Anything you can do…
WHO’S BETTER, WHO’S BEST?
As promised in yesterday’s entry, an “if-the-season-started-today” roster comparison of the five teams in the American League East. The goal: to see if the Yankees’ several moves thus far have tipped the balance of talent towards the Bronx. The method: a subjective one, but I will justify my rankings. The scoring is simple: The team whose player ranks first among the five teams receives five points. Having the second-best player is worth four points, and so on. The team with the most points wins.
1. Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis
2. Rays: Carlos Pena
3. Yankees: Nick Swisher
4. Blue Jays: Lyle Overbay
5. Orioles: The Great Pumpkin
The Red Sox could put Mark Teixeira here and the rankings would be the same, though the gap between one and two would simply grow larger. The high upside on a Swisher rebound is probably in the neighborhood of .270/.380/.490. That would be very good indeed, but not quite at the level of Youkilis/Teixeira or Pena, the halfway point of whose last two seasons is .264/.394/.560. Overbay hasn’t hit at an appropriate level for a first baseman in two seasons. We don’t know who the Orioles first baseman is going to be. Last season’s placeholder, Kevin Millar, is a free agent, and their pursuit of Teixeira seems unlikely to pay off. They could play DH Aubrey Huff here, which would vault them to fourth, or even third if Huff has another 2008 in him.
SCORE: Red Sox 5, Rays 4, Yankees 3, Jays 2, Orioles 1.
1. Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
2. Orioles: Brian Roberts
3. Yankees: Robinson Cano
4. Blue Jays: Aaron Hill
5. Rays: Akinori Iwamura
As with the placement of Swisher above, this ranking is dependent on a rebound–which Cano should do. The laws of physics almost demand it. The problem is that the two guys ahead of him on this list will probably get on base more often even if he does. The placement of Hill is based on his age and where he seemed to be heading after 2007, a concussion having wiped out the majority of his 2008 season. Iwamura is good for a little offense and a little defense, but not enough of either.
SCORE: Red Sox 10, Yankees 6, Rays 5, Orioles 5, Jays 4.
1. Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
2. Rays: Evan Longoria
3. Red Sox: Mike Lowell
4. Blue Jays: Scott Rolen
5. Orioles: Melvin Mora
What a strong group. Even consistency from A-Rod should keep him on top. The ranking of Longoria is speculative based on a full season and a mild improvement. If the Sox sign Teixeira and push Youkilis here, the ranking probably wouldn’t change–the thought here is that Youkilis backslides just slightly. Put Lowell, Rolen, and Mora in a bag and shake ‘em up. Mora was actually better than Rolen this year, but Mora is unlikely to have another season like that in him at 37.
SCORE: Red Sox 13, Yankees 11, Rays 9, Orioles 6, Blue Jays 6.
1. Yankees: Derek Jeter
2. Red Sox: Jed Lowrie
3. Rays: Jason Bartlett
4. Orioles: Cesar Izturis
5. Blue Jays: John McDonald
As weak a field after Jeter as the third base collection was strong. Jeter played hurt last year, declined, or both, but he’d have to fall a long way to sink past the glove-men here. The jury is still out on Lowrie, who isn’t a great glove and showed quite few holes in his rookie year, including Fenway-dependent hitting, an aversion to right-handed pitching, and an inability to adjust in September, when pitchers struck him out in about 30 percent of his at bats. The alternative is Julio Lugo, who seems to have come to the end of his abilities. Bartlett saved his season with a strong second half. The other two guys make Rabbit Maranville look like Babe Ruth.
SCORE: Red Sox 17, Yankees 16, Rays 12, Orioles 8, Blue Jays 7.
1. Red Sox: Jason Bay
2. Rays: Carl Crawford
3. Yankees: Johnny Damon
4. Blue Jays: Adam Lind
5. Orioles: Luke Scott/Ryan Freel
The only thing I’m sure about here is that Bay belongs on top. I have the sense that Carl Crawford has a better year in him after hamstring and hand injuries wrecked his season. I feel strongly that Johnny Damon is going to give something back this season. Lind could finally hit like his minor league numbers suggest he should (.318/.379/.509 in the sticks) and if he doesn’t, the Jays could put Travis Snider in his place and get good production. Luke Scott is a good platoon guy and could pop enough home runs to move up a couple of spots.
SCORE: Red Sox 22, Yankees 19, Rays 16, Orioles 9, Blue Jays 9.
1. Rays: B.J. Upton
2. Blue Jays: Vernon Wells
3. Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Orioles: Adam Jones
5. Yankees: Fred C. Dobbs, Duke Mantee, or Philip Francis Queeg
Among the wild cards here: Jones and if he adds power, as is expected; Ellsbury’s ability to hold on to the progress he made at the end of the season; Upton’s health and if the super-powerful version of him that showed up in the playoffs will reappear in April; and, of course, just who will play center for the Yankees. Mike Cameron would not change this ranking and could conceivably increase the gap between fourth and fifth place.
SCORE: Red Sox 25, Rays 21, Yankees 20, Jays 13, Orioles 11.
1. Orioles: Nick Markakis
2. Red Sox: J.D. Drew
3. Blue Jays: Alexis Rios
4. Yankees: Xavier Nady
5. Rays: Matt Joyce
I suspect this ranking will lead to some argument. Drew is the best all-around hitter here, but you never know if he’ll be in the lineup. Somehow Markakis has yet to make an All-Star team. He will this year. He’s just 25, has improved each season of his career, and is the best all-around player in the group. Rios does a lot of things well without quite reaching the level of production you expect from a right fielder. Joyce is unproven, but he’s a strong glove who should give the Rays some pop from the left side. An unorthodox platoon pairing with switch-hitters Fernando Perez or Ben Zobrist could be reasonably productive and defensively sound. That leaves Nady, who will almost certainly return to his career rates of performance next season. That makes him fourth in this group, fifth if Joyce hits and fields as expected.
SCORE: Red Sox 29, Rays 22, Yankees 22, Orioles 16, Jays 16.
Orioles: Matt Wieters
Yankees: Jorge Posada
Rays: Dioner Navarro
Red Sox: Batman
Blue Jays: Rod Barajas
Some rankings on faith here. Wieters is perhaps the best prospect in baseball, and is presumed to have the Orioles job (Ramon Hernandez was traded for Ryan Freel in anticipation of Wieters’ arrival). Bat-wise, he looks like Mike Piazza II. If Posada can catch regularly and hit anything like old school Jorge, the Yankees will be in very good shape. If not, they’re off-the-charts hopeless, as they were this year. Navarro is an average-driven hitter who holds his own. Boston’s catcher, is, of course, fictional, but we don’t know if Theo Epstein will break down and bring back Jason Varitek, make a deal with the Rangers for one of their extra backstops, or pursue some other option that isn’t yet apparent. It takes some faith to rank a complete unknown ahead of Rod Barajas, but I’m certain that whichever catcher the Red Sox ultimately acquire he will be capable of at least a .300 on-base percentage.
SCORE: Red Sox 31, Yankees 26, Rays 25, Orioles 21, Jays 17.
We will continue in our next entry with designated hitter, starting pitching, closers, and middle relief.
MORE FROM ME…
…As always, at Wholesome Reading, to be updated with Internal Improvements III this evening.