Travis Sherer’s Top 21 Players Under 21

Travis Sherer ranks the best overall baseball players in the world...who aren't old enough to drink.

 

Imagine you had the power to drag and drop any person into the big leagues at the snap of a finger. It would make watching a game at a bar more fun. That drunk guy screaming at Jay Bruce for striking out again, who is clearly reliving out his inebriation-induced high school baseball memories, would get a serious wake-up call.

You’d also be able to see just how good a potential player is at the big league level. How much fun would that be? You could see if a certain 18-year-old (his name rhymes with Xander Zanco) is really good enough right now to take a certain veteran’s spot (his name rhymes with …Willy Adames).

We all know that at any given time, there are some players in the minor leagues who are better than many major leaguers, so why don’t lists act accordingly? I spent considerable time doing the mental gymnastics to get as close as I could to my own version of “the snap.” I endeavored to rank the top overall baseball players at every age from 21-25. Essentially, these would be the best players at their age or younger if they were all playing the same game together.

I want to point out that unlike my other list (top 100 dynasty assets), this list not a fantasy-baseball specific. By that, I mean that defense matters. This is a list that takes into account the whole playerand attributes of that player which could be utilized in the majors right now. As the ages get older, more real MLB players will be mixed in to provide an analysis of how good some MLB players are right now might be to some prospects.

Let’s get started:

 

Top 21 Under 21

 

The player pool of under 21-year-olds is surprisingly deep. There are a number of guys already in the majors or advanced enough in at least one skill that it would play in the majors. There was a temptation in this list to put some of the uber-talented but still very raw phenoms such as Jasson Dominguez and Bobby Witt Jr., but that just doesn’t make sense. Just because a youngster is particularly skilled for his age does not mean he possesses any skill that would be useful in Major League Baseball.

 

21. Isaac Paredes, 3B, DET, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

Isaac Paredes is a rarity on this list because the main reason he is here is a combination of youth and promotion. Generally, this is going to be a skills-displayed list, not a potential list. Peredes shows the ability to work the zone, so that is a skill. Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated into much in terms of actually hitting the ball. I can only guess that is because he often has weak contact. He only sports an 11.9 strikeout rate in Double-A this year, compared with an 11.64 walk rate, so it’s not like he’s a free swinger. He’s picky at the dish, so it’s surprising that he doesn’t hit close to .300 in the minors. Nevertheless, plate discipline is a rare trait for such a young age and should be rewarded. He’d be higher if he had more speed or power.

 

20. Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR, Age: 19
Current Level: A

 

Jordan Groshans can hitthat much is clear. The Toronto third base prospect has a combination of bat/power that separates him from most teenagers. With Groshans, those skills aren’t just projected, they are demonstrated, which is largely why he’s on this list. As a teenager in Single-A, Groshans is hitting .337/.427/.482. He’s also seen a large bump in walk rate so far from 2018. If he were called up right now, it’d probably be ugly, but when it comes to players under 21, he’d be one of the prettier ones.

 

19. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, TB, Age: 19
Current Level: A

 

He’s tall. He’s lanky. He’s got one hell of a curveball. If he’s not overpowering, why is he on a list of players who would do the best in the MLB at their age? Despite the fact that Matthew Liberatore has the potential for two plus pitches, he’s wily. I think that will play at every level. This is the kind of kid who comes up with new ways to attack hitters that are then emulated. He might not be a high strikeout pitcher (67 strikeouts in 67.1 innings in Single-A this year), but he’s going to be effective.

 

18. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL, Age: 19
Current Level: A

 

While Liberatore is more of a finesse pitcher, Grayson Rodriguez straight power. With an already plus fastball and a near-plus slider and curveball, Rodriguez has a combination of three pitches that most teenagerslet alone Single-A pitcherscovet. His control is probably a little better than what you’d expect from a teenager but nothing special yet. This 6’5″, 230-pound kid already has an intimidating presence on the mound and then can throw 98 mph gas at you.

 

17. Xavier Edwards, SS, SD, Age: 19
Current Level: A+

 

He turns 20 in just a week, but Xavier Edwards has already proven two things: He can make contact, and he’s fast. Even in today’s homer-friendly league, these are two skills that are useful. By the end of this season, Edwards should approach 40 thefts between Single-A and High-A while maintaining a .300 average and walk (8.40) and strikeout (10.94) rates that are elite for his age. This is the kind of eye that could already play in the majors, along with the top-end speed. He wouldn’t hit for any power and he’d be a below-average defender right now.

 

16. Alek Thomas, CF, ARI, Age: 19
Current Level: A

 

Guys with advanced hit tools will always perform beyond their age group, and Alek Thomas is no different. He’s been 19 for a few months, but he has adjusted nicely to Single-A, slashing .307/.392/.486 with 34 extra-base hits in 83 games. His approach is already impressive, boasting a 41:66 BB/K ratio shows that he’s ready for the next leveland maybe the one after that.

