Every MLB Team’s Most Promising Young Star Building Block

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Each MLB roster has at least one player who can be identified as an integral piece of the club’s long-term plans.

    Whether you want to call them cornerstones or franchise building blocks, these are the players that teams have penciled into their spot on the roster for the foreseeable future.

    So let’s identify these players, shall we?

    As we sought out each team’s most promising young building block, the following criteria helped narrow the search.

  • 27 or younger: Since we’re talking about “young” players, the first step was to establish an age range. We went with everyone 27 or younger on Opening Day (March 28) of this year.
  • 3 years of control: If a player is going to be a building block, it stands to reason that he needs to be under team control for at least a few years, so only players with at least three remaining years of control were considered.
  • MLB experience: Tempting as it was to call Eloy Jimenez (CWS), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR) the building block for their respective teams, let’s wait until they make their MLB debuts before we anoint them as franchise cornerstones.

Simple enough, right?

Let’s get started.

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 100 OPS+, .260/.332/.437, 52 XBH (14 HR), 59 RBI, 68 R, 3.3 WAR

    Contract Situation: Signed through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    The Diamondbacks saw enough in Ketel Marte to give him a five-year, $24 million extension last March. On the heels of that extension, he racked up 52 extra-base hits—including an MLB-high 12 triples—while tallying seven DRS at second base.

    There have been some rumblings this offseason that Marte might move to center field following the departure of A.J. Pollock in free agency. If he can effectively man that position, it would further increase his long-term value.

    As the D-backs enter a retooling period, he’s a safe bet to be an integral part of the next contending team in Arizona.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    Archie Bradley (26)

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Age: 21

    2018 Stats: 144 OPS+, .293/.366/.552, 56 XBH (26 HR), 64 RBI, 78 R, 16 SB, 4.1 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    After a brief trip to the minors to start the season, Ronald Acuna Jr. quickly lived up to his billing as baseball’s top prospect after making his MLB debut on April 25.

    As good as his overall numbers are, he took his game to another level after the All-Star break, hitting .322/.403/.625 with 19 home runs, 45 RBI and 14 steals in 68 games.

    A full season at that level of production is not out of the question, and a run at NL MVP honors could be right around the corner. The future is incredibly bright in Atlanta, and Acuna is at the center of it all.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    2B Ozzie Albies (22), 3B Johan Camargo (25), SP Mike Foltynewicz (27), SS Dansby Swanson (24)

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 76 ERA+, 8-16, 5.45 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 54 BB, 184 K, 171.2 IP, 0.1 WAR

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2021

          

    Player Outlook

    There’s a very real chance that no one on the 2019 Opening Day roster for the Baltimore Orioles will be a member of the team’s next contender.

    Starter Dylan Bundy has the requisite three years of remaining control, and he’s entering his age-26 season, so he fits the mold of player we’re highlighting, but he could be gone long before the O’s emerge from the AL East cellar.

    While his 2018 numbers were ugly, if he can do a better job keeping the ball in the yard (41 HR, 2.1 HR/9), he has the stuff to be a useful MLB starter. His 4.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 169.2 innings in 2017 earned him the Opening Day nod last season.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    None

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2018 Stats: 123 OPS+, .290/.366/.465, 63 XBH (16 HR), 87 RBI, 103 R, 21 SB, 3.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Mookie Betts is still just 26 years old, but he’s now two years away from free agency, so he didn’t meet the requirements for inclusion.

    That made Andrew Benintendi an easy choice after he followed up a quietly excellent rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign.

    He should be a threat for a .300 average with 20 home runs and 20 steals for the foreseeable future. He also provides value in left field (4 DRS, 5.8 UZR/150) with the range to shift over to center field in a pinch.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    3B Rafael Devers (22)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 126 OPS+, .290/.326/.554, 83 XBH (34 HR), 111 RBI, 101 R, 6.3

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2021

          

    Player Outlook

    Tough choice here between Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.

