He's 19 years old. Are you kidding me? This is silly. Wait, let's rephrase that: He's 19 years old, for crying out loud. Juan Soto isn't supposed to be this good this quickly. Someone should let the Nationals outfielder know the game isn't as easy as he's making it look.It's
He's 19 years old. Are you kidding me? This is silly. Wait, let's rephrase that: He's 19 years old, for crying out loud. Juan Soto isn't supposed to be this good this quickly. Someone should let the Nationals outfielder know the game isn't as easy as he's making it look.
It's one thing to skip Triple-A. He wouldn't be the first to do that. We've learned to live with that. This kid essentially skipped Double-A, too, unless you count eight games -- which we most certainly don't.
The truth is, we should have seen this coming. Things changed about six years ago, when 19-year-old Bryce Harper stepped into the batter's box for the first time as a member of the Nationals. What he did that first season changed a lot of minds about how teams should handle player development. Harper made his Major League debut in 2012 after one full season in the Minors and token stops at Double-A and Triple-A.
He never once looked overmatched, either, en route to hitting 22 home runs with an .864 OPS in 139 games that first season. Harper was named to the National League All-Star Team and was voted the NL Rookie of the Year for 2012.
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That it was Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo who made the call on Harper said plenty to those inside the game. He didn't reinvent scouting and player development during his years with the D-backs and Nationals, but he did do it better than almost anyone.
So here we are in 2018, and Rizzo and the Nationals recently made Soto the youngest player in the Major Leagues.
He's the face of a youth movement that also features two 20-year-olds -- outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and pitcher Mike Soroka -- who have helped the Braves become one of baseball's surprise teams.
If you're 21, you've got company. In all, there have been 85 players age 23 and under who have appeared in a Major League game this season, which got us thinking about the All-Star Game and whether we could create a representative team from baseball's youngest players.
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We made 23 the cutoff, which actually made the job easy. Let's call it the All-Phenom Team:
Catcher: Chance Cisco, Orioles, 23
Catcher is the toughest position to fill because there just aren't many kid catchers. This could be the one spot on the diamond where there really is a traditional developmental timetable. That said, Cisco has gotten nice reviews from his pitchers, as his offensive game continues to come together. Incidentally, the three best young catchers are Washington's Pedro Severino, who is 24, and Philadelphia's Jorge Alfaro and the Yankees' Gary Sanchez, who are both 25.
First Base: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers, 23
This pick feels like cheating, since he made his debut at 21 last season, hit 39 home runs and was both a member of the NL All-Star Team and the NL Rookie of the Year. He has struggled at times this season, but seems headed for a season of 25 doubles, 25 home runs and an OPS above .800.
Second Base: Ozzie Albies, Braves, 21
Another easy one. He arrived last summer as a heralded 20-year-old and has basically fulfilled every promise while helping the Braves become one of baseball's surprise teams. His power is a pleasant surprise.
Third Base: Miguel Andujar, Yankees, 23
He's one of the crown jewels of GM Brian Cashman's stunningly fast reconstruction of the Yankees' farm system. He had nine multi-hit games in April and has kept going from there.
Shortstop: Carlos Correa, Astros, 23
He had greatness forecast for him from the moment the Astros made him the first pick of the 2012 Draft as a 17-year-old. He was in the big leagues at 20 and has already started an All-Star Game and helped the Astros win a World Series.
Outfield: Soto, Nationals, 19
He homered in his first start and had three multi-hit games in his first eight. When he was called up, there was some question about how long he'd be around. Now, the question is if he has enough time to make the NL All-Star Team. That's the career path he's on.
Outfield: Acuna Jr., Braves, 20
He'll be sidelined another week or so by a left knee injury suffered on May 27. That injury interrupted an electrifying start for the player MLB Pipeline ranks as the No. 1 prospect.
Outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox, 23
He played 151 Minor League games before the Red Sox called him up in August 2016. Now, in his second full season, he has become the impact offensive player everyone projected him to be. He has a legitimate chance to have a 30-homer, 30-stolen base season.
Starting Pitcher: Soroka, Braves, 20
We give extra points for youth -- and while several other young pitchers were in the mix, Soroka has been as good as advertised. The Braves will monitor his workload, which could impact his availability for the postseason. But, in terms of being ready, there are no questions.
Relief Pitcher: Jordan Hicks, Cardinals, 21
He forced the Cardinals to rewrite their development plan for him when he began throwing 100-mph strikes in Spring Training. He'll someday be manager Mike Matheny's closer. For now, he has helped give the Cardinals another reliable late-inning option.
Honorable mention: Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani, Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia, Dodgers lefty Walker Buehler, Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres, Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero, and White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.