30 Under 30

To qualify for these lists, a player must have been born in 1984 or later (“Under 30”):

Under 30, Most Career Regular Season Plate Appearances:
1. Prince Fielder 5,612
2. Jeff Francoeur 4,959
3. Ryan Zimmerman 4,943
4. B.J. Upton 4,509
5. Brian McCann 4,354
6. Melky Cabrera 4,236
7. Billy Butler 4,208
8. James Loney 4,082
9. Delmon Young 3,936
10. Matt Kemp 3,897

After the jump, two more Top Tens for the “Under 30” set, but more quality than quantity based.

Under 30, Most Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version)
1. Evan Longoria 36.3
2. Ryan Zimmerman 33.9
3. Troy Tulowitzki 32.3
4. Andrew McCutchen 26.8
5. Prince Fielder 23.7
6. Brian McCann 23.6
7. Alex Gordon 22.6
8. Mike Trout 20.8 (born in 1991)
9. Matt Kemp 20.0
10. Asdrubal Cabrera 19.6

Under 30, Most RE24 (that’s a form of runs created, above average, arising from the extent to which the player, in each of his plate appearances, improved or diminished his team’s standard run expectation based on the outs and men on base situation as it stood when he came to bat):
1. Prince Fielder 330
2. Andrew McCutchen 172
3. Ryan Zimmerman 156
4. Matt Kemp 150
5. Brian McCann 148
6. Evan Longoria 141
7. Mike Trout 127
8. Carlos Gonzalez 117
9. Paul Goldschmidt 109
10. Troy Tulowitzki 105


30 Under 30 — 19 Comments

  1. Not exactly a stellar crop of under-30s at this juncture, given that WAR leader Longoria is only 27 and his WAR total ranks no higher than 124th among all under-30 careers.

    Among active players, only A-Rod (4th), Pujols (7th) and Miggy (43rd) cracked the top 50 in WAR under age 30.

    • Completely disagree. I couldn’t disagree more, actually. First of all, these lists are biased by age. Obviously, Jeff Francoeur is not the 2nd-best player in the group, yet has the 2nd-most plate appearances. Why? Because he’s been playing longer than most of the others. If you were to say “the current 27-29 year-olds are not that stellar,” well, you might have an argument. But you can’t lump Manny Machado and Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in with the current 28-year-olds, as if they’re underachievers. That just strikes me as wrong. Additionally, what would be an expected finish for a top player under age 30? McCutchen is only 27 and so is Longoria. Longo, with two typical, Longorian seasons, could crack 50 WAR by age 30. Mike Trout, barring catastrophic injury, seems almost a lock to get to 50 (needing only 30 WAR in the next 7 seasons). It’s a very good crop, I think. It’s just that many of the excellent players happen to be under 27, so they haven’t shown up on lists that rely on cumulative statistics.

      • I agree with our Doom-ey friend. The time window is cherry picked. There may not be a HOF-er born between Miggy and Longo but that doesn’t mean we have a shortage of young talent. That’s a pretty small time window!

      • Fair comment, Dr. Doom, if you’re looking forward.

        But, if looking backwards a decade at players currently active (which is what I was doing), the pickings are rather slim as Artie Z. shows in his list @6.

    • I was looking at this last – if we look at “decades” for the top 50 in WAR under age 30, we will get the following distribution. By “decade” I mean “This is the decade in which the player turned 30” so that “1900” means 1900-1909.

      1900: 2 (Davis, Lajoie)
      1910: 4 (Magee, Collins, Cobb, Speaker)
      1920: 3 (Ruth, Hornsby, Frisch)
      1930: 5 (Goslin, Simmons, Gehrig, Foxx, Ott)
      1940: 4 (Vaughan, Medwick, Boudreau, T. Williams)
      1950: 3 (Musial, Ashburn, Snider)
      1960: 7 (Banks, Mays, Mathews, Mantle, Aaron, Kaline, F. Robinson)
      1970: 6 (Yaz, Santo, Allen, Morgan, Reggie, Bench)
      1980: 7 (Schmidt, Brett, G. Carter, Yount, Boggs, Trammell, Rickey)
      1990: 3 (Ripken, Bonds, Thomas)
      2000: 4 (Griffey, I-Rod, A-Rod, Andruw)
      2010: 2 (Pujols, Miggy)

      Now, someone will need 50 WAR to crack this list (Medwick is last with 49.7). Longoria could do it (he ranks 45th for age 27 WAR, just a tick ahead of Schmidt) but he needs to be healthy and there are players ahead of him who didn’t make it (Pinson, Cedeno, Fregosi, Travis Jackson, Cronin).

