There are so many talented, young players today in Major League Baseball that it is hard to keep track of all of them. These players are already a lot of fun to watch and rank among the best at their positions at such an early age. As always, there are many guys at the Minor League level that we will be saying the same thing about in a year or two. With that in mind, here is my what “dream” Opening Day lineup would be in the year 2016, with the requirement that all of them are 27 and younger that April. Of course, you come back around that time and laugh at me as I am sure some of these gentlemen will prove me wrong.
1B-Anthony Rizzo–This guy can hit. The batting average does not reflect it, but there is no doubt that Rizzo’s bat is Major League caliber. It has been a rough year at times for Rizzo and most of the time for the Chicago Cubs. He leads the team in home runs and RBI’s and he just turned 24. Rizzo’s play around the bag at first is not spectacular and I am sure he will address that come Spring Training as there will be no World Baseball Classic. Although he is hitting .230, you could attribute that to the fact that he is still young and that he plays on a bad team. I am confident that in three years, he will be among the best players at his position.
2B-Kolten Wong–When evaluating top prospects, it is usually a safe bet that someone from the St. Louis Cardinals will find their way onto any list. Wong was called up to the Cards in mid-August and has received semi-regular playing time. Matt Carpenter has had a great season at second for St. Louis but can play in different spots on the field. Wong, a first round choice in 2011, is clearly the future at that position. He has good extra base power and does not strike out much. Wong is a smart defender and has tremendous instincts. When you draw up the blueprint for a typical Cardinals player, Wong fits the mold perfectly.
3B-Manny Machado-It is amazing that Machado is only 21 and yet feels as though has been with the Baltimore Orioles forever instead of this being his first full season in the Majors. Machado is living up to the hype that has him being compared to O’s legend Brooks Robinson. He leads the American League in doubles with 46 and is on pace to hit about .300 with roughly 17 home runs and 80 RBI’s. His defense is already in another world with his cannon arm and endless range that reminds many people of Brooks’s gems in the 1970 World Series.
SS-Jean Segura–The 22-year old Segura is a shining light in an otherwise dark season for the Milwaukee Brewers. He leads the National League in stolen bases with 39 and has other solid offensive numbers across the board. His average has been over .300 all season long and is in the top ten in all of baseball in hits with 165 and triples with 9. Segura’s game at short is equally outstanding with soft hands and a rifle for an arm. It is a shame the Brewers have had a lousy year, hindering any chance at serious national recognition for him. July’s All Star appearance will be the first of many for Segura.
LF-Mike Trout–What accolade hasn’t the 22-year old Trout received in his brief, electric career? He is simply the most exciting player in the game today, a ridiculous blend of speed, power and defense that, if he stays healthy, will allow him to become one of the game’s all-time greats. The dreadful season of the Los Angeles Angels has not overshadowed Trout’s spectacular sophomore campaign. He leads the American League in runs, triples and walks, the latter a sign that he is starting to get the Barry Bonds treatment. The only question about Trout in this lineup is does he hit first, third or fourth?
CF-Bryce Harper–The production of Harper hasn’t quite lived up to the hype yet. The people who are disappointed in his Major League career need to remember that he will not turn 21 until October. His numbers pale in comparison to Trout’s right now but there is no denying that Harper will be a huge star for the next 15 years. 41 home runs and 108 RBI’s before the legal drinking age is quite an accomplishment. Washington Nationals fans hope his physical style does not force endless trips to the disabled list. Look for Harper to have an MVP-type season in 2014.
RF-Yasiel Puig–About the only thing that can hold Puig back is himself. He is a bit of a hothead and moody but one has to understand he just came to this country less than a year ago from Communist Cuba. Some players adjust here right away, others take time. Once Puig harnesses his emotions, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have paid a bargain for him. LA’s season turned around the instant Puig showed up and while he has cooled, he is still batting over .350. Wait until Hollywood makes a movie about him.
C-Salvador Perez–If you want to see what a leader behind the plate is, look no further than Perez, already a leader on the Kansas City Royals. He is one of the building blocks in which KC is hoping to build their team around. Perez made his first All Star appearance this season. He is almost peerless behind the plate and he has good offensive numbers which will see him finish around .280 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI’s. These are excellent numbers for a catcher who turned 23 in May.
SP-Matt Moore-This is easily the hardest position to gauge with so many pitchers for just one spot. I go with Moore, who in his fourth Major League appearance, pitched seven shutout innings for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the 2011 American League Division Series. Tampa thought so much of him that he is under their control through 2019. This season, Moore is 15-3 with a 3.27 ERA. If David Price leaves as a free agent, Moore will be designated the staff ace. He appears up to the challenge.
That’s my lineup. Sorry, no DH’s on this list.
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