This was a thought exercise well in the making for me. I kind of took it upon myself to construct rosters of 25 players from all the teams within the same division. There were 13 position players, and 12 pitchers for each team. Obviously there's a level of subjectivity involved, but I wanted to make sure that all the needs of a roster spot were met. For instance, I wanted to make sure there was an infielder who could play multiple positions on the bench, an outfielder that could play all three outfield spots on the bench, and a back-up catcher, leaving the 25th-spot on the team with some level of flexibility. Also I wanted to make sure every bullpen had at least one left-handed pitcher, or a right-handed pitcher with an ability to suppress contact versus left-handed hitters Also worth noting, I gave each team in every division representation, so as not to alienate the Houston's and Chicago's of the baseball world. Alas, we must continue.
NL East (Opening Day Payroll: $133.5 million)
C- Brian McCann 1B- Freddie Freeman 2B- Chase Utley 3B- David Wright SS- Andrelton Simmons LF- Bryce Harper CF- Denard Span RF- Giancarlo Stanton DH- Jayson Werth BN- Wilson Ramos BN- Juan Lagares BN- Daniel Murphy BN- Ian Desmond
SP- Cliff Lee SP- Stephen Strasburg SP- Gio Gonzalez SP- Jose Fernandez SP- Cole Hamels LRP- Mike Minor MRP- Jordan Walden MRP- Steve Cishek MRP- Mike Dunn SU- Luis Avilan SU- Bobby Parnell CL- Craig Kimbrel
Omissions: Matt Harvey (Injury), Dominic Brown (terrible defender), Jordan Zimmermann (Minor throwing left-handed gives him the edge over Jordan), Tyler Clippard (his .162 BABIP and 27% GB rate scare me)
Strengths: The NL East has a strong group of starting pitchers, with perhaps the most electric stuff of the six divisions. This team also boasts a very strong defensive infield, especially the left side (Wright + Simmons).
Weaknesses: There was not a wealth of left-handed relief pitching among the 5 teams making up the NL East. They're lucky to have Avilan, but after him the situation become a little more dire. Mike Dunn has done well for the Maaaawlins (Insert Boston accent), though without him I was left with standouts Jake Diekman, Antonio Bastardo, Pedro Feliciano as potential options to pick through (which rarely means something good when you're left picking through this motley crue).
Best Pitching Prospect: Noah Syndergaard (I know I know)
Best Hitting Prospect: Travis D'Arnaud (seriously. Check mlb.com's prospect rankings, they could be ours still..)
Overall, not a a bad team at all to be managing, but does it stack up well compared to the behemoths of the NL Central and NL West?
NL CENTRAL (Opening Day Payroll: $113.25 Million)
C- Yadier Molina 1B- Joey Votto 2B- Brandon Phillips 3B- Matt Carpenter SS- Jean Segura LF- Carlos Gomez CF- Andrew McCutchen RF-Shin-Soo Choo DH- Ryan Braun(!) BN- Allen Craig BN- Starling Marte BN- Russell Martin BN- Darwin Barney
SP- Adam Wainwright SP- Mat Latos SP- AJ Burnett SP- Francisco Liriano SP- Homer Bailey LRP- Lance Lynn MRP-Jim Henderson MRP- Jason Grilli MRP- Justin Wilson SU- Jason Grilli SU- Trevor Rosenthal CP- Aroldis Chapman
Strengths: This roster construction gives the NL Central tremendous balance through their lineup, with exceptional hitters Votto and Braun surrounded by speed, contact, power, and patience. The outfield defense of this team is truly exceptional, and any infield defense anchored by Yadier Molina is sure to be in fine shape.
Weaknesses: Nothing to pick from at 3rd base, really slim pickens. You'd hope if you put five teams together, that you could find a 3rd baseman to be proud of. While I did weigh the appealing notion of platooning Pedro Alvarez and Todd Frazier together, I instead opted to put Matt Carpenter in what many call his natural position, and let the man-crush of Harold Reynolds Brandon Phillips take care of 2nd base.
Best Pitching Prospect: Jameson Taillon
Best Hitting Prospect: Oscar Taveras
NL West (Opening Day Payroll: $119 Million)
C- Buster Posey 1B- Paul Goldschmidt 2B- Aaron Hill 3B- Hanley Ramirez SS- Troy Tulowitzki LF- Carlos Gonzalez CF- Gerardo Parra RF- Yasiel Puig DH- Brandon Belt BN- Wilin Rosario BN- Will Venable BN- Michael Cuddyer BN- Marco Scutaro
SP- Clayton Kershaw SP- Zack Greinke SP- Madison Bumgarner SP- Jyhouls Chacin SP- Patrick Corbin LRP/MRP- Andrew Cashner MRP- Brad Ziegler MRP- Javier Lopez MRP- Paco Rodriguez SU- Sergio Romo SU- Rex Brothers CP- Kenley Jansen
Strengths: The most balanced bullpen of the NL divisions. Multiple innings reliever, flamethrowers, side-arm guys, this bullpen has some serious options, and they're all very effective. Also, this group of outfielders undoubtedly have the best arms of any division. Lastly, there's tons of positional versatility with Cuddyer/Venable/Scutaro.
