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Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Major League Baseball is flooded with exciting young talent right now.
Ronald Acuna Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. were four of the biggest names in the sport entering the 2022 season, and all of them were still shy of their 25th birthday.
That foursome has been joined by rookie standouts Julio Rodriguez and Jeremy Pena this season, along with a number of other young players on the rise. We ranked the 25 best players under 25 years old back in February, and it’s time for an update now that we’ve reached the midway point of the 2022 season.
While previous MLB production was a factor and played a role in propping up guys like Bo Bichette, Wander Franco and Luis Robert in this update, the biggest factor was 2022 production, which is why all three of those guys are now slotted just outside the top 10. Future potential and long-term expectations were not a factor in these rankings.
The age cutoff for inclusion is the date this article published (July 7), and only players with MLB
experience were considered for a spot.
Let’s start with a look back at the full February list and some honorable mentions.
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Yordan Alvarez (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Before we get started, here’s a look at the preseason list of the 25 best players under the age of 25. Players listed in bold have turned 25 since Opening Day and were no longer eligible for the updated list.
1. Juan Soto, WAS
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR
3. Fernando Tatis Jr., SD
4. Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
5. Bo Bichette, TOR
6. Austin Riley, ATL
7. Luis Robert, CWS
8. Wander Franco, TB
9. Yordan Alvarez, HOU
10. Trevor Rogers, MIA
11. Ian Anderson, ATL
12. Alek Manoah, TOR
13. Emmanuel Clase, CLE
14. Dylan Carlson, STL
15. Casey Mize, DET
16. Luis Arraez, MIN
17. Luis Urias, MIL
18. Shane McClanahan, TB
19. Jazz Chisholm Jr., MIA
20. Shane Baz, TB
21. Triston McKenzie, CLE
22. Camilo Doval, SF
23. Jesus Sanchez, MIA
24. Huascar Ynoa, ATL
25. Garrett Crochet, CWS
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Fernando Tatis Jr. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (Age: 23)
Since these rankings are meant to highlight the 25 best players under 25 right now and Tatis has been sidelined for the entire 2022 season thus far, he was not included in the rankings this time around. Coming off a 42-homer, 25-steal, 6.6-WAR season last year, he’ll still fit comfortably inside the top five once he’s back in action.
OF Dylan Carlson (STL), SS Oneil Cruz (PIT), 3B Ezequiel Duran (TEX), SS Luis Garcia (WAS), OF Oscar Gonzalez (CLE), OF Riley Greene (DET), OF Steven Kwan (CLE), SS Royce Lewis (MIN), C MJ Melendez (KC), C Keibert Ruiz (WAS), C Adley Rutschman (BAL), OF Jack Suwinski (PIT), OF Alek Thomas (ARI), OF Andrew Vaughn (CWS), DH Juan Yepez (STL)
RHP Ian Anderson (ATL), LHP Aaron Ashby (MIL), RHP Graham Ashcraft (CIN), RHP Beau Brieske (DET), RHP Edward Cabrera (MIA), RHP Roansy Contreras (PIT), LHP Reid Detmers (LAA), RHP Rony Garcia (DET), RHP Brusdar Graterol (LAD), RHP Josiah Gray (WAS), RHP Hunter Greene (CIN), RHP George Kirby (SEA), LHP Jesus Luzardo (MIA), RHP Andres Munoz (SEA), RHP Andre Pallante (STL), LHP Trevor Rogers (MIA)
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Christopher Morel (Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
25. SS/3B Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals (Age: 22)
The No. 1 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2022 season, Witt broke camp with a starting job. After a slow start at the plate, he has slowly settled in as a big leaguer. He’s hitting .236/.286/.444 for a 104 OPS+ with 16 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 12 steals in 322 plate appearances, and he has a .787 OPS since May 1.
24. OF Christopher Morel, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23)
The most promising young player on a Cubs roster in transition, Morel is hitting .271/.340/.481 with 10 doubles, eight home runs and 31 runs scored in 45 games hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot. He has seen regular action in center field and at second base, and his 127 OPS+ ranks fourth on the Cubs roster.
23. RHP Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24)
Armed with a fastball that averages 100.6 mph and a lethal curveball/splitter combination, Duran has quickly developed into one of the most overpowering relievers in baseball. The 6’5″ right-hander has a 2.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 12.0 K/9 with five saves and nine holds in 28 appearances.
22. LHP MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres (Age: 23)
Gore was the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner before a couple of ugly starts against the Colorado Rockies on June 11 (2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 6 ER) and June 17 (4.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 8 ER), but he has rebounded with just one earned run allowed in 10.2 innings his past two starts. All told, he has a 3.18 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 65 innings, and he could finish the season much higher on this list.
21. 2B Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 24)
The favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year entering the 2020 season, Lux has taken some time to find his footing in the majors, but he is proving worth the wait in 2022. Settling in as the starting second baseman, he’s hitting .290/.359/.394 for a 110 OPS+ in 259 plate appearances, and that performance has helped ease the loss of Corey Seager.
