My next series of blog entries are going to be about composing a "dream team" of the best players under the age of 23 (meaning, under 23, not 23 and under). The cutoff date for 23 is April 1, 2008. If the player turns 23 prior to April 1, 2008, he is ineligible for this team. Why 23? It allows me to focus mostly on prospects, and almost entirely on those players with the highest ceilings who haven't established themselves as major league stars, with a few notable exceptions.
Without further ado, here are my starting pitchers! I will be taking 8 starting pitchers, since their notoriously injured, and I'd use three of them as relievers if all were healthy.
1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, rhp, April 8, 1986 (21)
It's easy to forget that King Felix, described as the best pitching prospect in the last decade, is only 21. He's two years younger than prospects like Clay Buchholz, and yet he's already pitched 465 major league innings with a 30-25 record and a 110 ERA+. So, when you hear people wondering if he'll reach his potential, remind them that those other prospects out there are already way behind.
ML Stats: 465 IP, 30-25, 3.94 ERA (110 ERA+)
2. Philip Hughes, Yankees, rhp, June 24, 1986 (21)
Hughes is a couple months younger than King Felix, and is one of the youngest pitchers in the majors. He had a rough start to his ML career, but he still had an ERA+ of 100, making him a major league average pitcher during his debut. He'll be quite a bit better than that next year. His injuries last season had nothing to do with his arm, so I don't see them being an issue in 2008.
ML Stats: 72 2/3 IP, 5-3, 4.46 ERA (100 ERA+)
3. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees, rhp, September 23, 1985 (22)
Joba's older than either Hughes or Felix, and has yet to establish himself in the majors to their levels, but he had an amazing run in September. He's the only pitcher on this list whose stuff can challenge Felix's. His performance last year was absurd. 1192 ERA+, with an OPS+ of 17 (both ERA+ and OPS+ are based around 100 being average). He was untouchable. This year we should get to see how he does as an ML starter.
ML Stats: 24 IP, 2-0, 0.38 ERA (1192 ERA+)
4. David Price, Rays, lhp, August 26, 1985 (22)
Price may not belong on this list, in that he's never pitched in the majors. But he's a lefty and he has better stuff than most established lefties (including future teammate Scott Kazmir). He's going to need at least half a year in the minors, but I'd take him over Kazmir or future teammate Jake McGee, so he belongs here.
No Professional Stats (signed too late)
5. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, rhp, February 27, 1986 (22)
Gallardo's more than just a thrower like most young pitchers with his stuff. He's got polish, rivaling that of Hughes above, but with stuff that's perhaps a shade better than Hughes'. He had a nice debut in the majors next year, and he should be the Brewers' ace for ages above.
ML Stats: 110 1/3 IP, 9-5, 3.67 ERA (122 ERA+)
6. Franklin Morales, Rockies, lhp, January 24, 1986 (22)
Morales was impressive in his late season callup and a big part in the Rockies' run to end the season. He'll be the best pitcher in a Rockies uniform next season, and would be our 5th starter on this team for next season (as Price would start the season in the minors)
ML Stats: 39 1/3 IP, 3-2, 3.43 ERA (140 ERA+)
7. Homer Bailey, Reds, rhp, May 3, 1986 (21)
Bailey's the most likely on this list to disappoint, but his stuff at his age is too good to pass up, especially since he'd be a spot starter/reliever on this squad.
ML Stats: 45 1/3 IP, 4-2, 5.76 ERA (81 ERA+)
8. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, lhp, March 19, 1988 (20)
Kershaw's got some work to do in order to reach his ceiling, but he's tantalized with his potential. As a top lefty, he's the type of pitcher that organizations are constantly searching for. It was a tough call between him and McGee, but I believe Kershaw's got the greater potential.
Potential: Jake McGee, Rays, lhp, Aug 6, 1986 (21), Rick Porcello, Tigers, rhp, Dec 27, 1988 (19), John Danks, White Sox, lhp, April 15, 1985 (22), Troy Patton, Orioles, lhp, September 3, 1985 (22)
Ineligible 23 yo, but in order I'd take them if they were eligible:
Matt Cain, Giants, (turned 23 on Oct 1 2007), Tim Lincecum, Giants, (June 15, 2007), Clay Buchholz, Red Sox, (turned 23 on Aug 14, 2007), Ian Kennedy, Yankees , (turned 23 on Dec 19, 2007), Chad Billingsley, Dodgers, (July 29, 2007), Kyle Kendrick, Phillies, (Aug 26, 2007)