04 August 2005

We'll Call Them "the Kiefer Sutherlands"

While keeping an eye today on the Mets/ Brewers game today, it occured to me that across MLB, there are a large handful of players that I sort of abjectly lust over- sometimes senselessly (Nick Johnson- is he ever healthy?- but I love him), and sometimes with very good reason (example, Ben Sheets).

But it is fun to run over them, though I rarely have a great reason why, for instance, I absolutely love Mike Cameron.

But this post isn't really a way to describe this sort of thing- that was just the start I got in what would become this post. I was thinking of Rickie Weeks, the 22 year old 2B, and it got me thinking of all those young players who, when people talk about them, are described "so much potential," and how they're "going to be a great player someday." Of course, Rickie Weeks is a great player right now- in fact, Weeks may be a better player right now than, say Alfonso Soriano.

So I thought I'd create an arbitrary guideline- age 24- and make up a 25 man roster consisting of the best team available. Now, some clarification- if I was doing this for a franchise and it's future, it's probably likely I'd choose 19 year old Felix Hernandez over someone like, say, Jeremy Bonderman. But Bonderman is better right now (why I italicize that phrase every time around is a mystery to me, too), and I'm looking to build the best team for right now. Also, no loading the bullpen up with starting pitchers that got left out of the rotation. Starters in the rotation, relievers in the 'pen. So without further delay:

LINEUP

  1. Rickie Weeks 2B, MIL (22)

  2. Jhonny Peralta SS, CLE (23)

  3. Miguel Cabrera LF, FLA (22)

  4. Joe Mauer C, MIN (22)

  5. David Wright 3B, NYM (22)

  6. Hank Blalock DH, TEX (24)

  7. Justin Morneau 1B, MIN (24)

  8. Nick Swisher RF, OAK (23)

  9. Grady Sizemore CF, CLE (23)


ROTATION

SP- Mark Prior, CHC (24)
SP- Jake Peavy, SDP (24)
SP- Rich Harden, OAK (23)
SP- Carlos Zambrano, CHC (23)
SP- Jeremy Bonderman, DET (22)

BULLPEN

RP- Jesse Crain, MIN (24)
RP- Chad Cordero, WAS (23)
RP- Huston Street, OAK (22)
RP- Chris Ray, BAL (23)
RP- Scott Kazmir, TDR (21)
CL- Francisco Rodriguez, LAA (23)

BENCH

BN- Yadier Molina, C STL (23)
BN- Wily Mo Pena, OF CIN (23)
BN- Carl Crawford, OF TDR (23)
BN- Jose Reyes, MI NYM (22)
BN- Johnny Gomes, 1B/OF TDR (24)


Yes I know I broke one of my own very arbitrary rules by putting Scott Kazmir in the bullpen. But I needed a lefty, and I think he needs to work on his control for a season in the pen. So there.

A couple observations- the toughest choice was, of course, between David Wright and Hank Blalock at 3B. I chose Wright (though I did a little cheating to get Blalock on the lineup), for a couple reasons. Let's look at Wright and Blalock's raw season thus far:

___________OBP____SLG___HR
WRIGHT____.379___.504___16
BLALOCK___.338___.467___20


Now, on this alone, it's pretty clear Wright is having a better season, but when you factor in park effects- Shea being a drastic hitter's park and Arlington being Coors Field South, it's not really close. Their defense is a wash- Wright still makes some rookie "bobble-the-ball-right-at-him" errors, but Blalock probably doesn't have his range, or arm. The only thing Blalock had for him really is the extra season on Wright, but I don't see that as a reason to take him over Wright for now. Check out the home/ road splits for each.

WRIGHT______OBP___SLG___HR
home_______.380__.515____8
road_______.370__.494____8


BLALOCK_____OBP___SLG___HR
home_______.382__.576___16
road_______.292__.356____4


Seems pretty clear to me.

Another thing I noticed- the weakness, depth-wise, of the OF. Granted, one of the easiest inclusions- one of the two or three best on the "team," is Miguel Cabrera who, at 22, is one of the best hitters in baseball already. If you want an early comp for this guy, the only one I can think of is Manny Ramirez. In a Dodger Stadium-like pitcher's park, Cabrera is putting up eye-boggling numbers. A 1.006 OPS with 23 HRs at Pro Player is god-like.

But beyond he and Sizemore- who is a very good hitter, excellent defender and baserunner- there isn't a ton to go on. Swisher has been hot lately, and his overall season, especially considering the park he plays in, put him over Wily Mo to may, especially considering where he plays.

The strongest thing, to me, was obviously the rotation. When I was leaving out guys like Oliver Perez, Gustavo Chacin, Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, and Zack Greinke, you know it would be at least pretty good- but Prior, Peavy, Zambrano, Harden and Bonderman are all aces. When all is said and done, Prior and Harden have a shot to be Clemens and Maddux-good, though that'd be asking a bit much even of them.

The bench fits together pretty nicely as well. My first inclination was to put Jose Reyes at SS, but upon checking up, I realized that not only did Jhonny Peralta beat him out, I realized that he was having an excellent year
himself. An .877 OPS from Peralta trumps Reyes' .683 pretty easily, park factors be damned. I will say- Jose Reyes has one of the best infield arms I've ever seen. He can fucking gun it.

The bench worked out rather well too- I have the good middle infield option and pinch runner in Reyes (great base stealer). I have a solid young catcher in Molina, lauded for his defense. I have a quick LHH OF option (Carl Crawford) and a RHH power OF option (Pena). Johnny Gomes rounds it out as a solid OBP/ SLG bat with not much glove.

I think it's fun to do this, especially baseball being a "veteran" league as it were, to scope these guys out. These guys are all (for the most part) great players right now. Not in "a few years" or "with some experience"- right now.

Oh yea, and Ronnie Belliard- I really like him. No idea why. He's not under 24 though.

These dudes though, just missed the cut:

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