Baseball players are getting younger. Easing a prospect into big league duty is becoming a thing of the past as teams are beginning to throw more of their prospects into the fire before they hit their 24th birthday.
“The average age for rookies breaking into the majors last year was 24.4 for position players and 25.3 for pitchers”. Even with more youth in the Bigs, finding guys who are playing major league ball at age 22 or 23 and being productive is still rare.
There is a small crop of players in the 23-or-younger crowd who have been playing stellar baseball this year. I want to take the opportunity to highlight one of these rising stars while also recognizing other promising youngsters.
Here is a man who might of needed an introduction back in 2017 but is now a household name – Cody Bellinger.
Mr. Bellinger is making his name known with one of baseball’s best offensive first-halves in recent history.
The gold, silver, and bronze circles above represent Bellinger’s major league rank in that category. The LA outfielder is leading the majors in batting average, is second in Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA), and is third in home runs.
On top of this, Bellinger plays for the league’s best team and is only 23 years old!
With a birthday on July 13, Bellinger is soon to turn 24. For now, he sits head and shoulders above all other hitters 23 or younger. Name an offensive category and Bellinger probably ranks very highly in it, especially among those under 24.
To illustrate my point, here are a few of the top offensive categories and the 23-or-younger leaders in each.
With 25 home runs, Bellinger places himself a full 5 dingers ahead of the next closest player – 23-year-old Padres outfielder Franmil Reyes. 22-year-old middle infielder Gleyber Torres of the Yankees and 21-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves round out the top 4.
Home runs are not everything. High RBI numbers indicate a versatile hitter who is adept at getting the job done with men on base. Let’s see which youngsters excel in this area. Hint: Bellinger is first.
With a double-digit lead over the next closest player, Cody Bellinger is on pace for 120 RBIs. This output would earn him a spot inside the top-30 RBI seasons for a player 23 or younger.
Earlier I mentioned Weighted Runs Above Average (and dropped a link with some helpful info). wRAA is a cumulative statistic that measures everything an offensive player does and assigns him a value.
Just like WAR, wRAA can be used to determine a player’s worth to his team. 10 wRAA is considered to add 1 win.
Here are the top-4 wRAA leaders under the age of 24 this season. In other words, these 4 hitters have helped their offenses the most in 2019.
Bellinger bounded out of the gate with a monsterous month of April and has been riding the shock waves since. Bellinger has over twice the wRAA of the next highest player. The outfielder could have an even larger lead but there is one aspect of his offensive game that is not elite – baserunning.
With only 8 steals in 2019, Bellinger falls outside of the top-4 of the 23-or-younger base stealers.
Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi is only 23 and has already assumed the role of the league’s scariest baserunner. His 27 steals not only lead all young players but the entire MLB.
The Nationals have another young outfielder who is playing well, 22-year-old Victor Robles. Robles has used his wheels to earn him a tie for 2nd in steals for players under 24 alongside Acuna and 23-year-old Mets shortstop Amed Rosario.
Whether you play fantasy baseball, regularly bet games, or just love to follow the sport, you cannot ignore the young talent that the MLB has on display. These young men are the future stars of baseball. For some, like Bellinger, their stardom has already begun.
See you on top!