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The beginning of a new Major League Baseball season is a good time for pondering mortality. OK, maybe not in those terms, but it's the start of a new cycle and you start to notice things. Like how many years it's been since your team last competed for a pennant or division crown; or how your favorite player looks older all the sudden. (Hey, we're not shaming anyone. Father Time comes for us all -- especially those of us who aren't left-handed relievers.)

Since we think the spring is a good time to reflect on such matters, we here at CBS Sports decided to get in on the act by identifying the best current player at every age. That means, inevitably, noticing that some players are much older than you perceived. It also means starting to think about the future -- at least in relation to baseball.

Below, we've picked the top player at every age from 18 until 41, or the oldest player in the majors. Do note we're not using chronological age here; no, for the sake of simplicity, we've turned to Baseball Reference's "seasonal age" concept -- that is, the player's age as of June 30. 

With the fine print out of the way, let's get to it.

Age 18: C Ethan Salas, San Diego Padres

A teenager hasn't caught in an MLB game since 1991, when Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez appeared in 88 contests as a 19-year-old. Salas, a preternatural defender who posted a .752 OPS across three levels in his first professional season, appears certain to change that. Salas won't celebrate his 20th birthday until June 1, 2026, but he may not require another two years to accomplish the feat. The Padres have pushed him (and their other talented youngsters) in an aggressive manner. It's not out of the realm of possibility, then, that he debuts later this year, albeit likely after his 18th birthday. 

Others considered: MIF Colt Emerson, Seattle Mariners; SS Arjun Nimmala, Toronto Blue Jays; SS Sebastian Walcott, Texas Rangers.

Age 19: OF Walker Jenkins, Minnesota Twins

Jenkins, the No. 5 pick in last summer's draft and our No. 9 prospect in the minors, isn't likely to play in the majors this season. Nevertheless, he blazed an impressive introduction to pro ball, hitting .362/.417/.571 with nearly as many extra-base hits (12) as strikeouts (14) in 26 games. Scouts already believed Jenkins possessed middle-of-the-order upside from his days bullying North Carolina prepsters. He's provided them no reason yet to downshift. 

Others consideredSS Roderick Arias, New York Yankees; 1B/C Samuel Basallo, Baltimore Orioles; OF Max Clark, Detroit Tigers.

Age 20: SS/2B Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles

We consider Holliday to be the game's best prospect. He's shown a polished offensive skill set despite consistently being several years younger than his average competition. Holliday was a real candidate to make the Orioles' Opening Day roster, but in the end Baltimore's front office said they wanted to see him get more repetitions at second base (his likely landing spot in deference to Gunnar Henderson) and against lefty pitchers. Rest assured that Holliday will get a chance to impact the season before long.

Others considered: OF Roman Anthony, Boston Red Sox; 3B Junior Caminero, Tampa Bay Rays; CF Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers.

Age 21: OF Evan Carter, Texas Rangers

Carter was the breakout star of last year's postseason, reaching base in all 17 of the Rangers' games en route to a World Series title. He hit .306/.413/.645 in 23 regular season games, too. Some of the other names listed below can only hope that they end up making such an impact for their team someday soon.

Others considered: OF Jasson Domínguez, New York Yankees; SS Jordan Lawlar, Arizona Diamondbacks; LHP Eury Pérez, Miami Marlins; OF James Wood, Washington Nationals.

Age 22: OF Wyatt Langford, Texas Rangers

This may seem aggressive, given Langford's lack of service time. We're big fans of his, and have been dating back to his days at the University of Florida. He projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter with enough athleticism to cover in center if needed. Francisco Álvarez didn't have the grandest season for a young catcher, but he launched 25 home runs and graded as a well-above-average framer. That's a pretty good combination, and one that bodes well for him having a long and lucrative career in the majors.

Others considered: C Francisco Álvarez, New York MetsOF Dylan Crews, Washington Nationals; SS Elly De La Cruz Cincinnati Reds; RHP Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates; RF Jordan Walker, St. Louis Cardinals.

Age 23: CF Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners

This age includes the Rookie of the Year Award winners in each league for the past two seasons. We're not going to pretend there's much of a gap between these players and we essentially flipped a coin a few times to get our pick. In case you were wondering, Rodríguez's 11.6 Wins Above Replacement over his age-21-22 seasons ranks third in Mariners franchise history, just behind Ken Griffey Jr. and Álex Rodríguez. That's good company to keep. 

Others considered: RF Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks; SS Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles; CF Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves.

