Major League Baseball
MLB young core rankings, Nos. 30-21: Why Mets, Phillies have long way to go
Major League Baseball

MLB young core rankings, Nos. 30-21: Why Mets, Phillies have long way to go

Updated Mar. 27, 2024 12:10 p.m. ET

A year ago, we introduced our 26-and-under power rankings as a way to consider the young talent around the league beyond the typical farm system rankings. After all, phenoms who've graduated from prospect status don't just disappear.

The exercise tried to provide a fuller picture of every team's building blocks for the future at a time when it's becoming more and more common for teams to extend players long term before they hit free agency and allow them to influence the big-league roster at a younger age.

This year, we're taking a slightly different spin on the theme, eliminating even more of the projection and uncertainty by focusing on the best young players primed to help their respective clubs today and/or in the immediate future. We opted to add age-27 players since the vast majority of them are still under team control, and it's also when so many hitters enter their primes. 

Over the next few days, 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.)


Starting from the bottom, here are teams 30-21 (with players listed from oldest to youngest).

MLB YOUNG CORE RANKINGS: Nos. 20-11 | Nos. 10-1

30. Oakland Athletics

JJ Bleday, OF, 26
Shea Langeliers, C, 26
Esteury Ruiz, OF, 25 
Nick Allen, INF, 25 
Zack Gelof, 2B, 24 
Joe Boyle, RHP, 24 
Lawrence Butler, OF, 23
Max Muncy, INF, 21

The A's are comfortably in last place for a couple of reasons. Oakland has, inarguably, the worst farm system in baseball, which makes it tough for the major-league group to develop into any sort of core. The A's like to accelerate their prospect development and rush their top minor-leaguers to the big leagues. That arduous jump from Triple-A to MLB becomes even tougher for A's prospects, who need multiple years in the big leagues to continue developing and growing their game. In the end, it makes for a major-league A's squad that is constantly lacking a core group of proven players to build the rest of the team around. With that said, Gelof and Boyle each showed promise in abbreviated rookie seasons last year. 

29. Colorado Rockies

Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, 27
Ryan Feltner, RHP, 27 
Nolan Jones, OF/1B, 26 
Brenton Doyle, CF, 26 
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, 22
Jordan Beck, OF, 22
Drew Romo, C, 22
Zac Veen, OF, 22

The Rockies are rolling out a similar 2024 roster to the one that suffered a 103-loss campaign last year. The first five players on their 27-and-under list all gained valuable major-league experience while playing together and getting extended looks in 2023. A couple of their young prospects, like Romo and Veen, are expected to make an impact for the big-league club as soon as this year. Other exciting names, like No. 1 prospect Adael Amador, will start the season at Double-A with a clear path to the majors. But the Rockies, overall, are emphasizing developing their prospects, which could eventually make for a solid core. They bet relatively big this week that Tovar will be a foundational piece, despite his uneven rookie campaign.

28. Los Angeles Angels

Patrick Sandoval, LHP, 27
Luis Rengifo, INF, 27 
Mickey Moniak, OF, 26 
Jo Adell, OF, 25 
Reid Detmers, LHP, 24 
Logan O'Hoppe, C, 24 
Zach Neto, SS, 23 
Nolan Schanuel, 1B, 22

The Angels are a bit different than other teams on our rankings in that their best eight players ages 27 and under have all debuted in the majors already. But the level of talent among that group isn't currently high. Schanuel, the organization's No. 1 prospect, is expected to be a key member of the Angels' future core. The club is hoping O'Hoppe and perhaps Neto are foundational pieces after flashing as rookies last year. Outfield prospect Nelson Rada, who at 18 is probably still a few years from making an impact in the big leagues, is another name with star potential to watch.

27. New York Mets

Brett Baty, 3B, 24
Mark Vientos, 1B, 24
Ronny Mauricio, SS, 23
Drew Gilbert, OF, 23
Francisco Álvarez, C, 22
Luisangel Acuña, 2B, 22
Ryan Clifford, OF/1B, 20
Jett Williams, SS/OF, 20

Besides Álvarez, every name on the Mets' list is largely unproven. Baty and Vientos received extended looks in the majors last year, but they've struggled to put up consistent results. The Mets at least have exciting prospects in their system now, thanks to a few shrewd trades by the front office in recent years. Acuña is further along in his development than Williams and Gilbert, while Clifford appears furthest from making his MLB debut. Every player in the current Mets' core — Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz — is 29 years or older.

26. Chicago White Sox

Eloy Jiménez, LF/DH, 27
Luis Robert, CF, 26
Andrew Vaughn, LF/1B, 26 
Dominic Fletcher, OF, 25 
Oscar Colas, RF, 25 
Colson Montgomery, SS, 22 
Bryan Ramos, 3B, 22
Edgar Quero, C, 21

The White Sox are an interesting bunch, given that they just spent the past nine months selling off some of their best players, only to still be in the conversation to win the AL Central. Chicago's core dramatically changed over the offseason, when former stars like Tim Anderson and Dylan Cease took their games elsewhere. Now, the White Sox will build on a foundation that includes Robert, Jiménez and Vaughn, with Colas and Montgomery flashing the highest ceilings behind them.

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?

