Predicting Each MLB Team’s Face of the Franchise in 2026

Predicting Each MLB Team’s Face of the Franchise in 2026

Predicting Each MLB Team’s Face of the Franchise in 2026

0 of 6

    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 02: Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 is congratulated by his teammates after scoring during the MLB game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Atlanta Braves on August 2, 2023 at TRUIST Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Who will be the face of the franchise for every MLB team three years from now?

    For some clubs, it’s as simple as choosing the young superstar who has signed a long-term deal or is controllable for several years, such as Ronald Acuña Jr. in Atlanta or Corbin Carroll in Arizona.

    Other teams’ choices are not quite as clear-cut, and picking their future face requires some projection of prospects or significant spending on the free-agent market.

    Ahead you’ll find our pick for each team’s face of the franchise in 2026, based on roster outlook, expected spending and player development.

    Check out last year’s version of this article here.

American League East

1 of 6

    TORONTO, ON - JULY 31:  Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles bats against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on July 31, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: C Adley Rutschman

    The Orioles used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft on Rutschman, and he has quickly developed into a franchise cornerstone since making his MLB debut early last year. After a 5.2-WAR rookie season, he earned his first All-Star selection this year while continuing to make a major impact offensively and defensively.

    Top prospect Jackson Holliday has superstar upside, but Rutschman has the potential to be for the Orioles what Yadier Molina was for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Boston Red Sox: 1B Triston Casas

    After a relatively quiet first half of his rookie season, Casas is hitting .347/.434/.778 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in 23 games since the All-Star break. His star turn for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics showcased his face of the franchise upside, and at 23 years old he is just scratching the surface of his potential.

    Slugger Rafael Devers is signed through 2033, and Marcelo Mayer is one of baseball’s best prospects, but don’t sleep on Casas emerging as the guy in Boston.

    New York Yankees: OF Aaron Judge

    Judge inked a nine-year, $360 million contract last offseason following his record-setting 62-homer season and AL MVP honors. After healthy seasons in 2021 and 2022, the injury bug has reared its ugly head once again this year and he has played only 60 games, but the Yankees team captain will continue to be the face of the squad.

    Can top prospect Jasson Dominguez live up to the hype and deliver on his superstar potential?

    Tampa Bay Rays: SS Wander Franco

    Still only 22 years old, Franco has already piled up 11.3 WAR in his career. His combination of contact skills, power, speed and defense is the reason the cost-conscious Rays opened their wallets, signing him to an 11-year, $182 million extension to be the foundation of the franchise.

    A high-ceiling teenager who was the No. 8 prospect in the Tampa Bay system when the season began, Junior Caminero is now the No. 6 overall prospect in baseball in the midst of a breakout 2023 season where he reached Double-A before his 20th birthday.

    Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

    Guerrero went from a hyped prospect to a bona fide superstar in 2021 when he hit .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs and 111 RBI to finish runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting. The 24-year-old is currently scheduled to reach free agency following the 2025 season, but the homegrown star is a prime candidate for a long-term extension.

    Shortstop Bo Bichette is arguably the more productive of Toronto’s second-generation MLB standouts, but it’s Guerrero who is the more recognizable player on a national level.

American League Central

2 of 6

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 06:  Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals in the dugout during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 6, 2023 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: SS Colson Montgomery

    Luis Robert Jr. and Dylan Cease survived the trade deadline, but there’s a good chance the White Sox are headed for a full-scale rebuild, whether it happens this offseason or progressively over the next few years.

    That makes it difficult to view anyone on the current roster as the future face of the franchise, so instead it’s Montgomery who gets the nod. The team’s top prospect has already reached Double-A at 21 years old after going No. 22 overall in the 2021 draft.

    Cleveland Guardians: 3B José Ramírez

    The Guardians have a history of trading away their stars, and Ramírez was the focal point of trade rumors for years before signing a seven-year, $141 million extension that runs through the 2028 season. The five-time All-Star remains baseball’s underrated superstar.

    Rookie right-hander Gavin Williams has one of the highest ceilings of any young pitcher in baseball, and he could develop into a perennial AL Cy Young contender.

    Detroit Tigers: 3B Colt Keith

    Keith has been flying up top prospect lists since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, and he is batting .308/.377/.538 with 25 doubles, 17 home runs and 69 RBI in 88 games in the upper levels of the minors this year. The 21-year-old has one of the highest offensive ceilings of any prospect in baseball.

    Outfielder Riley Greene has taken a step forward in his second season following a middling rookie campaign, but he has struggled to stay healthy and has yet to fully emerge as a legitimate star.

    Kansas City Royals: SS Bobby Witt Jr.

    Witt is just the second player in Royals history with multiple 20-homer, 30-steal seasons, and he has done it in the first two seasons of his MLB career. The 23-year-old has also made major strides defensively at shortstop, and locking him up with a long-term extension should be a priority amid the current rebuild.

    At this point, no one else in the organization looks like a potential face of the franchise candidate.

