Greg Cote: Young pro talent signals dawning of golden age in South Florida

Happy birthday, America. You look pretty good for 237. But I’m here today to talk about some folks who are a bit younger.

Savor this as you grill your baby-back ribs, quaff your beer or await those fireworks, because this too is something worth celebrating. And if we’re lucky, we might be celebrating it for a good long time.

Look around and notice a new golden age dawning in Miami-area professional sports. I’m not sure if our Big Four teams collectively have ever had more talented players under 25. That cutoff is arbitrary, of course. Heck, to me even Juwan Howard is young, but I figure in pro sports under 25 is that budding time when potential greatness has begun to offer hints and all we can do is wait, tantalized, to see how it plays out.

Sort of like looking up and waiting for the fireworks to bloom, right?

What follows is our list of Top 10 South Florida pro athletes under 25, right now, based on potential future greatness. It is surely the only category in which the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers all dominate that other team; you know, the one that just won a championship? The Heat’s only prominent U-25 guy is point guard Norris Cole, who, despite that fantastic high-top fade haircut, doesn’t even make our list.

• 1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins right fielder, 23: Enjoy this guy for however long he might be here, because we are likely watching unfold a career that should surpass 500 home runs – perhaps easily – as long as he can avoid the injury issues that have nipped at him. Only Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews went from zero to 100 homers in fewer games and at an earlier age.

• 2. Jose Fernandez, Marlins pitcher, 20: This rookie has pitched only 16 games, his career in its infancy. But have you seen him? Electric. His breaking ball buckles the knees of right-handed hitters. He has a 2.72 ERA and more strikeouts than innings pitched. Scouts and analysts see a future No. 1 starter who could be Miami’s all-star representative this year.

• 3. Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers center, 20: He had a goal and two assists in his NHL debut, finished second on the team in scoring and went on to be voted league rookie of the year, a franchise first. This is how to start your hockey career and introduce your potential.

• 4. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins quarterback, 24: Tannehill would top this list if it were fashioned by the fervent hopes and wishful thinking of the most fans. He started every game as a rookie and threw for 3,294 yards. Now, with more weapons at his disposal including Mike Wallace, we’ll see if he’ll make the leap to stardom.

• 5. Mike Pouncey, Dolphins center, 23: There might not be a less-exciting position in the NFL than center, or a better U-25 guy playing it than Pouncey. He is no longer than “other” guy to older bother Maurkice. He should be a Pro Bowl-caliber fixture on the line into the next decade.

• 6. Christian Yelich, Marlins outfielder, 21: His first call-up to the big Marlins is imminent, and his potential as a top-ranked prospect huge. Meantime Yelich is scheduled as the club’s lone representative in this months’ all-start Futures Game.

• 7. Jacob Markstrom, Panthers goaltender, 23 – Cats have had a history of top guys at the net from John Vanbiesbrouck to Roberto Luongo to Tomas Vokoun, and the club hopes Markstrom, a lanky Swede, is better than any of them.

• 8. Erik Gudbranson, Panthers defenseman, 21 – The 6-4, 210-pound defender is physical, loves to hit and is living up to having been the third overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft.

• 9. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins centerfielder, 22: The rookie is batting around .300, has been great with runners in scoring position, and fields well. It seems like his days in the minor leagues are permanently behind him.

• 10. Lamar Miller, Dolphins running back, 22: Not a lot of ex-Hurricanes have starred across town for the Dolphins, but Miller could be one. Daniel Thomas’ hold on the starting job is weak. Miller, based on last season’s 4.9 rookie average per carry, could become Miami’s featured back not someday, but this season.

We also considered Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, Dolphins rookie-to-be defensive end Dion Jordan, Panthers No. 2-overall draft pick Aleksander Barkov and Norris Cole’s high-top fade.

Maybe next year, fellas.

Meantime, enjoy the fireworks.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill takes a snap during practice in the bubble on the first day of training camp in Davie, Florida, July 25, 2014.


    Greg Cote: Year 3 means proving ground for Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill

    Mike Wallace is one of the few guys in the Dolphins locker room willing to let his personality come out and play once in a while, and he did so Friday, on the first day of training camp, when the subject turned to the doubts dogging his team.

St. Louis Rams seventh-round draft pick Michael Sam listens to a question during a news conference at the NFL football team's practice facility Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


    Greg Cote: Michael Sam is a distraction to embrace, not avoid

    It’s no surprise that Tony Dungy’s comments this week about Michael Sam — comments that on the surface seemed more benign than inflammatory — have created such a national tempest. Sports are a Petri dish for argument and debate under any circumstances, and when you add the politics of religion and gay issues to the mix, the chances of a quietly civil discussion have pretty much left the building.

Ryan Tannehill is entering his third season as the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Dolphins, Canes can make Miami a football town again

    Football is back, unfurling this week like a great sail ready to take on wind as summer burns to fall.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category