With temperatures hitting the 80's down here in Hotlanta I figured it was a good time to look ahead to the 2009 MLB Season. Every team is looking for a young player that they can build their franchise around and be a cornerstone not only for their team in the future but for ticket sales. So I went through every team's rosters to compile my All-MLB 25 and Under Team. To be qualified for my roster the players have to be either age 25 or younger in the 2009 season and played at least one season of MLB ball. These teams will be getting plus performances from potential superstars before they even hit their peak years.
CATCHER-Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves-The Athens native product in his first 3 full MLB seasons has already accomplished a ton by being named to 3 All-Star teams and winning 2 Silver Slugger awards. McCann might not look like as athletic as say a Joe Mauer but the kid has a great eye and is a doubles machine with the ability to hit 50 this season if he can stay healthy. McCann is also signed long term with the Braves. He signed a 6 year extension in 2007 with a club option for 2013. His pudgy face should become the new face of the franchise with Smoltz gone and Chipper's career dwindling down.
1B-Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers-In 2007 Prince became the youngest player in MLB history to hit 50 home runs in a season while also winning a Silver Slugger award. With over 100 career home runs already and an on base percentage that continues to climb it is little reason why the Brewers recently signed their slugger to a 2 year extension for $18 million in January. Fielder is one of the biggest vegetarians you will ever see and if he continues to hit the ball like he has his first 3 full seasons he should be devouring an even bigger contract after the 2010 season.
2B-Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox-He may be short in stature but his game is big time. Pedroia has already won a Rookie of the Year Award, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, MVP Trophy, and World Series ring in his first 2 big league seasons. The Red Sox rewarded Pedroia this offseason with a six-year, $40.5 million contract with a club option for 2015. So like his picture above demonstates Pedroia the Destroyah can clearly buy the good hard liquor now.
SS-Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins-A Silver Slugger and Rookie of the Year winner, Ramirez came over from the Red Sox organization in 2005 and has done little to disappoint. Basically a younger version of Alex Rodriguez. Hanley can steal over 50 bases in a season (2006 and 2007) while also hitting over 30 home runs (2008). If he played in a major market he would be the biggest star in the game in my opinion. But he won't get that chance for a while after signing a contract for six years and $70 million in 2008. Look for huge numbers out of Hanley in 2009 and if the Marlins compete in the East he should be a MVP favorite.
3B-Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays-The Rays believed in Longoria so much that they rewarded him a 6 year contract just 6 games into his career last season. Longoria didn't fail to live up to his contract numbers as he won the Rookie of the Year, got named to the All-Star team and helped the Rays make it all the way to the World Series. With 6 postseason home runs already there is little doubt Longoria will be a fan favorite for years to come in the Trop.
LF-Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers-The Hebrew Hammer is just the 2nd player in MLB history to belt 30 plus home runs in his first two seasons (King Albert the other). Braun already has a Rookie of the Year award for 2007 and in 2008 finished 3rd in MVP voting after helping the Brewers reach their first postseason since 1982. Reminds me a lot of Danny Tartabull as he tends to strike out a lot and not draw as many walks as one would like but he should continue to get better as he matures. The sky is the limit for the Hebrew Hammer and Milwaukee has him wrapped up for the next 7 seasons as Braun signed a 8 year contract before the 2008 season.
CF-Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers and Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds-I couldn't pick just one guy here as both Kemp and Bruce have been extremely impressive in a short amount of time in the bigs. Kemp should be the everyday starting centerfielder for the Dodgers now that Andruw Jones is left flailing for curveballs in the dirt somewhere else. Kemp has 5 tool skills with the ability to go 30/30 for many years to come.
Bruce Almighty was Baseball America's #1 prospect in 2008 and looked the part when called up in Cincinnati in May. His first game he went 3 for 3 while getting on base all 5 times with 2 walks. The Reds faithful had already made him a fan favorite by chanting "Bruce Almighty" during his second game at home. Entering his second season the humble young star will need to step up his game and prove that his rookie season was no fluke.
RF-Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles-The Baltimore Orioles posterboy has lived up to his lofty expectations in his first 3 seasons in Charm City. Averaging over 40 doubles a season and leading all outfielders with 17 assists last season was enough to convince the Orioles to wrap up their young slugger to a 6 year contract extension this offseason. Nick the Stick should be the focal point of the offense going into his peak seasons as he enters his mid 20's. Expect huge numbers from Markakis as the Orioles are building a foundation to success with future stars such as Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman all under the age of 23.
PITCHERS-Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants-You know you are big time when you have your own video game commercial. Lincecum broke out in 2008 for the Giants in winning his first of what could become many Cy Young awards. With a similar build to Pedro Martinez looks can be deceiving as Lincecum relies on a two seam fastball that can hit high 90's and a devastating curveball that buckles opposing batter's knees.
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox-Lester has accomplished a lot in his early career. He beat cancer. He beat the Rockies in the clinching game of the World Series. He has also thrown a no-hitter. And in 2008 he had his breakout season in which he won 16 games and threw over 200 innings while helping the Red Sox clinch the Wild Card. Lester should be a fixture in the Red Sox rotation for years to come and is close to signing a 6 year extension.
So did I miss anybody on the list? I only went with one right handed starting pitcher and one left handed. I didn't include any relievers because usually the best relievers are just converted starters who fail early in their major league careers. But I do really want to hear some comments from the peanut gallery about baseball and who might make this list next season.