Weaknesses: A really weak second base group. The NL West pales in comparison in terms of second base depth when stacked against the next division I'm undertaking.
Best Pitching Prospect. Archie Bradley
Best Hitting Prospect: Austin Hedges
AL East (Opening Day Roll: $140 Million)
C- Matt Weiters 1B- Chris Davis 2B- Robinson Cano 3B- Evan Longoria SS- Yunel Escobar LF- Jacoby Ellsbury CF- Colby Rasmus RF-Shane Victorino DH- Edwin Encarnacion BN- Ben Zobrist BN- Brett Gardner BN- Jarrod Saltalamacchia BN- Manny Machado
SP- Jon Lester SP- Hiroki Kuroda SP- David Price SP- Jon Lackey SP- Matt Moore LRP- Felix Doubront MRP- Tommy Hunter MRP- Alex Torres MRP- Steve Delabar SU- David Robertson SU- Brett Cecil CP- Koji Uehara
*Depending on your view of Machado's ability to play SS to the equal ability, if not better than Yunel Escobar, the 25th roster spot could either be Manny Machado as a back-up to Yunel and Longoria, or it could be an extra spot for David Ortiz, with Machado sliding into SS and Zobrist backing him up. Either configurations work for me, granted the payroll does jump $9 million inserting Papi into the bench position in lieu of Yunel.
Strengths: Having to choose between Pedroia and Cano is like choosing between an Edwin T-Rex prance or a majestic Clobby Rasmus moonshot (both visually delicious options). Having Gardner and Zobrist on the bench allows the manager to have a back-up at every position save catcher, which is tremendously valuable. Quite possibly the deepest lineup as well.
Weaknessess: Expensive, not-so-effective starting pitching. I was really disappointed gleaning through the teams and seeing just how mediocre the starting pitching was. Obviously, some of the inflated totals are reflective of the type of offenses in the AL East. That said, there's still a clear weakness with starting pitching, something we won't see with the AL Central or AL West.
Best Pitching Prospect: Aaron Sanchez (*Omitting Dylan Bundy on account of the bum elbow)
Best Hitting Prospect: Xander Bogaerts
AL Central (Opening Day Payroll: $127.5 Million)
C- Salvador Perez 1B- Eric Hosmer 2B- Jason Kipnis 3B- Miguel Cabrera SS- Jose Iglesias LF- Alex Gordon CF- Austin Jackson RF- Lorenzo Cain DH- Joe Mauer BN- Carlos Santana BN- Yan Gomes BN- Jarrod Dyson BN- Alcides Escobar
SP- Max Scherzer SP- Anibal Sanchez SP- Chris Sale SP- James Shields SP- Justin Verlander LRP- Doug Fister MRP- Nate Jones MRP- Luke Hochevar MRP- Drew Smyly SU- Joaquin Benoit SU- Glen Perkins CP- Greg Holland
Strengths: Look at that pitching staff. I could just stare at it. Do you think Rick Porcello is ever depressed that he's never made it more than the four horsemen? While the Tigers are largely responsible for this staff looking so darn good, James Shields and Chris Sale aren't exactly mediocre. Suffice to say, when your #5 pitcher is Justin Verlander, you're doing something right.
Weaknesses: The outfield doesn't look like 5 teams worth of talent. There's a dearth of productive right-fielders around the AL Central (Wil Myers leaving KC doesn't help things), and nobody's outfielders are over-achieving. It's a generally underwhelming group.
Best Pitching Prospect: Yordano Ventura
AL West (Opening Day Payroll: $114.85 Million)
C- Jason Castro 1B- Mark Trumbo 2B- Howie Kendrick 3B- Josh Donaldson SS- Elvis Andrus LF- Mike Trout CF- Coco Crisp RF- Alex Rios DH- Brandon Moss BN- Leonys Martin BN- Chris Iannetta BN- Kyle Seager BN- Jed Lowrie
SP- Felix Hernandez SP- Yu Darvish SP- Derek Holland SP- Hisashi Iwakuma SP- Bartolo Colon LRP- C.J. Wilson MRP- Ernesto Frieri MRP- Neal Cotta MRP- Danny Farquhar SU- Sean Doolittle SU- Ryan Cook CP- Joe Nathan
Strengths: Again, the pitching staff is absolutely nails. Not dissimilar from the NL East or the AL Central, the starting pitchers the AL West can boast is impressive. Their bench can play multiple positions, and play premium defense, and aren't totally useless at hitting.
Weakness: First base is not a position of strength for the AL West. What with Pujols hurt, Texas trading away every good 1B they get their hands on (Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, etc.), Houston being awful and Seattle running Justin Smoak or Kendrys Morales out every day, the options are limited to pick from.
Best Pitching Prospect: Taijuan Walker
Best Hitting Prospect: Carlos Correa
So there you have it! This is how I would construct a team based on each division. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. If you guys made it this far, I'd love to hear how you would have done it differently, what you liked/didn't like, etc.
GO JAYS GO.