Greatest Teenagers in MLB History
A teenager getting to the Show is always special. But sometimes it's legendary when someone so young sustains the same success as established veterans.
The average age of a Major League Baseball player falls between 28 and 29 years old, so when an actual kid cracks the game’s highest level — while he still has physical and mental maturing to do — your jaw might drop.
At 15 years and 316 days, Joe Nuxhall was the youngest ever to debut in the majors. Though it was remarkable, he got torched in his lone teenage appearance and didn't set foot on a big league field for another eight years. Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez also debuted as teenagers, yet didn’t find real, sustainable success until their 20s.
Other youngsters had better opening acts. These are the best teenage performances in MLB history, based on the age when players reached the majors.
Note: Stats are updated through June 20, 2019.
25. Julio Urias — 19 years, 289 days
Team: 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers
Born: Aug. 12, 1996, in Culiacan, Mexico
MLB career: 4 years, all with Dodgers (2016–present)
Career stats: 148.2 IP, 8 wins, 6 losses, 3.45 ERA, 1.6 WAR
Stats as teen: 77 IP, 5 wins, 2 losses, 3.39 ERA, 1.1 WAR
Bottom line: Less than two years after becoming the youngest player ever to appear in the Futures Game, Julio Urias debuted in the big leagues on May 27, 2016, becoming the first teenager to start a major league game since Felix Hernandez in 2005.
Urias impressed with a 9.8 K/9 and surrendered just five home runs in 77 innings pitched over 18 appearances (15 starts). He earned the win in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, shutting down the Washington Nationals with two scoreless innings of relief.
24. Mickey Mantle — 19 years, 179 days
Team: 1951 New York Yankees
Born: Oct. 20, 1931, in Spavinaw, Oklahoma
School: Commerce High School (Okla.)
MLB career: 18 years, all with Yankees (1951–68)
Career stats: 2,401 games, .298 AVG, 536 HR, 1,509 RBI, 110.3 WAR
Stats as teen: 96 games, .267 AVG, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 1.5 WAR
Bottom line: After an impressive spring training in 1951, Mickey Mantle made the big club as its right fielder. There was no denying the young switch-hitter’s raw talent, but a streaky first half of the season sent "The Mick" back to the minors to work out his kinks.
Mantle returned in late August with a vengeance, mashing .284/.370/.495 to help the Yankees to the American League pennant. However, in Game 2 of the World Series, Mantle tripped over a drainpipe while running after a Willie Mays fly ball, tearing his ACL.
He never fully recovered from the injury, yet still went on to become a three-time MVP and Hall of Famer.
23. Buddy Lewis — 19 years, 37 days
Team: 1935–36 Washington Senators
Position: Third base
Born: Aug. 10, 1916, in Gaston County, North Carolina
School: Lowell High School (N.C.), Wake Forest University
MLB career: 11 years, all with Senators (1935–41, 1945–49)
Stats: 1,349 games, .297 AVG, 71 HR, 607 RBI, 26.7 WAR
Stats as teen: 151 games, .283 AVG, 6 HR, 69 RBI, 1.6 WAR
Bottom line: Buddy Lewis posted an abysmal 3-for-28 line when he debuted with Washington at the tail end of the 1935 season, but proved resilient the following spring.
Batting over .450 in preseason games, Lewis broke camp as the Senators’ starting third baseman in 1936. The 19-year-old lefty hitter finished April batting a solid .291 and established himself as one of the American League’s top rookies in May, hitting .402 with a .996 OPS across 27 games.
Lewis did come back to earth, however, finishing the season with a .291 average and 100 runs scored.
22. Manny Machado — 20 years, 34 days
Team: 2012 Baltimore Orioles
Position: Third base
Born: July 6, 1992, in Hialeah, Florida
School: Brito Miami Private School
MLB career: 8 years (2012–present)
Teams: Orioles (2012–18), San Diego Padres (2019)
Career stats: 999 games, .281 AVG, 189 HR, 555 RBI, 35.7 WAR
Stats as teen: 51 games, .262 AVG, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 1.6 WAR
Bottom line: Although Manny Machado was 20 years old when he made his major league debut, he still qualifies as a teenager since he was 19 as of June 30, 2012.
While Machado’s overall offensive numbers were rather pedestrian, he crushed a pair of home runs in his second big league game, becoming the youngest player in Orioles history with a multi-homer game.
