The Greatest Generation of 25-Year-Olds Is Right Now

Javier Baez, Mookie Betts, Matt Chapman, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jose Ramirez are among the game’s best players. Together, they have averaged more than 6 WAR a piece this season. Six wins is the generally the point at which a player enters MVP contention. As a group, in other words, Baez and Betts and company have all played like MVP candidates.

Excellence in baseball isn’t the only trait shared in common among the aforementioned players, however. They’re all also basically the same age: each is currently competing in his age-25 season. If that seems like a lot of players all excelling at roughly the same point, it is: it’s quite possible, in fact, that we are witnessing the best group of 25-year-old position players the game has ever seen. The table below features the best seasons by a 25-year-old dating back to 1901.

Top Age-25 Seasons by Player
Year Name Team HR wRC+ WAR
1920 Babe Ruth Yankees 54 239 13.3
1957 Mickey Mantle Yankees 34 217 11.4
1921 Rogers Hornsby Cardinals 21 191 11.2
1933 Jimmie Foxx Athletics 48 189 9.9
1990 Barry Bonds Pirates 33 165 9.9
1928 Lou Gehrig Yankees 27 192 9.7
2004 Adrian Beltre Dodgers 48 161 9.7
2018 Mookie Betts Red Sox 30 180 9.4
1912 Ty Cobb Tigers 7 187 9.1
1944 Snuffy Stirnweiss Yankees 8 141 9.0
1946 Stan Musial Cardinals 16 187 8.8
1906 Terry Turner Naps 2 121 8.6
1913 Tris Speaker Red Sox 3 180 8.6
1915 Benny Kauff Tip-Tops 12 175 8.4
1912 Eddie Collins Athletics 0 158 8.3
1937 Joe Medwick Cardinals 31 180 8.3
1959 Hank Aaron Braves 39 175 8.2
2017 Aaron Judge Yankees 52 172 8.2
1989 Will Clark Giants 23 174 8.1
1975 Mike Schmidt Phillies 38 142 7.9
2018 Jose Ramirez Indians 38 151 7.9
2001 Alex Rodriguez Rangers 52 159 7.8
1965 Ron Santo Cubs 33 145 7.7
1969 Sal Bando Athletics 31 152 7.7
1978 Jim Rice Red Sox 46 162 7.7
1983 Wade Boggs Red Sox 5 155 7.7
2005 Albert Pujols Cardinals 41 167 7.7
1912 Heinie Zimmerman Cubs 14 162 7.6
2012 Buster Posey Giants 24 164 7.6
1910 Sherry Magee Phillies 6 168 7.5
1924 Frankie Frisch Giants 7 132 7.5
1940 Joe DiMaggio Yankees 31 167 7.5
1943 Lou Boudreau Indians 3 133 7.5

This is a fascinating list, and I’ll ask you to note a few things. First is this: of the 33 players presented above, 18 of them are already in the Hall of Fame. Betts and Ramirez are obviously among the 15 who haven’t haven’t been elected to the Hall. Adrian Beltre, Buster Posey, and Albert Pujols are all probably bound for the Hall, but remain active. Aaron Judge isn’t as probably bound for the Hall of Fame but also remains active. That leaves just nine of 33 great 25-year-olds who both (a) are absent from the Hall but also (b) have finished their playing careers.

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are two of those nine: have Hall of Fame numbers but also problematic cases. Another four players began their careers before World War I, while Snuffy Stirnweiss benefited from an absence of players during World War II. Only Sal Bando and Will Clark have failed to produce Hall of Fame-type careers among the 14 players who’ve been this good at age 25 since World War II.

The other thing to note here is that only one season other than the 2018 campaign appears on the list more than once. More than 100 years ago, in 1912, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, and Heinie Zimmerman all recorded 7.5+ WAR seasons at age 25 — and two position players haven’t done the same thing in the same year until this season. Lowering the bar to 7.0 WAR adds a handful of seasons, including Andrew McCutchen and Posey in 2012 as well as Grady Sizemore and David Wright in 2008. Heading into this season, there had only been 18 seasons of at least 8.0 WAR at age 25 and only four in the last 50 seasons. We are likely to have two players accomplish that feat this season.

The success of this season’s 25-year-olds isn’t just a product of Betts and Ramirez. This year, 25-year-olds have produced more position player WAR than any season in history.

Top Age-25 Seasons by Group
Year 25 Y.O WAR %* 5.0+ WAR 4.0+ WAR 2.0+ WAR Top-Three Players
2018 83.1 15.5% 5 9 19 Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Matt Chapman
2009 71.7 12.6% 3 6 18 Hanley Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun
1915 70.2 16.1% 3 6 16 Benny Kauff, Jack Fournier, Heinie Groh
2008 70.0 12.3% 4 7 16 Grady Sizemore, David Wright, Jose Reyes
1999 67.3 11.8% 5 7 16 Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Nomar Garciaparra
2012 66.5 11.7% 3 3 14 Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson
2005 64.5 11.3% 3 5 14 Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Coco Crisp
1963 64.3 17.0% 5 9 13 Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Orlando Cepeda
1993 62.4 11.7% 6 6 14 Frank Thomas, Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell
1985 61.7 12.5% 4 5 14 Tim Raines, Jesse Barfield, Ryne Sandberg
2015 61.1 10.7% 2 4 11 Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Altuve
1971 60.6 13.3% 4 6 11 Bobby Murcer, Reggie Jackson, Bobby Bonds
*Denotes percentage of total WAR produced by position players.