    Bryant is probably the better all-around player—provided he’s healthy—but at this point, Baez is more important to the team’s success both because of his statistical production and the intangible spark he provides.

    Baez is always going to strike out, and we might have seen the peak of his on-base abilities this past season when he posted a .326 OBP. That said, he’s trimmed his strikeout rate to a respectable 25.9 percent, and asking him to change his aggressive approach would be a mistake.

    With Addison Russell’s future with the team in question, Baez might shift over to shortstop full-time in 2019. Regardless which side of the second base bag he lines up on, he’s one of the game’s most dynamic defensive talents.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    Kris Bryant (27), Willson Contreras (26)

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 107 ERA+, 7-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 75 BB, 151 K, 188.2 IP

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Lucas Giolito was the bigger name in the return package from the trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, but it’s Reynaldo Lopez who has enjoyed more early success.

    His 2018 season was a bit of a roller coaster, bookended by brilliant months of April (30.1 IP, 1.78 ERA) and September (33.0 IP, 1.09 ERA). He also had an identical 3.91 ERA before and after the All-Star break.

    If he can find more consistency, he’ll have a head start on establishing himself as the ace of the staff before top prospects Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease crash the party.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SS Tim Anderson (25), SP Lucas Giolito (24), 2B Yoan Moncada (23), SP Carlos Rodon (26)

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    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2018 Stats: 135 OPS+, .283/.366/.526, 58 XBH (34 HR), 104 RBI, 79 R, 4.2 WAR

    Contract Situation: Signed through 2025

          

    Player Outlook

    The Reds locked up Eugenio Suarez with a seven-year, $66 million extension last March. He rewarded them with a career year that established him as one of the game’s top-tier third basemen.

    His hard-contact rate spiked from 33.8 to 48.6 percent last season, good for the third-highest mark among qualified hitters. That lends some credence to the idea that the step forward he took last season is a sustainable one.

    If he can keep producing at that clip, his extension will be one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Luis Castillo (26), SS Jose Peraza (24), OF Jesse Winker (25)

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 131 OPS+, .277/.352/.519, 82 XBH (38 HR), 92 RBI, 129 R, 25 SB, 7.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2021

          

    Player Outlook

    Jose Ramirez would be the pick for almost any other team after finishing third in AL MVP voting in back-to-back seasons.

    Unfortunately, he’s playing alongside Francisco Lindor.

    The Indians superstar shortstop posted a career-high 7.9 WAR in 2018, slugging 38 home runs to lead all shortstops while also improving his walk rate (8.3 to 9.4 percent) and playing his usual stellar defense (14 DRS, 13.4 UZR/150). 

    He’s the best two-way player in the game.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    3B Jose Ramirez (26)

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2018 Stats: 124 ERA+, 14-11, 3.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 57 BB, 230 K, 196.0 IP, 4.7 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Kyle Freeland might seem like the obvious pick here, especially if it’s going to be a pitcher instead of slugging shortstop Trevor Story.

    However, Freeland’s peripheral numbers don’t compare to rotation mate German Marquez once you get past the ERA difference.

Freeland had the better season in 2018, but Marquez is a safe bet to outperform him going forward. He’s also two years younger.

        

Honorable Mentions

OF David Dahl (24), SP Kyle Freeland (25), SS Trevor Story (26)

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 93 ERA+, 3-12, 4.69 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 46 BB, 110 K, 132.1 IP, 0.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Left-hander Matthew Boyd will turn 28 on Feb. 2, so he just missed meeting the requirements for inclusion. Otherwise, he would have been the choice after posting a 4.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 170.1 innings.

    Instead, it’s 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.

    The 25-year-old has yet to duplicate the performance that earned him that hardware, and he’s had a hard time staying healthy the past two years. An elbow injury ended his 2017 season early, and a strained oblique robbed him of more than a month last summer.

