A look back at TKO's best minors
There's a general feeling amongst the under 21 community in America that 21 is an unreasonable drinking age. However, as I recently turned 21, I don't care. I do care, however, about the best seasons in TKO history by players who at the time, were not legally allowed to drink. A lot of the players on this list have gone on to have long, successful careers, which seems to speak towards elite players and development. I present to you, TKO's All-Underage team.
C Matrim Cauthon
Cauthon, who was Joe Mauer's comp spect, was actually in the major leagues at 18, where he put up pretty successful numbers, especially for a catcher. His best sub 21 season though, was 2021 with the Nationals, where he hit .302/.371/.441, good for a 43.5 VORP. If you believe in lineup protection, you could argue that Cauthon's transition to the bigs was helped by hitting next to guys like Alex Atkins and Mike Murphy.
1B Bryce Harper
One of the best players in league history, Bryce Harper played 3 full seasons under 21, with his last being his best. In 2013, Bryce hit .325/.416/.529 with 24 home runs and his 69.6 VORP paced the National League. Of all the under 21 seasons in TKO history, it's pretty clear that Bryce's was the best.
2B Abed Nadir
Alright, look, this season was nothing special, honestly it was barely anything, but second base was really difficult to find. Most of the great 2B who played in TKO under 21 were predominantly playing other positions at those times. But in 2018, Abed hit .284/.317/.453 in a handful of at bats. Moving along now.
SS Anthony Rendon
A position that's usually hard to master at a young age, Anthony Rendon showed why he received one of the largest contracts in league history this offseason in his rookie campaign, where he hit .304/.337/.468 while playing his usual great defense. Rendon's greatest achievement though, was winning the Chicago White Sox, a team that for a long time was the laughingstock of the league, their first championship in 2030.
3B Xio-xuan Zhu
One of the greatest players in league history, Zhu got started early. In 2015 for Milwaukee, he hit .318/.446/.490, good for a 33.0 VORP, in only 80 games. Spending the bulk of his career in the NL, he never won any big time hardware because of the Atkins effect, but was hall of fame worthy none the less.
OF Tim Ayers
The youngest player on the list, Tim Ayers' 2034 ROTY season was one of the most successful by an underage outfielder, where he posted a .961 OPS and 45.6 VORP on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. Ayers isn't slowing down, as he's continued to clobber American League pitchers.
OF Lorenzo Costa
My favorite player on the list, Lorenzo Costa's 2021 season in Baltimore was a sign of things to come in the star's career. After coming over the offseason before from Chicago, Costa hit .300/.358/.495 in 370 AB's, displaying his rare combination of power and speed.
OF Wolf O'Donell
A throw back, O'Donell is the old man of this list, posting his /.317/.365/.443 rookie season in 2017 for the Boston Red Sox. O'Donell spent his entire career in Boston, posting a career .302 batting average and stealing 251 bases. As we all know, O'Donell died under suspicious circumstances soon after his career ended, having last been seen in a car with Cardinals general manager Brendan Pittz on their way to the beach. RIP Wolf.
SP Gordon Wyatt
Another current star, Wyatt's 2024 season was a nice appetizer for the rest of his career. He posted a 35.4 VORP in 180 innings pitching for the Mets, piling up 14 wins. What's most impressive about Wyatt, is how consistent he's been. In every season since, Wyatt has yet to post a VORP below that of his rookie season, and looking at his numbers, you'd be surprised to see how close he is to being one of the best pitchers in MLB history.
There you have it. The premier starting 9 in TKO history of guys who wouldn't have been allowed to walk into a bar. I'm looking forwards to the first comment that references this.