur found middle ground in 2007.  The next step is to make the leap to consistent slugger.

 
12 Scott Kazmir, lhp
Tampa Bay Rays
Scott KazmirEven though he's pitched for Tampa Bay, he leads all pitchers on this list in victories and led the American League in starts and strikeouts last season.

 
25 Fausto Carmona, rhp
Cleveland Indians
Fausto CarmonaFor single-season numbers, Carmona should rank higher on this list.  His heavy 2007 workload—a giant leap from his previous high—tempers future expectations.

 
13 Ryan Zimmerman, 3b
Washington Nationals
Ryan ZimmermanThe No. 3 hitter for a bad team since the day he got to the big leagues, Zimmerman should break out offensively in the Nationals' new home ballpark.