- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Last week, I unveiled my top 25 players under the age of 25. Previously, I had ranked the top big leaguers "25 and under," and the change in age cutoff generated a lot of questions from readers about where certain 25-year-old players would rank if I included them on the main list. Here's a quick look at the top big leaguers who are age 25 today, in order, along with where they'd rank if I merged them into the 25-under-25 list.
1. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Posey emerged in 2012 not just as one of the best players of his age cohort but one of the best players in baseball, period. He would have ranked third on my "25 under 25" list behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, primarily because of the higher injury risk associated with catchers -- a risk with which Posey is, unfortunately, already familiar. (Of course, if you're making me king for a day, enforcing the rules on obstruction and interference at the plate would be high on my list of official edicts.)
Posey came into surprising power this year to go with his ability to hit for average and get on base, and he remains a very good defensive catcher who can limit the running game. (Remember the concern that he couldn't catch good velocity? Me neither.) He also played a remarkable amount for a catcher, and the Giants were wise to sneak him over to first base to get some extra at-bats for their best hitter without overtaxing his rebuilt leg. If he didn't have an injury history at a position that is inherently injury-prone, I'd put him first on the list, but catchers don't have the same shelf lives that elite players at other positions do, and even when healthy, they rarely reach the 600-plate-appearance mark as Posey did last year. So while I'd rather have Posey for 2013 than Bryce Harper, I'd rather have Harper for the long term.
2. Justin Upton, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks
It's kind of funny to think that Justin Upton's primary job is playing baseball, not fueling trade rumors, although you might argue that in 2012 he was better at the latter than the former when he turned into Justin Pop-Upton for most of the season.
Upton's skill set hasn't changed -- he still has outstanding bat speed with very quick wrists and strong forearms to allow him to drive the ball, and he worked the count as well in 2012 as he did the year before. He's got a high-maintenance swing that's probably going to always require work to keep it consistent, but the potential for seasons like 2011 or better -- featuring power, OBP and good right-field defense -- remains. Because of the variability of his performance, however, I'd drop him on the list to a spot right after Clayton Kershaw (who was sixth), even though I'd still give up a strong package of talent to acquire him if I were in a rival front office.
As a follow-up to his top 25 under 25, Keith Law ranks the top five 25-year-olds in MLB.