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Nolan Gorman (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
20. RHP Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Guardians (Age: 24)
McKenzie has been one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball this season with a .203 opponents’ batting average that ranks eighth among all qualified starters. The trouble is when he does get hit, he’s been susceptible to the long ball with 16 home runs allowed in 87.1 innings. That said, he still has a 3.71 ERA and 0.99 WHIP through 14 starts.
19. C/DH William Contreras, Atlanta Braves (Age: 24)
With nine doubles and 10 home runs in 152 plate appearances, Contreras has provided a major offensive spark for the Braves this season. Splitting his time between catcher (26 games) and DH (13 games), his 143 OPS+ is tied for 22nd in the majors among players with at least 150 plate appearances.
18. 2B Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 22)
Gorman posted a 1.044 OPS with 15 home runs in 34 games at Triple-A Memphis before making his MLB debut on May 20, and he has quickly settled in as the starting second baseman after Tommy Edman shifted to shortstop. The slugger has a 124 OPS+ with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 40 games, and he should be a perennial 30-homer threat going forward.
17. RHP Shane Baz, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 23)
Sidelined to start the season following arthroscopic elbow surgery, Baz returned to the mound on June 11 and is quickly making up for lost time. In eight total starts since making his MLB debut on Sept. 20 last year, Baz has gone 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 38 innings.
16. OF Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves (Age: 21)
The youngest player in the big leagues so far this season, Harris is hitting .300/.336/.500 with 14 extra-base hits, six steals and 1.2 WAR in 36 games since taking over as Atlanta’s starting center fielder. With only five walks in 137 plate appearances, he has some work to do refining his approach, but his early production has far exceeded expectations for a player his age.
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Spencer Strider (John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
15. IF Isaac Paredes, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 23)
The Rays’ decision to flip Austin Meadows for a minor leaguer just before
Opening Day raised more than a few eyebrows, but now that minor leaguer
is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Paredes has a 160 OPS+ with 13 home runs and 1.8 WAR in 147 plate appearances, and he’s doing it while playing all over the infield in a super-utility role.
14. RHP Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves (Age: 23)
With a fastball that averages 98.3 mph and a wipeout slider, Strider was an instant success pitching out of the bullpen. He had a 2.22 ERA and 13.7 K/9 in 11 appearances before moving into the rotation, and he hasn’t missed a beat in his expanded role. Through seven starts, he has a 3.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, and last time out he allowed just one hit while striking out 11 in six innings against the Cincinnati Reds.
13. SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 24)
Since a brutal month of April, Bichette is hitting .273/.322/.466 with 18 doubles, 10 home runs and 35 RBI in his past 59 games. He hit .298/.343/.484 with 30 doubles, 29 home runs, 102 RBI, 121 runs scored and an AL-leading 191 hits last season when he finished 12th in AL MVP voting.
12. OF Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox (Age: 24)
With a 154 OPS+, 36 extra-base hits and 3.6 WAR in 68 games during an injury-plagued 2021 season, Robert seemed poised for an MVP-caliber season with a clean bill of health. Instead, he’s fallen a bit short of expectations, just like the White Sox as a whole. However, he still has a 106 OPS+ and 1.5 WAR in 64 games, and those loud tools haven’t gone anywhere.
11. SS Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 21)
After a terrific first month, Franco slumped badly in May and then missed significant time with a quad injury in June. He is currently working on an eight-game hitting streak, and despite his slump, he still has a 109 OPS+ and 1.6 WAR in 55 games. The same people who called Vladimir Guerrero Jr. a bust when he wasn’t instantly an MVP candidate might be pushing the panic button, but he’s going to be just fine.
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Andres Gimenez (Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
It’s hard to believe Andres Gimenez is still only 23 years old.
He spent years as a top prospect in the New York Mets farm system and finished seventh in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2020 before he was traded to the Cleveland Guardians in the Francisco Lindor blockbuster.
After struggling to a .218 average and 74 OPS+ in 210 plate appearances last season, his hold on the starting second base job was tenuous at best, but he’s been a revelation this season.
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Jazz Chisholm Jr. (Eric Espada/Getty Images)
With an 18-homer, 23-steal rookie season, Jazz Chisholm Jr. showcased his exciting mix of power and speed, but there was also plenty of room to improve on a .303 on-base percentage and a 28.6 percent strikeout rate.
After tallying 2.4 WAR in 124 games last year, he has already matched that total through just 60 games this season thanks in large part to an improved approach at the plate.
A spike in his walk rate from 6.7 to 8.7 percent has helped boost his on-base percentage to a more palatable .325, and he already has 14 home runs en route to a 138 OPS+ through his first 241 plate appearances.
The 24-year-old is quickly becoming the face of the franchise in Miami alongside Sandy Alcantara.
