Projected 2010 NL Central Finish: 2nd
- Theriot ss
- Fukudome rf
- Lee 1b
- Ramirez 3b
- Byrd cf
- Soriano lf
- Fontenot 2b
- Soto c
- Gorzelanny (LH)
- Hill c
- Baker if
- Tracy cif
- Nady 1b/of
- Colvin of
- Marshall (LH)
- Grabow (LH)
- Marmol (closer)
- Lilly sp (LH)
- Guzman rp
First of all, congratulations to new Hall of Famer, Andre Dawson. He was the only player elected into the Hall from this year’s ballot. It wasn’t too much of a shock that Barry Larkin didn’t get in but his career got me thinking. Larkin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and played his entire career for his hometown Reds. With the expansion teams, drafts, trades, free agency and international baseball, that feat is now a rarity. So I decided to take a quick glance at the Major League rosters to see who has a chance to make an impact for their hometown team during the entire length of their career. Here are the requirements:
- played for only one team at the major league level
- that team is located in the same state as their birth
- player has made an impact already
- has a chance to be a starter or make an impact down the road
Minnesota Twins: The Twins have the well-known MVP Joe Mauer behind the plate. He is a staple in their lineup who they hope to lockup longterm this winter. Glen Perkins is also from Minnesota. He has started and come out of the pen but struggled last year.
San Diego Padres: Kevin Kouzmanoff is their power hitting third baseman but has been linked to trade rumors for two years now. Will Venable played well in the outfield last year and put up double-digit home run totals.
Florida Marlins: Chris Coghlan is a Florida native and transitioned to left field as a rookie for the Marlins in 2009. He will be a great hitter and run-scorer at the top of the lineup for many years to come. Chris Volstad is a tall, strong pitcher who should again hold down a spot in Florida’s rotation.
Chicago Cubs: Randy Wells was born in Illinois and discussed in the ROY voting this past season. Wells was the most consistent starter for the Cub’s oft-injured rotation.
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman is one of the better switch-hitting power threats of this generation. His contract can be up after the 2010 season and there has been talk of Berkman possibly hanging up the spikes instead of signing elsewhere. Hunter Pence is another Texan in the Astro’s lineup and has been their right fielder for a couple seasons.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: One of the Angel’s young starters is Jered Weaver who was born in California. His brother, Jeff, also pitched in his home state for both the Dodgers and Angels but has had many other stops along the way. Jered Weaver is coming along nicely and has playoff experience.
Atlanta Braves: Brian McCann is the four hitter for the Atlanta Braves. He is possibly the most powerful catcher in the majors and it seems like he will be a mainstay in Atlanta’s lineup for quite a while.
As you can see, the likelihood of baseball players making it to the majors and sticking with their hometown team is not great. Once in a while, however, we have the special scenario which Barry Larkin found himself in. And along the way he took his Reds to a World Series Championship.
One bright-spot of the Chicago Cubs last year was the stride of improvement their ’09 class of prospects made.
Pitcher Randy Wells was discussed as a National League ROY candidate while Jake Fox played five positions and banged 11 home runs. Angel Guzman was healthy for a full year and and posted a 2.95 ERA in 55 outings. There were also some part-time players who contributed big-time. Esmailin Caridad appeared in 14 games, struck out 17, and walked only 3 en route to a 1.40 ERA. Justin Berg found similar success in 11 outings, only allowing one run. Backup outfielder Sam Fuld and reserve infielder Andres Blanco provided exceptional defense and reasonable offense.
Now to Jim Hendry all of this is just fine and dandy but it doesn’t matter. After a couple division titles and two disappointing trips to the NLDS, Hendry is on the hot seat. The window may be slim. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are entering the final years of their contracts. Meanwhile, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano aren’t getting any younger…
These factors raise the question: Why not continue getting younger? The bullpen is already almost all products of the organization’s farm system. It consists of mainly pre-arbitration arms, providing the team with some financial security and still the possibility of a future. The rotation will have openings after this year which top prospects Jay Jackson, Andrew Cashner, and even ‘the other’ Chris Carpenter should have opportunities to fill.
The offense has an opening in center with the plans to move Kosuke Fukudome back right after the imminent Milton Bradley disposal. Instead of replacing Bradley with a high-priced center fielder (Curtis Granderson, Vernon Wells, Aaron Rowand, etc.), I would plan on leaving the spot open for an internal replacement. Tyler Colvin made his debut last season and is a lefty gap hitter who plays center. He hit very well at AA. Kyler Burke is another top outfield prospect but he is only 21 and still a few years away.
As for the middle of the infield, Starlin Castro is the young phenom rising fast in the club’s inner circles. Still only 19, Castro will not break camp with the big league club this spring. But that’s not necessary. Leave him at AAA to get some more seasoning and let Jeff Baker hang onto the starting gig which he earned last summer. If Castro can prove himself in Iowa and the right situation arises, a promotion is likely as Ryan Theriot has already agreed to moving to second base if it would help the team.
Going along with these moves will be tough for a GM under fire and a manager in the last year of his illustrious career, but will set up the Cubs for a financially functional future. The Ricketts have big plans for Wrigley so saving money when possible would be nice. Instead of the huge free agent/trade targets, the Cubs need to pursue a right handed outfielder to split time with Colvin in center and share the load with Kosuke against tough lefties. If Marlon Byrd’s value really does drop as far as some say it will, he would be a perfect fit as would guys like Randy Winn, Coco Crisp, and Reed Johnson. Otherwise, acquiring this outfielder as part of the return for Milton Bradley makes sense with such possibilities as Gary Matthews Jr. and Nick Swisher. The other spot Hendry needs to focus on is the rotation because it sounds like Ted Lilly will miss extended time next year.
I don’t predict this to be a huge off-season for the Cubbies, but I also don’t think they need huge changes. Saving some money now may give them the flexibility to add payroll in a couple winters when the free agent class will offer better values.