Ed: Occasionally, we like to feature contributions from you, the Loyal Citizens of Redleg Nation. Today, we bring you a post from Larry Wheat, known as “LWBlogger” in the comments.
The “Pick Three” Game – Cincinnati Reds Version
This is a little game that I like to play called “Pick Three.” No, it’s not the lottery game by the same name. It’s a simple baseball exercise. The general premise is to pick a team and look at that team’s starting eight, position by position. Then I try to pick three players from that team’s league who play the same position, and who I would rather have at that position, over the player with the job on the team I’m focusing on.
The idea is that if I can’t pick three players I’d rather have, with money as no object, a very good player is manning the position on the team I’m looking at. It is important to note that while statistics play a valuable role, this is not a matter of picking three players with a higher WAR and saying “I’d take these three players over player ‘A’”. Anybody can get on Fangraphs or Baseball Reference and sort by WAR and position. I like to take into account some intangibles and to a lesser extent, my feelings on the players. I have more analytical work that I do where I try to take my feelings out of the equation, but that’s not the point of “Pick Three.” So, without further ado, this is how I feel the Reds starting eight stacks up in the “Pick Three” game.
C – Ryan Hanigan – My “Pick Three” for the catcher position: Buster Posey (Giants) – Best young catcher in the game. Perhaps the best catcher in the game. Posey is a terrific ballplayer and won the NL MVP last year. I really like this kid. Yadier Molina (Cardinals) – I don’t like him personally but his teammates sure do and that’s more important than how I feel about him. He’s also still the best defensive backstop in MLB and his hitting has become a force to be reckoned with. Miguel Montero (D’Backs) – This guy is a professional hitter. His defense is better than some people give him credit for too.
My Verdict: My take is that Hanigan is such a good defensive catcher that he probably stands as the 5th best catcher in the NL. He can hit some and his walk rate is excellent. What keeps him from ranking higher in my opinion is a complete lack of power at the plate.
1B – Joey Votto – Can I name three NL players I’d rather have as my first-sacker? You’re kidding me right? There seriously aren’t any players in baseball, let alone the NL, that I’d rather have at 1B.
My Verdict: Joey Votto is the best first-baseman in baseball.
2B – Brandon Phillips – Can I name three NL players I’d rather have at 2B? Uh… No, I can’t name any NL 2B I’d rather have than BP, let alone three. An argument could be made that Aaron Hill is a better overall player but I’d still take BP over Hill.
My Verdict: Phillips may have lost a step but he’s still a good hitter and an exceptional defender. Like Molina, he’s a guy who rubs players (and fans) from other teams the wrong way but his teammates seem to love him. He can be my second-baseman anytime.
SS – Zach Cozart – What about three NL players I’d rather have at SS? Ian Desmond (Nationals) – Desmond is just an excellent all-around player. He hits for power and average, can run, and plays a very nice SS defensively. Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) – Rollins isn’t getting any younger but he’s still got a good year or three in him. He’s had two relatively healthy seasons in a row and he’s still a very good player. Jose Reyes (Marlins) – Long term I’d probably take Cozart but as of right now, I’d prefer Reyes over Cozart. Reyes can still hit and run the bases. His defense isn’t so hot but his hitting is exceptional enough for a guy who can play SS that I’d still like to have him out there.
My Verdict: Cozart is a darn good shortstop. He does the most important things for the position, catch and throw the ball, very well. He isn’t a great hitter but believe it or not, his OPS of .687 was sixth amongst NL shortstops. Considering his low BABIP, I think an OPS in the .710-.725 range is very realistic. As a side note, you may wonder why the Cubs’ young Starlin Castro wouldn’t be one of the three shortstops I’d pick. To me, his defense is just so bad that I wouldn’t want him manning SS for my team. For 2013, I’d rather have Cozart. In fact I’d argue that Cozart is the 4th or 5th best SS in the NL.
3B – Todd Frazier – My “Pick Three” for 3B: David Wright (Mets) – One of the few bright spots left on what will be an “interesting” Mets team, Wright is just a fantastic third-baseman. He can hit it, pick it, throw it, and can swipe a base too. Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) – He seems to be slipping some but even with an off-year last year and some regression in his defensive play, Zimmerman is still a very good third-baseman. I also happen to think he’ll have a bounce-back season this year in both the batters-box and in the field. Chase Headley (Padres) – Why Headley over Frazier? Well, two reasons. For one, he is a better defender but even more importantly is his OBP and walk-rate are superior to Frazier’s and probably will be this year as well. I also consider his home ballpark and he’s a better hitter than perhaps his general statistics show.
