Each MLB Team’s Young Player with the Most Superstar Upside
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Cleveland Guardians: Steven Kwan, OF
.284/.387/.409, 1 HR, 19 R, 13 RBI
With eight players on the active roster under the age of 26, Cleveland takes the cake for the most candidates. All four of the hitters (Kwan, Andres Gimenez, Josh Naylor and Owen Miller) are thriving at the dish this season, while the four pitchers (Triston McKenzie, Emmanuel Clase, Sam Hentges and Nick Sandlin) have a cumulative 2022 ERA of around 2.70. Throw in the fact that the Guardians have five of MLB.com’s top 85 prospects and you almost need welding goggles in order to look at Cleveland’s bright future without damaging your eyes.
Forced to choose just one of their budding stars, however, let’s go with Kwan and his Tony Gwynn-like approach to hitting. Including his minor league stats from last season, Kwan is batting .321 with a 9.0 strikeout rate since the beginning of 2021. He won’t turn 25 until September, but it already feels like he is destined for at least one batting title in his career.
Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert, CF
.287/.323/.447, 4 HR, 6 SB
You could easily talk me into putting the entire Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn and Lu-Bob outfield, as Jimenez looks like an MVP when he’s healthy and Vaughn is certainly no slouch as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft. But with both of those guys currently on the IL while Robert is doing his darnedest to carry what has been a very disappointing White Sox lineup thus far, he gets the nod here. He hit .338 last season and is hot right now to the tune of a .405 batting average thus far in May. The 24-year-old also already has a Gold Glove on his mantle.
Detroit Tigers: Tarik Skubal, SP
33.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.1 K/9
We were promised greatness from 22-year-old first baseman Spencer Torkelson, but he entered this weekend with just four hits (all singles) and 21 strikeouts in his last 50 at-bats. No sense in sending him back down to triple-A with the Tigers already in possession of the worst record in the AL, but things have not gone according to plan. Skubal is looking great, though, after a 2021 campaign in which he allowed home runs (35 in 149.1 IP) at one of the highest rates in the majors. With just two long balls (both solo shots) allowed through six starts this season, this young lefty is pitching like an ace.
Kansas City Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., 3B
.211/.237/.325, 1 HR, 5 SB
Like Detroit’s Torkelson, this top preseason candidate for AL ROY hasn’t been nearly what we expected. Witt batted .290 with 33 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 123 minor league games last season, but he has yet to find that groove at the Major League level. He did, however, have an 11-game hitting streak with a .342 average, punctuated by his only home run to date. So, at least there have been some prolonged flashes of greatness from this 21-year-old who is practically already the face of the franchise.
Minnesota Twins: Luis Arraez, Utility
.304/.396/.380, 1 HR
Arraez is basically a more established, predominantly infield-playing version of Cleveland’s Kwan. Among the 358 players with at least 500 plate appearances since the beginning of 2019, only Tim Anderson (.323) and Trea Turner (.314) have a higher batting average than Arraez (.312), and only Tommy La Stella (8.3 percent) has a lower strikeout rate (9.0 percent). Home runs and stolen bases are both few and far between, but he gets a lot of hits and has a surprisingly great glove for a guy who has already in his young career made multiple starts at five different positions.
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