There are some pretty star-studded groups above. The class of 1963 produced three Hall of Famers. So did 1993. The 2009 group hasn’t quite lived up to those great 25-year-old seasons, though Joey Votto (who finished fourth among 25-year-olds) is still playing at a very high level. That 2008 group is full of disappointment and unfilled potential. On a percentage of total WAR basis, the 1915 and 1963 seasons actually top this one — as does 1912, 1913, and 1942 — but in terms of total WAR, no other season is even close. This isn’t a new development for this group of players, either.

  • In 2017, 24-year-olds put up 61 WAR, the fourth-highest total in MLB history.
  • In 2016, 23-year-olds put up 43 WAR, the biggest total ever.
  • In 2015, 22-year-olds put up 36 WAR, the biggest total ever.

This season, five of the top-12 position players by WAR are 25 years old.

MLB WAR Leaderboard, 2018
Name HR wRC+ WAR Age
Mookie Betts 30 180 9.4 25
Mike Trout 36 193 9.3 26
Jose Ramirez 38 151 7.9 25
Francisco Lindor 36 134 7.4 24
Alex Bregman 30 160 7.4 24
Matt Chapman 23 142 6.7 25
Christian Yelich 31 154 6.1 26
Manny Machado 35 139 5.7 25
Anthony Rendon 22 134 5.4 28
Lorenzo Cain 10 126 5.4 32
J.D. Martinez 41 170 5.3 30
Javier Baez 33 134 5.3 25
Paul Goldschmidt 33 148 5.2 30
Andrelton Simmons 11 110 5.2 28
Freddie Freeman 23 139 5.0 28
J.T. Realmuto 21 132 5.0 27

The list above doesn’t even include the most famous 25-year-old playing today: former MVP Bryce Harper is having a decent, but not great year. There are actually quite a few big names lower on the list including Michael Conforto, Rhys Hoskins, Gary Sanchez, and Kyle Schwarber. The table below features the players with at least 1.0 WAR this season.

Age-25 WAR Leaderboard, 2018
Name PA HR wRC+ WAR
Mookie Betts 593 30 180 9.4
Jose Ramirez 656 38 151 7.9
Matt Chapman 582 23 142 6.7
Manny Machado 666 35 139 5.7
Javier Baez 597 33 134 5.3
Trevor Story 623 33 122 4.5
Xander Bogaerts 555 21 128 4.5
Brandon Nimmo 504 17 148 4.4
Trea Turner 697 17 100 4.3
Bryce Harper 654 34 135 3.4
Jurickson Profar 555 18 109 3.2
Mallex Smith 498 2 120 3.2
Kyle Schwarber 478 25 115 3.0
Brian Anderson 636 10 109 3.0
Rhys Hoskins 618 32 130 2.7
Michael Conforto 597 27 116 2.5
Max Kepler 577 19 98 2.4
Tim Anderson 583 19 86 2.1
Jorge Alfaro 372 10 94 2.0
Maikel Franco 456 22 105 1.2
Austin Hedges 304 14 97 1.1
David Bote 187 6 92 1.1
Gary Sanchez 345 16 85 1.0
Josh Bell 541 10 114 1.0

While not as decorated, 25-year-old pitchers include Kyle Freeland, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Noah Syndergaard. What does it all mean? Probably not a whole lot as it relates to this specific post. It has more trivial significance than actual meaning, though this season does seem to bode well for the careers of Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez. The game is currently getting younger. The last four seasons have produced four of the highest five WAR totals for players 25 years old and younger. How long that trend continues is something to monitor. The crackdown on PEDs over the last decade likely affected the aging process and the talent level for players over 30. The lack of expansion and dilution in talent that comes with it would provide more work for aging players. There are a lot of great, young players in the game. Perhaps this post is just a reminder to appreciate the game’s stars.

We hoped you liked reading The Greatest Generation of 25-Year-Olds Is Right Now by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Roger McDowell Hot Foot
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Roger McDowell Hot Foot

“2008: Grady Sizemore, David Wright, Jose Reyes” [begins day-drinking]

FrodoBeck
Member
FrodoBeck

What a cruel sport this game is.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

2008 was a very bad year.

bananas
Member
bananas

Not sure I get this. Is the implication that it was a bad year because those 3 should never be “top 3” at anything?
If anyone is thinking that go look at just how good Grady Sizemore and David Wright were before injuries stole them from us. They were both top-50 all time in career WAR through age 25. Analytics wasn’t appreciated to the same degree as today so Sizemore didn’t gather as many MVP votes but he was absolutely playing at a superstar level.

In fact Sizemore and Wright were remarkably similar in careers to Betts and Machado, who are both undeniably in the “best player alive (non-trout division)” conversation.

Imagine if next year both Betts and Machado are just suddenly not very good and never really recover…. that’s what it was like in 2009 when Sizemore’s joints and Wright’s back stole them away from us basically for good.

(note reyes was also a fantastic player at the time as a flashy speed-and-defense player who could hit well enough to put up some MVP level seasons, but he never hit for power and I don’t think many considered him at the “high chance of future HOF” level like the other two)

dl80
Member
dl80

I think the idea is rather that those three players (for different reasons) never were able to fulfill the lofty expectations for them.

Jross
Member
Jross

I thought it was because the Mets suck

tramps like us
Member
tramps like us

Actually, the opposite. All 3 seemed to have incredibly bright futures. None fulfilled the hopes, for varying reasons. They obviously had the skills and were as good, even better, than you describe.