Who are the next wave of superstars in Major League Baseball? That’s what we are about to dive into, as we go position-by-position, looking for the best players who are 25-years old or younger (as of April 1, 2020). Obviously, things will be slightly skewed to those who have already reached the Majors and produced, but minor leaguers and their upside will not be ignored.
1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
Age – 21
There have been few players who were as hyped as much as Guerrero entering their Major League career. It left him in a spot where the only outcome was for him to disappoint, though hitting .272 with 15 HR and 69 RBI over 514 PA isn’t terrible by any stretch. The fact that he improved as the season progressed, including hitting .293 with 7 HR in the second half, shows that he’s continuing to mature.
His Statcast numbers also support improvement, as his Barrel% (7.7%), Exit Velocity (89.4 mph) and Hard Hit% (38.4%) were all above average. He can stand to improve against breaking balls (19.71% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (14.62% Whiff%), but at his age and with more experience it’s easy to envision that adjustment.
The sky is the limit for Guerrero, and he should become one of the elite players for a long, long time.
2) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox
Age – 23
Devers may have a slightly higher upside than Guerrero in the short-term (we had him one spot ahead entering 2020), but long-term there isn’t a question as to who the better option is. That’s not a knock on Devers, after he hit .311 with 32 HR, 115 RBI and 129 R over 702 PA last season as he showed development across the board and reason to believe that he’ll continue to grow and mature:
- Power – His 17.7% HR/FB was believable, and adding 54 doubles further supports it
- Average – He hit the ball hard (37.7% Hard%) and used the entire field (27.7% Oppo%)
It’s not to say that he can’t improve further, most notably in his approach (12.0% SwStr%, 40.6% O-Swing%), and seeing his average over the final two months (he hit .271 courtesy of a .300 BABIP) may be an indication of things to come. Regardless, a .270ish hitter with the potential to slug 40 HR is going to have a bright future under any scenario.
3) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox
Age – 25
It’s easy to be high on Moncada coming off a year where he hit .315 with 25 HR and 10 SB over 559 PA. However he benefited from a .406 BABIP, and even with a willingness to use the entire field (26.0% Oppo%) and ability to hit the ball hard (39.9% Hard%) the number has nowhere to go but down.
Moncada’s ability to make consistent contact is the question, after his 13.9% SwStr% overall, and it makes sense for pitchers to continue throwing him fewer and fewer fastballs (55.46% seen in ’19). Just look at the Whiff% from last season:
- Hard – 9.76%
- Breaking – 23.71%
- Offspeed – 16.24%
The key will be his ability to adjust, but last season could prove to be his pinnacle. He should continue to be a 25/10 type player, but as is he’ll likely hit around .260ish or worse. There’s value there, he’s simply not one of the elite.
4) Nolan Jones – Cleveland Indians
Age – 22
Jones was considered our top third base prospect, which may have surprised many. Names like Alec Bohm or Nolan Gorman generally get the attention, but it’s Jones that deserves it. The best way to show why we think so is to revisit what we wrote about him when we published our rankings:
Jones rarely gets the recognition of being one of the better prospects in the game, and that’s going to put him in the category of being significantly underrated. Splitting time between High-A (324 PA) and Double-A (211 PA) he hit .272 with 15 HR, 63 RBI and 81 R, though there is no denying his knowledge of the strike zone:
- Strikeout Rate – 27.7%
- SwStr% – 8.8%
- Walk Rate – 17.9%
The strikeout rate is due to his extreme patience (he has 185 walks over the past two years), and as he learns to get just a little bit more aggressive the power should rise and the strikeouts will regress. He’s still 21-years old and should be able to develop 30+ HR power with a solid average and a potentially elite OBP.
Jones won’t overtake Guerrero for the top spot, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him #3 (with the potential to jump to #2) in short order.
5) Alex Bohm – Philadelphia Phillies
Age – 23
Like Jones, Bohm’s stock could look a lot different a year from now. He played across three levels in ’19, including Double-A, and with the potential for a Universal DH Bohm could find his way into the Majors in ’20. He’s a step behind Jones, but that’s not a knock because Jones is simply an impressive prospect that doesn’t get the deserved attention.
Bohm is no slouch himself, however, and here’s what we had to say about him:
The 2018 first round pick thrived in his first full season of professional baseball, hitting .305 with 21 HR, 80 RBI and 76 R over 475 AB across three levels (including 63 games at Double-A). While people will point towards the lack of power that he displayed last season, at 6’5” and 225 lbs and having added 34 additional extra base hits (30 doubles and 4 triples), it’s easy to envision the power continuing to develop. To this point it’s possible that he’s sacrificed a little bit of his power in favor of his approach, which is likely his strongest skill:
- Strikeouts – 13.5%
- Walks – 10.6%
- SwStr% – 7.7%
It’s a makeup that resembles that of Rhys Hoskins (at Triple-A in 2017 he posted a 15.8% strikeout rate, 13.5% walk rate and 6.3% SwStr%), and we know the type of instant impact he made. Maybe Bohm doesn’t explode quite at that level, but as he matures don’t be surprised to see the power improve to go along with the potential for a strong average.
Others Considered – Tommy Edman (STL), Scott Kingery (PHI), Miguel Andujar (NYY)
Note – If Edman is playing everyday he would take a spot at the bottom of these rankings, though he’s expected to fill more of a super utility role and could play 4-5 times per week at 2B, 3B and OF
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: