One of the countless reasons I drop the $30 or so on the Baseball America Prospect Handbook every year is the often comical yet often insightful positional projection for each team three seasons down the road.
For instance, here is what the 2008 Handbook suggested the 2011 Red Sox lineup and rotation would look like:
C Mark Wagner
1B Lars Anderson
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Kevin Youkilis
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Ryan Kalish
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Josh Reddick
DH David Ortiz
No. 1 starter: Josh Beckett
No. 2 starter: Clay Buchholz
No. 3 starter: Daisuke Matsuzaka
No. 4 starter: Jon Lester
No. 5 starter: Michael Bowden
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
That's actually not a bad effort by the BA crystal ball there, particularly if you take into consideration that the emphasis is on prospects and there is no attempt to make a guesstimate at trades and free-agent signings. Two of the position players that they were wrong about were pushed aside by significant acquisitions: Carl Crawford in left field and Adrian Gonzalez at first base. And they weren't being overly bold in 2008 to presume J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek would no longer be here in '11. The ascent of Buchholz is a good call, though Jon Lester was underestimated. And I think the season will prove that they were right about Lowrie at shortstop. Marco Scutaro is a capable placeholder but hardly irreplaceable.
I bring this up, because today, we're going to twist this premise around a bit, thanks to a spectacular bit of baseball research pulled together not by BA or even my simpleton self, but by my cousin Kris. I've mentioned him here before; he's a huge White Sox fan and was my partner in crime during many Maine Guides misadventures back in the day. He loves baseball at least as much as I do -- Baseball Dorkdom! It's Genetic! -- and is properly respectful of Otis Nixon's legacy, but is, like, well-rounded and stuff.
We've sort of buried the lede here, so let's get to the quick explanation of his brainchild that we're co-opting: What follows is a breakdown of what every major league team would look like if every player on a 40-man roster had remained with the organization that originally signed him. A-Rod is a Mariner, Hanley Ramirez is a Red Sox (Sock? Stocking?), and Albert Pujols is . . . still a Cardinal. It's major league baseball in a transaction-free world.
You'll be amazed by the Mariners and, believe it or not, the Nationals (at least if you've forgotten about their Expos heritage). You won't be that amazed by the Yankees or Red Sox, both of whom have plenty of high-quality homegrown talent but have also tended to use free agency and trades to their advantage from what I gather. It's like they have a lot of money and resources or something.
We'll put up two of these breakdowns per day through Thursday starting . . .well, you're reading the first one. The NL East will be posted later today, with the Central divisions coming tomorrow and the West breakdowns Thursday.
We've taken the added step of setting entirely subjective lineups, rotations, and bullpens for each team -- though some, such as the Royals, barely have developed enough pitchers to form half of a pitching staff, let alone a full one. (Zach Greinke and Four Who Are Stinky isn't quite as catchy as Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain, but the sentiment is accurate.) Fortunately, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook tells us they have the No. 1 farm system in baseball. There is hope, though it won't be found here in our world, where Jeremy Affeldt is a No. 3 starter.
Without further blather, here is the Let's-Not-Make-A-Deal version of the AL East . . .
Rotation: LHP Erik Bedard, LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Brad Bergesen, RHP John Maine,
Bullpen: RHP Koji Uehara, LHP Arthur Rhodes, RHP D.J. Carrasco, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Jason Berken
Prospects, suspects, expatriates:C Eli Whiteside, P Garrett Olson, P Pat Egan, P Kevin Hart, P Radhames Liz, INF Mike Fontenot, INF Brandon Snyder, INF Joe Mahoney, INF Augie Ojeda, OF Matt Angle
Closing comments: McDonald and Werth were both first-round picks in '97 . . . Fellow first-rounder Ntema Ndungidi didn't make it past Double A . . . Couple of chronically sore arms in the rotation in Bedard and Maine . . . With Eddie Murray a few years past his prime at this point, had to put OF Reimold at first because of limited options. . . We DH'd Wieters because of lousy options there, too. So behind the plate, you've got Gregg Zaun or Eli Whiteside. Take your pick.
