Travis Sherer’s Top 23 Players Under 23

Travis Sherer continues his series with a look at the top 23 under 23.


We all know that at any given time, there are some players in the minor leagues who are better than many major leaguers, so why don’t lists act accordingly? I spent considerable time doing the mental gymnastics to get as close as I could to my own version of “the snap.” I endeavored to rank the top overall baseball players at every age from 21-25. Essentially, these would be the best players at their age or younger if they were all playing for their big league clubs.


Top 23 Under 23


We are on Day 3 of the top (insert age) players under (insert age), and things are really starting to heat up. The field now mostly consists of current major leaguers and a few phenoms. There is only one teenager remainingand you know who it is. We’ve also introduced a number of guys who have just started blazing their trails in the majors. Some of them brought machetes, and some of them brought flame throwers. By the end of the year, there will probably only be three players on this list who won’t have time in the majors. Can you guess who they are?


23. Austin Riley, 3B/OF, ATL, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


If we were to pretend that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doesn’t exist, Austin Riley might have the most power of any player under 23 years of age. You could make a case for Jo Adell or Tristan Casas, but neither of them has 16 dingers in 61 major league games. What makes Riley different than most of the other players up to this point in this series is he’s almost maxed out tool-wise. The hit tool could get a little better, as seen since pitchers adjusted to his free-swinging ways. But his limited defense and light-tower power are already where they probably will stay.


22. Wander Franco, SS, TB, Age: 18
Highest Level: A+


Yep. Wander Franco made another cut. It’s getting hard to find more stats that show just how special this 18-year-old is. Here’s another one: So far each time he has been promoted, his walk and strikeout rates have improved. So as he faces tougher competition, he has been better:


Wander Franco BB Rate K Rate
Rookie-A 9.89 6.96
Single-A 11.41 7.60
High-A 14.02 5.61


One could argue that this is a combination of Franco getting better and pitchers having worse control, but I’m not buying it. This kid is tapping into his powers. By the time he gets to the majors, could he be at 20% walk rate and 1% strikeout rate? No. But I don’t care. He’s just awesome. To read more about Franco, go to the Top 22 under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


21. Jo Adell, CF, ANA, Age: 20
Highest Level: AA


At some point, Adell will really tap into his power like we haven’t quite seen yet. Strangely enough, that could be when he gets called up into a league where nothing has happened to the ball but somehow the entire league is on pace to beat its own home run record by almost 500. When it happens, it will be something. The guy hasn’t posted below a .500 slugging percentage anywhere in the minors when he stayed at a level for more than 20 games.


20. Andres Munoz, RHP, SD, Age: 20
Highest Level: MLB


What surprises me is that Andres Munoz doesn’t have more hype. He’s already better than Jordan Hicks, who had plenty of hype. Sure, his slider isn’t quite as good, but he’s got more movement to his triple-digit heat and better control. To read more about Munoz, go to the Top 22 Under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


19. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY, Age: 20
Highest Level: AAA


It’s funny that the Yankees were considering trading for Deivi Garcia for Marcus Stroman. This kind of trade makes no sense to me. Why didn’t they bring him up and see what he can do? It’s not like the Blue Jays wouldn’t want him if he had a rough stint in the majors. If that were the case, they were only willing to trade Stroman for a good pitcher eight years younger who is already good in the majors? I’m not going to say that Garcia is better than Stroman right now, but it’s not like the newest Met is great. A high WHIP and low strikeout rate usually spell trouble for a full seasonwhich is probably why he’s only put together one good season in his previous three.

To read more about Garcia, go to the Top 22 Under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


18. Dustin May, RHP, LAD, Age: 21
Highest Level: AAA


My campaign to get Dustin May nicknamed Lion-o continues. Normally I’d spend this space throwing numbers at you but not when there is something more important. To read more about May (and understand why he must be called Lion-o), go to the Top 22 under 22.


17. Bo Bichette, 2B, TOR, Age: 21
Highest Level: AAA


Is it possible that Bo Bichette will struggle in the majors? Sure. But his bat is still good enough right now to come in and be productive. It’s also hard to predict hardship with prospects such as Bichette, who really haven’t faced adversity yet. The guy has never slashed below .277/.335/.463 in the minors. He’s also fast and has the running acumen to get the most out of his speed. It’s possible he steals 30 bases in 2020. To read more about Bichette, go to the Top 22 under 22.


16. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU, Age: 21

Highest Level: AAA


I really don’t blame naysayers who decry Forrest Whitley as just another pitching prospect who was rushed too fast and now has taken a step back. That is not what is going on here. Whitley is still the most dominant pitching prospect out there, when healthy. He’s so good, he could be a starting pitcher in the majors right now, if healthy. Sure, he could use a little improvement on the control (4.06 career MiLB walk rate), but there really isn’t a 21-year-old pitcher you couldn’t say thatexcept maybe Mike Soroka and Jesus Luzardo.


15. Luis Robert, CF, CWS, Age: 22
Highest Level: AAA


There really is no reason for the White Sox to be keeping Luis Robert down in Triple-A. He has nothing left to prove. In fact, the way he’s hitting, he could probably teach a few players on the Sox roster a few things. On the fast track, Robert has absolutely destroyed all comers in 2019, slashing .349/.385/.634 throughout High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with 21 home runs and 34 stolen bases in 89 games.


14. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK, Age: 21
Highest Level: AAA


We know that Luzardo is ready to face big-league competition. We know this because of what he did to Mike Trout in spring training two years ago. We also know this because other than getting injured, all The Jesus has done is get outs at every level (2.56 career MiLB era, 1.03 WHIP, 10.57 K/9), and that includes spring training (0.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 12.06 K/9). To read more about Luzardo, go to the Top 22 under 22.


13. Casey Mize, RHP, DET, Age: 22
Highest Level: AA


I wish the Tigers would just bring up Casey Mize now. It’s a waste of everybody’s time to watch him mow down minor leaguers. I’m not going to say he’d dominate right away at the highest level, but it’s clear he belongs there. The minor leagues are for pitchers who are working on a third (or second) pitch. They are not for guys such as Mize who have four plus pitches and plus control. In particular, I’m curious to see how good his splitter is against MLB hitters. Mize had a little trouble returning from injury in July, but his most recent start in Double-A was vintage Mize: 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 4 hits.


12. Julio Urias, LHP, LAD, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


I’d say that at this point, Mize and Julio Urias are interchangeable. There was a time when the Dodgers lefty was the top pitching prospect in baseball. The shoulder injury he suffered in 2018 was scaryjust ask Matt Harvey. The nature of that injury is so precarious that I don’t consider him out of the woods quite yet. On the other hand, there is no arguing with his success this season:


Julio Urias IP ERA WHIP K BB
2019 57.2 2.34 0.97 59 19


The extra rest in moving him between starter and reliever has actually made him stronger and could put him in a better position next year, as his velocity has bumped up to sitting 95 in 2019, which is almost 2 mph faster than in previous years.


11. Luis Arraez, 2B/3B/OF, MIN, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


There are some one-trick ponyies who will pop up on this list. Cristian Pache made the under 22 and 21 lists based on his defense alone. Luis Arraez is also one of those guys. His one tool is contact. Everything Arraez swings at, he makes contact with. Well … not everything, but 91.1% of his swings result in contact. He’s also selective. Arraez only swings outside of the zone (O-Swing) 23.5% of the time but makes contact on those swings more than 80% of the time. Something else impressive is that Arraez is not known for power, but he that doesn’t mean he suffers from soft contact. To the contrary, his soft-contact rate is an insane 9.5%. When he swings, he hits the ball, and he hits it with pace.


10. Gavin Lux, 2B/SS, LAD, Age: 21
Highest Level: AAA


When are we going to start calling Gavin Lux “G-Lux”? It seems like an obvious nickname for a 21-year-old tagging Triple-A to the tune of .474/.553/1.471. It’s pretty obvious he’s ready to play with Los Dodgers. I do have a number of questions for Dodgers President of Operations Andrew Friedman. No. 1: How dare you? No. 2: Who do you think you are? To read more about G-Lux, go to the Top 22 under 22.


9. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, TOR, Age: 20
Highest Level: MLB


Once again, this ranking has nothing to do with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s potential. It’s about the player he has been so far with the Blue Jays. To read more about Vladito, go to the Top 22 under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


8. Yordan Alvarez, 1B, HOU, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


It is safe to say that just about everyone underestimated Yordan Alvarez. It’s possible that even the Astros did. If they knew he was capable of posting an 1.000-plus OPS for more than a month at all this season, he would have been brought up earlier. There is no way that isn’t the case. Sure, he’s pretty much a black hole at first base, but who cares when you can swing the bat like that?


7. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL, Age: 21
Highest Level: MLB


If you’ve been reading this for the past two days, you know how I feel about Mike Soroka. To read more about Soroka, go to the Top 22 under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


6. Ozzie Albies, 2B, ATL, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


Where is Ozzie Albies‘ speed? I am confused. For a guy who averaged almost 30 thefts a year in the minors, he really has not had much success on the basepaths so far. He has the potential to be a 20/20 guy if he can better utilize his speed. Still, he’s a solid fielder and has pop. I’ll take it.


5. Fernando Tatis, Jr, SS, SD, Age: 20
Highest Level: MLB


Can we talk about the fact that Fernando Tatis Jr. is getting a hit almost half of the time he puts the ball in play (BABIP: .434)? Even the most die-hard Padres fan will be forced to admit that isn’t sustainable. It should go down almost 100 points, which would really wreak havoc on the kid’s average, but why not enjoy it right now, right?


4. Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, NYY, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


If given the choice between Gleyber Torres and Rafael Devers in the long run, I’d lean Torres. These two phenoms are similar in so many ways: great approach, good power, and improving defense. Torres can play both up-the-middle positions admirably, but I’m not sure that Devers won’t ultimately end up moving off the hot corner. Because we are talking about picking a player for right now, Devers has the edge. That is not to discount Torres, who will go down as a footnote in Theo Epstein’s legacy as essentially giving him away for a few months of Aroldis Chapman. Just three years later and the kid is already an All-Star on pace for 31 home runs.


3. Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS, Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB


Devers is a different kind of hitter in 2019. He’s not just finally getting lucky, he’s transformed his approach, and the results are breathtaking. This 22-year-old has dropped almost 10 points off his strikeout rate (15.89 from 24.69 in 2018). Meanwhile, the kid is also on pace for a ridiculous 92 extra-base hits in 157 games. That is raking.


2. Juan Soto, LF, WAS, Age: 20
Highest Level: MLB


I never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting sick of writing about Juan Soto. So he hits like Mookie Betts already. So what? Am I really going to have to write about him two more times?

To read more about Soto, go to the Top 22 under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.


1. Ronald Acuna Jr., CF, ATL, Age: 21
Highest Level: MLB


Well … that was anti-climatic. Staying at the top of the mountain is Ronald Acuna. Will he keep it going all the way to the end? He’s got a good shot, being on pace for a more than five WAR in 2019. He’s even become a decent fielder in a short period of time.

To read more about Acuna, go to the Top 22 under 22 and Top 21 Under 21.

(Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian. Follow me @ShererTravis on Twitter.

6 responses to “Travis Sherer’s Top 23 Players Under 23”

  1. Leo says:

    So Eloy Jiménez just doesn’t exist anymore?

    • Travis Sherer says:

      I don’t think he’s disappeared. His performance so far in the majors suggests he might not be quite ready. I like the skills/tools of other young players more than his at this point. I would say that he’s probably next on the list.

  2. Orange WHIPs says:

    I’m a big fan of the Twins and love Arraez’s hit tool/plate discipline, but this seems awfully aggressive. He was ranked 12th in the Twins system going into the year. If you were the GM of the teams with players lower on the list, you would be happy to swap any of them for Arraez? Really?

    • Orange WHIPs says:

      As a Twins fan I would move him for … all of them, personally, and be very excited to do so.

      • Travis Sherer says:

        I get that and would agree with you in general. But that isn’t what this list is about. It’s about players who are ready for the majors today, not overall future value. Just how well their skills (or in some cases, just one skill) will translate to the major league game.

  3. M says:

    FYI, Hiura (22) is listed 12th U24 but missing from U23 entirely.

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