Most of Machado’s immediate hype came on defense, as his work at the hot corner quickly became standard on the MLB highlight reels, despite having spent all but two games in the minors at shortstop.
21. Tony Conigliaro — 19 years, 100 days
Team: 1964 Boston Red Sox
Born: Jan. 7, 1945, in Revere, Massachusetts
School: St. Mary’s High School (Lynn, Mass.)
MLB career: 8 years (1964–71, 1975)
Teams: Red Sox (1964–70, 1975), California Angels (1971)
Career stats: 876 games, .264 AVG, 166 HR, 516 RBI, 12.4 WAR
Stats as teen: 111 games, .290 AVG, 24 HR, 52 RBI, 1.6 WAR
Bottom line: Tony Conigliaro was a fan favorite from the get-go. A true local hero, having grown up just north of Boston, Tony C homered on the first pitch he ever saw at Fenway Park. Conigliaro went on to hit 24 home runs in his rookie season, a record number for a teenager.
The following year, he became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs.
Sadly, Conigliaro’s career and life were forever altered when he was hit in the face by a fastball in 1967.
20. Cesar Cedeño — 19 years, 115 days
Team: 1970 Houston Astros
Born: Feb. 25, 1951, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
MLB career: 17 years (1970–86)
Teams: Astros (1970–81), Cincinnati Reds (1982–85), St. Louis Cardinals (1985), Los Angeles Dodgers (1986)
Career stats: 2,006 games, .285 AVG, 199 HR, 976 RBI, 52.8 WAR
Stats as teen: 90 games, .310 AVG, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 1.8 WAR
Bottom line: Cesar Cedeño was called up to the majors midseason after 54 games in Triple-A, in which he hit .373 with 14 home runs.
While his power didn’t immediately translate at the big league level, Cedeño laid the groundwork for it, stroking 21 doubles and four triples. The five-tool phenom also swiped 17 bags in 21 attempts. Cedeño’s performance earned him a fourth-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year award voting.
He went on to take home five Gold Gloves and play in four All-Star Games.
19. Travis Jackson — 18 years, 329 days
Team: 1922–23 New York Giants
Position: Shortstop and third base
Born: Nov. 2, 1903, in Waldo, Arkansas
School: Ouachita Baptist University (Arkadelphia, Ark.)
MLB career: 15 years, all with the Giants (1922–36)
Career stats: 1,656 games, .291 AVG, 135 HR, 929 RBI, 44.0 WAR
Stats as teen: 99 games, .269 AVG, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 1.9 WAR
Bottom line: Travis Jackson initially was used as a stop-gap option in the wake of injuries to the Giants’ incumbent shortstop, Dave Bancroft, and third baseman, Heinie Groh. Jackson held his own at the dish, but he truly drew notice in the field, showing off range well above league average.
Future Hall of Fame manager John McGraw gained so much confidence in Jackson that he traded Bancroft (a future Hall of Famer) at season’s end in favor of the youngster.
Jackson’s defensive prowess earned him the nickname "Stonewall" as well as his own enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
18. Robin Yount — 18 years, 201 days
Team: 1974–75 Milwaukee Brewers
Born: Sept. 15, 1955, in Danville, Illinois
School: Taft High School (Woodland Hills, California)
MLB career: 20 years, all with Brewers (1974–93)
Career stats: 2,856 games, .285 AVG, 251 HR, 1,406 RBI, 77.3 WAR
Stats as teen: 254 games, .261 AVG, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 2.0 WAR
Bottom line: Not even a year after he was drafted out of high school No. 3 overall, Robin Yount was named the Brewers' starting shortstop in 1974. Player development not being what it is today, Yount had to learn on the fly.
He was the youngest MLB player in both his rookie and sophomore seasons, as well as being the last 18-year-old to homer in a major league game.
It took several years for Yount to develop into an elite player, but his ability to hold his own over two full big league seasons as a teenager is a noteworthy feat in itself.