 

15. Adrian Morejon, LHP, SD, Age: 20
Current Level: MLB

 

Our first major leaguer, Adrian Morejon has been on the prospect radar for some time. Even still, his call-up last week seemed sudden. After all, he’d only seen 36 innings of Double-A,and before that, he had a shaky track record despite having the stuff to warrant playing against upper-level competition. Morejon features a plus fastball with good secondary stuff (slider/change). But he also has release-point consistency and maturity issues. His debut outing was positive. Let’s see if he can keep it going.

 

14. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, MIN, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

This is easy. Velocity is what makes Brusdar Graterol appealingand an awesome name. He can hit triple digits and has a swing-and-miss slider. He’s also been very good in Double-A so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins rushed him up, considering how quickly they are losing their division lead. There are some control issues here as well as the need for a third pitch, but he could be a major leaguer today if need bejust maybe not an effective starter.

 

13. Julio Rodriguez, RF, SEA, Age: 18
Current Level: A

 

We’ve already seen what Julio Rodriguez is capable of against big leaguers. Despite just turning 18, he was invited to spring training this year and hit like he belonged (.571/.571/.714). Yes, it could have been lucky. Yes, it could have been against weaker competition than what you see in the majors on a day-to-day basis. But this list is about the best players of a certain age, and Rodriguez has shown that he is capable of competing against players well beyond his age and current level of competition. Meanwhile, the kid keeps raking in Single-A.

 

12. Luis Patino, RHP, SD, Age: 19
Current Level: A+

 

If the Padres decided they wanted to make Luis Patino a closer right now, he could do it. The 19-year-old already has the plus fastball and slider needed to be successful in one-inning stints. From what we’ve seen from him in the future’s game, he’s not one to shy away from the big moment either. There is no chance the Padres would do this, which is a good thing, because Patino has a chance to be a No. 3 starter in this league.

 

11. Jarred Kelenic, CF, SEA, Age: 19
Current Level: A+

 

When the Mariners fleeced the Mets for Jarred Kelenic just seven months ago, it was hard to believe he’d progress this rapidly. Still only 19, Kelenic is holding his own in High-A with a .799 OPS. What is most notable about his improvement is a bump in power. He’s already got 15 homers in 82 MiLB games this year. I get the feeling this kid would respond quickly to pitching at the highest level. He wouldn’t turn into Shawn Green or anything, but he’d be handy with the bat and on the bases.

 

10. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

Even though MacKenzie Gore has struggled a little bit in his first couple weeks of Double-A, I’m not going say he wouldn’t be useful in the majors right now. In fact, this kid could be better than Logan Allen, Cal Quanrill, or Morejon right now. Gore already has the kind of fastball/curveball/change combination to be effective at the highest level. Those pitches have room to grow, but right now, what needs work is control, to just hone his ability to put any pitch anywhere he wants at any count. That’s the next level for Gore. And when he gets there, he’s an All-Star.

 

9. Cristian Pache, CF, ATL, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

This one is based almost solely on defense. If Cristian Pache walked into the SunTrust outfield today, he’d be the best defender the Braves have out there. Nothing against Austin Riley or Ronald Acuna, but Pache has the kind of defensive potential that will make him useful no matter how potent his bat becomes. The good news is that his bat is starting to show signs of life. In Double-A, the 20-year-old is slashing .284/.492/.836.

 

8. Drew Waters, CF, ATL, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

Everything that was said about Thomas and Pache can be said about Drew Waters and then some. Waters is not only a plus hit/speed guy but he’s also a plus defender. He might not be as good as Pache in the field, but he’s a much better hitter. As a mere 20-year-old in Double-A, Waters is slashing .337/.381/.508 with 47 extra-base hits in 99 games. I’d like to see fewer strikeouts and a few more walks. A single-digit walk rate is not inspiring, but it also is hard to argue with results. Obviously, he is benefiting from an insane .460 BABIP, but there’s also power here and a track record of hitting for average.

 

7. Wander Franco, SS, TB, Age: 18
Current Level: A+

 

Would Wander Franco be a better major leaguer right now than Jo Adell? It’s possible. But between the two, I’ll take the slightly more experienced Adell first. Franco could already be a league-average player. There is no evidence yet to prove he can’t because he hasn’t struggled at any aspect of the game yet. He will be 18 for the rest of this season, and right now, he’s hitting .355/.429/.527 in High-A with a BB/K ratio of 14:5. Promote him until somebody can stop him!

 

6. Jo Adell, CF, ANA, Age: 20
Current Level: AA

 

Like Franco, Adell hasn’t experienced adversity at any level in the minors. I’ll take him first because he’s further along, and he has more power potential. I’d say everything else points to Franco at this point, but we’re not talking about the future, we’re talking about right now. And right now, Adell is mashing in Double-A with six jacks and a .985 OPS in 34 games. He could be in the majors in September.