    A low strikeout rate has always been viewed as a limiting factor, but if he can stay healthy, there’s still a long-term place for him in the rotation.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    3B Jeimer Candelario (25)

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2018 Stats: 156 OPS+, .286/.394/.532, 83 XBH (31 HR), 103 RBI, 105 R, 6.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Third baseman Alex Bregman has overtaken shortstop Carlos Correa as the most promising young star on a stacked Houston Astros roster.

    The No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft made his MLB debut a year later, and after an up-and-down first full season, he exploded for a .926 OPS while leading the AL in doubles (51) and ranking in the top five in RBI (103) and runs scored (105). He also showed a more patient approach, raising his walk rate from 8.8 to 13.6 percent.

    Defensive metrics still don’t love him as a third baseman, but he passes the eye test with plenty of gems on the highlight reel.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SS Carlos Correa (24)

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2018 Stats: 116 OPS+, .276/.306/.498, 30 XBH (14 HR), 37 RBI, 47 RBI, 32 SB, 3.2 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Late bloomer Whit Merrifield will turn 30 on Jan. 24, so despite his remaining club control through 2022 and the team’s unwillingness to trade him, he doesn’t qualify as a “young” star.

    That leaves the honor for Adalberto Mondesi, who shed the light-hitting label last season with 13 doubles and 14 home runs in 291 plate appearances.

    Even if his power surge proves to be an aberration, his speed (32-for-39 SB) and shortstop defense (3 DRS, 10.1 UZR/150) will make him one of the centerpieces of the Kansas City rebuild.

    Shoutout to Rule 5 standout Brad Keller, who posted a 3.08 ERA in 140.1 innings for 3.5 WAR.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Jakob Junis (26), SP Brad Keller (23)

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2018 DH Stats: 152 OPS+, .285/.361/.564, 45 XBH (22 HR), 61 RBI, 59 R, 10 SB, 2.7 WAR

    2018 SP Stats: 126 ERA+, 4-2, 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 22 BB, 63 K, 51.2 IP, 1.2 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Mike Trout is two years from free agency, and the Angels might be two years from relying heavily on a solid collection of young talent that is rapidly rising the minor league ranks.

    Until they arrive, the one clear long-term building block is two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.

    The reigning AL Rookie of the Year won’t be back on the mound any time soon as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but he proved more than capable of making an impact in the DH role alone. How his career progresses on both sides of the ball remains one of the most compelling stories in baseball.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Jaime Barria (22), SP Andrew Heaney (27)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2018 Stats: 148 ERA+, 8-5, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 37 BB, 151 K, 137.1 IP, 3.4 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger are two of the best young players in the game, and all signs point to them both being cornerstone pieces for the Dodgers.

    On the other hand, Walker Buehler might already be one of the 25 or so best starting pitchers in all of baseball, and he has yet to reach 150 innings at the MLB level.

    The Dodgers took a chance on him with the No. 24 pick in the 2015 draft knowing he was headed for Tommy John surgery. The faith and patience netted them a pitcher who looks destined to unseat Clayton Kershaw as the staff ace.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    1B/CF Cody Bellinger (23), SS Corey Seager (24)

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 115 OPS+, .273/.357/.400, 49 XBH (11 HR), 65 RBI, 87 R, 3.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Between an offseason fire sale and a 98-loss showing, there was not much for Marlins fans to be excited about over the past year. That said, the emergence of Brian Anderson was one of the few bright spots.

    While he was never a leaguewide top-100 prospect or even the top prospect in his own system, according to Baseball America, Anderson was one of the most productive rookies in baseball in 2018.

    He’s the classic example of a player who does nothing great and everything well, and his ability to play both third base and right field provides valuable versatility as the Marlins shape their roster in the years to come.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Trevor Richards (25), SP Jose Urena (27)

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    Associated Press

    Age: 27

    2018 Stats: 164 OPS+, .326/.402/.598, 77 XBH (36 HR), 110 RBI, 118 R, 22 SB, 7.6 WAR

    Contract Situation: Signed through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Christian Yelich won NL MVP honors and led the Brewers to the NL Central crown in his first season with the team. Even if he had just been a one-year rental, the move to acquire him from the Marlins would have gone down as one of the best in franchise history.

