From Arizona's Corbin Carroll to Baltimore's Adley Rutschman and Cleveland's Tanner Bibee, the ABC's of Major League Baseball's future generation of stars is already looking bright.
Every franchise has at least one budding star upon whom it is pinning some of its long-term hopes and dreams.
To qualify as a candidate for this list, a player must meet each of these three criteria:
- Is in his age-25 season or younger
- Is currently on the 40-man roster (i.e. can be a prospect, but must be a player the franchise reasonably thinks could contribute this season)
- Has never previously been named an All-Star
That third bullet point might seem to fly in the face of our attempt to identify potential superstars. However, we're focused more on the "upside" portion of our headline, and you don't need us to let you know that already established stars the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have bright futures.
Teams are broken up by division and listed in alphabetical order within their divisions.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C, age-25 season (.285/.407/.462, 7 HR, 24 RBI)
With honorable mentions to Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez—who entered the year unanimously regarded as two of the best prospects in all of baseball—Rutschman has already been established as a star. He didn't crack the All-Star Game roster last year after getting called up in late May, but he did make a spirited run at Julio Rodríguez's AL ROY crown and finished 12th in the AL MVP vote. Rutschman provides solid value as a catcher and is already one of the most patient hitters in the majors.
Boston Red Sox: Enmanuel Valdéz, 2B/SS, age-24 season (.278/.339/.444, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB)
The bizarre part of Valdéz hitting well since getting called up is that he did not do so in the minors for Boston. He was a certified hitting machine in the Astros' farm system. However, he was nothing special last season after coming over in the Christian Vázquez trade, and he was hitting just .184 through 14 games at Worchester this season. But with Xander Bogaerts gone and Trevor Story hurt, the Red Sox had basically no choice but to give Valdéz a prolonged audition when Yu Chang also hit the IL in late April. So far so good, though, as Valdéz hit .343 in his first 10 games and could be a budding star.
New York Yankees: Anthony Volpe, SS, age-22 season (.215/.307/.399, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 13 SB)
Despite a mediocre on-base percentage, a whiff rate of nearly 30 percent and a glove that is on pace for more than 20 errors, Volpe remains one of the top candidates for AL Rookie of the Year. Because when he does get on base, he is arguably the best base-runner in the majors. And there's plenty of pop in his bat—which we already knew from the 70 doubles, 11 triples and 48 home runs he hit in the minors from 2021-22.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco, SS, age-22 season (.292/.354/.503, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 14 SB)
The Rays bet big on Franco's superstar upside just 70 games into his career, signing the then-20-year-old to an 11-year, $182 million deal in November 2021. An injury-riddled campaign kept him from fully delivering on that potential last year, but Franco has emerged as a legitimate AL MVP candidate for the best team in baseball. If he stays healthy, he's on pace for around 25 home runs and 50 stolen bases.
Toronto Blue Jays: Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B, age-21 season (Has not yet made MLB debut)
Toronto has a quartet of mighty-fine Major Leaguers playing in either their age-24 or age-25 season. They're too fine for today's discussion, though, as Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk and Alek Manoah have each been selected to All-Star Game rosters and are thus ineligible for this list. But we'll take Martinez, who has mashed 69 home runs since the beginning of 2021, averaging roughly 15 plate appearances per homer. He'll need to get his batting average up if he's ever going to make it to the big leagues, though. Martinez hit .203 last year and is currently sitting at .155 for 2023.