Best Active MLB Player At Any Age 2022
Until May 28, baseball’s youngest player in 2022 was the same guy who was baseball’s youngest player in 2021: Wander Franco. That day, Michael Harris II received the call from the Braves and took Franco’s place… because he was six days younger. On the day Michael Harris II was born, a young St. Louis prospect named Albert Pujols, wearing No. 68, dazzled Tony La Russa at Cardinals spring training. The Harris Braves played against the Pujols Cardinals last month. That’s the length of a baseball career: someone born just before you started can play against you before you’re done.
So today, in honor of the inexorable nature of time itself, we’re looking at the best baseball player at every age in the sport. Now, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going with their “baseball age,” which is the age they were on June 30 of this year, as opposed to their actual age at that exact second. It keeps us from sweating individual birthdays so much, giving us a universal number to work from, and that too, if I’m being honest, makes Baseball Reference a lot easier to find.
We factor this year’s success into that tally, of course, but we’re really trying to pick the best player overall. What you have done so far in your career, especially recently, is also taken into account. You can watch this entire arc of a baseball career in this list.
21: Julio Rodriguez, sailors. There are no 20-year-old baseball players right now, and it’s fair to say that with Franco’s injuries and Rodríguez’s emergence as a rookie of the year favorite, he’s took the lead in this age group. Alex Rodriguez led the Mariners to the playoffs at age 21; Julio Rodríguez could well do the same. Finalist: Wander Franco, Rays.
22: Bobby Witt Jr., Royals. The phenom finally made his big league debut this year, and while he hasn’t completely dominated the league as many had hoped, he has more than held on and is something the Royals will build on. over the next decade. He also benefits from the slow starts of some of his fellow phenoms, like Spencer Torkelson and Jarred Kelenic. Finalist: Alek Thomas, Diamondbacks.
23: Juan Soto, Padres. You may have heard of Soto’s name in the last month or so. He and the runner-up in this category will fight for the top spot here for the next 15 years. Will they ever meet in the Hall of Fame? Finalist: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays.
24: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves. Acuña didn’t actually have the MVP-level season that many expected, although he may still be recovering from the knee injury that cost him the end of last season. He still feels like a Hall of Famer in waiting. Finalist: Adley Rutschman, Orioles.
25: Yordan Alvarez, Astros. This is where this list starts to get really, really difficult. Alvarez is just a DH, so it’s a mark against him, but he could also be one of the top five hitters in the world. That barely edges him past the runner-up, along with newly extended Austin Riley, teammate Kyle Tucker and possible Cy Young winner Shane McClanahan. Finalist: Rafael Devers, Red Sox.
26: Sandy Alcantara, Marlins. Alcantara has become baseball’s most valuable pitcher, the kind of sleeve-devouring superstar that’s nearly impossible to find. He stands out in a disappointing age bracket; frankly, it’s the one most people thought Cody Bellinger would direct for years. Finalist: Dylan Cease, White Sox.
27: Shohei Ohtani, Angels. He is the second best pitcher at 27 and the third best hitter. You will have to trade everything, including the pet, to get it. Finalist: Corbin Burnes, Brewers.
28: Edwin Diaz, Mets. He might not have the best WAR or the highest stacking effect – he’s a reliever, after all – but I’m not sure there’s anyone on this list who’s better at what he’s doing specifically that Díaz right now. Finalist: Byron Buxton, twins.
29: Mookie Betts, Dodgers. Now that’s stacked age. You have three MVP candidates (Betts, Manny Machado and José Ramírez), a two-time MVP who just happens to be injured right now (Bryce Harper), two All-World shortstops (Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner) and all sorts of formidable starting pitchers (Aaron Nola, Carlos Rodón, Luis Castillo, Joe Musgrove). Turns out 29 is a pretty good baseball age! Finalist: Harper.
30: Aaron Judge, Yankees. Judge is having the season of his life at the right time, taking the place of the best player of his age for the first time in his career. And you know he’s amazing right now who he just went through. Finalist: Mike Trout, Angels.
31: Nolan Arenado, Cardinals. Arenado could theoretically retire after this season, but his Hall of Fame resume has improved significantly since joining St. Louis. He still has a chance to win his first MVP this year as well. Finalist: Gerrit Cole, Yankees.
32: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers. Speaking of guys who shine in the Hall of Fame, can you imagine if Freeman ends up winning two World Series in a row? We’ve all spent a lot of time imagining him wearing any jersey but the Braves, but he looks perfect in Dodger Blue, doesn’t he? Finalist: Jose Altuve, Astros.
33: Merrill Kelly, Diamondbacks. Definitely the weakest age so far, it’s also an age when players really start getting injured. (Sorry, Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg.) Kelly had the quietest save season of any starting pitcher in a long, long time. Finalist: DJ LeMahieu, Yankees.
34: Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals. Goldschmidt has finished second in MVP voting twice, in 2013 and 2015 (he finished in the top six three other times), but this may be the year he finally breaks through and hits the big time: he has already his best year – exemplary career, by far. Finalist: Jacob deGrom, Mets.
35: Jose Abreu, White Sox. Abreu won MVP in the shortened 2020 season, but still feels a little underappreciated: his OPS+ this year is the third highest of his career. Finalist: Yu Darvish, Padres.
36: Josh Donaldson, Yankees. One fact has always been true about Donaldson: when healthy, he punches. That said, he would probably be second on this list if his out-of-nowhere teammate hadn’t just broken his foot. Finalist: Matt Carpenter, Yankees.
37: Max Scherzer, Mets. He will be on this list when he turns 47, no doubt about it. Finalist: David Robertson, Phillies.
38: Joey Votto, Reds. His horrible start to the season has been largely forgotten: he looked like the old Votto again. Except with a lot more TikToks. Unfortunately, it was announced on Wednesday that Votto will undergo rotator cuff surgery and will be out for the rest of the season. Finalist: Charlie Morton, Braves.
39: Justin Verlander, Astros. Verlander himself is at the heart of the Cy Young discord, again, because of course he does. There are six 39-year-olds in baseball, and three of them (Verlander, Yadier Molina and Miguel Cabrera) will be in Cooperstown. Finalist: Cabrera.
40: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals. Unlike his teammates Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, he didn’t say anything about his retirement at the end of the year. The way he throws, he should definitely continue. Finalist: None.
41: Nelson Cruz, Nationals. He may not be able to go on forever, as it turns out he wasn’t a Deadline hot commodity after all. Still, he has nine more home runs than any other 41-year-old. Finalist: None.
42: Albert Pujols, cardinals. If Albert stays at his current 103 OPS+, it will be his first above-average offensive season since 2016. He’s coming out with a bang. Finalist: Rich Hill, Red Sox.