    Minnesota Twins: RHP Joe Ryan

    The Minnesota front office no doubt expected Carlos Correa to serve as the face of the franchise going forward when he signed a six-year, $200 million deal during the offseason, but he’s hitting .228 with a 91 OPS+ and 1.0 WAR in 103 games.

    Instead, Ryan gets the nod as a young pitcher who has logged a 3.96 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 333 strikeouts in 299.2 innings over his first three seasons. The 27-year-old is controllable through 2027.

American League West

3 of 6

    ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 6: Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners at bat against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 6, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: DH Yordan Álvarez

    Franchise icons Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman will both be free agents after the 2024 season, so there is a potential changing of the guard coming in the Astros face of the franchise seat.

    Álvarez is signed long-term, so he gets the nod over outfielder Kyle Tucker who is controllable through 2025, but that duo figures to anchor the Houston lineup for years to come.

    Los Angeles Angels: OF Mike Trout

    Trout is one of the most recognizable players in the sport, and three years from now he could be knocking on the door for some significant career milestones if he can shake the injury bug that has plagued him in recent years.

    The 32-year-old is owed $37.1 million annually through the 2030 season, so even if the Angels lose Shohei Ohtani and pivot to rebuilding, Trout is likely not going anywhere.

    Oakland Athletics: C/1B Tyler Soderstrom

    With a 55-hit, 60-power offensive profile, Soderstrom has middle-of-the-order potential, and he posted an .838 OPS with 20 home runs and 59 RBI in 69 games at Triple-A before he made his MLB debut in mid-July.

    On pace for 110-plus losses this season, the Athletics will almost certainly have the best odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft.

    Seattle Mariners: OF Julio Rodríguez

    The Mariners saw enough from J-Rod in his rookie season to sign him to a massive extension that guarantees him $210 million over 12 seasons and could max out at a whopping $470 million. That’s what committing to a player as the present and future face of the franchise looks like, folks.

    Catcher Harry Ford starred for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic and has star potential, while George Kirby, Logan Gilbert and Bryce Miller could be among baseball’s best starters for years to come.

    Texas Rangers: SS Corey Seager

    The Rangers inked Seager to a 10-year, $325 million contract prior to the 2022 season as part of a $500 million spend on a new-look middle infield that also included second baseman Marcus Semien.

    Despite injury issues throughout his career, Seager has proven time and again that he is one of baseball’s best players when healthy. He has a 187 OPS+ with 50 extra-base hits in 72 games in a 5.2-WAR season this year.

National League East

4 of 6

    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 02: Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 reacts after hitting a home run during the MLB game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Atlanta Braves on August 2, 2023 at TRUIST Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: OF Ronald Acuña Jr.

    Acuña did not look like the same electrifying player last year upon returning from a torn ACL, hitting just 15 home runs in 119 games. Any concerns about further lingering effects have been emphatically erased this season as he has been the NL MVP front-runner for much of the year while hitting .341/.422/.588 with 26 home runs and 53 steals. With a contract that runs through 2028 if both club options are exercised, he’ll be the face of the team for years.

    Catcher Sean Murphy, first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Austin Riley, center fielder Michael Harris II and right-hander Spencer Strider are also all signed to long-term deals.

    Miami Marlins: RHP Eury Pérez

    Pérez is the youngest player to appear in an MLB game this season. He was just 27 days past his 20th birthday when he made his debut on May 12, and while the Marlins have carefully handled his innings, he still has a 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 68 strikeouts in 58 frames. With his size, stuff and track record, he could be a perennial Cy Young contender.

    Can Jazz Chisholm Jr. stay healthy and live up to his vast potential?

    New York Mets: C Francisco Álvarez

    The Mets sold aggressively at the deadline and with reports that they are turning their attention to contending in 2025 and 2026, more trades are coming this offseason. Even with some roster uncertainty, Álvarez figures to be a cornerstone piece of the team’s future plans, and he has a 113 OPS+ with 21 home runs in 85 games as a rookie.

    Shortstop Francisco Lindor is signed through the 2031 season and will remain one of the most recognizable players on the roster, but he will be 33 years old in 2026 and could start to be on the downswing.

    Philadelphia Phillies: OF Bryce Harper

    Harper is on a Hall of Fame trajectory and his 13-year, $330 million deal will keep him in a Phillies uniform through the 2031 season. He has been one of the most recognizable players in the sport since he burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old rookie, and will continue to be the face of the franchise.

    Shortstop Trea Turner is not having a strong debut in Philadelphia, but after signing an 11-year, $300 million deal he will be a staple on the roster as well.

    Washington Nationals: OF James Wood

    With a towering 6’6″, 240-pound frame and a more polished game than anyone expected coming out of high school, Wood has quickly gone from an intriguing second-round pick in 2021 to one of baseball’s elite prospects. The 20-year-old checked in at No. 3 on B/R’s most recent top 100 prospect list.

    Don’t rule out 2023 first-round pick Dylan Crews also making a major impact by the time the 2026 season rolls around.

National League Central

5 of 6

    Elly De La Cruz

    Elly De La CruzBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: OF Pete Crow-Armstrong

    The No. 13 prospect on B/R’s latest Top 100 list, Crow-Armstrong has been pegged as a future Gold Glove winner in center field since he was selected in the first round of the 2020 draft by the New York Mets. Now he has the offensive potential to match, hitting .283/.372/.523 with 20 doubles, 15 home runs, 64 RBI and 29 steals in 80 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

    The middle infield tandem of Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson has been rock solid this season, and Swanson is being paid like a face of the franchise player with a seven-year, $177 million deal.

    Cincinnati Reds: 3B Elly De La Cruz

    De La Cruz has been one of the biggest stories of the 2023 season, taking the league by storm and helping to jump start the Reds season when he made his MLB debut on June 6. The 21-year-old has a rare mix of power, speed and athleticism, and he has a chance to be Cincinnati’s best homegrown player since Joey Votto.

    Speaking of Votto, who has been the face of the franchise for the last decade, he is in the final guaranteed season of his contract with a $20 million club option and $7 million buyout in 2024.

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Jackson Chourio

    Chourio was the biggest breakout prospect in baseball last season, reaching Double-A at the age of 18 while posting an .879 OPS with 55 extra-base hits in 99 games across three different levels. The teenager has continued to impress in a full season at Double-A, and he could push his way onto the MLB roster early next season.

    Christian Yelich is enjoying a strong bounce-back season, and he is signed through 2028, so don’t rule him out as an ongoing face of the franchise candidate as well.

    Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Paul Skenes

    The best collegiate pitching prospect to come along since Stephen Strasburg was chosen No. 1 overall in 2009, Skenes went 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 209 strikeouts in 122.2 innings this spring at LSU. He immediately became the top pitching prospect in baseball the moment he signed on the dotted line.

    Don’t forget about Oneil Cruz, who still has one of the highest ceilings in the sport thanks to his five-tool potential.

    St. Louis Cardinals: OF Jordan Walker

    Walker has not made the same immediate splash as other rookies like Corbin Carroll and Josh Jung this season, but he has more than held his own, hitting .260/.319/.415 with 11 doubles, 10 home runs and 30 RBI in 74 games. He is miscast defensively as an outfielder, but his offensive ceiling is still tremendous.

    Paul Goldschmidt is a free agent following the 2024 season and Nolan Arenado will be 35 years old by the time the 2026 season rolls around, so expect a changing of the guard in St. Louis.

National League West

6 of 6

    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 04: Corbin Carroll #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks takes an at-bat against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Target Field on August 04, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

    David Berding/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Corbin Carroll

    The D-backs saw enough in 32 games from Carroll last season to sign him to an eight-year, $111 million extension during the offseason, and that is already shaping up to be an absolute steal. The NL Rookie of the Year front-runner has a 135 OPS+ with 22 doubles, 21 home runs, 36 steals and 4.1 WAR, and at 22 years old he is already one of the best outfielders in baseball.

    Ace Zac Gallen is controllable through 2025, so it will be interesting to see if the front office can hammer out an extension between now and then.

    Colorado Rockies: OF Yanquiel Fernandez

    The prediction requires the most projection of anyone chosen as a future face of the franchise, but Fernandez is having a huge season in the Colorado system. The 20-year-old is hitting .289/.338/.543 with 20 doubles, 22 home runs and 82 RBI in 88 games across three levels, and his raw power is among the best in all of minor league baseball.

    Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar should be a staple on the left side of the infield and fellow middle infielder Adael Amador is currently the team’s top prospect, but Fernandez has the loudest offensive tools in the organization.

    Los Angeles Dodgers: DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani

    The Dodgers have long been viewed as the favorites to sign Ohtani if he packs up and leaves the Los Angeles Angels in free agency this offseason, and with his current club trending toward missing the postseason once again, that looks increasingly likely. The two-way superstar has become the face of baseball, and he will be the face of the franchise wherever he goes the rest of his career.

    If they don’t land Ohtani, Freddie Freeman (through 2027) and Mookie Betts (through 2032) will both still be around three years from now.

    San Diego Padres: OF Juan Soto

    Simply put, Soto has been the best player on a disappointing Padres team this year, posting a 158 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 4.3 WAR in 115 games while continuing to be one of baseball’s most disciplined hitters. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 24 years old.

    With free agency looming after the 2024 season, the question is whether the Padres can afford to sign him long-term when they already have Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove on the books with nine-figure deals.

    San Francisco Giants: RHP Logan Webb

    Webb is the best homegrown player on the Giants roster right now, and the front office locked him up with a five-year, $90 million extension that kicks in next season. The 26-year-old has a 3.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in an NL-leading 154.1 innings, and all signs point to him being part of the NL Cy Young conversation for the foreseeable future.

    Top prospect Marco Luciano still has tremendous upside and Kyle Harrison can be an ace-caliber pitcher in his own right if he can smooth out his command issues, but for now Webb is the safest bet to be the face of the team.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *