A short while ago we took exception when Bill James’ list of the top 25 major leaguers under the age of 30. While both Scott Kazmir (#6) and James Shields (#20) made the list, we were surprised that BJ Upton, Carl Crawford and Delmon Young were all left off the list. Well, it turns out that now the list is 50 names long and all three of the young stud hitters are in the second 25.

Upton just misses the top 25, coming in at #27, while Young (41) and Crawford (43) both fall closer tot he bottom. We still believe that Upton and Crawford should be in the top 25 and one can definitely make a case for Young. Upton may have been penalized for missing a month of the season. Had he gone 30-30 at the age of 22, it is hard to imagine that Upton would not be in the top 25.

As for Crawford, he was most likely penalized for being old. Even though the list is for players “under 30″, there is a strong bias towards players that are in their early 20s who have more years left until age 33. Still, CC is one of the most exciting players in the game today and clearly one of the top offensive threats in baseball regardless of age. And while his power numbers did not develop this past season as we had hoped, once they do, CC may propel himself to the top of everybody’s list.

Young is more of an enigma. Many had hoped for more power and better defense from the 21-year old. We were not surprised by the lack of pop, as he is truly a line-drive hitter. Once he becomes more comfortable at the major league level and if he ever learns to wait for his pitch, we will likely see more elevation from his swing. Still, his arm is as good as anybody. Name another right fielder that can throw out Ichiro trying to advance from first to third on a single. And hitting .290 with 90 ribbies on the Rays at age 21 is pretty darn impressive. A 2008 line of .310-25-110 (not out of the question) and Bill James will be Gettin’ a Delmon if Young is not in the top 25 next season.

Bill James Has Never Heard Of Carl Crawford, Delmon Young and BJ Upton [Rays Index]
Young Talent Inventory [SI.com]

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3 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I am a bit surprised that Upton did not rank higher. In addition to your point, it is possible that his switching positions and his high strikeout total might have influenced James to be conservative about his ranking.

    Crawford too deserves a lot of consideration, but as much as I like him (and he has been my favorite Rays since he arrived), a detached evaluation has to mark him down for his mediocre power as a corner player and his mediocre OBP as a top of the order hitter. Exciting does not equal great.

    I am very optimistic about Delmon too, but again, based on his performance, it is hard to argue that he is a top notch right fielder. Certainly his age and talent give plenty of room for optimism, but the performance has to temper that enthusiasm.

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  2. The Professor says:

    The strikeouts were high for Upton, but they were actually much lower in the second half of the season and the strikeouts can be ignored when a 22 year old posts a .390 OBP.

    One thing that has always amazed me is the call for CC to win a gold glove. I have never seen it. He is an average left fielder at best. with a below-average arm and is often saved by his speed. So yes, his defense is a bit of a liability.

    On the other hand, Upton seemed surprisingly comfortable in center,even if he and Delmon often played their position while sitting in the outfield stands.

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  3. Robert Rittner says:

    As a matter of fact, early in the year Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts predicted that Upton would fall well below .300. A big part of his reasoning was the high K rate, and I argued against him that his K rate was not particularly awful in the minors while his BB rate was lower at the time than it had usually been. Later in the year, when he had maintained his fine production I reminded Lederer of our discussion, and noted his improvement in both areas.

    Nevertheless, I do not think Ks can be entirely ignored. I do think they are often overstressed, especially with players who have great power or OBP, but for a young player, they can suggest coming problems as pitchers exploit their tendency to miss pitches. I agree with you that Upton should remain excellent and in fact develop into a star, but the Ks remain a concern, and might legitimately lead James to lower his ranking. And while I think he will become an outstanding defender, not only is he not yet, but there remain some whispers that he may be moved back to 2B. Perhaps the uncertainty about his future position influenced James as well.

    I think you are absolutely right about Crawford's defense.

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