NFL

Seven most impressive young cornerstone players in MLB today

MLB, Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (left) and pitcher Stephen Strasburg against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The future of baseball is already in front of us.

This isn’t in reference to a timeline. The players who represent the future of Major League Baseball are playing in front of us as you read this article.

Some are nearing free agency, while others were so special their organizations paid top dollar to make sure they feel cozy and comfy at home for the foreseeable future.

The following are seven of the top young ball players worth building franchises around — the most impressive young cornerstones in MLB today.

Manny Machado, third baseman, Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles

Flashback a couple of years ago and the top-two fantasy players to snag in any format were Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. We will cover them later, but the guy who was always knocking on the proverbial door is Manny Machado.

The three-time All-Star helped rejuvenate a team that holds on to so much history.

Machado was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft and it didn’t take him long to make an impact in a major league uniform. He made his debut two seasons later and in 2013 landed his first All-Star roster spot.

The thing about Machado is how diverse he is. He’s at the third base position so you’re anticipating power, but if you look at his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame, it may not be something you’re betting your money on. However, with Machado, he has it all: the power, the glove, and the speed.

He holds a career .283/.333/.476 line and although he struggles a bit during the postseason, he hasn’t had much exposure during those fall months.

Machado will become a free agent soon so it’ll be interesting to see the bidding war for him.

Mike Trout, centerfielder, Los Angeles Angels

The great part about Mike Trout, besides everything, is the fact that if you’re not a diehard baseball fan, you know of Mike Trout.

Just take a look at his resume.

 

He leads the league in multiple categories every season, and over seven seasons he holds a career .306/.406/.559 line.

Trout wasn’t even a top-20 pick when he was drafted in 2009, which is quite comical to think about. Nonetheless, he’s certainly made up for it being one of the most recognizable figures in sports.

With his numbers out of the equation, the best part about Trout is that he’s just a genuine guy off the field as well with a reputation that proceeds him. He’s approachable and will always be the number one ball player to build a franchise around.

He signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014. While there was controversy on whether that was enough (it wasn’t), he continuously puts the Angels on the map.

Carlos Correa, shortstop, Houston Astros

The Houston Astros themselves have become somewhat of an anomaly over the last couple of seasons, but one of the constants has been shortstop Carlos Correa.

Correa is just 22-years-old and still manages to be one of the most feared mid-infielders in the game. That has a lot to do with a hard contact rate that sticks out for someone at the shortstop position. In his abbreviated season so far he’s slashing a .234/.315/.298 line.

Eno Sarris of FanGraphs himself said:

Courtesy of USA Today Images“…put that all together and you’ve got an amazing young player you can build your team around in real life.”

Recently, it was reported he was “not interested” in signed a contract extension with the team. A friend of his said that had to do with the fact that the team wanted to renew his contract, but Correa “wasn’t going to put his name to something he didn’t believe in.”

He’s certainly worth more than the six-figures he was offered.

Kris Bryant, third baseman, Chicago Cubs

The word on Kris Bryant came around rather quickly and spread like wildfire. As he got promoted across the minors it was clear it would only be a matter of time before he would make his debut in a major league uniform with the Chicago Cubs.

The initial outing wasn’t great. He went 0-for-4 when most fans were anticipating he come out guns blazing. Don’t worry, that eventually happened.

He made his debut almost two years ago to the day and has very much proven himself since thanks to his power. A Rookie of the Year in 2015 started his list of achievements. He then followed that with two All-Star roster spots and an MVP Award.

So what about Bryant makes him so great?

Well, Bryant has it all. And I’m not just referring to his baseball skills and his devilishly handsome good looks, although those are rather phenomenal. He helped the Cubbies win their first World Series in over 100 years last season and made the final play to win it all.

He also got married during the offseason, which just adds a cherry on top to a phenomenal year.

And he has no signs of slowing down. He currently holds a career .281 batting average with 67 home runs across three seasons and his projections show he’ll have another successful year with the Cubs.

Bryant is the future of baseball.

Andrew Benintendi, outfielder, Boston Red Sox

Andrew Benintendi is the number one prospect in all of baseball. While that could be a lot of pressure to handle, he is doing great dealing with the job title.

The 22-year-old skyrocketed through the minor league system after being drafted in 2013.

“In 2014 and 2015, the Red Sox finished in last place back-to-back years, and it was sort of a waiting period for their young talent to start coming up and get some major league experience,” said Jared Carrabis, MLB and Red Sox writer at CSNNE. “The waiting’s over, and Andrew Benintendi is a big reason why. You’re talking about a player who skipped Triple-A entirely, and was on a big league roster the year after he was drafted. Clearly a special player when you have that distinction to start your major league career. You could make a case that he’s the most polished rookie the Red Sox have had since Nomar Garciaparra won the Rookie of the Year in 1997. That’d actually be hard to argue now that I think of it. And if Nomar is the comp, then we all know that he went on to have several great years in Boston. I think Benintendi will, too.”

His debut with the Boston Red Sox occurred in 2016, and in 118 plate appearances he slashed a .295/.359/.476 line with 31 hits. He struck out a lot, but that’s to be expected during a first major league campaign.

He’s on multiple lists as a potential American League Rookie of the Year this season. Even with a small sample size, that honor is well within his reach.

Bryce Harper, outfielder, Washington Nationals

The Future of Bryce Harper

Four-time All-Star Bryce Harper is signed through the end of the season with the Washington Nationals. He reportedly asked for a $400-million contract exceeding 10 years with the team during the offseason, which may sound like a huge number to the normal person.

But believe it or not, he’s worth it.

In this Forbes article by Maury Brown, he points out the reason why the numbers “add up.”

  • Harper is the youngest player in MLB history with at least 42 home runs and 124 walks in a season…The previous youngest was Babe Ruth, who hit 54 home runs and had 150 walks in 1920, his age 25 season.
  • Since 2000, Harper is one of just two players to accumulate at least 42 home runs, 124 walks and 118 runs scored in a season, joining Barry Bonds, who did it in two MVP seasons: 2001 and 2004.

The list goes on and on in regards to why he’s worth the money.

The list that isn’t so long comprises the teams that could afford him and take on such financial obligations. The 2015 National League MVP will share the free agency pool with Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Andrew McCutchen soon, to name a few, so the bidding war alone will be a sight to see.

He could end up on the New York Yankees, and they can certainly afford him. It would be the perfect fit for a guy who was raised a Yankees fan. Where he ends up, we don’t 100-percent know. But the 24-year-old will succeed no matter the area code and has yet to reach his peak season.

Freddie Freeman, first baseman, Atlanta Braves

Last season, Freddie Freeman set career highs in multiple offensive categories, including home runs and isolated power. His upside is certainly there and he shows that off on a regular basis at the newly constructed SunTrust Park.

It’s still early, but the two-time All-Star is holding on to a .920 slugging average with a .480 ISO which makes him arguably the best (or one of the best) hitters in the league at the moment. He’s also continuously on base and is on pace to not only be better than his projections estimate but exceed them. He has also increased his walk rate and is striking out less so far this season.

Freeman is signed through 2021 with the Braves, so you know the team loves him. But more than that, he’s one of a few power bats that can eventually make this team one to be feared.

The future is very bright for Freeman.

About the author

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica is a sports writer with an obsession for baseball. You can catch her in the stands or in the media booth. She's the one with the big hair. In addition to Sportsnaut, Jessica has been featured on Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and MLB Nation.