25 and Younger: the Top Dozen Pitchers
I have been asked several times to rank the 25-and-younger crowd of major league players and where I see their careers going. Here are the Top 12. I am not including anyone who is still a technical rookie. There will be a separate alphabetical list for guys not in the top 12 later this afternoon.
Note that there is a lot of very promising young pitching in the majors right now. Don't freak out if your favorite is not on this Top 12 list...several of the guys I'll write up this afternoon were in consideration.
Top 12 PITCHERS, 25 and Younger
1) Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Age 24. Dramatically improved his command last year of overpowering stuff. Assuming he stays healthy he's got a good chance to be the best pitcher of his generation.
2) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals: Age 23. Outstanding when healthy. Will he stay that way? That's the only concern.
3) Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants: Age 22. Superb command. As with all of these guys, if he stays healthy he'll be a mainstay for a long time.
4) Tommy Hanson, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Age 25. Rock-steady performance record marred only by last season's health concerns.
5) Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees: Age 23. At this stage I'm not sure what to make of the lower velocity reports this spring, so this ranking assumes he's healthy.
6) Mat Latos, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: Age 24. Were the Padres selling high here?
7) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Age 25: He went to my high school so I'm obligated to like him. I'd like to see fewer walks this year.
8) Brandon Beachy, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Age 25. I don't think he was a fluke. What a terrific bit of scouting and development here by the Braves farm system.
9) Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Age 24. Depending on how you value relievers as opposed to starters, you could rank him as high as three or four.
10) Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas Rangers: Age 24: I love his arm, but the spike in his walk rate last year was notable, and I'm not really wild about this switch to starting.
11) Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado Rockies: Age 24. He needs to get the walks down, but I remain very impressed with his upside.
12) Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves: Age 24. I think he's going to take a huge step forward this year, so I'll take a bit of a gamble and rank him here. I'm not a fan of the Braves, so the placement of four Braves in this top dozen should not be considered a sign of bias.