Who will still be pitching in 2030?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Pick a young pitcher to follow the Mariano Rivera career path. He won't do it, but don't be a spoilsport.

Mariano Rivera is retiring. It's an under-the-radar story, but it should get some play as his season winds down. Here's a quick ranking of the gifts he's received so far:

  1. Chair made from broken bats and $10,000 to Mariano Rivera Foundation (Twins)
  2. Badass fishing pole and $10,000 to MRF (Dodgers)
  3. Surfboard, wine, and $10,042 to MRF (A's)
  4. Cowboy boots, hat and $5,000 to MRF (Rangers)
  5. Framed scorecards and $4,200 to Jackie Robinson Foundation (White Sox)
  6. Gold record for "Enter Sandman" (Indians)
  7. Plaque with bottles of Tiger Stadium/Comerica dirt (Tigers)
  8. Horrifying sand sculpture and $3,150 for the MRF (Rays)
  9. Fire-hose nozzle and call box (Mets) Oil painting (Angels)
  10. Five bicycles (Padres)
  11. Undisclosed donation to MRF (Royals)
  12. $5,000 to MRF (Mariners, Rockies)

Cash? That's just the team admitting they didn't think about it until they were in the car on the way over. Maybe the Foundation would like an Olive Garden gift card instead. Everyone likes Italian food. Also, I had the "Enter Sandman" cassingle! So I helped out with that one.

But the point is that Rivera is getting gifts because he's been around forever. He's a future Hall of Famer, sure, and the one-team thing seems to be the key for retiring legends getting gifts. Chipper Jones, yes; Jim Thome, no. More than that, though, these gifts are an appreciation of Rivera's longevity and effectiveness. He started in 1995 as a 25-year-old rookie, which makes the longevity even more impressive. He's going to be the last player born in the '60s to play a major-league game.

Which brings up a pointless topic and comment starter: Let's guess at the pitcher who is still going to be around and effective in the 2030s. Who is the active pitcher who will pitch until he's as old as Mariano Rivera is now?

You can hardly imagine what life is going to be in 2030. You'll wear Google Contacts on a blind date, and you'll end up with your date's credit report beamed into your brain. Flying cars, no more disease, the Royals in the playoffs, it'll be something. But one of these active pitchers will still be around. It's our job to pick which one. It's also our job to stay alive until 2030 so we can brag about it.

First, the picks. You can use anyone in the minors. Anyone in college or high school, for that matter. Let's start by figuring out who's going to be 42 when.

Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Harvey, Matt Moore, and Tony Cingrani were all born in 1989 so they'll be 42 in 2031. The 1990 brigade features Shelby Miller, Randall Delgado, and Zack Wheeler. The 1991 list is led by Julio Teheran, Martin Perez, and Michael Wacha, followed by 1992, which claims Jose Fernandez, Taijuan Walker, and Noah Syndergaard.

Of those names, the one that jumps out at you is Fernandez. He throws the ball a million miles per hour, and he has a magic curveball. There. Question answered. Jose Fernandez is going to pitch until he's 42. If you're looking for the next Nolan Ryan, you're going to feel stupid. But if you're looking for the next Nolan Ryan as a part of a silly thought experiment, Fernandez will do just fine.

Except ...

Fernandez was someone only the prospect wonks cared about at this time last year. So it's possible -- probable? -- that an 18-year-old prospect in A-ball has a better chance. We'd choose Fernandez because we're familiar with him. And because he's incredible. But he wouldn't have been in the top 25 or 50 last year.

More than just picking the best young pitcher, though, look for the kinds of pitchers that last until their 40s. Rivera had the greatest pitch of the last 30 or 40 years. It was the kind of pitch that could survive the predictable dip in velocity. So what you're looking for is a general kind of deception, whether from a unique pitch or delivery. You're also looking for a sturdy frame, the kind that makes scouts giggle like they're on nitrious. It's one thing to predict doom for short pitchers like Roy Oswalt and Tim Hudson, but if you're looking for longevity, a Ryan-like horse is probably a better bet.

Veterans of elbow and shoulder surgeries are out. Google Healing will probably take care of this stuff in 2030, but we'll have to assume it won't. No scars.

The short list of criteria: frame, deception/uniqueness, ability to survive a velocity drop. Being left-handed doesn't hurt, but LaTroy Hawkins and Rivera prove it isn't necessary.

Chris Sale is a bag of lawnmower blades in a duffel bag of skin. He's out. Madison Bumgarner has just about everything, but he has already fought through velocity dips in his young career. That doesn't scare me for the next few years, but might for 2030. He's on the short list, though.

Harvey's out because of the injury. Wheeler and Syndergaard are out because they haven't dominated in the majors yet. That goes for all of the prospects, I guess. Next year's Jose Fernandez might be the correct answer, but it's a little out there to take someone who isn't in the big leagues.

Love Cingrani, but I worry about the weird delivery. Love Taijuan Walker, but I haven't seen enough.

Alright, the top three:

3. Jose Fernandez
He's the perfect young pitcher, with stuff, control, and command. Young pitchers like that last forever! Forever ... forever ... (voice starts trailing off) ... forever ....

2. Clayton Kershaw
Still just 25! Kind of the best pitcher in baseball! Left-handed with deception! He'll be 42 in 2030, but both Kenny Rogers and David Wells pitched past that, and they didn't have nearly the raw stuff when they were Kershaw's age.

1. Aroldis Chapman
He has stuff. If he has less stuff, he still has stuff. So much stuff. His random velocity dips and high-effort delivery make this a risky pick. But they're all risky picks. Of all the pitchers in baseball right now, only of them could still be a prospect if he were in the minors and threw 10 m.p.h. slower.

In 2030, the Lisbon Rays will present Aroldis Chapman with a ghoulish sand sculpture that looks nothing like him. It will be moon sand because it'll be the future. Remember you read it here, first. Also, remember to take your pills because you are old.

Eh. It's going to be Rivera, isn't it? The answer to the pitcher who will still be around in 2030 is Rivera. Sorry for wasting your time.

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