Rotation: LHP Jon Lester, RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP Carl Pavano
Bullpen: RHP Jonathan Papelbon, RHP Daniel Bard, RHP Justin Duchscherer, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Rafael Betancourt, RHP Frank Francisco
Prospects, suspects, expatriates: P Jeff Suppan, P Manny Delcarmen, P-CF Ron Mahay, P Hideki Okajima, P Dustin Richardson, C Luis Exposito, C Mark Wagner, SS Wee David Eckstein, SS Kris Negron, SS Yamaico Navarro, 1B Lars Anderson, SS Oscar Tejada, SS Luis Cruz, SS Argenis Diaz, OF Engel Beltre, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Daniel Nava, OF Josh Reddick, RHP Stolmy Pimentel, RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo
Closing comments: First thing you notice is that the Sox haven't produced many MLB-ready outfielders recently (where have you gone, Jason Place?), though of course Kalish is one the way . . . Theo Epstein and the player development department don't get enough credit for developing two top-of-the-rotation starters in Lester and Buchholz. Looking at other rosters, you realize how hard that is to accomplish . . . Lots of power arms in the bullpen -- Duchscherer and Francisco date to the Duquette regime . . . But no lefties unless you put Okajima in the mix, and we're reluctantly calling him and Dice-K homegrown . . . Whaddaya think this team wins if it were in the AL East in 2011? We'd put it at about 83-85 games.
Rotation: LHP Andy Pettitte, RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Joba Chamberlain, LHP Phil Coke
Bullpen: RHP Mariano Rivera, RHP John Axford, RHP Jose Contreras, LHP Randy Choate, RHP Chien-Ming Wang, RHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Dave Robertson
Prospects, suspects, expatriates: C Francisco Cervelli, OF Marcus Thames, OF Juan Rivera, OF Shelly Duncan, P Jeff Karstens, P Randy Flores, P Mark Melancon, P Lance Pendleton, P Russ Springer, P Wilton Lopez, P Daniel McCutcheon, P Zach
Greinke Kroenke, P Carlos Monasterios, P George Kontos, P Justin Berg, C Dioner Navarro, SS Cristian Guzman, INF Brandon Laird, SS Eduardo Nunez, 1B Juan Miranda, INF Jimmy Paredes, INF Reegie Corona, CF Melky Cabrera, OF Melky Mesa, OF Kevin Russo, OF Colin Curtis, OF Jose Tabata, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Andrew Brackman, RHP Ryan Pope, RHP Ivan Nova
Closing comments: You have no idea how tempting it was to make Cristian Guzman the shortstop and Jeter the center fielder . . . Hard to believe there's not a better option at third than Pena . . . Springer has been around so long his Yankees teammates included Don Mattingly, Danny Tartabull, and Matt Nokes . . . Thames and Rivera make for pretty capable bats on the bench . . . Like the Sox, it's apparent how much they've benefited from high-profile trades/free-agency, not that that's breaking news.
Rotation: LHP David Price, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Wade Davis, RHP Jeff Niemann, RHP James Shields
Bullpen: RHP Dan Wheeler, RHP Andy Sonnanstine, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jose Veras
Prospects, suspects, expatriates: CF Rocco Baldelli, P Travis Schilchting, P Bobby Cramer, C Nevin Ashley, 2B Elliott Johnson, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Matt Diaz, OF Desmond Jennings, OF Fernando Perez, OF Leslie Anderson, OF Jason Pridie, RHP Alex Cobb, LHP Jake McGee, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Jason Hammel
Closing comments: Can't help but imagine what the Rays might have achieved had Hamilton not nearly destroyed his career with substance-abuse issues . . . Or if Rocco Baldelli had not seen his promising career shortened by injury and illness . . . Not much depth in the Jesus Colome Honorary Super-Flammable Bullpen, though there is promising pitching on the way in lefties McGee and Matt Moore . . . That rotation looks pretty familiar, doesn't it?
Rotation: RHP Roy Halladay, RHP Chris Carpenter, RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, LHP Brett Cecil
Bullpen: RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Alfredo Aceves, RHP Brandon League, LHP Mark Rzepczynski, RHP Kelvim Escobar
Prospects, suspects, expatriates: SS Cesar Izturis, SS Felipe Lopez, 2B Brad Emaus, INF Adeiny Hechavarria, INF Ryan Roberts, INF Eugenio Velez, P Scott Richmond, P Mark Hendrickson, P Brad Mills, P David Purcey, P Justin James, P Dave Bush, C Brian Jerolman, SS Chris Woodward, OF Reed Johnson, OF Jay Gibbons, OF Darin Mastroianni, OF Johermyn Chavez, OF Moises Sierra
Closing comments: With a Halladay/Carpenter 1-2, that's probably the best rotation in the division, especially if you believe Marcum is ready for a breakthrough in Milwaukee . . . Given his image as Mr. Texas Ranger -- not to mention his recent trade-rumor drama -- it's easy to forget that Young began his career with the Jays . . . Not sure who to DH and who to put in the OF among Lind and Snider. Neither is exactly Franklin Gutierrez with the glove.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.