17. Bert Blyleven — 19 years, 60 days
Team: 1970 Minnesota Twins
Born: April 6, 1951, in Zeist, Netherlands
School: Santiago High School (Garden Grove, California)
MLB career: 22 years (1970–92)
Teams: Minnesota Twins (1970–76, 1985–88), Texas Rangers (1976–77), Pittsburgh Pirates (1978–80), Cleveland Indians (1981–85), California Angels (1989–92)
Career stats: 4,970.0, 287 wins, 250 losses, 3.31 ERA, 94.4 WAR
Stats as teen: 164 IP, 10 wins, 9 losses, 3.18 ERA, 2.2 WAR
Bottom line: Bert Blyleven debuted on June 5, 1970, becoming the youngest major league player that season. After serving up a leadoff homer to start the game, he kept the opposing Washington Senators off the board for the next seven innings and earned the win.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of his teenage season came in his Sept. 16 start against the California Angels, when he struck out the first six batters he faced, to tie a then-American League record. The Sporting News named Blyleven the AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
16. Smoky Joe Wood — 18 years, 304 days
Team: 1908–09 Boston Red Sox
Born: Oct. 25, 1889, in Kansas City, Missouri
School: Ouray High School (Colorado), University of Kansas
MLB career: 14 years (1908–22)
Teams: Red Sox (1908–15, Cleveland Indians (1917–24)
Career stats: 1,434.1 IP, 117 wins, 57 losses, 2.03 ERA, 29.4 WAR
Stats as teen: 183.1 IP, 12 wins, 8 losses, 2.21 ERA, 2.7 WAR
Bottom line: Although Wood’s "Smoky" nickname was coined some years after his debut, there was no denying he was blessed with an electric heater.
The 18-year-old Wood was inconsistent in six games for the Red Sox after they signed him in August 1908, but he finished the season on a high note, tossing a shutout against the Philadelphia Athletics.
The following season, a foot injury sustained while wrestling friend and teammate Tris Speaker shelved Wood until mid-June, but he dominated upon returning. Wood tossed four shutouts and in a four-inning relief outing against the Cleveland Naps struck out 10 batters.
15. Ty Cobb — 18 years, 255 days
Team: 1905–06 Detroit Tigers
Born: Dec. 18, 1886, in Narrows, Georgia
School: Franklin County High School (Carnesville, Ga.)
MLB Career: 24 years (1905–28)
Teams: Tigers (1905–26), Philadelphia Athletics (1927–28)
Career stats: 3,034 games, .366 AVG, 117 HR, 1,944 RBI, 151.0 WAR
Stats as teen: 139 games, .293 AVG, 2 HR, 56 RBI, 2.8 WAR
Bottom line: Ty Cobb’s performance as a teenager paled in comparison to the rest of his legendary career, but was still quality, nonetheless.
In 41 games of his debut season, Cobb hit just .240 and was subjected to extreme rookie hazing, which he called "the most miserable and humiliating experience I've ever been through."
Although he still resented many, if not most, of his teammates, Cobb rebounded the following year, his age-19 season, batting .316 with 23 stolen bases in 98 games, while posting a 132 OPS+.
14. Felix Hernandez — 19 years, 118 days
Team: 2005 Seattle Mariners
Born: April 8, 1986, in Valencia, Venezuela
School: U. E. Jose Austre
MLB career: 15 years, all with Mariners (2005–present)
Career stats: 2,696.2 IP, 169 wins, 132 losses, 3.38 ERA, 50.4 WAR
Stats as teen: 84.1 IP, 4 wins, 4 losses, 2.67 ERA, 2.8 WAR
Bottom line: Nicknamed "King Felix" while still in the minor leagues, Hernandez entered the 2005 season as Baseball America’s No. 2 overall prospect.
The hype and anticipation surrounding Hernandez were real, as he became the first teenager to start a game since 1984. Of his 12 games started, nine were quality starts.
One of Hernandez’s most fascinating outings came when Seattle hosted the New York Yankees, and he dueled former Mariner and future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Hernandez went eight innings, allowing just two runs while striking out seven, but he received no run support, as the Mariners lost 2-0.
13. Walter Johnson — 19 years, 269 days
Team: 1907 Washington Senators
Born: Nov. 6, 1887, in Humboldt, Kansas
School: Fullerton Union High School (Orange Country, California)
MLB career: 21 years, all with Senators (1907–27)
Career stats: 5,914.1 IP, 417 wins, 279 losses, 2.17 ERA, 164.3 WAR
Stats as teen: 110.1 IP, 5 wins, 9 losses, 1.88 ERA, 2.8 WAR
Bottom line: Walter Johnson was the find of the year when the Senators recruited him from a semi-pro team in Idaho.
Armed with a blazing fastball that came from an easy, sidearm motion, opposing hitters had much difficulty against Johnson. In 12 starts, he pitched two shutouts and 11 complete games. Johnson’s 110.1 innings pitched weren’t enough for him to qualify for the American League statistical leaderboards, but his 5.79 K/9 would have ranked second, and his 1.88 ERA would have ranked fourth.
These accomplishments were particularly special for the Senators, as the team played to an abysmal 49-102 record that 1907 season.
12. Juan Soto — 19 years, 207 days
Team: 2018 Washington Nationals
Born: Oct. 25, 1998, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
MLB career: 2 years, all with Nationals (2018–present)
Career stats: 180 games, .293 AVG, 33 HR, 113 RBI, 4.0 WAR
Stats as teen: 116 games, .292 AVG, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 3.0 WAR
Bottom line: Juan Soto forced the Nationals' hand, earning a mid-May call-up after batting .362 with a 1.043 OPS in 122 minor league games over two-plus seasons. Soto took home back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors in June and July, and then again in September.
Displaying a mature and disciplined approach at the plate, Soto posted an impressive 79-99 BB/K ratio and never endured a hitless streak of more than two games. Soto made a great case for NL Rookie of the Year, but finished second to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr.
11. Wally Bunker — 18 years, 247 days
Team: 1963–64 Baltimore Orioles
Born: Jan. 25, 1945, in Seattle
School: Capuchino High School (San Bruno, California)
MLB Career: 9 years (1963–71)
Teams: Orioles (1963–68), Kansas City Royals (1969–71)
Career Stats: 1085.1 IP, 60 wins, 52 losses, 3.51 ERA, 6.8 WAR
Stats as Teen: 218 IP, 19 wins, 6 losses, 2.89 ERA, 3.1 WAR
Bottom line: Wally Bunker signed with the Orioles out of high school and, after a successful minor league campaign, was rewarded with a September call-up the same year. The young righty fared poorly in his lone start that season, but rebounded nicely the following year, tossing three consecutive one-run complete games.
Bunker went on to post a 19-5 record and 2.69 ERA, earning him a second-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Bunker also became the youngest player to receive MVP votes.
Unfortunately, arm troubles prevented him from again reaching such heights. He made his final MLB appearance at age 26.
10. Edgar Renteria — 19 years, 277 days
Team: 1996 Florida Marlins
Born: Aug. 7, 1976, in Barranquilla, Colombia
MLB Career: 16 years (1996–2011)
Teams: Marlins (1996–98), St. Louis Cardinals (1999–2004), Boston Red Sox (2005), Atlanta Braves (2006–07), Detroit Tigers (2008), San Francisco Giants (2009–10), Cincinnati Reds (2011)
Career stats: 2,152 games, .286 AVG, 140 HR, 923 RBI, 32.3 WAR
Stats as teen: 106 games, .309 AVG, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 3.5 WAR
Bottom line: Having grown up in Colombia, Edgar Renteria only first played organized youth baseball when he was 11. Just eight years later, Renteria found himself called up to the big club to replace injured shortstop Kurt Abbott.
By the time Abbott returned, Renteria had won the Marlins’ confidence, and they moved the former shortstop to second base.
Renteria showed excellent range and quick hands on defense and enjoyed a 22-game hitting streak, prompting then-Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden to call him the second-best National League shortstop, after Barry Larkin. Renteria’s was runner-up in a close race for NL Rookie of the Year.
9. Ken Griffey Jr. — 19 years, 133 days
Team: 1989 Seattle Mariners
Born: Nov. 21, 1969, in Donora, Pennsylvania
School: Archbishop Moeller High School (Cincinnati)
MLB career: 22 years (1989–2010)
Teams: Mariners (1989–99, 2009–10), Cincinnati Reds (2000–08), Chicago White Sox (2008)
Career stats: 2,671 games, .284 AVG, 630 HR, 1,836 RBI, 83.8 WAR
Stats as teen: 127 games, .264 AVG, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 3.3 WAR
Bottom line: Entering the 1989 season, Ken Griffey Jr. was regarded by many as the best prospect of all time. Griffey doubled in his first career at-bat in Oakland. A week later, he homered on the first pitch he saw at home.
Junior’s hot hitting and exuberance on the field quickly turned him into a fan favorite in Seattle. The Pacific Trading Card Company went all-in on Griffey mania, releasing a chocolate bar depicting the young superstar before he even had a month of MLB service time.
Griffey finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and gave Seattle fans hope for the future after years in the cellar.
8. Rube Bressler — 19 years, 183 days
Team: 1914 Philadelphia Athletics
Born: Oct. 23, 1894, in Coder, Pennsylvania
School: Central State Normal School (now known as Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania)
MLB Career: 19 years (1914–32)
Teams: Athletics (1914–16), Cincinnati Reds (1917–27), Brooklyn Robins (1928–31), Philadelphia Phillies (1932), St. Louis Cardinals (1932)
Career stats: 540 IP, 26 wins, 32 losses, 3.40 ERA, 0.9 WAR
Stats as seen: 147.2 IP, 10 wins, 4 losses, 1.77 ERA, 3.5 WAR
Bottom line: Rube Bressler quickly earned a reputation as a talented amateur pitcher after a 1912 performance in which he shut out a barnstorming team managed by Earle Mack, son of Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack.
Playing with the minor league Harrisburg Senators the following season, Bressler showed enough promise for the elder Mack to invite him to spring training in 1914. The 19-year-old southpaw made the team and dominated American League batters as a swingman. Bressler started 10 games, including a three-hit shutout in which he struck out 10 batters.
He helped Philadelphia to a 99-53 record, claiming the American League pennant.
7. Mel Ott — 17 years, 56 days
Team: 1926–28 New York Giants
Born: March 2, 1909, in Gretna, Louisiana
School: Gretna High School (La.)
MLB career: 22 years, all with the Giants (1926–47)
Career stats: 2,730 games, .304 AVG, 511 HR, 1,860 RBI, 107.8 WAR
Stats as teen: 241 games, .318 AVG, 19 HR, 100 RBI, 4.1 WAR
Bottom line: Once deemed too small and turned away by the minor league New Orleans Pelicans, Mel Ott went to play for a lumber company’s semi-pro team.
Impressed with Ott, the company owner recommended to his friend, New York Giants manager John McGraw, that he give Ott a tryout. McGraw was so blown away he insisted on developing Ott himself as a big league apprentice rather than risk a minor league manager ruining him.
After two years as a part-timer, Ott hit .322 with 18 homers and 77 RBI as the Giants’ starting right fielder. He would become a 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer.
6. Chief Bender — 18 years, 350 days
Team: 1903 Philadelphia Athletics
Born: May 5, 1884, in Crow Wing County, Minnesota
School: Carlisle Indian School (Pennsylvania), Dickinson College
MLB career: 16 years (1903–17, 1925)
Teams: Athletics (1903–14), Baltimore Terrapins (1915), Philadelphia Phillies (1916–17), Chicago White Sox (1925)
Career Stats: 3,017 IP, 212 wins, 127 losses, 2.46 ERA, 47.3 WAR
Stats as Teen: 270 IP, 17 wins, 14 losses, 3.07 ERA, 4.2 WAR
Bottom line: Pitching for the semi-pro Harrisburg Athletic Club, Chief Bender impressed a Philadelphia Athletics scout who saw him soon after an exhibition loss in which Bender held his own against the Chicago Cubs.
The A’s signed Bender in 1903, and he dazzled immediately, pitching six innings of relief in a win over Cy Young and the Boston Red Sox. Bender’s next outing was his first career start, in which he threw a four-hit shutout against the New York Highlanders.
Bender relied on his control and finesse, earning praise from Ty Cobb, who once called him the "brainiest pitcher" he ever saw.
5. Larry Dierker — 18 years, 0 days
Team: 1964–66 Houston Colt .45s/Astros
Born: Sept. 22, 1946, in Hollywood, California
School: Taft High School (Woodland, Calif.), University of California Santa Barbara
MLB career: 14 years (1964–77)
Teams: Colt .45’s (1964), Astros (1965–76), St. Louis Cardinals (1977)
Career stats: 2333.2 IP, 139 wins, 123 losses, 3.31 ERA, 31.9 WAR
Stats as Teen: 342.2 IP, 17 wins, 17 losses, 3.28 ERA, 4.7 WAR
Bottom line: Larry Dierker became the last player to make his MLB debut in his age-17 season when he was called upon to start against the San Francisco Giants. Dierker struck out Willie Mays looking to stifle a first-inning rally, but was unable to make it out of the third and ultimately earned the loss.
Dierker proved to be one of Houston’s most consistent pitchers the following two teenage seasons, posting 29 quality starts, nine complete games, and two shutouts.
Dierker went on to become the Astros’ first 20-game winner in 1969, and in 2002, the Astros retired his number 49.
4. Bryce Harper — 19 years, 195 days
Team: 2012 Washington Nationals
Born: Oct. 16, 1992, in Las Vegas, Nevada
School: Las Vegas High School, College of Southern Nevada
MLB career: 8 years (2012–present)
Teams: Nationals (2012–18), Philadelphia Phillies (2019)
Career Stats: 1001 games, .276 AVG, 196 HR, 571 RBI, 27.7 WAR
Stats as teen: 139 games, .270 AVG, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 5.2 WAR
Bottom line: Bryce Harper is one of the most sensational and polarizing players in recent memory. His raw talent and teenage bravado noted on his amateur scouting report translated to the pros.
Harper’s teammates lauded his hard-nosed style of play, but veterans around the league took exception, namely Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, who plunked Harper their first time facing each other. Having advanced to third base on a single, Harper retaliated by stealing home on a pickoff throw to first.
Harper went on to earn his first All-Star nod and win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
3. Dwight Gooden — 19 years, 143 days
Team: 1984 New York Mets
Born: Nov. 16, 1964, in Tampa, Florida
School: Hillsborough High School (Tampa)
MLB career: 16 years (1984–2000)
Teams: Mets (1984–94), New York Yankees (1996–97, 2000), Cleveland Indians (1998–99), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2000)
Career stats: 2,800.2 IP, 194 wins, 112 losses, 3.51 ERA, 52.9 WAR
Stats as teen: 218 IP, 17 wins, 9 losses, 2.60 ERA, 5.5 WAR
Bottom line: Dwight Gooden earned his place in the Mets’ starting rotation after a minor league season in which he struck out 300 batters in 191 innings.
That success followed Gooden to the majors in 1984, as he quickly became a national sensation, earning him the nickname "Doctor K" and a trip to the All-Star Game. Doc finished the season going 8-1 with a 1.07 ERA and became the youngest player to win National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Gooden remained dominant for the rest of the decade, but substance abuse issues kept him from finding the same level of success beyond then.
2. Gary Nolan — 18 years, 323 days
Team: 1967 Cincinnati Reds
Born: May 27, 1948, in Herlong, California
School: Oroville High School (California)
MLB career: 10 years (1967–77)
Teams: Reds (1967–77), California Angels (1977)
Career stats: 1674.2 IP, 110 wins, 70 losses, 3.08 ERA, 25.9 WAR
Stats as teen: 226.2 IP, 14 wins, 8 losses, 2.58 ERA, 6.3 WAR
Bottom line: Drafted by Cincinnati as the 13th overall pick in 1966, the Reds felt Gary Nolan was up to the challenge of playing in the big leagues.
In one of Nolan’s most impressive outings, a 7.2-inning effort against the San Francisco Giants, the phenom struck out 15, including four strikeouts of Willie Mays. Dumbfounded, Mays remarked, "Nobody’s ever done that to me before." Nolan finished the season with five shutouts, 206 strikeouts, and a league-leading 8.2 K/9.
Unfortunately, arm injuries in the following seasons took their toll and, although Nolan enjoyed some more success, his career was over before he turned 30.
1. Bob Feller — 17 years, 259 days
Team: 1936–38 Cleveland Indians
Born: Nov. 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa
School: Van Meter High School
MLB career: 18 years, all with Indians (1936–41, 1945–56)
Career stats: 3,827 IP, 266 wins, 162 losses, 3.25 ERA, 63.4 WAR
Stats as teen: 488.1 IP, 31 wins, 21 losses, 3.78 ERA, 9.9 WAR
Bottom line: Known as the "Heater from Van Meter," Bob Feller had an uncanny feel for the fastball from the time he was a kid and dominated in semi-pro ball by the time he was 16. The Cleveland Indians signed Feller at the recommendation of an umpire. Feller’s signing bonus? One dollar and an autographed baseball.
A year later, Feller made his first career start, throwing a complete game while striking out 15. He went the distance again four starts later, this time tying an American League record with 17 strikeouts.
All told, Feller had 466 career strikeouts before turning 20.