By: Sam Rowley
With trade deadline talk in the air, Sam covers the best young players in the NL.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard (RHP)
The young righty rounds out one of the best pitching rotations in baseball. Syndergaard performed well at each level of the mets farm system and appears more comfortable with each big league start. While Syndergaard is 4-5 this season, he has held opposing hitters to a .226 batting average and possesses a 2.73 ERA. The future looks bright for the 22-year-old Syndergaard, who most recently held the Padres hitless through 6 innings of a stellar outing.
Marlins: Jose Fernandez (RHP)
Fernandez burst onto the scene in 2013 with a stellar rookie campaign, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. However, early in the 2014 season Fernandez was diagnosed with a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament and underwent Tommy John Surgery, prematurely ending his season. In the five games he has pitched this year, Fernandez is 3-0. Not only does Fernandez possess a dominant arsenal of pitches, his competitiveness and passion for the game are unmatched.
Phillies: Aaron Nola (RHP)
Nola makes the list as there is not an abundance of talent emerging from the last place Phillies farm system. However, only a year removed from LSU, the 22-year-old Nola has found himself in Philadelphia's rotation. What makes Nola so good is the life on all his pitches. Nola throws a two seam fastball with arm side run, as well as a deadly slider and power curve. Nola’s potential is evident. If he continues to improve the way he has been, I expect Nola to become a Cole Hamels caliber pitcher.
Nationals: Bryce Harper (OF)
Following 3 seasons of underperformance and injury, the Nationals’ rightfielder is having a breakout season. Harper is currently tied with Todd Frazier for the National League Lead in home runs (27) and ranks third in the league in batting average (.330) The scary thing about Harper is his four years of big league experience before his 23rd birthday. Marked for success at the age of 16 when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “Baseball’s Chosen One,” the 22-year-old appears to be living up to the sky high expectations set for him only a few years ago.
Braves: Andrelton Simmons (SS)
Simmons is one of the best defensive shortstops you will see in your lifetime. While the 25-year-old is only a career .253 hitter, his defensive ability makes up for it. He’s that good. On his way to his third consecutive gold glove, Simmon’s will look to add consistent offense to his game to cement his spot with the Braves for many years to come. Watch this highlight video and you will know why Simmons is the best defensive shortstop on the planet.
Brewers: Jean Segura (SS)
Segura has shown flashes of being something special, especially when he got off to a red hot start in his first big league season in 2013. However, the sure handed shortstop once with tremendous upside has cooled off in his next two big league seasons, consistently hitting a solid .270. While there is not a lot of power in his 5’10’’ 165lb frame, the Brewers seem content with Segura as their starting shortstop.
Reds: Billy Hamilton (CF)
The 24-year-old has emerged as one of the premier center fielders in baseball. Already in his third season of major league ball, Hamilton possesses great speed and instincts in center field. While his defensive prowess is unquestioned, there have been questions about Hamilton’s ability to handle major league pitching. Hamilton is a career .244 hitter, while this season he is only hitting .225. Hamilton’s defensive play will keep him in the lineup if his hitting does not improve.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole (RHP)
The 24-year-old Cole has quietly emerged as one of the premier National League starters. Pittsburgh’s number 2 starter, behind Francisco Liriano, already has 2 years of big league experience and looks to have a long career ahead of him. Cole’s fastball reaches the high 90’s and has arm side run on it. To make things even harder for hitters, cole has one of the best changeups in the majors. Cole this season is 14-4 and has a 2.24 ERA.
Cubs: Kris Bryant (3B)
Many were shocked when the power hitting Bryant did not make the Cubs’ big league roster during spring training after a tremendous 2014 year in the Cubs’ farm system. Bryant, however, was called up to the bigs only a week into the season and has since experienced the ups and downs that come with being a big leaguer. So far this season Bryant is hitting .251 with 14 bombs and 59 RBI. Assuming these numbers improve over the next few seasons, Bryant will be a part of a nucleus with Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Jorge Soler that will likely bring the Cubs back to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Cardinals: Kolten Wong (2B)
Wong, a first rounder for the Cardinals in 2011, has has exceeded all expectations that the Cardinals set for him. The outfielder turned second baseman has enjoyed success at the big league level since making his debut for the Cardinals in 2013. His defense is solid, but what separates him from other players is his bat speed. Only 5’9, Wong has hit 11 home runs this year to go along with his .275 average. Wong appears to be set for a long, respectable big league career.
Dodgers: Joc Pederson (CF)
Pederson is someone that I am particularly high on. Right now there are not many young players like young Joc. Unlike his peers, he poses a legitimate threat to pull off a 30 homer - 30 steal season at the age of 23. His defensive play in centerfield is solid and no doubt will improve with experience. He put his raw power on display at this year’s Home Run Derby where he fell to Todd Frazier in the finals. While he can clearly hit for power (21 home runs this season), Joc must learn to hit for average as well. If he does this, we will see Joc in dodger blue for many years to come.
Padres: Wil Myers (OF)
Once a can’t miss prospect from a small town in North Carolina, Myers’s play has been a bit unpredictable. While he was the 2013 AL Rookie of the year, Myers is already with his third major league club before his 25th birthday. Following a 2014 season lost to injury, Myers was traded to San Diego from the Tampa Bay Rays. Things have not improved for Myers yet, as he is dealing with a wrist injury this season. San Diego desperately needs Myers back on the field if they have any hope of snagging the second wild card. If Myers can get healthy and regain his sweet stroke, he will more than likely return to being something great.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner (LHP)
Perhaps you are wondering why Bumgarner is on this list, given the success he has experienced and how long he has been around. The scary thing is that Bumgarner just turned 26. While his fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s, the movement and command on all of his pitches make up for it. Already with 3 world series championships and a whole host of other awards and records, MadBum is poised for a hall of fame career.
Diamondbacks: Archie Bradley
Bradley, only 22 and in his first season with the D-Backs, is the top young player to come out of a deep Arizona farm system. Bradley’s performance in his professional career has been streaky thus far. He dominated in 2013 while with Arizona’s Double-A affiliate, but struggled in 2014 in Triple-A. He showed great potential in spring training this year and earned a spot on the Diamondbacks roster, but has since had a forgettable season. In addition to finding some consistency in his game, Bradley will have to stay healthy if he wants to stick around in the Big leagues.
Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Currently playing for a small market, a last place team, and making the league minimum, Arenado is often overlooked as one of the premier young players in baseball. Don’t be fooled; Arenado is a legitimate young star. The 24 year old Newport Beach, California native is in his third season of big league ball and is currently hitting a healthy .280 with 25 dingers and 77 RBI’s. With Troy Tulowitzki gone, I expect Arenado to quickly become the face of the Rockies’ franchise.