Major League Baseball
MLB young core rankings, Nos. 20-11: Why Red Sox, Cardinals could rebuild quickly
Major League Baseball

MLB young core rankings, Nos. 20-11: Why Red Sox, Cardinals could rebuild quickly

Updated Mar. 27, 2024 11:22 a.m. ET

We're ranking 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.)

Part two of our series covers teams 20-11 (with players listed from oldest to youngest).

MLB YOUNG CORE RANKINGS: Nos. 30-21 | Nos. 10-1

20. Tampa Bay Rays


Shane McClanahan, LHP, 27
Richie Palacios, OF, 27 
Josh Lowe, OF, 26 
Ryan Pepiot, RHP, 26 
Isaac Paredes, INF, 25 
Curtis Mead, INF, 23 
Junior Caminero, INF/DH, 20
Carson Williams, SS, 20

Tampa's entire operation relies on young talent. That's how the Rays, a small-market club, are able to contend with the toughest teams in the league, including the Yankees and Orioles in their own division. So, it's no surprise that their prospects have huge upside, with legitimate paths to being key members of the team's core. Tampa's strong approach to prospect development means it annually produces big-league talent in a way that other teams cannot always depend on. But, take a snapshot at their roster for the next couple of years, and some of their established core players, like Randy Arozarena, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Díaz and Zach Eflin, are 29 years or older. 

The club's young core group still has a lot to prove. The addition of Pepiot, who joined the Rays this offseason following a trade from the Dodgers, was a necessary boost for the pitching staff. Paredes enjoyed the best season of his career in 2023, and he's a good candidate to take another step forward this year — his third full season in the big leagues.

19. Milwaukee Brewers

William Contreras, C, 26
Garrett Mitchell, CF, 25 
Joey Wiemer, CF, 25 
Joey Ortiz, INF, 25 
DL Hall, LHP, 25 
Sal Frelick, RF, 24 
Brice Turang, 2B/SS, 24 
Jackson Chourio, OF, 20

A blockbuster trade for ace Corbin Burnes gave the Brewers two of their top eight (aged 27-and-under) players. The headliner in that package was Ortiz, who is now expected to be Milwaukee's everyday shortstop for the foreseeable future. Though losing Burnes to the Orioles significantly weakened the club's playoff chances this year, Chourio, baseball's No. 2 overall top prospect, provides loads of excitement for the Brew Crew. He's set to become the youngest Brewers player to make his MLB debut on Opening Day since Hall of Famer Robin Yount in 1974. 

Beyond the hype around its top prospects, Contreras is the only player in Milwaukee's young core with proven success in the majors. While he's a budding star, the current big-league roster is largely dependent on veterans. For Milwaukee, the future looks bright — particularly with top prospects in catcher Jeferson Quero and infielder Tyler Black rapidly advancing through the system. But the club still needs those high ceilings to translate into results.

18. Cleveland Guardians

Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, 27
Steven Kwan, LF, 26 
Triston McKenzie, RHP, 26 
Andrés Giménez, 2B/SS, 25 
Tanner Bibee, RHP, 25 
Gavin Williams, RHP, 24 
Bo Naylor, C, 24 
Brayan Rocchio, SS, 23

Each of the Guardians' top eight players aged 27-and-under have made their MLB debuts, which has helped this young group develop into somewhat of a core unit. The senior Naylor just made the cutoff in our rankings, while the abundance of younger players set to impact the 2024 club squeezed out the inclusion of 25-year-old southpaw Logan Allen, who is a valuable piece of the rotation's future. 

Cleveland's offense could look dramatically better if the 2022 version of Giménez (.297 BA, 142 wRC+, 6.2 fWAR) shows up this season. Plus, with Rocchio winning the shortstop job, Giménez has a new pupil to help out on the diamond. Rocchi is lauded by scouts for his baseball savvy, including his intuition on the bases, which has given him the ability to swipe bags despite advertising average speed. The Venezuelan native should only make more noise with his big-league opportunity.

17. Minnesota Twins

Ryan Jeffers, C, 27
Alex Kirilloff, 1B, 26
Matt Wallner, OF, 26
Jhoan Durán, RHP, 26
Edouard Julien, 2B, 25
Royce Lewis, 3B, 25
David Festa, RHP, 24
Brooks Lee, SS, 23

One year after Minnesota's promising rookie class of Lewis, Julien and Wallner captured the division and boosted the Twins into the playoffs, the club has more young talent on the horizon that could help solidify the major-league core. Expect top prospects Lee and Festa to make impacts on the 2024 club, as well as outfielder/second baseman Austin Martin, who got pushed out of these rankings due to the roster's sizable number of 27-and-under players, both proven and flashing potential. 

