ESPN’s Keith Law compiled a list of the top young talent in the game Thursday — The Top 50 major leaguers under 25 — and it was notable with regard to the Nationals for a number of reasons.
First, let’s clarify that the list pertains only to players who’ve lost their Rookie of the Year eligibility but were born on or after July 1, 1986 (meaning Bryce Harper is automatically excluded). But there were still three Nationals who made the cut — and one who was ranked conspicuously low.
Stephen Strasburg, No. 8, Wilson Ramos, No. 27, and Danny Espinosa, No. 44, all made Law’s list but eighth on a list of the “best” anything is pretty low for Strasburg. That’s a fact Law acknowledges.
Here’s his reasoning for slotting the Nationals ace below Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Clayton Kershaw, Starlin Castro and Eric Hosmer:
“He has three plus pitches and one of the fastest-accelerating arms I have ever seen. In his brief time back in the majors in September, he looked like his stuff was all the way back, but it could be a year or more until his command returns to where it was before his elbow gave out, and the Nationals will likely hold down his workload for at least 2012.
“If we knew he’d stay healthy, he’d be closer to the top of the list, but pitchers who experience the kind of sudden velocity spike Strasburg did after high school don’t have great track records of extended health. Let’s hope Strasburg, whose arm works well and has a reputation for working hard on maintaining his conditioning, is the exception.”
It’s also interesting that while both Ramos and Espinosa make the cut, Ramos is ranked well ahead of Espinosa. There’s no question that both of the Nationals rookies carried high potential coming into the 2011 season but while Espinosa garnered a lot of the early press the praise for Ramos has come on late. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting while Espinosa placed sixth. Regardless, both are among the big reasons people around the game are so optimistic about the Nationals’ chances in the near future.
Here’s what Law had to say about Ramos:
“Ramos… had a great, largely unnoticed rookie season for the Nationals, helping on both sides of the ball. He’s a solid receiver with a strong arm and consistently high caught-stealing rates (43 percent across his minor-league career, 32 percent in the majors in 2011).
“At the plate, he was never a big power hitter in the minors, but has good loft in his swing and a very strong front side that helps him drive the ball effectively, so even his 2011 power breakout probably isn’t a ceiling. He may never post a high OBP, but a catcher who hits 20 homers with plus defense and an OBP in the .340 range is a borderline All-Star.”
And on Espinosa:
“Espinosa plays a plus second base… and has enough raw power to drive a mistake out of the park. He’s no OBP star himself, getting a boost from a league-high 19 HBP last year, and tends to hook the ball regardless of which side he’s hitting from. That kind of defense plus a spot of offense is still a league-average regular at second, and would look even better if he gets to his natural position at short.”
Heres the rest of Law’s Top 50 under 25 but since the ESPN article requires a subscription I won’t give the entire farm away for free — just names here. For Law’s analysis you’ll have to go to the original article.
Other quick observations on this list: The Atlanta Braves are extremely well represented with six players on the list while the Miami Marlins have two, but the Philadelphia Phillies don’t have a single player on the list and neither do the New York Mets — that sizes up the National League East pretty well.
1. RF Justin Upton - Arizona Diamondbacks
2. CF Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh Pirates
3. RF Mike Stanton - Miami Marlins
4. C Buster Posey - San Francisco Giants
5. LHP Clayton Kershaw - Los Angeles Dodgers
6. SS Starlin Castro - Chicago Cubs
7. 1B Eric Hosmer - Kansas City Royals
8. RHP Stephen Strasburg - Washington Nationals
9. LHP Madison Bumgarner - San Francisco Giants
10. 3B Brett Lawrie - Toronto Blue Jays
11. CF Mike Trout - Los Angeles Angels
12. RF Jason Heyward - Atlanta Braves
13. CF Cameron Maybin - San Diego Padres
14. 2B Dustin Ackley - Seattle Mariners
15. OF Desmond Jennings - Tampa Bay Rays
16. LF/1B Logan Morrison - Miami Marlins
17. LHP Brett Anderson - Oakland Athletics
18. C Alex Avila - Detroit Tigers
19. 3B Pablo Sandoval - San Francisco Giants
20. RHP Michael Pineda - Seattle Mariners
21. SS Elvis Andrus - Texas Rangers
22. RF Jay Bruce - Cincinnati Reds
23. RF Brandon Belt - San Francisco Giants
24. LHP Jaime Garcia - St. Louis Cardinals
25. RHP Mat Latos - San Diego Padres
26. RHP Neftali Feliz - Texas Rangers
27. C Wilson Ramos - Washington Nationals
28. RHP Trevor Cahill - Oakland Athletics
29. 1B Freddie Freeman - Atlanta Braves
30. LHP Derek Holland - Texas Rangers
31. LHP Zach Britton - Baltimore Orioles
32. CF Austin Jackson - Detroit Tigers
33. LHP Aroldis Chapman - Cincinnati Reds
34. RHP Daniel Hudson - Arizona Diamondbacks
35. 1B Justin Smoak - Seattle Mariners
36. LF Gerardo Parra - Arizona Diamondbacks
37. RHP Rick Porcello - Detroit Tigers
38. CF Peter Bourjos - Los Angeles Angels
39. RHP Jhoulys Chacin - Colorado Rockies
40. RHP Tommy Hanson - Atlanta Braves
41. C Hank Conger - Los Angeles Angels
42. RHP Jeremy Hellickson - Tampa Bay Rays
43. OF Colby Rasmus - Toronto Blue Jays
44. 2B Danny Espinosa - Washington Nationals
45. 2B Jemile Weeks - Oakland Athletics
46. RHP Ivan Nova - New York Yankees
47. RHP Brandon Beachy - Atlanta Braves
48. RHP Mike Leake - Cincinnati Reds
49. RHP Craig Kimbrel - Atlanta Braves
50. LHP Mike Minor - Atlanta Braves