Baseball’s “Franchise Players”

Being a New York Mets fan last year?

Must have been tough — heartbreaking, even.

Your complaints are falling on deaf ears here, though.

Why?

You guys have David Wright AND Jose Reyes on your team — and will have them on your team together for many years to come, making the best left-side on the infield in baseball (and by far I might add).

This gets me thinking…

If you were to start a team from scratch and build a powerhouse for a 10-year period, who would you want at each position starting on your all-mighty club?

Remember: the goal here is to win now, and with the same players 10 years down the line. So oldies (and by here I mean anyone over 26) need not apply. Sit down Ricky Henderson and Julio Franco, I know you two think you can still hold it down in 2018, but not on MY team, you’re not!

We’ll start at catcher, where we have an instant dilemma…

STARTING CATCHER

Choices are: Russell Martin (25-years old), Joe Mauer (25), Brian McCann (24) or Geovany Soto (25)

Let’s see: all four are practically the exact same age, have similar abilities in all aspects of the game and are probably the four best hitting catchers in all of baseball (sorry Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada).

Almost impossible to make a definitive choice — you just can’t go wrong with any of them.

Mauer hits lefty, is a .314 career hitter and has a batting title to his credit. He has a terrific eye, rarely strikes out and is a good athlete. Behind the plate, he rarely makes mistakes of any kind and has a great arm — crippling opposing running games. Yeah, he’s good.

Soto is the probable Rookie of the Year in the National League this season. How many first-year backstops do you see hit 27 home runs and drive in 92? That’s what he’s on pace for — and that comes after a recent slump (probably due to some lingering injuries) has brought some of his numbers down to earth. Soto, too, has a good eye and, much like Mauer, gets a lot of credit from his pitchers for the way he calls a game.

Speaking of calling a good game, how about Martin — a guy whose teammates constantly rave about. Oh, and he can hit, too. And he can run; 31 steals since 2007. And he’s undoubtedly the most athletic of this group of catchers — a guy who played third base a few weeks ago and volunteered to play shortstop if Joe Torre needed him to. Torre didn’t laugh, either. Word is he could play short rather well. He has more walks than strikeouts, which is a testament to the contact that he makes and his place discipline.

McCann always gets less credit/exposure than the other three, but that isn’t because of how he hits — because he may be a better run-producer than any of them. He’s on pace for 45 doubles, 32 home runs and 101 runs batted in. No fluke: .330 AVG, 24 HR, 93 RBI in 2006 and 18 HR and 92 RBI last season.

Again, not easy. Give me any of them, and I’ll be happy.

But give me Russell Martin, who is my pick to be the starting catcher on this “dream team.”

Mauer has had knee problems already, which is a major concern at the catching position. He may be the best pure hitter of the group, but his run-producing skills is not as good as any of the other three.

Soto and McCann are great hitters (although Soto strikes out far too much), but they get KILLED in the running game. Base stealing threats have a field day against both.

Martin will shut down a run game with the best of them, will call a terrific game and is a natural-born leader. He is extremely versatile (on offense and defense), can steal bases and drive in runs much like the other guys. It’s close, but he’s the best all-around package at the catcher position.

THE PICK: Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers

STARTING FIRST BASEMAN

Choices: Prince Fielder (24), Miguel Cabrera (25), Adrian Gonzalez (26), Conor Jackson (26), James Loney (24)

Pro’s for Fielder: Best raw power of the group (by far); youngest of the group; has the family pedigree (father, Cecil, hit 319 home runs) and he is a better athlete than people give him credit for.

Con’s for Fielder: Strikes out a lot (on pace for 3rd straight season of 120+); inconsistent plate discipline (OBP and walks are way down); he’s only 5-foot-11 but weighs 270 pounds (at lowest) and having a disappointing 2008 season after a MONSTER (50 homers, 119 RBI) one in 2007.

Pro’s for Cabrera: Everything; he’s already got four straight seasons of 26+ HR and 110+ RBI under his belt, and he’s still just 25; power to all fields; extra-base hit machine (averaging 74 the last four seasons).

Con’s for Cabrera: He lacks a true position in the field; has battled weight problems; his desire and motivations has been routinely questioned; strikes out a good amount; could POTENTIALLY be older than he says…we see it all the time (he was dominant at age 21, which very well could be legit).

Pro’s for Gonzalez: Having the best season of the group so far; was a No. 1 overall draft pick, so this is no fluke — he was expected to be a monster; hits the ball to all fields; is built like a power hitter with a 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame; has a sweet left-handed swing; putting up big numbers in a notorious pitchers’ park.

Con’s for Gonzalez: Has only done this for 2+ seasons now; already 26 and only has 86 HR in his career; took a long time for him to develop into the hitter many thought he would be; doesn’t walk often, strikes out a lot; doesn’t have a lot of doubles this season.

Others that were considered: James Loney (great hitter, but not a huge power threat, at least not yet), Conor Jackson (lacks raw power and is already 26) and Joey Votto (haven’t seen enough of him yet).