25. Philadelphia Phillies

Alec Bohm, 3B, 27
Cristopher Sánchez, LHP, 27
Bryson Stott, 2B, 26
Brandon Marsh, OF, 26
Johan Rojas, OF, 23
Orion Kerkering, RHP, 22
Mick Abel, RHP, 22
Andrew Painter, RHP, 21

Stott, Marsh and Bohm provide a stable trio of young regulars for the Phillies' roster. Beyond that, the established youth in Philadelphia is limited. Sánchez enjoyed a breakout 2023 season as a member of the Philadelphia rotation, but he is mostly a depth piece and is on the upper edge of this list entering his age-27 season. Rojas is a wonderful defender whose offensive upside is limited. Painter brings ace upside and a ton of promise but will likely miss the entire 2024 season after Tommy John surgery. How he responds to the procedure remains to be seen. Abel is on most top-100 prospect lists and could provide depth to the rotation this year should any of the top five go down at some point. He has an exceptional ability to miss bats, but too many free passes limit his ability to work deep into games.

24. Chicago Cubs

Nico Hoerner, 2B, 27
Michael Busch, 1B/DH, 26
Javier Assad, RHP, 26
Christopher Morel, 3B, 25 
Miguel Amaya, C, 25 
Jordan Wicks, LHP, 24 
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, 22
Cade Horton, RHP, 22

Outside of Gold Glove speedster Nico Hoerner, who would only qualify for this list for one season as he enters his age-27 season, the core of young players on the Cubs' MLB roster come with questions. This is an important year to provide answers. Morel can mash — he launched 26 homers in just 107 games last year — but there's uncertainty about his long-term defensive home. The same is true for Busch, who has raked at Triple-A but was unable to crack the Dodgers' roster before getting a better opportunity in Chicago. 

Assad, Wicks and Hayden Wesneski could all be making starts this year, but are they more than depth pieces in a rotation? And can Amaya demonstrate that he's ready to be the Cubs' long-term answer at catcher? More star potential could be added to the major-league group soon in top prospects Crow-Armstrong and Horton.

23. Washington Nationals

Josiah Gray, RHP, 26
Keibert Ruiz, C, 25 
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, 25 
Cade Cavalli, RHP, 25 
Luis García, 2B, 24
CJ Abrams, SS, 23
Dylan Crews, OF, 22
James Wood, OF, 21

The Nationals could find themselves much higher on this list soon, with potential stars in Crews and Wood soon to make their mark and a healthy collection of young talents in their core who have yet to realize their full potential. Still, the latter point is why they're on the bottom-third of this list. The most valuable player of the group last year was also the youngest. Abrams stole 47 bases in his age-22 season last year, though he hit slightly below league average and has more to clean up defensively. 

The same knocks apply to Ruiz, who hit 18 homers despite rarely making hard contact and has more work to do across the board defensively behind the plate. Cavalli is on the Tommy John comeback trail, and after making just one start in the majors in 2022, the Nationals' top pitching prospect could find himself back on a big-league mound sometime this year. Victor Robles and Jake Irvin, both entering their age-27 seasons, add to the major-league talents who would qualify for this list. But the vast majority of the core is 25 and under, suggesting better days ahead.

22. San Diego Padres

Jhony Brito, RHP, 26
Fernando Tatís Jr., OF, 25
Luis Campusano, C, 25 
Randy Vásquez, RHP, 25 
Graham Pauley, INF, 23 
Jackson Merrill, OF, 20
Robby Snelling, LHP, 20
Ethan Salas, C, 17

After a series of trades in recent years, Tatís is the only current member of the young core with an elite track record of MLB success. But the future is bright. One of the major takeaways of the Seoul Series was the performance of Merrill, who made consistent hard contact at the plate and looks ready for his opportunity in the San Diego outfield. 

Vásquez and Brito should both help the pitching staff this year, though with top-100 MLB prospects Snelling and Dylan Lesko working their way through the system, the Padres' pitching upside is higher in 2025 and beyond than it is this year. But considering how quickly their players are vaulting through the system, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Snelling or 2022 first-round pick Dylan Lesko contributing sooner than we might think. The same could go for Salas, though it's also exciting in the short term to think about Campusano's offensive upside with a clean bill of health this year.

21. Detroit Tigers

Tarik Skubal, LHP, 27
Kerry Carpenter, DH, 26 
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, 24 
Parker Meadows, OF, 24 
Reese Olson, RHP, 24 
Riley Greene, OF, 23 
Jace Jung, INF, 23 
Colt Keith, 2B, 22

There should be a large "TBD" sign attached to this ranking. While there are a plethora of young talents in Detroit and 27-year-old Opening Day starter Tarik Skubal should be a dark-horse candidate for the American League Cy Young Award, the Tigers are still waiting for someone from its core of position-player talents to rise to stardom. Perhaps this is the year former top prospects Greene and/or Torkelson take a leap into that territory. Or maybe it's Keith, a top-100 prospect set to get his opportunity in Detroit at second base this year. Or maybe it's Jung, another top-100 prospect we'll likely see later this year. 

In the rotation, 27-year-old former first overall pick Casey Mize is back from Tommy John surgery, while Olson, a 2018 13th-round selection, is coming off a terrific rookie campaign and might be flying a bit under the radar among the stable of young Detroit pitching talents. The Tigers' youth will take them as far as they go this year, which could be competing for a division title. This is a group on the rise.

Check out Nos. 20-11 on Tuesday and Nos. 10-1 on Wednesday!

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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