    Instead, he’s signed for the next four years for the team-friendly price of $51.3 million, which gives it a chance to go down as one of the best trades in MLB history.

    Some level of regression from his 2018 numbers is likelyespecially when you consider his .373 BABIP—but Yelich is an elite offensive player. The move to Miller Park has unlocked his power potential, and another MVP-caliber season is well within reach.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    RP Corbin Burnes (24), RP Josh Hader (24), RP Corey Knebel (27), SP/RP Brandon Woodruff (25)

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2018 Stats: 114 ERA+, 12-11, 3.84 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 61 BB, 202 K, 192.1 IP, 3.9 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    For all the hype surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, it’s Eddie Rosario who has emerged as the Twins’ best homegrown position player. Over the past two seasons, he’s posted a 117 OPS+ while averaging 32 doubles, 26 home runs, 78 RBI, 83 runs and 2.7 WAR.

    That said, there’s little question Jose Berrios is the team’s most important long-term building block. A potential ace of the staff trumps an above-average left fielder and two supremely talented players who have yet to show any semblance of consistency at the MLB level.

    After earning a spot on the All-Star team with a terrific first half, his command faltered and his walk rate jumped from 2.0 to 4.4 BB/9 after the break. Still, his electric stuff and minor league track record point to a future ace.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    OF Max Kepler (25), SS Jorge Polanco (25), Eddie Rosario (27), Miguel Sano (25)

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    Adam Hunger/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 121 ERA+, 13-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 39 BB, 155 K, 154.1 IP, 4.0 WAR

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2021

          

    Player Outlook

    Despite the fact that the Mets were entertaining trade offers for him this winter, Noah Syndergaard remains with the team and thus remains the obvious choice for this exercise.

    The towering 6’6″ right-hander has arguably the best pure stuff in baseball, and while he’s dealt with some injuries, the results when he has been healthy speak for themselves.

    Over four big league seasons, he’s gone 37-22 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.9 K/9 in 518.1 innings. His 2.66 FIP speaks to the legitimacy of those numbers, and a Cy Young-caliber performance is very possible if he can stay off the disabled list.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    OF Michael Conforto (25), RP Edwin Diaz (24), OF Brandon Nimmo (25)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 145 OPS+, .278/.392/.528, 49 XBH (27 HR), 67 RBI, 77 R, 5.5 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Gleyber Torres could have a strong case for this spot next season, especially if he takes on a bigger role in the offense after hitting primarily toward the bottom of the batting order.

    For now, slugger Aaron Judge is still the obvious choice, even after an injury-marred campaign.

    A fractured wrist cost the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up 45 games from the end of July to the middle of September, and he had a middling .675 OPS with just one home run in 51 plate appearances upon returning.

    That 50-homer power is still there, though, and his excellent plate discipline (15.3 BB%) and standout defense in right field (14 DRS, 14.2 UZR/150) make him far more than a one-dimensional slugger.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    3B Miguel Andujar (23), RP Chad Green (27), SP Luis Severino (24), 2B/SS Gleyber Torres (22)

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 136 OPS+, .278/.356/.508, 72 XBH (24 HR), 68 RBI, 100 R, 8.2 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Anything Matt Chapman did with the bat in 2018 was icing on the cake. Because from his defensive post at third base, he led the majors with 29 DRS and made one highlight-reel play after another.

    Turns out, he was also pretty good offensively, posting a 136 OPS+ that tied him for 14th among all qualified hitters.

