If you've celebrated a 23rd birthday, you do not qualify for this list. This one is strictly for those 22 and under. You just missed, Andrew Benintendi. In this way, we can remind ourselves how special this new generation of players is.We see them out there every night, amazingly gifted
If you've celebrated a 23rd birthday, you do not qualify for this list. This one is strictly for those 22 and under. You just missed, Andrew Benintendi. In this way, we can remind ourselves how special this new generation of players is.
We see them out there every night, amazingly gifted and confident. They're not just playing for rebuilding teams, that is, clubs that can afford to allow them to go through the usual ups and downs that young players have to experience. Rather, they're being thrown into playoff races, into the middle of lineups. This postseason is going to be their showcase.
Once upon a time, baseball people had a different kind of blueprint for bringing kids through the Minor Leagues, and maybe that's what is different. When Michael Trout and Bryce Harper succeeded, it showed the people in charge that, in the end, talent prevails.
There was never a moment when Harper looked overmatched. He was an All-Star at 19, and he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award at 22. Trout was 21 the first time he finished second in the American League MVP Award voting.
Maybe it's the level of the talent that's different. Maybe most players will still need more development time. After all, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were both 20 when they made their Major League debuts in the 1950s. Cal Ripken was also 20 when he played his first big league game.
Let's check out six kids from the 22-and-under generation who could wind up on baseball's biggest stage in October:
1. Cody Bellinger, 21, 1B, Dodgers
.968 OPS, 34 HR, 79 RBIs
Bellinger made his debut on April 25 and began crushing baseballs over the fence almost immediately -- 24 in his first 57 games. The Dodgers are 78-23 when he plays. Bellinger will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award and also finish high in the NL MVP Award voting.
2. Carlos Correa, 22, SS, Astros
.320, 18 doubles, 20 HR
Correa is already as good as almost any player in the game, a gifted one with charisma and personality who plays the game with joy and energy. Seems hard to believe that he's still just 22 after helping the Astros make the postseason in 2015 and starting for the AL at shortstop in this summer's All-Star Game. Correa helped Houston to a 76-48 start this season, and the club is 20-20 since he tore a ligament in his left thumb. He's expected back within a couple of weeks, and the Astros hope to get him into a nice groove headed into the postseason.
3. Rafael Devers, 20, 3B, Red Sox
1.151 OPS, 8 HR, 20 games
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski tried to acquire a veteran third baseman even though his staff kept telling him, "The kid is ready." Devers had played just 399 Minor League games, including only nine at Triple-A, when he made his debut on July 25 and homered in his second game. He has looked scary good since as the Red Sox have won 14 of 20 with him in the lineup to open a five-game lead in the AL East. As for Benintendi, he turned 23 just 46 days ago. They've got a chance to own October.
4. Nomar Mazara, 22, OF, Rangers
.781 OPS, 22 doubles, 16 HR
Mazara has a .976 OPS the past four weeks in what has been the best stretch of baseball in his young career. He has provided a huge post-Trade Deadline spark for the Rangers and helped get them within striking distance of an AL Wild Card berth.
5. Ian Happ, 22, 2B/OF, Cubs
.838 OPS, 18 HR, 80 games
The Cubs were 18-17 when Happ was called up and are 44-37 when he plays. His ability to play both second base and the outfield gives manager Joe Maddon the flexibility to move pieces around for better matchups.
6. Roberto Osuna, 22, RP, Blue Jays
32 saves, 3.12 ERA. 0.865 WHIP
Whether the Blue Jays get themselves into position for a September run at a postseason berth or not, Osuna has a chance to be a difference-maker pitching against AL East contenders down the stretch.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.