"...you're a Major League Baseball team owner. Everyone is a free agent. You have a Yankees-like wallet. Who is your first position player? Who's your pitcher?"
This was a question asked to President Bush in a recent Politico.com interview. Bush's answers? Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. Now, I'm going to stear clear of casting political aspersions (I'll leave that up to UmpBump) because I'm sure Joe wouldn't appreciate that, but I'm really impressed with these choices. Utley is definitely a justifiable pick and although Halladay is 31, he's an awesome pitcher that not too many people know about because he pitches for those Jays up in Canada. Bush knows his baseball.
However, this got me wondering, who would I pick in this same situation? I my mind, whoever I pick has to be good at all the aspects of the game plus being young. So, let's begin by looking at the hitters.
Alright, right off the bat you can cross the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Braun off the list. Why? Defense. As awesome as they all are with the bat, they're notorious butchers in the field. I'm not going to make a Tiger-like mistake and bring in a guy like Miggie, only to realize 10 games later that he can't play his position. I have to say, though, I'm still tempted by Ramirez because even if he gets moved to centerfield (which could happen since he's apparently pretty bad at short), he's still an offensive powerhouse. Who has ever heard of a player going 30-50 before? It's just insane! But anyway, regardless, I'm still crossing him off the list.
That leaves me with a list that reads something like this: Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, David Wright, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, BJ Upton, Grady Sizemore*. Some people might argue that Carl Crawford and Brandon Phillips should be included on there, but they're both bordering on too old for this list. Also, they're OBPs are just way too low for my likes. I've read "Moneyball" and yes, I'm a convert. And A-Rod, as awesome as he is, is now 32 (turning 33 in July). In my eyes, that's too old to build a franchise around.
* I'm stealing this technique from Joe Posnanski's blog, which is awesome and I think everyone should read. It's great writing, plus it happens to be about baseball. Anyway, does anyone else notice how NL heavy that list is? And not just that, NL East heavy. Just a thought, but those Phillies and Mets look to be good for years to come, assuming they're smart.
Also, I know there are tons of other amazing young players out there, like Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Chris Young, Alex Gordon, etc. The trick is, I'm only including players in this list that have already proven they can produce at the major league level. As much as I might like to pick Longo, I'm not picking anyone unless we already know that they can be a stud on the major league level.
Okay...so I'd go through my reasoning completely, but to spare you from reading a ridiculously long post, here's my final answer: BJ Upton. I know that I'm incredibly biased, but I think I can back this up. Pujols is 28 and possibly past his prime years. Reyes doesn't walk enough and has been in a slump dating back to the All-Star Break last year. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are turning 30 this year. Prince Fielder has an attitude. Ryan Howard strikes out waaaay too much. Grady Sizemore hasn't been able to step up his game to the superstar level yet. And Upton has posted similar offensive numbers to Wright...but he's two years younger.
Upton is currently 23 and finally brokeout last year. His final numbers were .300/.386/.508, with 24 HRs, 22 SBs, and 82 RBIs in only 129 games. His batting average was a little higher than we can probably expect going forward, but his power and speed numbers both look to increase. Now that Upton has found his proper position and is playing every day, it should be very interesting to see what sort of numbers he can put up over the course of a full year. He did strike out a good amount last year, but his K/BB ratio has improved a lot so far this year.
Anyway, I'm going to leave it at that for now. I need to ponder over which starting pitcher I'd like, so I'll get back to you on that one. Anyway, Joe, what do you think?