Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Worth the Price of Admission

Hey guys, Drew back here! A lot has been said over the past few years how baseball has lost some of its magic among the younger crowd. Kids these days seem to gravitate towards quicker paced games such as football and basketball because this generation has been prone to a lack of attention span. However, the game appears to be at its purest since the Golden Eras of the 1950's and 1960's, thanks in part to the collection of excellent prospects debuting practically every year. Prospects such as Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant have generated more interest before their MLB debuts than the best players in the majors at the time such as Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. The only piece missing to the game is the peaked interest of young kids, which is vitally important towards keeping our beloved game going strong for years to come.

This week's list will be meant as suggestions of players to perhaps show your kids (or, if you are a kid, to check out) that could make them the fan you are in the future! All of the players on this list are below the age of 27, because I felt like the list needed to be capped at some point, so you won't see Clayton Kershaw, Buster Posey, or Andrew McCutchen on this countdown. Also, this list is not based solely upon statistics and talent, but additionally focuses on the likability and excitement factors.

10 Most Exciting Young Players to Watch in 2015

Honorable Mentions - Nolan Arenado, Masahiro Tanaka, Anthony Rizzo, Manny Machado, Billy Hamilton

If you're looking for premium five tool talents, watch out for Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado. They are big power seasons away from debuting on this list, but in the meantime, check out some of the glovework they've displayed recently. And if you're in a need for speed, Billy Hamilton is the best in the business. If he improves at getting on base, he will easily crack the top 10.

10 - Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants (Video)

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There is nothing about this man that appears to be 25 years old, but sure enough, "Mad-Bum" is only a quarter century of age. His long hair and beard adds to his intimidation, and although he isn't a flamethrower he still knows how to overpower his opponents. The 2014 World Series MVP carved his name into baseball lore with his epic postseason performances; practically winning the World Series for the Giants. His performances also landed him "Mad-Bum" underwear, a Jimmy Fallon Late Night appearance, an endorsement with Carhartt, and 2014's Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. And, if that isn't enough; he can crush the ball at the plate when he's called upon to do so.

9 - Mookie Betts, CF, Boston Red Sox (Video)

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Mookie Betts, as painful as it is to say being a Yankees fan, is extremely good. His talent has surplanted everything he was expected to fulfill thus far for the Red Sox, and he keeps getting better. It may look like an overreaction to have him this high on my list after a huge Spring Training and hot start to 2015, but it's more than just the numbers with Betts. He's a human highlight reel in center field, and last week he stole two bases on a single play; a brilliant baseball play most young players don't seem to pick up on. He's no longer rookie eligible, but you can bet he'll be bringing home hardware in the not so distant future.

8 - Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox (Video)

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Chris Sale has been arguably the best pitcher in the American League the past three years when healthy, but health has been the question mark at times. His lanky, side arm delivery is menacing towards opposing batters; reminiscent of Randy Johnson's legendary mechanics. If he is able to sustain that delivery in the future without suffering a serious shoulder or elbow injury, he may continue to be the most fun pitcher to watch in the league.

7 - Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs (Video)

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Number 7 belongs to a player who has been all the talk lately on social media and throughout baseball. Kris Bryant has been a mega prospect ever since he was drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 Draft by the Cubs. This spring, he was in the middle of a difficult financial position by Theo Epstein and Chicago's front office, but this past Friday he was called up to make his MLB debut! I don't believe he will be as advertised in his rookie season, but I still think he'll either win or come close to winning Rookie of the Year. In the future, this mammoth of a bat has the potential to be a Hall of Fame caliber player, although it would be helpful if he could develop a little better on the defensive end. I have all the respect in the world for Bryant for how he handled the demotion after crushing home runs nearly every at bat in Spring Training. It's difficult for any rookie with his potential to immediately fulfill expectations, but he is a must watch player every time he steps into the batter's box.

6 - Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins (Video)

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The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year had made an impressive splash down in Miami, but unfortunately Tommy John Surgery brought his career to a halt. When Fernandez returns in June/July of this season, baseball fans hope he can retain the talent he showed off before. His absence from the game for over a year has diminished some of what he did before, but his electric stuff should bring him right back to the top of the game, where his personality and skill belongs. Plus, he works his tail off biking and training, and is still in tip-top shape despite having the surgery.

