Youth movement: 10 youngsters who could impact playoff races
By Richard Justice
Yes, the kids have taken over the game. We're constantly reminded of this as they amaze us with their skills and athleticism and energy.
For instance, take a look at Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. The play he made against the Pirates on Wednesday is beyond description. That catch will live in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans as another signature moment in a magical season.
Baseball has had so many waves of young players arrive in the past four years that we don't even think of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado as young anymore.
Machado is 24, Harper is 23. They've played in seven All-Star Games. Harper has won a National League Most Valuable Player Award. Machado likely will finish in the top five in this season's American League MVP Award balloting.
Now, it's Yoan Moncada's time. He's 21 years old and has played a mere 187 Minor League games. Moncada is MLBPipeline.com's No. 1-rated prospect, and the Red Sox have decided he could contribute down the stretch.
They're not alone. Young players are scattered on the rosters of the contenders, and they'll be counted on to contribute.
In compiling a list of baseball's 10 best young players on contenders, the cutoff age was 22. That's because there are too many 23-year-olds to list: Mookie Betts (Red Sox), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Trea Turner (Nationals), Jose Ramirez (Indians) and, yes, Harper (Nationals).
1.Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers, 22
Seager made the NL All-Star team and will be the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner. He'll be high on almost every NL MVP Award ballot (5.4 WAR, 10th-highest among position players). Seager got thrown into the pennant race last September and looked comfortable from Day 1. He may soon rival Mike Trout in the "Best Player in the Game" debate.
2. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros, 21
Correa made his debut at 20 in June 2015, and he was voted as the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner. Astros manager A.J. Hinch has moved him to the cleanup spot in the batting order, right behind Jose Altuve, and he has flourished as a run producer. Correa is 13th overall in WAR (5.3) among position players, leads Major League shortstops with 87 RBIs, is second in doubles (32), fourth in OPS (.834) and fifth in OBP (.364).
3. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 22
Lindor arrived at 21 last summer, and like Correa, he looked comfortable almost from Day 1. He's 18th among all Major Leaguers with a 4.8 WAR, and he could finish with 30 doubles, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Those numbers, along with his defensive game, reflect Lindor's overall impact.
4. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs, 22
Russell has struggled at times offensively, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon never wavered in his confidence in him. He may be the best defensive shortstop in the game, and as Maddon said, "The ball makes that certain sound coming off his bat. Only the special ones have that certain sound." Russell's 88 RBIs are one ahead of Correa, and he could finish with 20 doubles and 20 home runs.
5. Moncada, 3B, Red Sox, 21
Moncada is the X-factor in this stretch drive. He is projected as a future 25-homer, 50-steal player, and the Red Sox hope he can have an immediate impact.
6. Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers, 22
Odor's .801 OPS, 27 homers and 27 doubles are the part of his game that can be measured. The Rangers say his energy and fire are also a big part of a season in which they're headed to the postseason for the fifth time in seven years.
7. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Blue Jays, 21
There's no unknown quantity about a guy who has saved 49 games the past two seasons while throwing 96 mph and averaging better than a strikeout per inning. Osuna's ability to lock down the ninth inning has given the Blue Jays stability in the late innings.
8. Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals, 22
Reyes' Aug. 9 debut was one of the most eagerly awaited in recent seasons in St. Louis thanks to his 97 mph fastball and knee-buckling slider. After six relief appearances (9 1/3 innings, no earned runs, 13 strikeouts), he got his first Major League start and allowed one earned run in 4 2/3 innings. Because the Cardinals have so much uncertainty in their rotation, Reyes could have a huge impact in these final four weeks.
9. Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers, 20
The Dodgers had hoped to give baseball's top left-handed pitching prospect a full season in Triple-A to better manage his workload. However, a bevy of injuries on the big league club had Urias in the Major Leagues in late May at 19 years old. He has gotten progressively more comfortable, and in August, he had a 1.99 ERA in five appearances. The Dodgers are hoping to get Clayton Kershaw back this month, but Urias could provide manager Dave Roberts a weapon in either the bullpen or rotation.
10. Edwin Diaz, RHP, Mariners, 22
Diaz made his Major League debut on June 6, and by early August, he was Seattle's closer. The Mariners promptly won 14 of 18 before cooling off. Diaz, with a 96-mph fastball, struck out 60 hitters in his first 32 appearances, but he has struggled some recently. He remains a powerful weapon, both this season and for years to come.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.