CINCINNATI – Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas spent Sunday night mixing and mingling with fellow All-Stars when something struck him.
“We were hanging out, and I was looking around and there’s about five or six of us,” Moustakas said. “I was like, ‘Man. I’m the oldest guy at this table right now and I’m 26 years old.’ ”
At this particular All-Star Game, there’s a significant chance that a player will bump into a teammate whose automobile insurance rates are still high because he hasn’t yet turned 25.
“There’s something to be said about that, how good the talent level is in baseball nowadays,” Moustakas said.
How good, and how young.
The All-Star Game is being hit with a youth moment this year. There are a record 20 players named to the teams who are 25 or younger, according to STATS — and that includes 10 who haven’t even turned 25. There are 36 players who are 27 and younger. And Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is one of 29 first-time All-Stars this week at the Queen City.
The American and National League rosters are full of players who are immensely talented now, and figure to improve their games with a few additional years of experience.
“It’s fun to watch,” Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “I’m 28 and I’m seeing guys at 22 and some of the stuff I’m seeing is ridiculous. I’m thinking back to when I was playing at 22 and there’s no chance I could have done this.”
Fans at Target Field saluted Derek Jeter at last year’s All-Star Game as the longtime Yankees shortstop wrapped up a 20-year career. Eyes immediately shifted to the Angels’ Mike Trout, then 22, as Jeter’s possible replacement to become the face of baseball.
A year later, Trout is back at the All-Star Game for a fourth time. While Trout could end up being the straw that stirs the league’s drink, many young All-Stars here could challenge him on that front.
“The Derek Jeter generation in the last few years came to the end of their careers. We have a great new crop of young players,” new Commissioner Rob Manfred said, possibly understating the youth movement he presides over.
Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, with his mound of manicured hair, could be the coifed face of baseball. He led the NL by receiving more than 13 million votes. And he is only 22.
Giancarlo Stanton, he of the 480-foot home runs, could be the powerful face of baseball. The 25-year-old was voted to the NL team but will not play due to injury. The Royals’ Salvardo Perez, also 25, is regarded as the AL’s best catcher.
A possible crosstown rival to Trout could be Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson. He is in the All-Star Game after three months in the majors. Three.
“I’m just lucky for this opportunity, and it is special,” said Pederson, 23. “I’ve only been in the majors three months so I have a lot to do before I can be considered with some of the other guys in this room.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has Pederson beat when it comes to experience, or lack thereof. Bryant, 23, began the season at Class AAA Iowa and was called up after seven games. And he did enough after his promotion — .269 average, 12 home runs, 51 RBI — to be named an All-Star.
A number of top prospects who aren’t even in Cincinnati have made an instant impact when called up. The Twins are experiencing that right now with the fast start power-hitting youngster Miguel Sano is enjoying. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan doesn’t believe the trend of impact prospects is just a cycle that will eventually run its course because it’s happened frequently in recent years.
“And that is good for the game,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any question that some of these guys have charisma and are media-friendly and have marketing ability and all the good things the game needs. We hope that some of that type of stuff would happen here [in Minnesota] at some point.”
Players used to stay in the minors to smooth out rough edges or to simmer until they are ready. The final lessons now are being learned in the majors, and managers have to be patient with prospects as they make mistakes, knowing the payoff is significant.
“It’s definitely a trend you see in MLB from an organizational standpoint,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “The number of games you play, younger players, you want them blended in. Obviously, salary is part of that. We bring up players quicker and faster. They get promoted in the minor leagues a lot more now than ever.
“We know Kris Bryant when he gets here. We know about Joc Pederson when he gets here. We know him from the minor leagues and we hear a lot about him. The younger guys are what organizations love. They are under control, their salaries are predictable and it is part of the industry.’’
And a big part of the 2015 All-Star Game.