While it may not be marketed correctly to the “average fan,” MLB has a plethora of fresh young athletes on the verge of stardom. In this 2-part article, we’ll break down the teams in each league that possess the best “major league ready” young talent in the MLB. If you missed our AL breakdown, make sure you head to our Twitter or Website to check it out. For now, let’s focus on the National League:
After a disappointing end to their 2019 season at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Atlanta Braves and their compelling young core set their eyes upon a shortened 2020 MLB season. Being perhaps one of the youngest teams in the majors, these young guns created a tremendous amount of buzz last season and hope to build upon that into this one. In the rotation the likes of young pitchers Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and up and coming pitching prospect, Ian Anderson, hope to solidify the pitching staff and build off of excellent 2019 seasons. Anderson ended last season at Triple-A affiliate, Gwinnett, but spent much of his time dominating Double-A hitters, posting a win-loss record of 7-5 with an astonishing ERA of 2.68. For the team’s immediate viability in the pitching department they will turn to Mike Soroka and Max Fried. Both starting pitchers had an excellent 2019 season with Soroka going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA, while Fried went 17-6 with an ERA of 4.02. We fully expect these two to continue their dominance on the mound this season bolstering the Bravos pitching staff while they await Anderson to earn his stripes in Triple-A ball.
Furthermore, the most exciting aspect of the Braves young core comes from the offensive with CF Ronald Acuna Jr., 2B Ozzie Albies, and SS Dansby Swanson. Swanson came into his own last year as a formidable SS that is to be respected around the league, but the real interest among fans is the play of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Both players put up staggering numbers as we can see below:
- Ronald Acuna Jr.: .280 BA, .365 OBP, .518 SLG, 41 HR and WAR of 5.7
- Ozzie Albies: .295 BA, .352 OBP, .500 SLG, 24 HR and WAR of 5.2
With both of these players being under the age of 25, we can only expect for them to continue to progress and be All-Stars at their positions for years to come. The outlook for the Atlanta Braves is extremely bright with their young core now intact and hopefully, they can turn the fortunes of Atlanta pro sports teams around.
Better get used to Ronald Acuña Jr. for the next decade, MLB. #Braves
— CJ (@Errickson_NFL) July 22, 2020
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even with veterans like Kershaw, Jansen, and now Price on the Dodgers’ roster, this west coast team is beaming with bright young talent in their pitching staff. Starting off with the younger pitchers; at the prime age of 26, Walker Buehler, never ceases to amaze the fans with his 14-4 win/loss record and nasty strikeout upside. Up next is 22 year old Dustin May who will most likely piggy back off Buehler while he obtains more game experience. Rounding out the young pitching talent, Dodgers confirmed that Julio Urias will be their fourth starter. At 23 years young, Urias owns a 3.18 ERA and a 24.1 % strikeout rate; it’s no wonder LAD expects good quality innings.
The talent doesn’t stop with LAD’s pitching. They have elite young talented hitters in Cody Bellinger (reigning NL MVP), Will Smith and Gavin Lux as well. The team just announced that Lux won’t start the year with the big-league club, but we expect to see him contribute soon.
Hit homers and take away homers? @Cody_Bellinger can do it all. #TipOfTheCap pic.twitter.com/lcgsowUN8K
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 22, 2019
San Diego Padres
This is a team with young talent being looked at as a focal point to their potential success. Shortstop, Fernando Tatis, Jr. made quite the first impression with a strong rookie campaign. With 84 games in 2019, he not only flashed his ability to hit (.317 batting average and 22 homeruns) – he also showcased his speed on the base paths (16 Stolen bases) making him a strong bat in the lineup as an offensive shortstop. Defensively he had a -3 DRS (defensive runs saved) but with more playing time that should continue to improve. Tatis Jr. is a cornerstone for this ball-club and will continue to develop.
Catcher, Francisco Mejia, on the other hand had an underwhelming 2019 where he hit (.265/.316/.438) and struggled at framing pitches. Back in 2018, Mejia was perceived as a top baseball prospect so the intangibles that garnered him this attention are still there – just has to piece it together in a shortened season that will not be friendly to in-season adjustments. Although Mejia has failed to live up to his potential – there is no reason to think he won’t be at minimum a serviceable option for the team.
Starting pitcher, Chris Paddack, went into 2019 with high expectations and he showed his potential with a 3.33 ERA, .981 WHIP, and a 6.8 H9. Paddack did have his rough starts but he ultimately persevered finishing the last 4 starts of the season strong (23.1 IP, 2 ER, 13 H, 32 SO). An encouraging inaugural season has earned him the starting nod on opening day.
Starting pitcher, Mackenzie Gore, had a strong showing in the minors as he was nearly ‘untouchable’. With ‘electric stuff’ he should continue to carve up the minors but a major league call up would not be unexpected in a regular 162 game season but with a shortened season he may not see game action until 2021. Regardless he should be a fixture in the Padres rotation in the near future.
Who’s smoother than Fernando Tatis Jr.? pic.twitter.com/JI42emj0ga
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) August 10, 2019
Jesse Clark is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on Twitter @jcrocket24.