There is a crop of young ballplayers that have baseball fans excited to see what happens over the next handful of years. A few of them already have World Series rings and playoff experience, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see them in big playoff games for years to come.
Here’s a look at the commonly mentioned names when fans talk about up-and-coming stars, including the “Juniors.”
Juan Soto – Washington Nationals, Age 23
Juan Soto’s name is typically first on a list of great young ballplayers. In 2021, he batted .313 and led the Majors in walks and on-base percentage. In 2019, the Nationals won the World Series and Soto hit three home runs. He was runner-up Rookie of the Year in 2018, won the National League batting title with his .351 average in the shortened 2020 season and was runner-up MVP in 2021, losing to Bryce Harper. After the 2021 All-Star Game, Soto hit .348/.535/639.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays, Age 23
He had a great 2021. He hit .311 with an OPS of .401 and a .601 slugging percentage. He led the League in home runs with 48, as well as 123 runs scored. He also drove in 111 runs. He would have won the 2021 MVP if it weren’t for a player named Shohei Ohtani. Guerrero’s performance in the 2019 Home Run Derby was epic: He hit a total of 91 home runs in the event but lost to Pete Alonso in the final round. His Hall of Fame father is surely proud.
Fernando Tatís Jr. – San Diego Padres, Age 23
If he can stay healthy for an entire season, Fernando Tatís Jr. could have a monstrous career. As it is, injuries have plagued each season, but it didn’t stop the Padres from inking him to a 14-year contract already. The talent is there. He hit 42 homers in 2021 in just 130 games to lead the National League, and also drove in 94 runs. He won a Silver Slugger Award and was third in MVP voting, right behind Juan Soto. Tatís belted two home runs off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on April 23rd of last season...precisely 22 years after his father hit two grand slams…in the same inning…against the Dodgers in the same ballpark, Dodger Stadium.
Ronald Acuña Jr. – Atlanta Braves, Age 24
Acuña was fast out of the gate as a 20-year-old rookie in 2018, hitting 26 homers and 26 doubles, batting .293—good enough to take home the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League. The next season he broke out big, hitting 41 homers while stealing 37 bases (to lead the League). He also made the ’19 All-Star team, was fifth in MVP balloting and won a Silver Slugger Award. Acuña is the only player in MLB history to hit at least 50 home runs and steal 50 bases in his first two seasons. However, his 2021 season ended early when he tore his ACL in mid-July—when he already had 24 home runs and 52 RBIs. He missed Spring Training in 2022 but was finally activated in late April. Everyone hopes the super speedy Acuña regains top form.
Bo Bichette – Toronto Blue Jays, Age 24
He’s not a “Jr.,” but Bo Bichette is yet another young star following in the footsteps of a famous baseball dad (Dante). He’s making a name for himself despite sharing the spotlight with his teammate, Vlad Guerrero Jr. In his first three seasons (2019–21), his batting average was over .300. In 2021, he hit his stride and hit 29 home runs, 30 doubles and drove in 102. He also led the League with 191 hits and 25 stolen bases.
Julio Urías – Los Angeles Dodgers, Age 25
The young Dodger lefty has already pitched in 11 postseason series, including two World Series. In 2020, he was instrumental in the Dodgers winning their first World Series since the Kirk Gibson days. Urías has a 7-3 postseason record and a World Series ring. In Game 4 of the 2020 Series, he pitched 4 2/3 innings and struck out nine, but in a losing cause. But then he pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to close out Game 6 and the World Series for L.A.
Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox, Age 25
Devers got off to a good start as a rookie in 2017 and in 56 games batted .284, hit 10 home runs and drove in 30. He fared well in the American League Division Series, with a home run in Game 3 and an inside-the-park home run in Game 4. He hit .311 in 2019 and led the League in doubles and total bases. In 2021, he belted 38 home runs with 113 RBIs, the second 100+ RBI season of his career. He was named to the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award. Devers is off to a great start in 2022, with a .335 average and 57 hits, second in all of baseball.
Wander Franco – Tampa Bay Rays, Age 21
The term “hot prospect” has always connected to Wander Franco, who signed a 12-year, $182 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays last fall, at age 20. He became the youngest player to sign a contract over $100 million, this for a player who made his debut in June 2021 in a game in which he hit a three-run home run. In September, he set a record for a player 20 or younger by reaching base safely in 37 consecutive games. In 70 games, he batted .230 with seven home runs and 40 RBI. Franco’s father and brothers played MLB ball. His uncles on his mother’s side are Eric and Willy Aybar, both who played in the Majors.
Date: 25 May 2022
RESOURCES: espn.com/mlb/stats/player; franchisesports.co.uk/best-under-25; justbaseball.com/mlb/starters-under-25; yardbarker.com/mlb/players_who_will_break; bleacherreport.com/articles/under-25-years; thescore.com/mlb/under25; mlb.com/best-players-under-25; baseball-reference.com; en.wikipedia.org