MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Yanks-Cubs showcase of 25-and-under stars

Bryant, Russell lead the list of the best young position player tandems

Yanks-Cubs showcase of 25-and-under stars

CHICAGO -- The uniforms are epic, the disparate histories as colorful as a Picasso. But the Yankees' visit to Wrigley Field this weekend isn't about the past or the trappings of history.

It's the young talent that's on center stage. And, as usual, it didn't take long to present itself in the series opener.

Because the wind was howling in from left field at 25 mph, Kris Bryant looked to take the ball the other way against Michael Pineda. He got one up in the air in the bottom of the first inning, and it sailed into the right-field seats.

Yanks stun Cubs on Gardner's HR in ninth

So much for the last thing Joe Girardi said about him before the game. "Hopefully the wind affects him too,'' he added, laughing.

Not even the elements can keep these guys down.

The Cubs would see that for themselves in the bottom of the first inning, when Yankees behemoth Aaron Judge used his new, quicker swing to drive a double to the wall in right field.

Statcast: Judge's laser double

Joe Maddon was talking about the the 25-year-old Judge, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 282 pounds. "He's Frank Howard all over again,'' said the Cubs manager. "He and [Giancarlo] Stanton right now are probably the two biggest, strongest guys in the game. If you make a mistake, it's going to get hit far.''

Judge showed that power in the second inning when he ripped a double to right-center field with an exit velocity of 119.0 mph. It was Judge's ninth batted ball this year with an exit velocity above 115 mph. No one else in the Majors has more than two.

Girardi said it's not just Bryant's power that catches your eye.

"You can become impressed with the power he has but he's a complete player,'' he said. "I see him making diving plays at third, I see him running the bases, doing a lot of things. He takes his walks. He strikes out but he's a guy who's going to get on base, hit for average. … When you have young players like that, it's really impressive.''

Everywhere Maddon looks these days, he sees lineups featuring young studs. The Cubs were in Boston last weekend, facing Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. Then they hosted the Phillies, who look to Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera as foundation pieces in their construction projection.

"It seems to be somewhat of a renaissance with youth and very good baseball players,'' Maddon said. "Houston's another example that jumps out at me. All this stuff is good. I love it. It's great. Lot of energy involved with that. Also the fact these kids have a chance to stay in one place for a period of time could re-energize some fanbases too, in terms of following players.

"It's not just unique to us or the Yankees. It's happening in a lot of different places.''

He's right. You can argue about who has the best young position talent but not about the abundance of ultra-talented position players in the game.

Here's a look at the best position-player tandems of 25-and-under players:

1. Cubs -- Bryant (25) and Addison Russell (23)
The reigning National League MVP Award winner plays alongside a shortstop who last season hit 21 home runs and drove in 95 runs, and this year has already racked up eight Defensive Runs Saved, leading Major League shortstops. This would be one of the top tandems if you included either Kyle Schwarber (24), Javier Baez (24) or Willson Contreras (24).

Statcast: Cubs' two homers

2. Nationals -- Bryce Harper (24) and Trea Turner (23)
It's still hard to believe Harper is younger than Bryant, isn't it? He's playing better than ever in his fifth season. Turner has been an impact player in his limited time in Washington, first as a center fielder and now a shortstop. He's one of three players to hit for the cycle this season.

Must C: Turner hits for cycle

3. Red Sox -- Mookie Betts (24) and Bogaerts (24)
Betts finished as runner-up to Mike Trout in American League MVP Award voting last season, and Bogaerts emerged as an impact player during the Red Sox's championship season in 2013. He hit 21 home runs last season and this year is batting .330 going into Friday's game against the Twins, albeit with less power. Benintendi (22) adds to Boston's inventory of 25-and-under talent.

Betts' strong throw nabs Davis

4. Dodgers -- Corey Seager (23) and Cody Bellinger (21)
Seager was worth 6.0 WAR in winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award last season, and it was no fluke. He's become the most steady presence in a fluid lineup. Bellinger was ranked as one of the Minor Leagues' top power hitters before his recent promotion to Los Angeles. He's looked like a keeper, whether playing first base (his natural position) or left field.

Bellinger's three-run triple

5. Yankees -- Judge (25) and Gary Sanchez (24)
Yes, it's a small sample size. But between Sanchez's 1.032 OPS in 2016 and Judge's outstanding mark this season it's hard to rank them lower. While Judge looks to be a bat-first right fielder, Sanchez is a two-way player at catcher. He has a strong arm and likes to use it. Bonus points for the tandem including a catcher, because those are extremely valuable.

Judge on making adjustments

6. Indians -- Francisco Lindor (23) and Jose Ramirez (24)
There's nothing these guys can't do. Ramirez moves all over the field, and do you have any doubt that Lindor couldn't play center field or maybe even catcher? If you wanted to create a four-man team like the late Eddie Feigner did with his "The King and his Court" outfit, start with these two.

Lindor's leaping grab

7. Rangers -- Rougned Odor (23) and Nomar Mazara (22)
Add in third baseman-left fielder Joey Gallo (23), and Texas has one of the youngest groups of dangerous hitters around. All three moved quickly through the Minors and are developing in the Major Leagues. Mazara is the most complete player in the group although -- big surprise here -- Gallo is currently ranked as the sixth-best baserunner in MLB by Fangraphs. 

Odor's towering solo home run

8. Astros -- Carlos Correa (22) and Alex Bregman (23)
If we were putting together this list a couple years ago, Correa and George Springer would have been on top. This seems low given Correa's ability to change every game he plays, but his OPS has declined since his AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning season in 2015 and Bregman is off to a middling start. Check back in August.

Correa's solo home run

9. Twins -- Miguel Sano (23) and Max Kepler (24)
Having moved on from Trevor Plouffe, the Twins are playing Sano (a shortstop when they signed him) where he best fits. His bat is the calling card, of course, and it is thunderous. Kepler is a complete player who is very solid in right. You would have figured Byron Buxton (23) would be on this list but he's never gone past 500 at-bats and still hasn't adjusted to Major League pitching.

Sano's mammoth two-run homer

10. Phillies -- Franco (24), Herrera (25)
Franco hit the ground running when he arrived with the Phillies. Ditto Herrera, who has done an amazing job converting to center field.

Franco's solo home run

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.