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Emmanuel Clase (Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Cleveland Guardians acquired Emmanuel Clase in the deal that sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers prior to the 2020 season, and he has quickly developed into one of the best late-inning relievers in baseball.
With a high-octane cutter and a hard-biting slider, he nailed down 24 of 29 save chances with a 1.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 71 appearances last season to finish fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
He has been even better this year, averaging 99.8 mph with his cutter en route to converting 19 of 21 save chances with a 1.31 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and a 37-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.1 innings.
The Guardians gave him a five-year, $20 million extension in April.
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Alejandro Kirk (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
A 60-grade hit tool carried Alejandro Kirk to top-prospect status during his time in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system, and he logged a 105 OPS+ with 16 extra-base hits in 189 plate appearances as a rookie last season.
An early injury to Danny Jansen opened the door for him to see more regular time at the onset of the 2022 season, and he has taken full advantage of that opportunity.
With a .314/.403/.500 line that includes 12 doubles, 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 72 games, he has been one of the best offensive players in baseball.
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Alek Manoah (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
After a stellar junior season at West Virginia, burly right-hander Alek Manoah was the No. 11 pick in the 2019 draft and the second pitcher taken behind TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo at No. 7 to the Cincinnati Reds.
Manoah pitched just 35 innings in the minors before making his MLB debut on May 27, 2021, and he went 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 111.2 innings in 20 starts as a rookie last season.
While the Blue Jays rotation was expected to be a strength thanks to a full season of Jose Berrios and the offseason addition of Kevin Gausman, it’s Manoah who has been the ace this year.
The 6’6″, 285-pound right-hander has gone 9-3 with a 2.33 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 100.1 innings, putting him squarely in the AL Cy Young conversation.
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Jeremy Pena (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Houston Astros failed to add a replacement at shortstop during the offseason after Carlos Correa departed for the Minnesota Twins in free agency, instead turning things over to up-and-coming prospect Jeremy Pena.
That decision has worked out alright:
- Correa: 135 OPS+, .286/.360/.453, 21 XBH (9 HR), 29 RBI, 1.9 WAR
- Pena: 128 OPS+, .276/.327/.482, 22 XBH (12 HR), 31 RBI, 3.3 WAR
Aside from his terrific offensive numbers, Pena has also been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. His 9 DRS are tied with Andrew Velazquez (LAA) and Jorge Mateo (BAL) for most among all shortstops.
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Julio Rodriguez (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
It’s difficult to believe now that Julio Rodriguez hit just .206/.284/.260 with 30 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances during his first month in the big leagues in April.
Since May 1, the rookie phenom is hitting .300/.353/.557 with 12 doubles, 15 home runs and 12 steals in 62 games, and he has put himself in position to earn an All-Star nod and push Jeremy Pena for AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Even with his slow start, Rodriguez is hitting .277/.336/.487 for a 138 OPS+ with 16 doubles, 15 home runs, 43 RBI, 48 runs scored and an AL-leading 21 steals in 25 attempts.
His 3.5 WAR is tied for ninth among all position players this season, and he could make a serious run at the No. 1 spot on this list by season’s end.
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Ronald Acuna Jr. (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Despite missing the first 19 games of the season while he continued to recover from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his season in 2021, Ronald Acuna Jr. was still the leading vote-getter for the National League in Phase 1 of All-Star voting.
In 48 games, he’s hitting .285/.382/.446 for a 127 OPS+ with nine doubles, seven home runs and 17 steals.
The 24-year-old entered the 2021 season with 14.9 WAR already under his belt, including a 41-homer, 37-steal season in his only full campaign in the big leagues back in 2019, following his NL Rookie of the Year win in 111 games in 2018.
Others on this list have better overall numbers this season, but Acuna stacks up to any under-25 player in baseball in terms of ability and career production.
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. debuted shortly after his 20th birthday in 2019, and he posted a modest 109 OPS+ in 183 games during his first two seasons in the big leagues.
Despite posting above-average production at an age when most players are still climbing the ladder in the minors, some impatient fans were quick to label Guerrero as a bust relative to the lofty expectations he generated.
Those doubters were silenced last season when he hit .311/.401/.601 for a 167 OPS+ with 29 doubles, 48 home runs and 111 RBI in a 6.8-WAR season to finish runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting.
The young slugger has continued to impress this season with a 137 OPS+ that includes 13 doubles, 19 home runs and 53 RBI in 81 games.
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Juan Soto (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Despite a lackluster .226 batting average this season, Juan Soto still ranks 19th among all qualified hitters with a 141 OPS+, a mark that trails only Alejandro Kirk among players on this list.
That’s thanks in large part to his MLB-leading 68 walks and a .384 on-base percentage that ranks 12th in the majors.
Soto already has a pair of top-five finishes in NL MVP voting, a World Series ring and an NL batting title on his resume.
The Washington Nationals will continue to try to come to terms on an extension with their homegrown star before he reaches free agency following the 2024 season, and he remains open to a potential long-term deal, according to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post.