    • He does seem like the perfect fit, doesn’t he? Yankee stadium is made for left handed power hitters. Can you name a left handed power hitting catcher better than McCann?

      • Two of the three LH-hitting catchers ahead of McCann in HR are HOFers (Berra and Dickey). The other is Darrell Porter. Barring injury, McCann will pass Porter in 2014, and Dickey in 2014 or 2015. Berra is probably out of reach, but no shame placing 2nd to Yogi.

        • I meant active but if you’re talking about an all time list and he’s even on it at age 29 then my point is even more well made.

      • Most Regular Season Homers As A Left-Handed Batter, While In The Game As A Catcher:
        1. Yogi Berra 272 305
        2. Bill Dickey 200
        3. Jorge Posada 178
        4. Brian McCann 172
        5. Todd Hundley 171

        Note that the three ahead of McCann hit every one of their home runs for the Yankees.

        • Darrell Porter had 164 of his homers while in the game as a catcher;, he also hit some as a DH and pinch-hitter. Posada and Hundley were switch-hitters who hit a lot of their homers while batting lefty.

          • You’re right — I used the splits info on Berra’s page, but for some reason that’s not complete and doesn’t include all his homers. His home run log, which looks complete, lists 305 homers as a catcher, 44 as an outfielder and 9 as a pinch-hitter. I will edit my comment to fix the list.

  2. Are players debuting later in recent decades?
    Becoming starters deeper into their 20s?

    Are Griffey ARod Andrew Trout Harper Machado the outliers?
    Is the Cardinal rule of steeping talent until age 26 the trend?

    • Voomo @12, intuitively, yes, they would, as a group, debut later. The salary structure, focused as it is on service time would delay a lot of call-ups, even at the cost to the team’s immediate chances of winning. Improved training and medical care lengthen careers, as does longer term guaranteed contracts. Look at the number of impaired older players out there who would be out of a job but for the fact that their teams still have to pay them ridiculous amounts of money.

    • There are lots of ways one might study that issue. but here’s one. Since 1901, there have been 458 player seasons in which the player’s age as of June 30 was 21 or under and the player had at least 250 PA (so we are talking about position players, not pitchers). So an average season since 1901 will see 4 players 21 or younger with at least 250 PAs (note that a player can count in multiple years if he starts early enough and plays often enough — for example Bryce Harper and Mike Trout count in both 2012 and 2013).

      In the seasons from 2000 on, the average has been 3 a season, so down one player a season from the 20th century average. From this point of view, 2013 was an above-average year, with five such seasons: Trout, Harper, Machado, Profar and Christian Yelich, who was called up by the Marlins in late July. 2012 was a low year, with only two, Harper and Trout.

      There were an astounding 13 such seasons in 1963 (in the aftermath of the first modern MLB expansion), the only year there were more than 10. 1943, mid-WWII, was the only season there no such years at all. There have been 11 seasons in which only one player 21 or younger reached 250 PAs, including 2000 (Adrian Beltre), 2002 (Carl Crawford) and 2005 (Jeff Francoeur).

    • Perhaps as the quality of college baseball continues to improve, we’ll see fewer high schoolers opting for the minor leagues. Mandatory allocating of monies for draft picks certainly can postpone a kid’s dreams as well….

  3. It makes me sad that the under-30 player with the second-most PA is Jeff Francoeur. I know he’s sexy and that, but five thousand PA for a player that bad and that expensive? Zoiks.

    Also: Prince Fielder’s 330 RE24 is more than double that of notoriously-indifferent defender Ryan Zimmerman, but Zimmerman’s WAR lead is more than ten. This calls into focus the following two things:

    1) Prince Fielder is a really, really good hitter.
    2) Prince Fielder’s defense is a thing of wonder.

    • I don’t think WAR sees Zimmerman as notoriously-indifferent. From 2007-2010 he racked up 60 Rfield, and one season he only played 106 games (9 Rfield that year). He’s been notoriously-indifferent outside of that range (usually a -1 Rfield, but a -5 in 2011, probably because he was hurt), but still picks up about 5 WAR from Rfield alone (51 career Rfield).

      Using -15 for Rpos for a full-time DH that plays every game (as Fielder does), Fielder would only have -120 Rpos from 2006-2013 and 0 Rfield (because he wouldn’t be playing the field), but he’s actually racked up -167 Rpos+Rfield. He’s lost about 5 WAR for trying to live up to his own name.

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