Manny Machado was the first player to make it to the majors who was younger than I was at the time. I knew he was coming up and was forced to examine my youth in relation to the ceaseless nature of eternity. After this happened, I realized, it would never stop. Players younger than me were going to make it to the major leagues and earn millions of dollars and untold fame and adoration and I, at best, was going to sit around typing about them at the same time. 19-year-old Machado was at third, scooping up balls and making the improbable look easy, and 19-year-old me was at college, getting winded by brisk walks across campus.
Of course, my horrified realization indeed came to pass, as I’m sure it once did for all you readers, and the majors are swarming with tiny little baby children who are both younger than I am and much better at baseball. It was jarring the first few times it happened (Bryce Harper! Jurickson Profar! Raul Mondesi!), but of course there are a few 20-year-olds playing in the majors every season, even if it never gets less crazy to think about. The truly crazy part is that these players have so much talent at such a young age that they’re keeping up with career guys. It’s not a common teenager that can mash two taters in the second game of his career, as Machado did.
Where is this going? Great question. Now that I’ve finally gotten over my existential angst and have accepted ballplayers with birthdays in the 1990s into my heart, let’s take a look at the whiz kids in the minors, the five youngest Sox players currently rostered with a full season club (things will look different when the rookie clubs open in June). They probably won’t be the next Machado or Harper, but they’re definitely younger than them, and that counts for something, maybe.
Spencer Adams: DOB 4/13/96
Freshly 21, Spencer Adams is in his fourth season of pro ball (when I turned 21, I was working at a pool concession stand). His 2016 was underwhelming, but apart from that he’s put up some solid numbers. This year, he’s off to a 1-4 start (which doesn’t mean too much on a 10-16 team) with a 2.93 ERA. While Adams doesn’t overpower with velocity, he is pretty good at not walking people, and if his secondary pitches develop he could be still be nasty with a slider and change. He’s pretty lanky at 6’3” and 171 pounds, but as 21-year-olds do, he has the potential to bulk up, and put more power behind his pitches as he does. He is most likely the closest of the five to the majors.
Michael Kopech: DOB 4/30/96
Here is the opposite of Adams: thirty pounds heavier, a fastball that sizzles as it goes by you, and some control problems. Kopech currently has 14 walks against 28 strikeouts, with a career K:BB ratio of 2.41 (that’s 200 strikeouts and 83 walks). His dumb mistakes are well-known, like breaking his hand punching his roommate in the face two years ago, but that’s what this is about: young people aren’t yet who they’re going to be, which is part of why young prospects are so exciting. There’s a lot in flux. Kopech is adapting to the life in the spotlight his heater has brought him in a way befitting his age; he’s dating the daughter of a reality TV star (you can read a strangely hilarious Daily Mail article about their recent one-year anniversary here) and has over 82,000 Instagram followers.
Luis Alexander Basabe: DOB 8/26/96
Basabe has a twin brother named Luis Alejandro Basabe who plays for the Diamondbacks (in the same vein as Raul Mondesi, Jr. and Raul Adalberto Mondesi, although those two aren’t twins). Also, Basabe (our Basabe… although the other Basabe too) has been playing professional baseball since 2013, over four seasons. He signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent at 15 years old. Basabe, who currently plays outfield for the Winston-Salem Dash, was 5’11” and 165 pounds at that time. Now, he’s listed at 6’0” and 160, which should remind you that teenagers who get the big signing bonuses are already humongous, muscled freaks of nature who could probably pull the sword out of the stone, even if they are not the true king. Basabe is slashing an unexceptional .260/.329/.390, but it’s still early in the season and he’s over two years younger than the league average.
Micker Adolfo: DOB 9/11/96
Even though Adolfo is only a few weeks younger than Basabe (both of them), it feels like he’s been on the periphery for a long time. In fact, it’s only been since 2014, or it’s been all the way since 2014, depending on how you feel about it. Adolfo was 16 when he signed, and to reinforce the above freaks-of-nature point, he was 6’3”, 215 at signing, and is 6’3”, 200 now. He’s been plagued by the strikeout for his entire career so far, with the nadir in his rookie season (85 K in 179 at-bats). Although he’s hitting a career-high .279 through one month, he’ll need to improve on the whiffs. The outfielder has also had three separate DL stints, which is a little distressing for someone so early in his career, but young bodies are way better at healing themselves than the bodies of us old fools.
Yosmer Solorzano: DOB 2/11/97
Yes, that’s a guy born in 1997, currently playing for the Kannapolis Intimidators. 1997 is the first New Year’s Eve I remember, and this dude was born over a month after that. Time is bad and somebody should stop it. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but Solorzano is much less highly-regarded as a prospect than the other four. Even in rookie ball, though, keeping your ERA down to 3.02 as a 17-year-old is no mean feat. This will be Solorzano’s third year in baseball, and probably a revealing one.
Of course, this has all been prospects assigned to an affiliate. Who knows how many teenagers are in the back fields at extended spring training? It could be dozens. Hundreds. For now, we can be thankful that nobody yet has a birthday in 2000 or later… but it won’t be long.
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