    The 25-year-old has a 36-homer season to his credit in the upper levels of the minors in 2016, so there might still be some over-the-fence production to come. As it stands, he’s already one of the best two-way players in baseball.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Sean Manaea (26), 1B Matt Olson (24)

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 175 ERA+, 17-6, 2.37 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 58 BB, 224 K, 212.1 IP, 10.5 WAR

    Contract Situation: Arbitration-eligible, under control through 2021

          

    Player Outlook

    Let’s try to put Aaron Nola’s 10.5 WAR season into perspective.

    Not only was that higher than any pitcher in baseball last season, including NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom (9.6), it ranks as one of the 20 most valuable pitching seasons of the past 100 years.

    The Phillies have found their ace, and regardless of how they allocate their funds in the years to come, they know they’ll have one of the game’s best perched atop the rotation through at least the 2021 season.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    C Jorge Alfaro (25), SP Zach Eflin (24), 1B Rhys Hoskins (25), SP Nick Pivetta (25)

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2018 Stats: 121 ERA+, 14-10, 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 46 BB, 179 K, 191.0 IP, 4.7 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Like any small-market team, the Pirates rely heavily on homegrown talent to field a competitive roster. They can’t afford to whiff on early picks, and Jameson Taillon has lived up to going No. 2 overall in the 2010 draft.

    It took him a little longer than expected to reach the majors as a result of some injury issues, but he turned in a breakout season at the age of 26 while stepping into the role of staff ace in place of the departed Gerrit Cole.

    Trimming his walk rate from 3.1 to 2.2 BB/9 helped him take the next step, as did the addition of a slider to his already-impressive repertoire. There’s still time for him to take another step forward, and he’s already really good.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    1B Josh Bell (26), OF Gregory Polanco (27), RP Felipe Vazquez (27), SP Trevor Williams (26)

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2018 Stats: 130 OPS+, .280/.340/.498, 25 XBH (16 HR), 31 RBI, 36 R, 1.6 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    This was a tricky one.

    The Padres have the best farm system in baseball, which is headlined by Fernando Tatis Jr., who might as well have “franchise player” stamped on his forehead. We’re not including players who have yet to make their MLB debut, though, so none of that mattered.

    Catcher Francisco Mejia and infielder Luis Urias technically qualified, but they haven’t shown much at the MLB level yet. So we’re left with the likes of Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Joey Lucchesi and Dinelson Lamet.

    Reyes had the best statistical season of the bunch in 2018, and there are no glaring red flags in his peripherals, so he looks like the best bet to establish himself as a building block.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Joey Lucchesi (25), OF Hunter Renfroe (26)

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 138 ERA+, 6-4, 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 36 BB, 89 K, 118.1 IP, 2.4 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    The Giants found a true diamond in the rough when they signed Dereck Rodriguez as a minor league free agent last offseason.

    The son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, he pitched his way into the San Francisco rotation when injury struck and never looked back on his way to a 2.81 ERA in 118.1 innings.

    A 3.74 FIP and unsustainable .257 BABIP say he’s probably not as good as his 2018 bottom line. Still, it looks like the Giants found a long-term rotation piece on the scrap pile.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    SP Andrew Suarez (26)

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    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 102 ERA+, 13-9, 4.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 32 BB, 145 K, 166.2 IP, 2.5 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    Mitch Haniger turned 28 on Dec. 23, or he would be the slam dunk choice for Seattle.

    Guys like Haniger, guys like Marco Gonzales, guys like Edwin Diaz—these are the pieces that you’re trying to build around, not the pieces that you’re trying to send away,” general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters in early November. “We want to be conscious of the fact that we’ve built up what we think is that next sustainable young core, and build toward it.”

    Of course, Diaz has since been traded to the Mets, but it’s still telling that Gonzales was included in that conversation alongside a pair of All-Stars. 

