Mike Trout did it this year, Madison Bumgarner did it in 2009 and Justin Upton in 2007. Those are the last three players to have made it to the majors as teenagers. Besides having the talent and mental make-up to reach the highest level, you also need some breaks to fall your way. Positional roadblocks, team needs and an organization willing to take a gamble also factor in to the decision. For every Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre, there are always going to be a Matt Riley, Gene Kingsale or Karim Garcia. Here are some players with the talent, along with some potential breaks, to get themselves to the majors before they turn 20.
Bryce Harper, Nationals — OF, 6’-3”, age 19
109 G .297 63 R 24 2B 2 3B 17 HR 58 RBI 26 SB .392/.501/.894
Harper lived up to the hype in his professional debut. After destroying single-A pitching, hitting 14 home runs with a .977 OPS over 72 games, he adjusted slowly to double-A. He still showed why he was taken with the first pick in last year’s draft, as he has very few weaknesses to his game. Offensively, he is the total package, mixing ridiculous power, top-notch speed, an advanced batting eye and just an overall feel for the game not seen by many 19 year olds. On defense, his speed and canon arm could make him a gold glove type outfielder. With Stephen Strasburg healthy, the Nationals could add even more excitement in DC by bringing up Harper if he has another great spring.
Jurickson Profar, Rangers — SS, 6’-1”, 18
115 G .286 86 R 37 2B 8 3B 12 HR 65 RBI 23 SB .390/.493/.883
Profar came into the season known more for his defense than his bat. But after an outstanding season on offense, he is now making Ian Kinsler a little more expendable when his free agency hits after next season. His raw gap power and speed are impressive, but what stands out most is a rare approach at the plate for a player his age. His 65 walks to only 63 strikeouts on the season are a great indicator for a high-average, run-producing hitter. And again, the defense is elite.
Miguel Sano, Twins — 3B, 6’-3”, 18
127 G .299 92 R 34 2B 8 3B 27 HR 88 RBI 9 SB .364/.572/.936
The totals above are Sano’s first two professional seasons combined. You can see the type of offensive firepower the young man brings to the table. His extremely quick bat speed allows him to catch up to anything thrown his way and the power is jaw dropping. The Twins are suddenly a team in decline and an injection of youth with Sano’s talent might not be far away. Danny Valencia is a solid third baseman, but Sano is a superstar in the making.
Christian Yelich, Marlins — OF, 6’-4”, 19
122 G .312 73 R 32 2B 1 3B 15 HR 77 RBI 32 SB .388/.484/.871
Yelich was the Marlins minor league player of the year this season. He has all five tools to go along with an advanced approach at the plate for his age, shown by his .388 OBP. The success of Mike Stanton, who was brought up at age 20, only helps Yelich’s cause. With former rookie of the year Chris Coghlan injured and struggling the last couple of years, and the team in need of some offense, Yelich could find himself in Florida with a strong showing at double-A next season.
Taijuan Walker, Mariners — RHP, 19
6-5 2.89 ERA 1.12 WHIP 113 K 39BB 96.2 IP
The Mariners brought up Felix Hernandez when he was 19, so they aren’t afraid to call up a teenage pitcher. Walker put up similar numbers to King Felix as an 18-year-old and has the size (6’-4”, 200 lbs) to shoulder some extra work load. If he can overpower double-A hitters with his mid-90s fastball and hammer curve the way he did Class-A hitters, the Mariners may give him a shot next season.
Gary Sanchez, Yankees — C, 6’-2”, 18
129 G .283 82 R 29 2B 1 3B 25 HR 95 RBI 4 SB .356/.506/.863
Like Sano, the stats above are Sanchez’ total over his first two season as a pro. You can see the offensive potential he has, especially in the power department. Jesus Montero poses a major positional road block, but Sanchez is a far better defensive catcher and could force Montero into a corner outfield spot or DH. The Yankees aren’t a team that needs to rush anyone to the majors because of their endlessly deep pockets, but if he puts up monster numbers next season, he may be a better option than any free-agent signing.
Manny Machado, Orioles — SS, 6’-3”, 19
101 G .257 48 R 20 2B 5 3B 11 HR 50 RBI 11 SB .335/.421/.756
Machado has drawn comparisons to A-Rod because of his size, power, speed and the position he plays. Was hampered with injuries during his first professional season but still showed his offensive potential. Like A-Rod, he might have to make a move to third base, but the Orioles are another team with many holes to fill, so Machado could get a shot with a healthy, productive season next year.
Francisco Lindor, Indians — SS, 5’-11”, 17
Lindor made his professional debut at the New York Penn League where he is hitting .316 through five games. He was the eighth overall selection in this year’s draft and was regarded as the best all-around high school player in the draft. The Indians need all kinds of help, except at shortstop, of course, where Asdrubal Cabrera is quickly turning into one of the best in the game. But a lot can happen in a couple of years, and Lindor could quickly develop into one of the game’s top prospects and force the Tribe to make room for him.