Expansion Time: The Hitters
Yesterday, beginning with the pitchers, I started compiling an expansion team consisting of the best, non top prospects at the Triple-A level. Finding hitters for a MLB expansion team is a lot easier than finding pitchers, given the lack of quality pitching depth at the Major League level. With that said, I present the offence and defence for my club:
Brayan Pena, C
Brayan Pena was never given a fair shot in Atlanta and he was productive in the minors. He does a nice job handling pitchers and he is a switch hitter.
Erik Kratz, C/1B
Perhaps the least recognizable player on the team, Erik Kratz is one of few (if any) Mennonites playing professional baseball. He also has a lot of raw power and is an excellent defensive catcher, whom pitchers love throwing to. His upside is Doug Mirabelli.
Brad Eldred, 1B
Sure, he has more homers than walks, but Brad Eldred is leading the International League in that category. He may hit just .240 or .250 and strike out 130 times, but he brings much-needed power to this expansion team.
Tug Hulett, 2B/3B
Yes we share the same last name (although the Canadian Hulets dropped a 'T' when they came over the border from Pennsylvania many moons ago). Tug Hulett can really hit and has been an on-base machine throughout his career. He had a terrible start to the season after being traded to the Mariners organization from Texas, but Hulett has turned things around. He has a career .394 OBP and just needs to curb the strikeouts.
Dallas McPherson, 3B/1B
Dallas McPherson is a former top prospect from the Angels system, who is rebuilding his career with the Marlins. His power would combine nicely with Eldred's in the heart of the line-up, even though his 29 homers and .310 batting average are somewhat a product of his Triple-A hitting environment.
James D'Antona, 3B, 1B, LF, RF, C
James D'Antona has shown over the past three years that he can really rake (2008: .383/.423/.596)... and he also has some intriguing raw power that has never really been tapped in to. Add in his versatility, including the ability to serve as a third-string catcher, and you have a valuable part-time player.
Cody Ransom, SS, 3B, 2B
Finding a competent shortstop at the Triple-A level is challenging to say the least. Cody Ransom is not going to hit for average, but he has a little bit of power, versatility and he has a reputation of being a very good defensive shortstop.
Brian Barden, 3B, SS, 1B, 2B
Brian Barden has always hit well for average, but the knock on him was a lack of power. I have more than enough power on this team with Eldred, McPherson, etc. so Barden fits in nicely as a part-time infielder. Typically a third baseman, Barden has been holding his own at shortstop this season.
Brad Nelson, LF, 1B
Still only 25, it seems like Brad Nelson has been around forever, and he was even considered to be among Milwaukee's top prospects at one point. After struggling the past few years, Nelson is back on track this year and provides power and a solid approach at the plate that has allowed him to rack up more walks than strikeouts. He is currently hitting .326/.436/.540.
Mitch Maier, CF, LF, RF, C, 1B, 3B
I was a fan of Mitch Maier all the way back to his college career at the University of Toledo... when he has a full-time catcher. His relocation to the outfield has hurt his career and value, but his versatility could have a lot of value on my club. Maier also has just enough speed and just enough power to be interesting.
Buck Coats, CF, RF, LF
Buck Coats has a left-handed swing, solid defence and some speed, which makes him a valuable platoon player on my club. He can also play the infield in a pinch. He has a gamer reputation.
Wayne Lydon, CF, RF, LF
Wayne Lydon, a former prospect of the Mets, has always had a great set of wheels but he never embraced the 'small ball' approach and struck out too much, while not walking enough. A light bulb seems to have clicked on this season. His strikeout rate is down to 18.8 percent, compared to an average of about 22 percent over the previous three seasons. His walk rate is at 11.5 percent, compared to 9.2 percent last season. He is also second in the league with 34 stolen bases and has been caught just four times.
Fernando Perez, CF, RF, LF
Like Lydon, Fernando Perez brings a stolen base threat to the line-up of the expansion team. The Columbia University grad also has a great head on his shoulders. He hits for a solid average and is good for 30-40 stolen bases over the course of a full season. Perez strikes out too much (a running theme on this team) at about 25 percent, but he will also walk 12-15 percent of the time.