    The M’s also gave the left-hander a two-year, $1.9 million deal during the offseason despite the fact that he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2021, which also speaks volumes.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    C Omar Narvaez (26), OF Mallex Smith (25)

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2018 Stats: 116 ERA+, 8-9, 3.34 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 59 BB, 182 K, 151.0 IP, 2.6 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2023

          

    Player Outlook

    A case can be made for the slick-fielding Harrison Bader here. A case can also be made for Carlos Martinez or Paul DeJong, who have both already signed on the dotted line of long-term deals that will keep them in St. Louis for the foreseeable future.

    However, the biggest X-factor in the Cardinals success going forward might be the continued development of Jack Flaherty, who was the team’s best starter for a good chunk of last season as a rookie.

    With a strong 6’4″ frame, an advanced four-pitch mix and the swing-and-miss stuff to punch out 182 batters in 151 innings, he has all the tools to be an ace.

          

    Honorable Mentions

    OF Harrison Bader (24), SS Paul DeJong (25), RP Jordan Hicks (22), SP Carlos Martinez (27)

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2018 Stats: 219 ERA+, 21-5, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 64 BB, 221 K, 180.2 IP, 7.5 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    Let’s put Blake Snell’s 1.89 ERA into perspective.

    Joe Trezza of MLB.com wrote: “Snell’s 1.89 ERA marked the fifth-lowest single-season mark for a left-hander since the mound was lowered in 1969, and it is third-lowest by an AL starter since the designated hitter was implemented in 1973. It was the lowest mark by a qualified AL starter since Pedro Martinez pitched to a 1.74 ERA in 2000.”

    He became the second pitcher in Rays history to win Cy Young honors, joining David Price, and on a Tampa Bay pitching staff with a lot of moving parts, he was the one constant.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SS Willy Adames (23), SP Tyler Glasnow (25), OF Austin Meadows (23)

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    Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2018 Stats: 311 ERA+, 12/16 SV, 15 HLD, 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 2.5 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2022

          

    Player Outlook

    The closest thing the Rangers have to a long-term building block is also their most valuable trade chip.

    Jose Leclerc might not be a household name, but he was one of the most overpowering relievers in baseball last season. A 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13.3 K/9 and .126 opponents’ batting average tells the story.

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a filthy splitter, he held his own in hitter friendly Arlington (34 G, 2.48 ERA, 12.7 K/9) and was virtually untouchable on the road (25 G, 0.36 ERA, 14.0 K/9).

    Free-swinging slugger Joey Gallo, former top prospect Nomar Mazara and second baseman Rougned Odor are all young and productive. None really fits the mold of a franchise cornerstone, though.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    OF Joey Gallo (25), OF Nomar Mazara (23), 2B Rougned Odor (24)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2018 Stats: 109 ERA+, 4-6, 3.87 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 33 BB, 67 K, 97.2 IP, 1.7 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    This is another case where the writing is on the wall.

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be the guy we’re writing about in this spot next year and for several years to come as he gears up to take the league by storm.

    For now, the best the Blue Jays have to offer as far as a long-term piece at the MLB level is concerned is left-hander Ryan Borucki.

    There’s nothing wrong with Borucki, who backed his surface-level stats with a 3.80 FIP that lends some legitimacy to his strong rookie performance. He’s just not what we would typically call a franchise building block.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SS Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (25)

30 of 30

    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    Age: 20

    2018 Stats: 142 OPS+, .292/.406/.517, 48 XBH (22 HR), 70 RBI, 77 R, 3.0 WAR

    Contract Situation: Pre-arbitration, under control through 2024

          

    Player Outlook

    Juan Soto didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere last season. He just came about two to three years sooner than expected.

    He had played just 29 games above rookie ball when the 2018 season began. After brief stops at Single-A, High-A and Double-A where he hit a combined .362/.462/.757 with 28 extra-base hits in 39 games, he was promoted to the majors on May 20 at the age of 19.

    And he just kept hitting, and hitting, and hitting. Blessed with plate discipline that belies his age and an advanced ability to tap into his raw power, he may just be scratching the surface of what’s to come offensively.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    SS Trea Turner (25)

        

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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