Question: Who is the best player in the majors under 25-years-old?
In the fourth installment of our “Face Off” segment, site founder John Russo is going to square off with a writer from a different blog. In the first ever inter-blog face off, Russo will take on another John, John Shields from “The Philly Phans.”
Shields chose a pitcher, Clayton Kershaw (even though the instructions said position player) of the Dodgers and Russo took Giants catcher Buster Posey.
John S: Clayton Kershaw
Alright, when I was trying to decide what player to take in this Face-Off, I sat scanning through the names and a common trend occurred, most of the young players on the list had a down season within in their stats. The guy I have chosen had a steady rookie season, and has never looked back. This player is Dodgers’ lefthander Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw has been an instant success since he debuted in 2008 at the ripe young age of 20. He posted a solid 5-5 record with a 4.26 ERA. Alright, so those are steady numbers and would be acceptable by many standards in today’s game.
During the next three seasons, Kershaw has stepped up his game posting ERAs of 2.79, 2.91, and 2.62 in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. There is no downside to this guy as he keeps improving from year to year. His innings have gone up through the years as have his strikeouts. He averages a strikeout per inning for those three seasons and his walks/9 per name has been slowly decreasing showing his maturity as a major league pitcher.
His career ERA, thus far, is an impressive 3.09. I know it’s a bit premature, but remember that Roy Halladay’s career era is 3.29.
I guess the one possible downside to this lefty would be that walk total. Now let’s put this walk total into perspective. This season Kershaw has walked 24 hitters in 79 innings. That is the exact same total that fellow superstar starters Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson have had this season. So, is that total such a big deal?
I mean, it shouldn’t even matter. Walking a few batters is not that big of a deal if the pitcher can work his way out of tough situations. Kershaw has proven again and again that he can get out of trouble that he may or may not cause with his free passes. The 23 year old has shown over his young career that he is one step ahead of many pitchers older than himself.
Now, if that is not enough to convince you that Kershaw is the best young player in big leagues, take this into consideration. Buster Posey, the player whom my opponent has chosen, has been dominated by Kershaw during his career. Posey is hitting a meager .111 in 18 career at-bats against the lefty. Case closed.
John R.: Buster Posey
The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year capped off his remarkable Major League breakthrough with a World Series ring.
Those two right there alone can make Posey the best future star in the game. Though he’s no Joe Mauer, Posey is a 10-year veteran in a 24-year-old’s body.
A part of his maturing process last season came in the NLCS in Game 4. Posey broke out with a four-hit game, the final coming with one out in the 9th inning to move the winning run into scoring position for Juan Uribe to drive in.
Posey’s 2010 campaign ended with a .305 average with 18 homers and 67 RBIs, all in the top four among catchers in the Majors. His post season was just as strong, especially for a rookie. He hit .288 with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs in the NLDS, CS and World Series combined. His homer came in Game 4 of the World Series.
Unfortunately for Posey this season, he broke a bone in his ankle and tore three ligaments in his leg not properly blocking home plate. His season will likely be over after a pretty strong start with a .284 average, four homers and 21 RBIs.
My opponent had the narrow-mindedness to bring up Posey’s career, aka one season, against Kershaw. Use a larger sample size and maybe this time it’ll work. Here’s a small sample size I’ll use on Kershaw just because it’s fun: In the playoffs in 2009, Kershaw allowed nine runs in 13.1 innings with seven of them being allowed in 6.2 innings in the NLCS against the Phils. Not so clutch now, is he.
Posey’s upside is unmatched with today’s young catchers. He plays the game the two right ways: like a 10-year vet and with a smile on his face. Posey loves to play baseball more than any other player I have seen in a long time.