Age 24: SS Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals

Witt is coming off a breakout season that saw him post a 120 OPS+ with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases and earned him an 11-year extension. His contributions were good for an estimated 4.4 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference's calculations. The scary thing, if you're a fan of a different American League Central team, is that Witt still has room to improve -- be it by walking more often, or by becoming more efficient on the basepaths. He's already pretty good, so any further improvements will guarantee that he's going to beat last year's seventh-place finish in Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Others considered: 1B Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox; RHP Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles; 1B Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers

Age 25: OF Juan Soto, New York Yankees

Soto is already on a Hall of Fame track, and he's in the early stages of a season that will see him play in the most favorable environment of his offensive career. He needs 40 home runs to get to 200 for his career -- for reference, only eight players have ever cleared that threshold before their age-26 season: Alex Rodríguez, Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, and Mike Trout. We don't think Soto, or anyone else for that matter, would be disappointed joining that group.

Others considered: 2B Andrés Giménez, Cleveland Guardians; 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays; RHP Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves; RF Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres; RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Los Angeles Dodgers.

Age 26: OF Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves

Acuña was three stolen bases away in 2019 from already having two 40-40 seasons to his name entering his age-26 campaign. Mind you, no one else in MLB history has multiple 40-40 seasons. Acuña also won the Most Valuable Player Award last season. It probably won't be his last, either. He's that dynamic of a player -- he's also responsible for the tidbit he had the hardest time accepting in researching and writing this article. That being: Acuña is only 50 days older than Adley Rutschman, who has 400 fewer games to his credit.

Others considered: SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays; RHP Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners; CF Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox; C Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles.

Age 27: DH/OF Yordan Álvarez, Houston Astros

Let's put it this way: Álvarez has the fifth-highest OPS+ in the integration era among players with at least 2,000 plate appearances. The names ahead of him: Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, and Mickey Mantle. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a reach to call him a special hitter. He just needs to stay healthy so that his counting statistics reflect it.

Others considered: 2B Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves; 1B/2B Luis Arráez, Miami Marlins; 3B Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox; 3B Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves; OF Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros.

Age 28: RHP Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

With the exception of the 2021 season, Gallen has been a reliable machine at the top of the Diamondbacks rotation. He's put up a 125 ERA+ or better in all four of his other tries, and he just set a new career-high in innings pitched in 2023 -- and that's without considering the 33 additional frames he threw during the Diamondbacks' playoffs run. 

Others considered: RHP Sandy Alcántara, Miami Marlins; CF/1B Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs; RHP Dylan Cease, San Diego Padres; SS Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego Padres; RHP Pablo López, Minnesota Twins.

Age 29: RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers

You might think, "but Ohtani isn't a two-way player this season -- are you sure he's still the best player in this age bracket?" Yup. Let's put it this way, the only other player we seriously considered was Corbin Burnes, or one of the top pitchers in the sport. Burnes has tallied 13 Wins Above Replacement the last three years; Ohtani has notched more than 14 … only as a batter. Burnes is great; Ohtani is greater.

Others considered: RHP Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles.

Age 30: SS Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

We found ourselves debating between the hitters listed below and ruling out the pitchers because of availability concerns. In particular, we went back and forth between Seager and Lindor, both decorated shortstops. Seager has outhit Lindor in three of the last four years; Lindor is the better defender, but the offensive gap is substantive enough to earn Seager the ever slight victory in Wins Above Replacement accumulated since the start of the 2020 season. 

Others considered: 3B Alex Bregman, Houston Astros; LHP Max Fried, Atlanta Braves; RHP Tyler Glasnow, Los Angeles Dodgers; SS Francisco Lindor, New York Mets; 2B Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks; SS Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs.

Age 31: SS Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

This age boiled down to Mookie Betts versus José Ramírez. Over the last three years, the two have been separated by about a single Win Above Replacement. Betts has the advantage there. We think he has the advantage elsewhere, in the sense that WAR doesn't appropriately credit players who can slot in at multiple positions around the diamond. Betts' ability to slide from right field to second base, and then from second base to shortstop, shouldn't be taken for granted. We're doing our part here to recognize it.

Others considered: 1B Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies; RHP Aaron Nola; 3B José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians; SS Trea Turner, Philadelphia Phillies. 

Age 32: OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

With due respect to the other 32-year-old players in the league, this one came down to Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. Obviously Trout has had the better career, but Judge has been substantively better in recent years -- in part, one figures, because of Trout's constant injuries. Judge has the better OPS+ over the last four seasons (by 13 points); he has nearly 10 more Wins Above Replacement; and he has almost 150 more games played. That left us with no choice but to roll with Judge.

Others considered: OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels.