In the end, this comes down to two players: Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Fielder is the sexier pick of the two, because we already know he’s capable of popping 50+ home runs (he did it last year). And Cabrera worries us a bit now because of the weight/lack of position/motivation concerns.

BUT…Cabrera is the better all-around player, and a guy that has MVP and Hall-of-Fame inductee written all over him. His weight is down from what it was last year and I know he’s having a “down” year, but give me Cabrera for this team. The guy is a .310 lifetime hitter, and already has 155 HR, 597 RBI and will have 1,000 career hits at the age of 25.

If he WANTS to, he could perhaps be the best all-around player in baseball (or close to it), and even if he doesn’t — he’s still pretty darned good.

THE PICK: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

STARTING SECOND BASEMAN

Choices: Ian Kinsler (26), Dustin Pedroia (24), Robinson Cano (25), Rickie Weeks (25), Howie Kendrick (25)

I break these candidates into three categories…

  1. The uber-prospects that have continually disappointed: a.k.a. Rickie Weeks and Howie Kendrick (how long are we going to wait for these guys to break out and/or stay healthy)
  2. The scrappy ballplayer who continually gets the job done, while you wait for them to revert back to reality: a.k.a Dustin Pedroia (great player, love his game, but I think falls just short of the following two guys — because his ceiling doesn’t match theirs).
  3. The contenders: Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano.

Let me tell you, it’s tempting to pick a guy like Weeks (who hit like .450 in his college career) or a guy like Kendrick (who, when healthy, seems to do everything well on the diamond). But they simply CANNOT be trusted anymore. I know Kendrick is back and doing well now, but what makes us think this will continue. How long until he hit
s the DL again?

All Pedroia does is produce while people continue to doubt him. I say stop, because he is here to stay. But give me one of these guys for the next 10 years…

Cano: .297 AVG as a rookie, .342 (what sophomore slump?) in 2006 and .306 last season. Even with a poor .268 AVG so far in 2008, Cano is a lifetime .305 hitter.

He had 41 doubles in each of the last two years, and averaged 17 HR and 88 RBI — which is something that second baseman just don’t do nowadays.

Kinsler: Pedroia was voted in as the AL starter at second base. While he certainly deserves to be on the team, it’s a JOKE that Kinsler wasn’t the one starting.

His projected numbers this season are scary-good: .329 AVG, 22 HR, 95 RBI, 137 R, 223 H, 55 2B, 6 3B, 62 BB, 39 SB, .388 OBP %, .524 SLG %

Yes, his monster 2008 campaign came a bit out of nowhere. However, he did hit 20 home runs last season and hit .286 with 14 HR in his 2006 rookie season.

Hmm. What happened to Cano? He’s starting to bounce back in a big way, he’s too good of a hitter with too sweet of a swing not to fully return to form.

Kinsler? Will undoubtedly regress the rest of the season…he can’t possibly keep this up.

But Kinsler plays better defense, has a much better all-around game than Cano and is my pick to lead my team at second base for the next 10 seasons.

THE PICK: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers 

 
STARTING THIRD BASEMAN

Choices: David Wright (25), Evan Longoria (22), Alex Gordon (24), Ryan Zimmerman (23)

Ryan, I am in LOVE with your defense, leadership and pretty right-handed swing.

Alex, I’m in love with your potential, but I’m tired of waiting for the results and am beginning to think you’re not quite as good as advertised.

David and Evan, can I take you both??

This is not going to be easy. They are similar players in many ways…both are great with the glove, great with the bat, and contribute in every aspect possible on the baseball field.

Evan is three years younger and is having a stellar rookie season, but David has proved what he’s capable of for years, and is an MVP threat each and every season.

Let’s look closer at Wright, who has played three full seasons prior to this one…

Over that time, he’s averaged: .314 AVG, 28 HR, 108 RBI, 103 R, 41 2B, 24 SB, .396 OBP%,

He was at his best last season, hitting .325 with 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 R, 42 2B, 34 SB, 94 BB, .416 OBP% and .546 SLG%.

He just keeps getting better. This season some of his numbers are a bit down, but he’s still on pace for 110+ runs, 40+ doubles, 31 HR and 127 RBI, 100+ BB and 20 SB.

Now, on to Mr. Longoria. No, not Tony Parker (sorry ladies).

As a 22-year-old rookie, he’s on pace for: .279 AVG, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 82 R, 42 2B, 66 BB (142 K), 10 SB, .355 OBP% and .528 SLG%.

An impressive and spectacular rookie season, no doubt.

Much like Prince Fielder over Miguel Cabrera at first base, Longoria over Wright is the “sexier” pick at the hot corner. The relatively unknown (Longoria) is appealing (although Evan is not as appealing as Eva) but I want the known in Wright. The guy is a consistent monster, and he will win an MVP Award sooner rather than later.

Trust me, I know. I want to take Longoria and I know this will probably bite me in the rear-end, but I play it safe. And it’s not like Wright can’t get any better. He’s alreadt pretty darned good — not to mention, better right now than Longoria.

Wright is not wrong. 

