This season has introduced so much young talent that it is overwhelming — the MLB youth movement is in full effect. Some names you may know about, while others are still waiting for their ink to dry on the back of their major league jerseys.
From a young first baseman taking over responsibilities for a 14-year veteran to a baby-faced slugger in the Bay Area tearing up the scene, this crop of budding talent needs to be highlighted.
This list was constructed more than likely without your favorite player in mind. So we apologize for that first and foremost. We know about Aaron Judge, we have written about him numerous times.
Here are some of the young faces you should familiarize yourself with as the next generation of burgeoning stars.
1. Cody Bellinger, first baseman/outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cody Bellinger is a well-known slugger for those who cover the minors. The 21-year-old has slashed a .271/.353/.501 line across five minor league teams. This season during his stint in Triple-A, he was hitting a .343 average with five home runs and 15 RBI.
He was recently promoted to the Los Angeles Dodgers after some injuries to Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe. The natural first baseman took refuge in the outfield and held his own. He had his first career home run on April 29, which ultimately ended up being a two-home run game for Bellinger. He then had another multi-home run game (and his first career grand slam) several days later.
At the moment, he’s taking over for 14-year veteran Adrian Gonzalez, who for the first time in his career landed on the disabled list. More than earning his keep, Bellinger was just recognized as the National League Player of the Week.
— MLB (@MLB) May 8, 2017
2. Joey Gallo, third baseman, Texas Rangers
When it comes to Joey Gallo, there was a lot of worry about whether he would get playing time with Adrian Beltre taking over the third base position for the Texas Rangers.
That was until Beltre landed on the 10-day DL before the regular season had even started with a Grade 1 calf strain. Beltre should be ready to go by the end of May, but until then, we get to witness Gallo and his power.
The 23-year-old had a stellar outing in Triple-A last season, hitting 25 home runs in the Pacific Coast League. Gallo shows power no matter where he’s hitting. This time around, he’s showcasing that power in a big way, though there are some struggles with striking out.
Last season he left behind a 63.3-percent strikeout rate with just a .120 ISO, so he wasn’t able to display that power in those few major league games. This season, he has 10 home runs with a .202/.303/.548 slash line.
He worked on some confidence issues during the offseason which put less pressure on him. It has obviously paid off.
3. Lucas Giolito, starting pitcher, Chicago White Sox
We are still waiting on Lucas Giolito’s 2017 major league debut. But until that happens, we still have his short history.
The 22-year-old made his major league debut in 2016 after Steve Strasburg landed on the D.L. The then number one overall prospect pitched in four innings against the Mets, striking out one and walking two.
Giolito was drafted 16th overall in 2012. He was drafted a bit lower than desired thanks to a Tommy John surgery that season, but that seemed like something in the back of his mind.
Last year in 21.1 innings, he accumulated a 6.75 ERA but only had a 4.64-percent strikeout rate in a big league uniform. He’s doing an amazing job in Triple-A with a 10.80 K/9 ratio, but a 7.33 ERA and a losing record are a bit glaring for those who care about those statistics.
A lot of sportswriters have him being less than mediocre this season, but he does have some upside. Let’s hope he lives up to the hype he had last season.
4. Andrew Benintendi, outfielder, Boston Red Sox
We don’t have to sit here all day and talk about how great Andrew Benintendi is, but we can spend a fraction of the 24 hours we are given in a day babbling about him.
When the 22-year-old made his major league debut in 2016, he seemed to be a natural. In 118 plate appearances, he slashed a .295/.359/.476 line with 31 hits. He struggled when it came to strikeouts, but as a rookie, you kind of anticipate that.
This season, he’s knocked off seven percent from that strikeout rate. He’s also slashing a .325/.385/.500 line with five home runs and 20 RBI.
I spoke to Jared Carrabis of CSN New England, and he said Benintendi is a major reason behind the Red Sox having success in 2017.
“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.”
We expect big things from this youngster in the future.
5. Josh Bell, first baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
The secret is finally out on first baseman Josh Bell. Especially in the fantasy world. This isn’t that type of article, but he’s proving to be a favorite in all elements of the game.
The 24-year-old has been striking out more than he’d like, but he is displaying some power that he wasn’t producing last season. In 110 plate appearances in 2017, he’s slashing a .258/.345/.464 line with five home runs.
Bell is a switch hitter, which would typically up his value. But he really struggles against southpaws, hitting just .192 against those pitchers. However, he’s evening himself out at the plate in regards to his patience. He does struggle with swinging erratically, but since the second week of regular season play, he has increased his on-base percentage quite a bit.
Since last season, Bell has proven to be everything we thought he would be in a major league uniform — he’s powerful, makes contact and contributes beautifully to the Pirates lineup. Even after having knee surgery in February, he seems to be handling his body well and still remains one of the top first base prospects in the game.
6. Dansby Swanson, shortstop, Atlanta Braves
We will not mention the trade. You know the trade I’m talking about. The uneven trade that occurred during Winter Meetings in 2015 with Shelby Miller, Ender Inciarte, and a few others. Well, the dust has settled in regards to that discussion, and a star was born in Atlanta.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson is a Vanderbilt product who was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2015 draft. Following the trade, he has made a name for himself with the Atlanta Braves.
The 23-year-old had a speedy journey through the minors, and over two major league seasons he has a .234/.299/.340 line with five home runs and 24 RBI. He’s regressed slightly this season increasing his strikeout rate to 25.6-percent which was already high last season.
Swanson is showing signs of more patience in the box and is continuously stellar on defense. Even better, he still packs star power.
7. Christian Arroyo, infielder, San Francisco Giants
Don’t let his baby face fool you. The number two prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization tore up the minors before his MLB debut this season.
This year in 65 at-bats with Triple-A Sacramento, Christian Arroyo was slashing a .446/.478/.592 line with a 1.171 OPS and three home runs.
He transitioned to the bigs splendidly and in his third game in a major league uniform hit his first home run. Two games later, he mirrored that performance hitting another ball over the fence.
He’s currently slashing a .255/.283/.451 line with a .196 ISO and three home runs in just 13 games. In typical rookie form, he is striking out a lot but does have a 42.9-percent home run to fly ball ratio. He’s not showing off his power quite yet, but it’s just a matter of time before he does.
8. Tyler Glasnow, starting pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tyler Glasnow didn’t exactly have the best outing when he came onto the major league scene.
The 23-year-old pitcher debuted in July but sat out quite a bit with some shoulder issues. He did have a 9.26 K/9 ratio with a 4.23 ERA in 27 innings, with some of those innings coming out of the bullpen.
This season, however, he is showing a lot of promise and made his 2017 debut April 10. So far in 27 innings, he has a 6.33 ERA with 28 strikeouts and a 20.4-percent strikeout rating.
Glasnow’s velocity has stayed the same since last season, which is promising for a pitcher who is throwing hard. He is well on his way to improving after a rough few bad outings at the beginning, and he knows the adjustments he needs to make to stay strong.
Other notables: Tyler O’Neill (Seattle Mariners), Manuel Margot (San Diego Padres), Aaron Judge (New York Yankees), Clint Frazier (New York Yankees)