 

5. Andres Munoz, RHP, SD, Age: 20
Current Level: MLB

 

When it comes to having skills that translate to the major leagues, Andres Munoz may only be 20, but he already has two. His fastball tops out at a stupid 103, and his high-80s slider make for a deadly combination. He only has a reliever in his future, and because he’s already striking out MLB hitters at a 12.46 per nine innings clip, you could say he’s tested. There are certainly players who are lower on this list who have the potential to do more on the field if they were called up today, but there is little doubt that Munoz isn’t ready for the bigs, and there is some doubt for everyone else below him. One only hopes that with all of that velocity, his arm doesn’t explode.

 

4. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY, Age: 20
Current Level: AAA

 

Talk about riding a wave! Deivi Garcia‘s minor league career has come in fast and is destroying everybody in its way. At only 20 years old, he’s holding his own in Triple-A after flat out dominating Double-A to the tune of a 14.29 K/9. That is the one thing I know will play in the majors: He will get his strikeouts. Whether he can limit the free passes is the real concern. His plus fastball and borderline plus-plus curveball will get him far enough to work on his two lesser offerings (changeup/slider). The diminutive righty might also be a good fit to open games for the Yanks and go like three innings before handing it off.

 

3. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, 3B, TOR, Age: 20
Current Level: MLB

 

In a year, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might be at the top of the under 25 list. For right now, however, he’s only a so-so major leaguer. One could make an argument that almost any hitter on this list could slash .256/.332/.410, but nobody below Vladito is actually doing it, so he gets bumped all the way up to No. 3. Also, we’ve seen what kind of power he has. Nine homers in 72 games is positive, as is a 10.07 walk rate. There is, of course, also the 91 bombs he hit in the home run derby.

 

2. Fernando Tatis, Jr, SS, SD, Age: 20
Current Level: MLB

 

Needless to say, in the Battle of the Juniors, Fernando Tatis Jr. has smoked Guerrero so far. But is that starting to change? Tatis is having his “worst” month of the season, but it seems like Vlad is tooand his is much worse. It’s possible from this point on, Guerrero becomes the better major leaguer, but everything leading up to this point firmly puts Tatis at No. 2, with a legitimate consideration for the top spot of players under 21.

 

1. Juan Soto, LF, WAS, Age: 20
Current Level: MLB

 

And then there is Juan Soto. Soto is putting up almost identical numbers from his rookie campaign:

 

Juan SotoGAVGOBPSLUGHRKBB
2018116.292.406.517229979
201989.291.398.518178963

 

The HR/9 rate is just hundredths of a point off, his BB/9 is a point off and so is his K/9. He’s basically the same hitter he’s been since he came into the league in early 2018. At just 20 years old, Soto has played 1.5 times more games in the majors than the minor leagues combined. That is impressive. His consistency at the plate is what earns him the top spot on this list and puts him in the running for the top spot going through all five days of lists. It’s not just how well he hits, it’s how well all of his at-bats play out. He already ranks in the top 10 in walk rate (14.91) and top 30 in soft contact (13.8). Pitchers know how good he is, which is why he sees fewer pitches in the strike zone (38.6%) than Mike Trout (39.4%).

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian. Follow me @ShererTravis on Twitter.

  • Avatar Chris says:

    Not bad, but given both offense and defense I think I take Dylan Carlson on this list over a couple of names. His wRC+ in AA is quite impressive.

    • Avatar Travis Sherer says:

      Thanks for reading! I thought about putting Carlson on the list, and really I could have gone either way between him and Paredes.

  • Avatar Wes says:

    Now I want to go add Munoz and drop Holland. Deep keeper league, thoughts? We have holds/QS in addition to the standard 5.

    • Avatar Travis Sherer says:

      Yes. He won’t likely get as much run as Holland this year, but he’s got a much brighter future. And if I was offered Holland for Munoz, I’d turn it down.

  • Avatar Danny says:

    In what way is July Vlad’s worst month? Every single stat of his has been better than the month before, so June was really his worst month. Also re: Franco, a triple slash is batting average/ OBP/ slugging, not avg/OBP/OPS. Just an FYI.

    • Avatar Travis Sherer says:

      I actually wrote this on Friday, before he went 5-for-11 with a homer and two doubles. Before that, his July looked much worse — something like .250/.282/.353 with just 1 home run and 4 doubles. That’s not great. His walk rate and K rate have started to look better though.

  • Avatar Bryan says:

    Pretty sure there’s an error in the chart here. Soto had 89 Ks entering tonight, not 58. 58 K – 83 BB would be insane.

  • Avatar Fitness equipment says:

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