The MLB this year has seen some breakout players come up to the dish or the rubber and keep their teams in games and in their division. These players were once all developing young players in the league and now are making a boom. There are currently some young players throughout the league who can do the exact same thing in a few years. Some are very close to doing it now. However, the AL East has the best young talent that any other MLB division.
Let me start out with the team that is currently in first and perennially right up there. The Boston Red Sox have both kinds of talent-young and veteran. Often, their veteran men like Ortiz, Manny, Lowell, and Youkilis outshine their young talent. Right now, their best young player is Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury helped out the Red Sox big time last year on their way to the World Series and he also made Coco Crisp worry about his job. In 88 games with the Red Sox, Jacoby is batting .313 with 37 stolen bases. The young man at 24 years of age has already seen more in the majors than most players have. Not only do the Sox have Jacoby as a young star, but they also have another 24 year old star. Dustin Pedroia is another huge part of the Boston Red Sox and is currently smacking the cover off the ball. Not only does he contribute in the regular season, but he helps in the postseason. In the Red Sox' 2007 World Series run, he batted .283 with 10 RBIs. Now, to turn our attention away from the diamond, we can look at two stud pitchers the Red Sox have in their rotation. These men not only have gathered up wins, but also have each thrown no-hitters. Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester have already established what most pitchers work their entire careers for. Clay, at the age of 23 threw his against a struggling Orioles team in 2007, and Jon threw his against a week Royals team in 2008 at the age of 23. Impressed by these four the Red Sox have? Well, you have seen nothing yet.
The team that was in first place for most of the year is also one of, if not the, teams with the best young talent. The average age of this team is a very low 27.9 and they do not have one player over the age of 40. I will start out here with a young player who put himself on the map this year. At the age of 24, Dioner Navarro is batting .331 and keeping his team alive. But, he isn't even close to the main young player the Rays have. B.J. Upton is probably the best young player they have right now. Coming into the 2008 campaign, Upton was ranked 23rd overall by Yahoo in fantasy baseball. He was placed in front of guys like Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter. In 282 major league games, Upton already has 32 homeruns, 55 stolen bases, and .283 batting average. He has also played four different positions for the Devil Rays. Playing at third base, second base, outfield, and shortstop have allowed the Rays to try multiple line-ups. With Upton only being 23 years old, the Rays look to have him around for many years and the MLB looks to add another superstar to their image. For years, the Rays have been a struggling franchise that couldn't compete in a division full of powerhouses. But, they had some bright spots during that time. One of which was a young pitcher who dominated batters with his commanding stuff. Scott Kazmir was and continues to be one of the best young pitchers in the MLB today. In pitching only 607 innings, he already has racked up 655 strikeouts. His ERA may be high at 3.50 but he is still a very good game changing pitcher. His career record of 40-30 does him much injustice because of the quality of team he had. This year, after an injury, Kazmir has a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. This may finally be the year where his ERA is lower than 3. And now, the current sensation of the Rays that has the most potential and the biggest bank will be manning third base for a long time. Twenty-two year old Evan Longoria made a splash when he got into the league. In 50 games, Longoria has 7 homeruns and 28 RBIs. He is very capable of hitting 30 homeruns a year. He could be, and will be the best players on one of the best teams (Rays) in the future. Not only do the Rays have skillful youth in the majors, but in the minors, they have two former first round picks. David Price (22) and Tim Beckham (18) look to keep their title as #1 overall pick and add to it in the majors.
The team in the AL East with the weakest young talent has to be the Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, they still have some talented young stars. The real player I will devote this space to is Alexis Rios. He is already a borderline superstar having participated in All-Star Games and Home Run Derbies. At the age of 27, he has played in 5 major league seasons and has collected a .285 batting average over that time. He has been a 15/15 man two times in his career and had a career high 191 hits last year. He is a member of a very talented Blue Jays outfield that when healthy can cause damage.
The Baltimore Orioles made a lot of changes in the offseason to turn themselves into a team of the future. They are now full of young talent who are looking to turn the Orioles back into what they were during their glory days. They currently have a 5 man rotation that can be a force in the league in a few years. Daniel Cabrera (27), Brian Burres (27), Garrett Olson (24), Radhames Liz (24), Adam Loewen (23) all now have experience in the major leagues and all can be good starters soon. Daniel Cabrera and Brian Burres all have shown signs of improvement. Now, the most recent young pitcher in the Orioles organization is a tall left-hander from University of San Diego. Brian Matusz was the first pitcher selected in the 2008 MLB Draft being selected at 4th overall. Brian is a strikeout specialist who leads in the NCAA in strikeouts and was a 2 time finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. Brian is 12-2 with a 1.71 ERA and a .211 opponent batting average. All Orioles fan sure do hope he can relay all these stats into the MLB. The Orioles made a plethora of trades this offseason. One included sending a rather young starting pitcher named Erik Bedard for a closer and a very young, still developing centerfielder named Adam Jones. Adam Jones is by far the youngest Orioles' starter in the field. At the age of 22, Adam Jones wasn't even born when the Orioles won their last world series. He is one of those players who is a borderline superstar and could be the man in the outfield for many years for the Baltimore Orioles. But, the main player in the Oriole's future is 22 year old, switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters. He was drafted by the Orioles in 2007 with their #1 pick. In 56 games with class A Frederick, Matt is batting .344 with 65 hits, 43 runs, 6 2Bs, 13 HRs, 35 RBIs, 31 BBs, and a 1.018 OPS. These are amazing single A numbers that can skyrocket Matt to the MLB as a September call-up this year.
The New York Yankees... The Evil Empire has been stacked for years. And now, they look pretty stacked for the future. Just like the Orioles, they have a team of young pitchers who are probably better than those of ones in Charm City. Darrell Rasner (27), Joba Chamberlain (22), Phil Hughes (21), and Ian Kennedy (22) all could be and probably will be premier starting pitchers for ball clubs around the MLB in the future. But by far, the most talented out of these four has to be hard throwing Joba Chamberlain. He just made his move from relief to starter and may take some time to adjust. At the raw young age of 22, Joba is now a feared name in the MLB. And out in the field, there is two men that stick out. Melky Cabrera can already be considered a veteran at the age of 23. In 347 MLB games, Melky has 21 HRs, 150 RBIs, 340 hits, and an eye-raising 57 two-baggers batting in the bottom of the talented New York Yankee line-up. Another player that could be a 1-2 punch with Melky in the future is 25 year old second baseman Robinson Cano. He can also be considered a veteran playing in 476 games with 563 hits. His career batting average is a pretty good .304 and he has 52 homeruns and is very capable of hitting 20 in a year.
So, to re-cap the young talent in the AL East, here is a list of names and ages.
Jacoby Ellsbury- 24