THE PICK: David Wright, New York Mets  

 
STARTING SHORTSTOP

Choices: Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki

Tulo? Never mind his injury problems and struggles at the plate this season. His rookie campaign in 2007 was no fluke. He’s going to be a terrific shortstop for many years to come — Coors Field or no Coors Field.

Reyes? Probably the most electrifying player in all of baseball. A terror on the basepaths. And one of the best shortstops we have EVER seen…

That is, until we saw Ramirez.

How many times have we seen shortstops with THAT kind of power? Probably twice (Alex Rodriguez and Ernie Banks).

How many shortstops have we seen with that level of power-speed combination. How about, NONE. Until now.

Pencil — no, permanent marker — him in for the following numbers EVERY season until, oh, about, 2020: .315+ AVG, 25+ HR, 70+ RBI, 40+ steals, 110+ runs, 200+ hits, 40+ doubles, .375+ OBP%.

Not bad for a shortstop.

Not bad for a leadoff man.

Not bad for anyone.

Not only is this man my first choice at shortstop for the next 10 years, he would be my first pick overall to start a new team with — over A-Rod, Albert Pujols, Johan Santana…EVERYONE.

It’s not easy to make taking Jose Reyes for your team a complete afterthought. But with Hanley in the fold, it really is.

THE PICK: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins

 
STARTING OUTFIELDERS

Choices: Ryan Braun, Grady Sizemore, Carl Crawford, Carlos Quentin, Nick Markakis, Chris Young, Nate McLouth, Matt Kemp, BJ Upton, Hunter Pence, Delmon Young, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jay Bruce

As you can see, there are a lot of good, young outfielders in baseball right now. And I’m supposed to pick three?

Good luck with that.

I suppose the easiest way is to immediately eliminate a few guys. So here goes…

So long Nick Markakis (love him, but not enough power to compete with some of the other guys).

So long Chris Young (apparently you aren’t as good as we thought you would be…have you suddenly forgot to steal a base? And enough with the sub-.240 average, it’s getting old).

So long Hunter Pence (you’re good, but not as good as how you played in your rookie season).

So long Delmon Young (I thought you were going to be an absolute beast with the bat…but in turns out your better at throwing them at umpires than you are at hitting the ball over the fence).

So long Adam Jones (we don’t know how good you’re going to be yet, but good luck becoming a better player than say, Sizemore or Braun).

So long Nate McLouth (you’re good and all, but you’re not THIS good. And even if you were, you’re still not in the same class at Sizemore or Crawford).

So long the Upton brothers — yes, that’s you Justin and B.J. You both are loaded with talent, but Justin wasn’t showing it enough (that’s why he’s currently in AAA) and B.J. has taken a step back from last season.

So that leaves the following players: Ryan Braun, Grady Sizemore, Carl Crawford, Carlos Quentin, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jay Bruce…

No go for Crawford — already 26, NEVER walks, and power/speed numbers are slowly on the decline.

No go for Ellsbury — yes, he can steal plenty of bags and play great in the field, but he has relatively no power to speak of and doesn’t get on base nearly enough.

No go for Kemp — memo to baseball fans everywhere, this kid is a MUCH better player than Jacoby. Much more power, way better run-producer, and it’s not like he can’t run (he is on pace for 37 steals). But he’s still no Sizemore.

No go for Bruce — tempting, but he’s still too green for my liking. I don’t know what to expect from him yet. The guy he was the first few weeks? The guy he is now? Probably somewhere in between. But he strikes out WAY too much. It’s tempting to take him (he’s only 21) and I know this would probably come back to haunt me more than the other guys I’ve passed up, but I gotta do it.

Yes to Braun: one of the most impressive rookie seasons we’ve ever seen, and he’s somehow topping it now in his second season.

Yes to Sizemore: How many leadoff men have that type of speed, power, on-base skills and leadership abilities? Guy is a beast in center, as well.

Yes to Quentin: Kind of came out of nowhere, but those who follow baseball intently knew he just needed a full-time chance to stay healthy and prove his hot-prospect status was worthy. He’s gotten that chance and he’s more than proved it. He’s a big-time run producer with massive power.

THE PICK: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians; Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox

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2 comments

  1. districtboy

    I agree with you entirely, except for the outfielders. I was stuck between Quentin, Bruce, and Upton. I ultimately decided on Upton. I guess I couldn’t stand the temptation of that gleaming potential he has yet to find. In professional baseball, neither Bruce or Upton have done power wise, what everybody said they would. But I like how Upton has kept his plate discipline consistent throughout his struggles. That was an appealing trait for a 20 year old.

    Why do you think Upton is in AAA? He’s injured, not in Tucson, (Reno next year).

    I guess I’ll be looking like an idiot when Quentin repeats this season next year. Any chance on a starting pitcher dream team? THAT would be tough. Lincecum, Kershaw, Maddux………..

    Aaron
    http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

  2. chisoxmo30

    Aaron,

    Your wish is my command. I’m working on a pitching dream team as we speak.

    Five starters, and six relievers.

    Tough task. Same stipulation as before, gotta be 26-years-old or younger.

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