My Verdict – There are probably at least two more NL players I would take over Frazier at third-base right now. That said, I think Frazier is a big step up from an aging Rolen, and although I expect him to regress with the bat somewhat, what if he doesn’t? Yeah, he may make it harder to pick three ahead of him next season. Let’s hope he does that.
LF – Ryan Ludwick – My “Pick Three” for LF: Ryan Braun (Brewers) – The guy is one of the best hitters in the game, runs well, and plays good defense in LF. There has been talk of PHDs but he’s been the “Teflon Braun” when it comes to making those allegations stick. I personally am in the minority in believing that he isn’t a cheater. That’s why he’s one of my “Pick Three” choices here. Carlos Gonzales (Rockies) – His defense is far from stellar. The ratings from last year have him a pretty miserable defender. That said, he’s such a good hitter that it almost doesn’t matter. I also don’t feel his defense is quite as bad as the metrics indicate for last year. His floor is a lot higher than Ludwick’s. Matt Holliday (Cardinals) – Again, his floor is much higher than Ludwick’s and he’s been such a consistent hitter over his career.
My Verdict – Honestly Ludwick is probably 4th or 5th on my list of best left-fielders in the NL. That’s probably a lot better than a lot of folks in Redsland may think he is but I’ll stand by that opinion. Of course he could crash hard and that’s why I was able to pick three players I’d rather have.
CF – Shin-Soo Choo – Three NL centerfielders that I’d rather have… Hmmmm: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) – The guy is a legit MVP candidate going into the season. His 2012 season was epic. I’d take him over any CF in the game right now aside from perhaps Mike Trout. Bryce Harper (Nationals) – Boy can he play. I know an argument could have been made for Frazier in the ROTY race but honestly, the NL ROY was Harper and it wasn’t even close. The guy is a good old-fashioned 5-tool player and a very good one at that. Yeah, I know Harper will probably be in LF this year but he plays a pretty darn good CF too. Span is just an elite defender and pushes Harper to LF. I look at Harper as a center-fielder though so here he is. Matt Kemp (Dodgers) – He was on fire last year before his injury. His defensive shortcomings are pretty significant but I think his exceptional bat more than makes up for it. I also love how Kemp plays the game. He was a guy who was considered a bit of an underachiever and he has really turned himself around. He’s now widely thought of as one of the hardest workers in the game to go along with his talent.
My Verdict – Choo is a huge addition for the Reds this year. He’s going to be fine in CF and best of all, he’s going to provide the Reds the leadoff hitter they lacked last year. Are there better NL center-fielders? Yes, but I’m very happy Choo will be roaming CF at GABP this year.
RF – Jay Bruce – Are there three NL right-fielders I’d rather have on my team over Jay Bruce? No, there is only one. Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) – One of the best pure power-hitters in the game. He also plays good defense and gets on base at a decent rate. His only real drawback is he strikes out a lot. I can live with that. There are reasons the Marlins aren’t interested in trading him.
My Verdict – I hear the questions coming now. “Really? Stanton is the only NL right-fielder you’d take over Bruce? What about Heyward? Beltran? Upton? Nope… Now in fairness I’m a Jay Bruce fan. He’s my favorite Red. So, yeah I’m biased. I really like Stanton too and that’s why he’s the one NL right-fielder I’d take over Bruce.
Summary: If you look at the starting eight, the Reds are looking pretty good. There are three positions where I can’t name three NL players I’d rather have at their respective positions. At two of those positions I can’t name a single player I’d rather have than the guy taking care of business there for our Reds. At the positions where I could “pick three”, the Reds still have starters in the top-half of the NL, in my opinion. As an added bonus there also aren’t a bunch of Cardinals and other division rivals that I’m picking ahead of Reds’ starters. This is a good thing. What this exercise does show is that the Nationals should be pretty darn good. When you consider their pitching they may be the team to beat in the NL this year. I think I’ll play the “Pick Three” game for them next. It’s a fun exercise for any team.
What does the rest of Redleg Nation think? What are your results of the “Pick Three” game for the Reds? Would you want to see a similar, quick exercise on NL starting pitching rotations and bullpens? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts.