Daily Debate: Who's the best MLB pitcher 25 or younger?

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Who's the best pitcher in baseball? The answer is easy. Which pitcher would you choose to build a franchise around? That one's a bit tougher, but the answer is probably still Clayton Kershaw, who just turned 28 in March.

After Kershaw's all-time brilliant stuff -- he's already on track to be one of the best to ever toe the rubber -- there's a slew of hurlers vying for a throne all to themselves. And with so many of them clocking in at 25 years of age or younger, it's a competition that should make things fun for a very long time.

You're familiar with the names: Gerrit Cole (25), Steven Matz (25), Jose Fernandez (23), Noah Syndergaard (23), Aaron Nola (22). All five are either among the best the league has to offer or figure to be by the end of the 2016 season. Head down a tier, and you have Carlos Martinez (24), Vince Velasquez (23), Carlos Rodon (23).

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The pack is crowded, but the question is simple: Who's the best of the bunch?

Perhaps the least known commodity is Philadelphia's Aaron Nola -- he of just 24 career MLB starts. Coming up to the bigs in July 2015, Nola managed to scoop up six wins on an abysmal Phillies team, setting himself up for a promising sophomore campaign -- and through two months, he's come through huge.

A major cog in a surprising Phillies club that's been above .500 most of the season, the 22-year-old is posting a WHIP under 1 with an ERA of 2.88. Over 72 innings, Nola has struck out 76 while walking only 13 -- the fourth-best ratio in the Major Leagues.

He'll need to string together more of this type of success to prove he's for real, but when and if Philadelphia turns its fortune in the coming years, Nola (and fellow soon-to-be ace Vince Velasquez) will be a reason why.

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Despite much of his experience coming in front of a league-wide audience, Mets rookie Steven Matz is even less established than Nola, a division rival. Three of Matz's 18 MLB appearances came during last year's playoffs -- and while he totaled just 14.2 innings in those three starts, he struck out 13 batters and posted a ERA of 3.68 in what were his seventh, eighth and ninth career MLB games.

The issue with Matz is simply staying on the mound. The lefty missed nearly two months after making his debut in June last season, and already has been forced to skip a start with arm soreness. Matz's seven straight victories and 1.51 ERA following his season-opening stinker show that he could be one of baseball's best in due time, but nobody quite knows if the Long Island native has the durability to reach those heights.

Keeping it in the National League East, Miami righty Jose Fernandez has as good a shot as anybody to become the league's next big star -- but a torn UCL in his sophomore campaign stunted momentum that was taking the league by storm in 2013.

After posting a 2.19 ERA as a 20-year-old with the Marlins that year, Fernandez pitched in just 19 games between 2014 and 2015 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He's yet to post an ERA over 2.92 in any single season, and the Cuban is currently on top of the NL in strikeouts per nine innings with a whopping 12.8.

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Of course, instability is a curse that inherently comes with putting on the Marlins jersey. Fernandez was reportedly shopped around last winter, and those rumors will almost assuredly resume next offseason. Even through the turmoil, Fernandez has solidified himself as one of the game's most exciting arms. And in a more stable situation -- whether in Miami or elsewhere -- he could soon be recognized as the ace he seemed to be after his dominating rookie campaign.

Pittsburgh's Cole is the closest to a veteran among the group. Now in his fourth MLB season, the 25-year-old finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2015. After posting a 2.60 ERA a year ago, the righty currently sits 15th among NL starters with a 2.72 ERA.

Cole has appeared in the postseason three times -- twice in the 2013 NLDS and in last year's Wild Card game against the Chicago Cubs. In those starts, he's averaged under six innings per with an ERA of 3.94 -- he gave up four runs in five innings to Chicago in last year's elimination game.

Cole is an established ace already, and this time last year, he seemed to be the class of the younger generation of hurlers. But in a three-month stretch spanning the 2015 postseason and the first two months of 2016, Noah Syndergaard has taken over the pole position.

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Having a fastball that touches 101 in your arsenal doesn't necessarily translate to dominance -- but when it's coupled with uncanny sink, to go along with impeccable control, batters just have the odds stacked against them.

Syndergaard is currently second only to Kershaw with a K-to-BB ratio of nine (81 punchouts to nine walks). The league just hasn't seem a specimen quite like him -- an NFL tight end's presence on the mound with a 95-mile-per hour slider and a "changeup" that rarely falls below 90.