Durán will open the season on the injured list with an oblique strain, but he is a rare type in this exercise because closers and relievers are not typically part of a given team's core. As a bonus, he is controllable. The filthy right-handed closer is still four years away from free agency. Even though Jeffers will graduate from these rankings in 2025, the inclusions of Durán, Kirilloff and Waller next year, plus the addition of No. 3 prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez nearing his MLB debut, means Minnesota's young core could be just as strong moving forward.

16. San Francisco Giants

Logan Webb, RHP, 27
Jordan Hicks, RHP, 27 
Keaton Winn, RHP, 26 
Camilo Doval, RHP, 26 
Patrick Bailey, C, 25 
Jung Hoo Lee, OF, 25 
Kyle Harrison, LHP, 22 
Marco Luciano, SS, 22

Former top prospect Luis Matos hit well this spring but is the odd man out in the Giants' outfield. The 22-year-old could still be a long-term building block, and will likely be recalled once there's an outfield opening. In general, though, the Giants have more pitchers as part of their young core than most teams. Hicks, whom the club is attempting to convert into an effective starter, will be fascinating to watch this year. The potential standout here is Harrison, who flashed top-of-the-rotation talent upon making his debut late last season. 

Alas, the Giants lack young position-player upside both within their farm system and on the major-league roster. There are a few hopeful what-ifs, like Luciano and KBO import Lee. Luciano solidifying himself as an everyday player would be a notable development. But it's otherwise tough to build a young core around mostly unproven and/or underwhelming talent. It's the result of San Francisco missing on most of its first-round picks over the past decade. There's a reason the in-flux Giants are all-in for 2024, with Blake Snell and Matt Chapman promised to be on board for only one season.

RELATED: MLB 2024 season preview: Staff predictions on MVP, Cy Young, ROY, World Series | MLB's best lineup? Pitching staff? 5 burning questions before the 2024 season | One MLB player to watch from every team: Juan Soto one-and-done with Yankees?

15. Pittsburgh Pirates

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, 27
Jared Triolo, 2B, 26 
Oneil Cruz, SS, 25 
Jack Suwinski, OF, 25 
Henry Davis, C, 24 
Quinn Priester, RHP, 23
Jared Jones, RHP, 22
Paul Skenes, RHP, 21

Hayes' elite defense raises the floor while Cruz's potential raises the ceiling of the young core in Pittsburgh, but both players have questions to answer amid a Pirates rebuild that to this point has not yielded much on-field success. Can Hayes finally take that sizable leap forward offensively? And can a healthy season from Cruz help him realize his power-speed potential? If the Pirates are to take a step forward, it feels like Cruz will need to lead the way. 

There are plenty of candidates to take a step forward both at the plate, where Davis, the 2021 top overall pick, will shift from the outfield to his more comfortable position behind the dish, and on the mound, where each of the Pirates' top pitching prospects — Skenes, last year's top overall pick, and Jones — are likely to make a mark this year. Both players bring triple-digit heat, and Jones could crack the rotation out of spring. Further down the line, it's possible by next year that 19-year-old top position player prospect Termarr Johnson is in the majors. By then, will he be joining a Pirates team that has finally turned a corner?

14. St. Louis Cardinals

Brendan Donovan, UTIL, 27
Lars Nootbaar, OF, 26 
Dylan Carlson, OF, 25 
Alec Burleson, OF, 25 
Nolan Gorman, 2B, 24 
Victor Scott, OF, 23 
Masyn Winn, SS, 22 
Jordan Walker, OF, 22

Because so many of these players have multiple years of major-league service time under their belt, it's easy to forget just how young this core in St. Louis remains. Walker, one of the top prospects in all of baseball last year, got his first big-league opportunity last season and had a 114 OPS+ as a 21-year-old. Somehow, it feels like he's not getting enough attention. And there is a lot more talent expected to arrive soon. In fact, there's such a vast collection of young talent already contributing in St. Louis that a list of eight isn't long enough to include all the top prospects who might be making an impact in the near future, a group that could include top pitching prospects Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby, who were both pitching at Double-A last year. 

