Major League Baseball
MLB young core rankings, Nos. 10-1: Braves, Orioles built to win now and later
Major League Baseball

MLB young core rankings, Nos. 10-1: Braves, Orioles built to win now and later

Updated Mar. 27, 2024 10:22 p.m. ET

The FOX Sports MLB writing staff ranked all 30 organizations according to their top eight players under 28. This exercise focuses specifically on young talent expected to impact MLB rosters in 2024, 2025 and 2026, with a heavy emphasis placed on players who will be helping their teams this year. (Because age-27 players wouldn't qualify after this season, they'll be given less priority than players 26 and under.)

Our final installment covers teams 10-1 (with players listed from oldest to youngest).

MLB YOUNG CORE RANKINGS: Nos. 30-21 | Nos. 20-11

10. Texas Rangers


Josh Jung, 3B, 26
Ezequiel Duran, INF/OF, 25 
Leody Taveras, CF, 25 
Justin Foscue, 2B/3B, 25 
Kumar Rocker, RHP, 24 
Jack Leiter, RHP, 23 
Wyatt Langford, OF, 22 
Evan Carter, LF, 21

A few of the flashier, star-potential names in the Rangers' young core have pushed Texas into the top 10 of our rankings. Langford is expected to be electric in his upcoming rookie season, serving as the DH in a lineup that won the World Series last year. He ascended through the minor-league levels with lightning speed and excelled every step of the way, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster after just 44 games of pro ball. This is the perfect year to break Langford into an offense chock-full of veterans, so his learning curve won't be too detrimental. 

Texas is still waiting for other prospects, like Rocker and Leiter, to fully develop before promoting them to The Show. Once they do make that leap, they figure to be important pieces of the Rangers' young core. Still, it's interesting to note just how many players in their current core unit are over the age of 28. Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Adolis García, Jonah Heim and others are key Rangers who will carry most of the weight, but the franchise's future remains bright.

9. Toronto Blue Jays

Daulton Varsho, OF, 27
Alek Manoah, RHP, 26 
Bo Bichette, SS, 26 
Alejandro Kirk, C, 25 
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, 25 
Davis Schneider, INF/OF, 25 
Orelvis Martinez, INF, 22
Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, 21

The fact that core players like Guerrero, Bichette and Kirk still have many years remaining in the prime of their careers is a major boon to the immediate future of this Blue Jays organization and a huge reason their young core is ranked so high. Bichette had the third-highest wRC+ (125) among all shortstops last year. Kirk took a small step back last season but is only two years removed from his Silver Slugger campaign. 

The best part for Jays fans: Projection systems expect Guerrero to produce similar numbers in 2024 to that of his 2021 MVP caliber season. One thing to remember about Guerrero is he'll be a free agent after the 2025 season. This year figures to go a long way toward dictating how both sides feel about an extension and what it would look like. Either way, this group provides a solid foundation for Toronto to continue building its roster long-term. Top prospects Tiedemann and Martinez are expected to make an impact this year, so the Blue Jays will soon have a better idea of how the left-hander and infielder respectively fit into their future plans. The club can exercise more patience with their other exciting top prospect, shortstop Arjun Nimmala, whom it drafted in 2023 and possesses a ton of upside.   

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

Ryne Nelson, RHP, 26
Tommy Henry, LHP, 26 
Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, 25 
Geraldo Perdomo, INF, 24 
Gabriel Moreno, C, 24 
Alek Thomas, CF, 24 
Corbin Carroll, OF, 23 
Jordan Lawlar, SS, 21

The D-backs stunned the baseball world and won the NL pennant last year, and it was propelled by a youth movement. Carroll went 25/50 and his 133 wRC+ ranked 15th in all of MLB. Forget Rookie of the Year: He's a bona fide MVP candidate. Moreno is coming off a Gold Glove campaign in his first full season. Pfaadt has earned folk hero status after his dominance in the playoffs. Thomas showed some surprising pop last October and is projected to take a big step forward in year three. 

This team only improved in the offseason, adding the likes of Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodríguez, Eugenio Suárez, Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk to the mix. It was necessary to keep up in the wild NL West, but Arizona will again count on its young core to make another playoff push. Lawlar, the club's No. 1 prospect, looks ready to seize the opportunity of a larger role.

7. New York Yankees

Gleyber Torres, 2B, 27
Juan Soto, OF, 25 
Austin Wells, C, 24 
Oswald Peraza, INF, 24 
Spencer Jones, OF, 23 
Anthony Volpe, SS, 23 
Everson Pereira, LF, 23 
Jasson Domínguez, OF, 21

The Yankees' young core is an enigma, with the oldest players on this list (Torres and Soto) unsure if they will even be on the team next year. Remove those two from the equation, and there's a lot of unproven potential, albeit with a high ceiling. The biggest prospect without MLB experience remains Jones, who is drawing early and accurate comparisons to Aaron Judge. Wells has a potent left-handed bat, and he'll receive more of an extended look behind the plate this year. 

Volpe won a Gold Glove and registered 20-plus home runs and stolen bases. But he also produced a measly 81 OPS+ in an uneven rookie campaign, prompting him to put on more muscle this offseason. Domínguez, aka the Martian, offered a glimpse of his sky-high slugging potential last season and should return by the summer to put on a show again after he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees have so many quality young players in the organization that 25-year-old utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera didn't make the cut for this exercise.

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6. Los Angeles Dodgers

James Outman, OF, 27
Gavin Lux, 2B, 26 
Dustin May, RHP, 26 
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, 25 
Bobby Miller, RHP, 25 
Gavin Stone, RHP, 25 
Emmet Sheehan, RHP, 24 
Miguel Vargas, INF/LF, 24

The established talent on the Dodgers' roster has long made for a good problem to have: Their system is brimming with top prospects and young players who would otherwise already have starting jobs on other major-league teams. Behind the 2024 curtain, there is a surplus of pitching. Yamamoto is the newest and most exciting arm in that bunch, though his progression could take some sideways turns as he familiarizes himself away from Japan. Miller exhibited star potential upon debuting last season, while Stone and Sheehan would slot comfortably in most clubs' rotations but will likely spend a good chunk of the season as relievers once other starters return from injuries. 

Lux is back in the infield after missing the entire 2023 season with a torn ACL. After losing his starting shortstop job to Mookie Betts in spring training, he needs to show that he can play second base if he's going to be part of the overall core moving forward. Vargas has been optioned back to the minors, where he's consistently raked. But his rough rookie season in 2023 has sparked real uncertainty about his MLB future. Other promotions to keep an eye on for later this year include outfielder Andy Pages and right-hander River Ryan. 

5. Seattle Mariners

Cal Raleigh, C, 27
Logan Gilbert, RHP, 27
George Kirby, RHP, 26
Dominic Canzone, OF, 26
Bryce Miller, RHP, 25
Bryan Woo, RHP, 24
Julio Rodríguez, OF, 23
Cole Young, INF, 20

Good luck finding a better collection of young pitchers. Nearly the entire Seattle rotation qualifies for this list in Gilbert, Kirby, Miller and Woo. (Luis Castillo is 31.) Gilbert and Kirby both ranked in the top 25 in the majors in ERA and fWAR among all qualified starters last year and proved fully capable of handling a workhorse role while exhibiting exceptional command. Kirby, Gilbert and Miller ranked first, eighth and ninth, respectively, for the lowest walk rate in the majors last year (minimum 100 innings pitched), while Woo tallied the lowest batting average against (.227) of that quartet. The only downside for the Mariners is they all throw with their right arms, and Miller and Woo in particular have work to do against lefties. 

We've come too far in this blurb to have not mentioned Rodríguez, a legit MVP candidate who turned his sophomore campaign around in the second half last year with a .941 OPS after the break and whose elite defense makes him one of the more valuable assets in the sport regardless of how he's hitting. The Mariners might not have the farm system of other teams in the top half of this list, but in terms of a young core, there are few better in the sport.

4. Houston Astros

Yordan Álvarez, DH/OF, 27
Kyle Tucker, OF, 27
Cristian Javier, RHP, 27
Bryan Abreu, RHP, 27
Jeremy Peña, SS, 26
Yainer Diaz, C, 25
Hunter Brown, RHP, 25
Jacob Melton, OF, 23

Here's where the above ages come into play. Look at the stars on this top eight, and the Astros have a strong argument for the top spot. Both Álvarez and Tucker are coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons. Álvarez is arguably the most feared hitter in the sport when healthy. Tucker posted an OPS over .800 each of the past five years and has been worth more than 5 bWAR in the past three. This year will also be a great chance for Díaz to solidify his place as one of the top-hitting catchers in the sport after a breakout rookie campaign (.282/.308/.538) in a more limited role. 