The 23-year-old already has proven effective when the lights shine the brightest -- striking out 24 batters over three postseason starts, including two more during a relief appearance in New York's Game 5 clincher at Dodger Stadium.

Competition is steep, but as things stand now, the man they call Thor is one of the best baseball has to offer -- let alone the best of the league's young arms.

Verdict: Noah Syndergaard

- By John Dorn

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Ranking all 30 MLB stadiums

31 PHOTOS
Ranking MLB stadiums
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Daily Debate: Who's the best MLB pitcher 25 or younger?

30. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays

The playing surface is a mixture of grass and artificial turf, and there are fire inspection rings in play over head. Must be a joy to play in.

(AP Photo)

29. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays

The only things worse than this warehouse-looking place are the metric measurements on the outfield walls.

(Shutterstock)

28. O.co Coliseum, Oakland A's

Any place sewage seeps back through the clubhouse drains probably isn’t a suitable location for pro sports.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

27. Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers

Remember when this place was state of the art? Neither do we.

(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

26. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

What’s more bland than the Chicago White Sox? Their uniforms. What’s worse than that? The stadium.

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

25. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves

This place won’t live to see its 20th birthday. Good luck to the Braves’ next home, which will probably still always be empty, too.

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

24. Marlins Park, Miami Marlins

Makes perfect sense for an orange and teal team to play in a stadium with neon green everything. Also, has anyone ever figured out what exactly this is? 

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

23. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

Nothin’ like some fake rocks in center field to really set the mood for a baseball game.

Flickr

22. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

The fact that it’s no longer Jacobs Field bumps this down at least five spots.

Flickr

21. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

Can this place just stay out of the playoffs just once?

Flickr

20. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds

How cheap is that wind tunnel?

 (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

19. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Center field is the deepest part of the stadium, guys. The wall doesn’t need to be that high.

Clintus McGintus/Flickr

18. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

Great place to see the best baseball players of the 20th century.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

17. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers

Bernie sliding down that slide for every home run is ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Every time.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

16. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

Once you get over the fact that some little league parks have deeper fences? Cool place to catch a game.

 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

15. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

They should probably just name it Vin Scully Stadium at this point. Might help them out in these rankings.

 (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

14. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals

The scoreboard being shaped like a long crown is a bit odd, but you can’t blame them for playing up the whole royalty thing.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

13. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

If it’s not a blizzard in Denver, Coors Field is still pretty impressive. But let’s lose those humidors and get these balls flying like its 2001. 

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

12. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

Credit to the grounds crew for making sure the infield didn’t collapse through the ground while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera manned the corners. That approached a good 600 pounds of man.

 (AP Photo/Matt Halip)

11. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

Get back to us next year, once that ridiculous hill and flag pole are scrapped.

(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

10. Target Field, Minnesota Twins

You probably won’t want to sit outside in Minnesota until about mid-June, but after that, Target Field is tough to beat.

 (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

9. Citi Field, New York Mets

Ownership may be fresh out of cash, but at least its stadium has an awesome selection of $12 beers. 

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

8. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

It’s been seven years, and the team just can’t sell these naming rights. Strangely, this makes the park even cooler.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

7. Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners

For a stadium that opened up in 1999, the Mariners’ digs have held up pretty well -- even when their roster hasn’t.

 (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6.. Petco Park, San Diego Padres

Fun fact: An old candy factory building was physically moved to make room for the stadium. 

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

5. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Relax, Fenway is definitely an amazing place to watch a game. But sitting directly behind a pole and/or facing the left-center field wall just isn’t always appealing.

(Shutterstock)

4. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

We’re glad the Cubs decided to keep their old home intact, but there’s no two ways about it: Until renovation is complete, Wrigley is a dump.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

After two decades under .500, the Pirates are finally playing some winning ball again. Good thing, because their park deserves as many games as possible.

 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

Still as beautiful as the day it opened in 1992, Camden Yards is headed toward becoming the next legendary American ballpark. 

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

Already 15 years and three names later, AT&T Park remains the best place to watch a Major League Baseball game. Between the amazing food, packed-out stands and the glistening bay in right field, San Francisco is lucky to call it home. 

(AP Photo)

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