But there is much more production on the offensive side when it comes to the Cardinals' young core. Scott, their top outfield prospect and an absolute burner on the bases — he had 94 steals (yes, 94 steals) between high-A and Double-A last year — had an electric spring but will start the year in the minors. The Cardinals have another potential young defensive star in the infield this year in Winn, but St. Louis is still waiting for someone from this group to make the leap toward stardom.

13. Miami Marlins

Luis Arráez, 2B, 27
Jazz Chisholm, OF, 26
Jesús Luzardo, LHP, 26
Braxton Garrett, LHP, 26 
Edward Cabrera, RHP, 26 
Trevor Rogers, LHP, 26 
Max Meyer, RHP, 25
Eury Pérez, RHP, 21

Where the Cardinals' core is offense-heavy, the Marlins' is heavily skewed toward pitching. They've been unable to develop hitters for years, so they acquired their two on this list by trade. Arráez is one of the most captivating players in the game, a contact machine who at points last season looked like he'd challenge to hit .400. Chisholm has yet to realize his tremendous potential, limited by injury to just 157 games over the past two seasons. He came one homer shy from being a 20-20 player last year in only 97 games, though he hit close to league average. 

The pitching, however, is as stacked as any group in baseball. Luzardo's 208 strikeouts last year were the most ever by a Marlins left-handed starter. Pérez, meanwhile, tallied a 3.15 ERA and struck out 108 batters in 91.1 innings as a 20-year-old. Unfortunately, Pérez, Garrett and Cabrera are all dealing with injuries to start the season. But there's enough young arms in Miami (hello, Meyer) to lift their pitching staff for years to come.

12. Kansas City Royals

Kyle Isbel, OF, 27
Cole Ragans, LHP, 26 
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, 26 
Nick Loftin, INF, 25 
MJ Melendez, OF, 25
Nelson Velázquez, DH, 25
Maikel García, 3B, 24
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, 24

It's not so much the depth of young talent that has the Royals in the top half of these rankings as much as the star power. In Witt and Ragans, they have an MVP candidate and Cy Young Award candidate each under the age of 27. Now, putting Ragans in the Cy Young discussion after a couple sensational months might be a bit premature, but he looked like a rotation headliner the moment he moved from Texas' bullpen to Kansas City's rotation last year. In the second half last year, Ragans ranked in MLB's top 10 in ERA, WAR and strikeout percentage among starters who threw at least 50 innings. 

Witt, meanwhile, is an unquestioned superstar. He finished seventh in MVP voting after hitting 30 homers, stealing 49 bases and reshaping himself into one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. Pasquantino should give the Royals a solid bat if he can bounce back from shoulder surgery, while Melendez, who ranked third on the team in hits and homers, will need to cut down on his whiff rate to raise his on-base percentage and realize his potential. With little help coming on the farm, the Royals need to mine another gem from this group of eight to compete in the near future.

11. Boston Red Sox

Rafael Devers, 3B, 27
Jarren Duran, OF, 27 
Brayan Bello, RHP, 25 
Wilyer Abreu, OF, 25 
Triston Casas, 1B, 24 
Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, 23
Marcelo Mayer, SS, 21
Roman Anthony, OF, 19

The offensive component of the young core here is stacked, with a healthy combination of established major-league talents and high-upside prospects about to make their mark. Devers, who signed an 11-year, $331 million extension last year, is a two-time All-Star and one of the most offensively gifted third basemen in the sport. Casas looks like a rising star at the other corner infield spot after finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting last year and ending the season with an .856 OPS that actually surpassed Devers' mark. Last year also represented an offensive breakout for Duran, who hit 21% better than league average while stealing 24 bases. 

While Devers and Duran will graduate from this list after 2024, Boston is restocking its youth with Rafaela, who debuted last year at 22 years old and will make the Opening Day roster, and Mayer, Boston's top prospect who could debut sometime this year. Anthony, meanwhile, might have the sweetest swing of the entire group. As you'll notice, we've gotten to this point without mentioning the pitching, which is the Achilles' heel here. Bello represents a win in that department, but he still has another gear to reach and there haven't been enough of those internal victories in recent years to churn out a reliable staff and compete in the toughest division in the sport. Pitching development will be crucial as the Red Sox chart a path toward becoming contenders again.

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.


Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more