Age 33: RHP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Cole being sidelined for at least the first month of the season with right elbow nerve irritation gave us some pause -- especially with the other quality names involved here. But we think he's probably the best pitcher in baseball when he's healthy. Besides, Kevin Gausman will also miss time due to injury and Nolan Arenado and J.T. Realmuto are coming off down seasons (by their standards). That leaves Marcus Semien as the contender with the best case. If you want to slot him in here instead, fair enough.

Others considered: 3B Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals; RHP Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays; C J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies; 2B Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers.

Age 34: 1B Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers 

This was the most contested age from this point forward. In the end, we found ourselves picking between Freeman and Zack Wheeler, with Freeman barely winning out. He hit for a 151 OPS+ from 2021-23 and he's done so while playing almost every day. Freeman is also a sneaky good baserunner, having swiped 44 bases during that timespan. He's probably the least famous of the MVP Three, but he's closing in on having Hall of Fame-worthy marks all the same.

Others considered: 2B José Altuve, Houston Astros; RHP Nathan Eovaldi, Texas Rangers; RHP Sonny Gray, St. Louis Cardinals; OF George Springer, Toronto Blue Jays; RHP Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Age 35: RHP Chris Bassitt, Toronto Blue Jays

Provided Chris Sale stays healthy, we believe he's in for a rebound season in Atlanta. His durability woes left us choosing between two other pitchers: Bassitt and Merrill Kelly. Kelly had the advantage last season, but Bassitt has been better on a multi-year level. In the end, we erred with the larger sample and went with Bassitt. Feel free to think about this one as a virtual tie. It was that close.

Others considered: RHP Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks; LHP Chris Sale, Atlanta Braves.

Age 36: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

Goldschmidt has had an OPS+ of 115 or better in all 13 of his big-league seasons. His ball-tracking metrics were quite good last season, with more than 50% of his batted balls clearing a 95 mph exit velocity. That, plus the injuries to Jacob deGrom and Clayton Kershaw (both will miss at least the start of the season), earned him this spot.

Others considered: RHP Jacob deGrom, Texas Rangers; RHP Kenley Jansen, Boston Red Sox; LHP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers.

Age 37: RHP Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres

Darvish isn't the force of nature he was in his younger days, when he earned Cy Young Award consideration on four occasions and made five All-Star Games. Then again, most players aren't by the time they reach their age-36 seasons. Darvish still looks like an average or better starting pitcher, albeit one with durability issues and downside risk. By the way: he's under contract through the 2028 season, or his age-41 campaign. Stay tuned.

Others considered: 1B José Abreu, Houston Astros; OF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies; OF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Age 38: RHP Chris Martin, Boston Red Sox

Scoff if you must, but Martin has been a relief ace dating back to the July 2022 trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 76 innings over the two full seasons since, he's accumulated a 1.18 ERA and an 8.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Credit Martin's elite command over a broad arsenal led by a low 90s cutter.

Others considered: RHP Adam Ottavino, New York Mets; 1B/DH Carlos Santana, Minnesota Twins.

Age 39: RHP Max Scherzer, Texas Rangers

Scherzer will miss the first several months of the season after undergoing surgery to treat a herniated disc in his back. We're still giving him the nod here. His marks with the New York Mets weren't up to his usual excellence, but he flipped the switch following a midseason trade to the eventual champion Rangers. In eight regular season starts with Texas, he compiled a 140 ERA+ and a 3.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Others considered: RHP David Robertson, Texas Rangers; 1B/DH Justin Turner, Toronto Blue Jays.

Age 40: RHP Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves

Morton has been an above-average starter for most of the last decade. He did some of his best work in 2023, notching his fourth career three-plus-win season while compiling a 122 ERA+ in 163 innings. Alas, he missed out on Atlanta's postseason series because of finger inflammation. Predicting that Morton would pitch into his 40s would've raised some eyebrows not long ago: he entered his age-30 season with career marks that included an 82 ERA+ and a 1.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Others considered: 1B Joey Votto, Toronto Blue Jays.

Age 41: RHP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

When Verlander's career began, there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains that had vermiculate patterns on their backs, maps of the world in its becoming. Or something like that. Anyway, Verlander will miss the beginning of the season because of shoulder woes, but he's the oldest man standing now that Miguel Cabrera, Adam Wainwright, and Nelson Cruz have retired. (Rich Hill hasn't officially hung up his cleats, though he remains unemployed.) Verlander can still impress on the mound, as evidenced by his 131 ERA+ in 2023. Another year like that and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he continues on beyond this season -- even if it means he'll remain the majors' oldest player.