Williams: Nats want to make amends for 2013
The National League East has a great deal of young talent all the way around the division. The Braves and Nationals in particular have built young teams that look to compete for pennants for many years to come. But which young players in the division are the best? Here is a look at the ten best NL East players under the age of 25:
10. Zack Wheeler, SP, 23 years old - New York Mets
2013 stats: 7-5, 3.42 ERA, 17 GS, 100 IP, 38 ER, 84 SO, 1.360 WHIP
2013 honors: N/A
The Mets finally got a look at Wheeler nearly two years after trading Carlos Beltran to the Giants for his services. The early returns were very good as Wheeler held a 3.42 ERA through 100 innings and struck out 84 batters. The former 6th overall pick will now have to step up to help carry the Mets' rotation in 2014 because of Matt Harvey's injury. Is he enough to make the Mets competitive again? Probably not, but the right-hander sure looks like a keeper for New York.
9. Alex Wood, SP, 22 years old - Atlanta Braves
2013 stats: 3-3, 3.13 ERA, 31 G, 11 GS, 77.2 IP, 29 ER, 77 SO, 1.326 WHIP
2013 honors: N/A
A 2012 second round pick, few probably predicted Wood would make an impact in the majors so early. Some may be reading this and asking 'who the heck is that?' But for those who saw the Nats face him twice this season, it was clear his future is very bright. Wood is a lefty with a funky delivery who baffled the Nats with one earned run through 11 innings. He should start 2014 in the Braves' rotation and, as long as he continues what he showed this past season, be a problem for the rest of the NL East.
8. Jason Heyward, OF, 24 years old - Atlanta Braves
2013 stats: .254/.349/.427, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 67 R, 22 2B, 48 BB
2013 honors: N/A
A broken jaw on a scary play limited Heyward to just 104 games this season, and even when he played he struggled. But the season he put together in 2012 (27 HR, 82 RBI, .814 OPS) was impressive and there's no question he's a bright young star. Heyward is already a Gold Glove outfielder and has earned MVP votes twice, all at the young age of 24. His ceiling is still very high and he has plenty of room to get better.
7. Julio Teheran, SP, 22 years old - Atlanta Braves
2013 stats: 14-8, 3.20 ERA, 30 GS, 185.2 IP, 66 ER, 170 SO, 1.174 WHIP
2013 honors: 5th in NL Rookie of the Year voting
After Stephen Strasburg shined in 2010, Teheran was pinned as the next big thing. Then 2011 and 2012 happened where we saw Teheran struggle mightily in his first try at the majors. Then, in 2013, he finally realized his potential and emerged as the potential ace we once thought he could be. Teheran has electric stuff and seems to have his command and composure down. He's definitely a centerpiece for the Braves to build their rotation around.
6. Bryce Harper, OF, 21 years old - Washington Nationals
2013 stats: .274/.368/.486, 20 HR, 58 RBI, 71 R, 24 2B, 61 BB
2013 honors: All-Star
Though Harper's best is likely yet to come, he's already established himself as one of the best young players in baseball, much less in the division. He also just turned 21 which gives him several years until he is disqualified from this list. Harper's talents are obvious and seem to be unlimited, he should be fun for Nationals fans - and baseball fans in general - to watch moving forward.
5. Matt Harvey, SP, 24 years old - New York Mets
2013 stats: 9-5, 2.27 ERA, 26 GS, 178.1 IP, 45 ER, 191 SO, 0.931 WHIP
2013 honors: All-Star, 4th in NL Cy Young voting
Harvey will miss all of the 2014 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, a tough blow to the Mets who hope to take a big step forward very soon. While healthy Harvey was arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball and all fans of the sport should be rooting for him to come back 100 percent. He turns 25 in March so his appearance on this list is short-lived, but Harvey is clearly one of the best young players in the division. If he weren't hurt, he'd rank higher.
4. Andrelton Simmons, SS, 24 years old - Atlanta Braves
2013 stats: .248/.296/.396, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 76 R, 27 2B, 40 BB
2013 honors: Gold Glove, 14th in NL MVP voting
Simmons broke out in 2013 as one of the best defensive players in baseball, flashing range and an infield arm maybe only Ian Desmond can compete with. Simmons also showed some power with 17 home runs and looks to be the total package at shortstop. The Braves would like to see his batting average go up from .248, but if it does he could become one of the more valuable players in the game.
3. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, 24 years old - Miami Marlins
2013 stats: .249/.365/.480, 24 HR, 62 RBI, 62 R, 26 2B, 74 BB
2013 honors: N/A
Stanton had a down year in 2013 as he dealt with injuries and one of the worst supporting casts in baseball, but there is no denying how special a talent he is. Last season was just his fourth in the majors and he already has 117 homers on his resume. His power is extremely rare and an improved Marlins lineup should help him return to his 30+ homer form of the previous two years.
2. Jose Fernandez, SP, 21 years old - Miami Marlins
2013 stats: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 28 GS, 172.2 IP, 42 ER, 187 SO, 0.979 WHIP
2013 honors: NL Rookie of the Year, All-Star, 3rd in NL Cy Young voting
The NL East saw several young pitchers emerge in 2013, and Fernandez may be the best of all of them. He's only 21 and dominated the majors last year with a 2.19 ERA across 28 starts. He was historically good and nearly made history against the Nationals in a no-hit bid. As long as he stays healthy, Fernandez will compete for plenty of Cy Young awards in the future.
1. Freddie Freeman, 1B, 24 years old - Atlanta Braves
2013 stats: .319/.396/.501, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 89 R, 27 2B, 66 BB
2013 honors: All-Star, 5th in NL MVP voting
First base prospects who can hit come around nearly ever year it seems, but few work out as well as Freeman has. The former second round pick broke out in a big way this past season with a .319 batting average to go along with his already proven power. Freeman established himself as not only the best young player in the division, but maybe even the best player overall.