With all that said, half of the players listed here are 27 years old, and with a farm system that leaves a lot to be desired, the drop-off is steep once those players graduate from this list next season. While Houston has managed to mine some gems from the minors in recent years — Chas McCormick, a 21st-round pick in 2017, has an argument to be a top-20 outfielder this year — there doesn't appear to be much franchise-altering talent on the way at the upper levels. Keep an eye on Melton, the Astros' top prospect who mashed 22 home runs and stole 46 bases between high-A and Double-A last season.

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3. Cincinnati Reds

Alexis Díaz, RHP, 27
Spencer Steer, OF, 26
Nick Lodolo, LHP, 26
Andrew Abbott, LHP, 25
Hunter Greene, RHP, 24
Matt McLain, 2B, 24
Elly De La Cruz, SS, 22
Noelvi Marte, 3B, 22

The top eight for this group is entirely subjective, considering you could make an entire "next eight" of players on the Reds roster under the age of 28 in Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Graham Ashcraft, Jonathan India, Rhett Lowder, Tyler Stephenson, Will Benson, Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips that would beat other teams' top eights. To understand the upside in Cincinnati, just look at last year's NL Rookie of the Year voting, which saw McLain, Steer and De La Cruz each finish in the top eight. De La Cruz's power, arm and league-leading speed might make him the most captivating player in the sport, though the behemoth infielder will have to cut down on his strikeout rate to realize his potential. 

The flamethrowing Greene had a top-10 strikeout rate among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings last year and still has another level to unlock if he can stay healthy. Injuries to McLain and Lodolo and an 80-game PED suspension to Marte put a bit of a damper on an otherwise promising outlook for the Reds to start the 2024 season. But you could plug in Ashcraft, Encarnacion-Stroud and India for that trio, and it wouldn't change the ranking on this list.

T-1. Baltimore Orioles

Kyle Bradish, RHP, 27
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/DH, 27
Adley Rutschman, C, 26
Jordan Westburg, INF, 25
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, 24
Colton Cowser, OF, 24
Gunnar Henderson, INF, 23
Jackson Holliday, INF, 20

The Orioles and Braves deserve a share atop these rankings for entirely different reasons. While Atlanta has the most proven young core in the sport, Baltimore's offers the most promise for what's ahead. Rutschman finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 and was an All-Star in 2023. Henderson earned Rookie of the Year honors last year. It's entirely possible Holliday wins the award this year, assuming an early-season call-up after MLB's top overall prospect was disappointingly left off the Opening Day roster. 

There is such a ridiculous embarrassment of riches here that the Orioles traded two highly regarded 25-year-olds in Joey Ortiz and DL Hall to acquire ace Corbin Burnes and still have more MLB-ready talent at the upper levels of the farm system than spots available on the active roster. While the group is offense-heavy, Rodriguez's sensational second half last year gives reason to believe there's a future star on the mound. When Mountcastle and Bradish graduate from this list next year, in step consensus top-100 prospects Coby Mayo and Heston Kjerstad, both of whom will be helping the major-league club sooner rather than later. The brightest future in baseball is in Baltimore.

T-1. Atlanta Braves

Ozzie Albies, 2B, 27
Austin Riley, 3B, 27
Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, 26
Spencer Strider, RHP, 25
Bryce Elder, RHP, 25
Jarred Kelenic, OF, 24
Michael Harris II, OF, 23
AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, 21

The Braves' top five alone warrants top placement. Acuña was the NL MVP last year in a never-before-seen 41-homer, 73-stolen base season. Strider is the NL Cy Young Award preseason favorite after tallying a major league-leading 281 strikeouts last year — 44 more than Kevin Gausman, who ranked second in the category. The Atlanta duo arguably represents the best position player and pitcher in the sport, and that's before getting to Riley and Albies, who combined for 70 homers last year, and Harris, the 2022 Rookie of the Year who has already been worth 8.6 bWAR over his first two MLB seasons. 

There's a clear dip after those five, but Elder was an All-Star last year, Kelenic has a chance to realize his massive upside with less pressure to perform in the Braves' stacked lineup, and Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep (not listed) — the lone top-100 prospects in the Braves' farm system — should be helping this rotation soon.

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Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


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