Kris Bryant, 25, 3B/OF, Cubs
Bryant’s current $1.05M salary ranks 486th among all players, 30th among 3rd Basement, and 16th among all Cubs. He’s not eligible to hit free agency until 2022, but will see a nice increase in salary next season when he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time. The Cubs may look to skip arbitration altogether and extend their MVP after the 2017 season.
Bryce Harper, 24, OF, Nationals
Bryant’s current $13.625M salary in year three of his arbitration ranks 87th in MLB, 18th among outfielders, and 5th on the Nationals this year. He’s eligible for arbitration again in 2018, meaning the Nationals can throw an even bigger tender at him next season, but they’ll simply be delaying the inevitable in doing so. Harper should and will command the highest contract in the history of baseball – even if his calculated market value doesn’t quite put him in that context yet…
Manny Machado, 24, 3B/SS, Orioles
Machado has put together back to back elite seasons in Baltimore, earning him a generous $11.5M salary in his 2nd year of arbitration. He’s got 1 more arbtration year under his belt, but the Orioles may try to bypass that with a long-term extension this winter. His current salary ranks 112th in MLB, 13th among third basemen, and 6th on the Orioles. His current calculated value stands just north of $20M per year.
Nolan Arenado, 26, 3B, Rockies
Lost in a Colorado market that gets little national attention these days, Arenado may be the most underrated young player in the game pound for pound. All he’s done the past two seasons is average .290, 41 doubles, 41 homers, and 132 RBI. The Rockies did right by him with a 2 year “bridge” contract this offseason (averaging $14.75M per year), but they’ll need to go well north of $20M the next time around.
Francisco Lindor, 23, SS, Indians
Lindor lived up to the hype as a “5-tool” prospect, putting together a 2016 campaign that saw a .301 average, 182 hits, 30 doubles, 15 homers, 78 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. A hot start to 2017 already has many talking about his next big contract – but neither the Indians nor Lindor need to rush in this regard. The 23 year old is under team control through 2021, including another pre-arbitration season in 2018. With that said, Lindor is producing at a pace that grants him a calculated market value north of $18.5M per year; a tad bit higher than his $580,000 salary this season.
Jose Altuve, 26, 2B, Astros
The man who was told he was too small has average 213 hits, 43 doubles, 15 homers, 74 RBIs, and 42 stolen bases over the past three seasons. Not only does he belong, but he’s producing at a market value 7 times his current paycheck. His $3.125M average salary ranks 336th in MLB, and 23rd amond 2nd basemen. The Astros did well to see this coming, extending Altuve back in 2014 – even before the big numbers started to pile up. They’ll likely wait a year before doubling down on their 5-tool All Star again, but it’ll cost them this time.
Noah Syndergaard, 24, SP, Mets
"Thor" as he has been coined in Queens stormed onto the scene in 2015, and followed that up with a Cy Young candidacy campaign last year (218K, 43 BB, 2.6 ERA in 183 IP). He’s off to another elite start in 2017, but has four option years remaining through 2021 before becoming free agent eligible in 2022. His $605,500 salary (524 in MLB, 116th among SP), pales in comparison to his near $26M calculated market value.
Jake Arrieta, 31, SP, Cubs
Alright so maybe he’s not “young” in comparison to the others listed here, but a slow start to Arrieta’s career delayed Arrieta’s ability to get to free agency. But that wait will come to and end after the 2017 season. His current $15,637,500 salary (avoiding arbitration) ranks 68th in MLB, and 26th among starting pitchers. His last three years of production has him on pace to join the Scherzers and Prices of the world in the $30M/year club.