5 - Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Video)

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The next two players on this list are two of the most electric and exciting players in the sport, held back on this list by inconsistency and injury problems. The first is Yasiel Puig, who, in two full seasons had become one of the most fun players to impersonate and watch. Puig plays the game the way it is meant to be played (let us remember, this is a kid's game after all), with passion and exuberance that is hard to replicate. But sometimes he has a bit too much fun, to the point where he's been arrested for reckless driving and frequently arriving late to the ballpark. At 24 years old, I envision Puig growing up more as he gets older and hopefully making smarter choices. But when he's on the field, and all is going right, he has a larger than life persona that even landed him on the cover of this year's MLB The Show video game.

4 - Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (Video)

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Bryce Harper always seems to go hand in hand with Yasiel Puig, to me. Both players have the potential to dethrone Mike Trout as the best all around player in the game, but haven't quite gotten there yet. Harper was a prodigy, and has faced more pressure than perhaps any other player in baseball history, and I would say that he's done a superb job of handling it all. With new waves of talent being unleashed in the show today (Kris Bryant), Harper has had some of the weight lifted off of his shoulders, which could mean big things for the remainder of 2015. Thus far, he's been off to a hot start, and he absolutely mashed a ball to center field versus the Phillies this past weekend. I love watching Harper play because he gives 110% effort on every single play. It often results in injury, but I love the reckless demeanor he has towards the game and that he gives his heart and soul towards the team. I don't ever see him becoming someone mentioned among the likes of Mays and Mantle, but I think there are many great years to come from the nation capital's biggest star.

3 - Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets (Video)

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He's back, and just as good as ever before. Matt Harvey, Gotham's new "Dark Knight", may not be off to the start he became famous for in 2013 before also needing to undergo Tommy John Surgery, but he's going to perform. I watched the E60 documentary on Harvey's return from surgery, and realized just how big of a star he is, especially coming from New York. Harvey is the highest ranked pitcher on this list because of the spotlight he receives, and because he can deliver in high pressure situations. His ego may be aggravating to the Mets front office, but ultimately he just wishes to do his job and do it well. Jacob deGrom has been phenomenal too in a larger sample size, but Harvey is New York's finest star at the time (sorry, A-Rod).

2 - Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Video)

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You bet your butt that Mike Trout is not #1 on my list. I feel like everyone likes Trout, but some, myself included, can tend to get bored of his consistent excellence. He seems to have mastered the art of the big leagues, despite having led the AL in strikeouts last season. The strikeout has been the kryptonite to his Superman status (you can tell by the past two paragraphs how excited I am for Batman vs. Superman), but like everything else, watch him defeat that too. However, if you are looking to get into the game, just go to YouTube and search his name. The guy is on his way to becoming the next face of the game and ambassador similar to that of Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr., and he's perhaps the most dynamic player we've seen since the turn of the century. If you want to learn how to play baseball, watch this guy (but watch Victor Martinez for plate discipline).

1 - Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins (Video)

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Everyone loves the long ball, and Giancarlo Stanton is perhaps the most talented young player in that facet of the game. Stanton has a great personality, and has proven his insane skill time and time again. Watching this guy hit in batting practice and launch balls into the goofy display in center field of Marlins Park will make you a baseball fan; almost a 99.9% guarantee. I really hope the Marlins can turn their rough start around so we can see him play meaningful games down the stretch, and here's to hoping he doesn't get the same treatment he got last September, which involved a trip to the hospital and multiple operations. Any of these upper tier players are capable of making people who previously hated or were indifferent towards baseball a fan, but Stanton is the most exciting player to watch even when he's not crushing the ball. Every pitch he watches at the plate has the potential to leave the stadium, and that is must-see TV.

Alright everyone, that is how I would rank the most exciting young players in baseball. There are so many guys who barely missed the cut, and I can see this list being completely rearranged. I know I don't have all the answers, but I like to spark conversation, and with the recent promotion of Kris Bryant, I thought this would be a fitting theme for the week.

Who did I miss? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

See Ya!

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