Sunday, August 11, 2013

Players Who Belong On My Fantasy Baseball Team (And Are Currently Available)

My fantasy baseball league values competitiveness, at least in part because if an owner leaves and has to pass his or her team on to someone new, we don’t want the incoming owner to be completely screwed with a terrible team. This rule is understandable but unfortunate because the CBS Sports database is loaded with players I would love to have on my team even if they have no current value.

I started looking into it more after the commissioner officially ruled that players were ineligible if they had not been part of a major league organization or independent team the previous year. The list probably could have run a lot longer, but the guys mentioned below are some of my favorites. The position players more or less resemble how I would set up my roster; unfortunately, there were just too many quality pitchers available to do the same with them.

Kenji Johjima, C, Seattle

Johjima was in many ways the reason behind this project, as it was always good for a laugh when I saw him in the player pool during the past couple drafts (I tried to pick him up as a placeholder for another player when there was an issue in the 2012 draft, but it wouldn’t work).

Jason Varitek, C, Boston

I’m a Red Sox fan. Varitek is a no-brainer. My youthful fantasy lineup could use his veteran influence.

Dan Moylan, C, St. Louis
Jonathan Johnston, C, Oakland

Moylan and Johnston are sentimental picks (as is the whole list, I suppose, but these guys even more so). The former is the same age as me and played against one of my college roommates when they were in high school (actually, he may have played against my team in high school as well, though I don’t remember much about Keene High School except that they were astonishingly good). The latter was one of my first interview subjects at Bus Leagues – at the time, he had played a few games in the low minors before being called back to active duty in the Navy. He wanted to serve out his commitment in a way that would allow him to continue playing baseball, but hadn’t yet been able to do so. He did eventually get back for a few games in 2011.

First Base
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B, Miami

Every Red Sox fan should appreciate Doug Mientkiewicz and his place in team history.

Joe Koshansky, 1B, Milwaukee

In the early days of Bus Leagues and Eric’s Z-Meter, Joe Koshansky was a favorite. We always expected big things from him. Alas…

Second Base
Orlando Cabrera, 2B, San Francisco

I’m sensing a pattern here. Cabrera was a key member of the 2004 Red Sox and the subject of a cool story Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson told me when I interviewed him last year (short version: Idelson wanted Cabrera’s glove to take back to the Hall after the World Series, a gesture that moved Cabrera).

David Eckstein, 2B, San Diego

Eckstein brings grit to the squad (I miss Fire Joe Morgan sometimes).

Third Base
Jake Mauer, 3B, Minnesota

I love that Mauer is available even though he hasn’t played since 2005. He’s actually been a manger in the low minors for the Twins since 2008. That’s a guy I want on my fantasy team. (In theory, I probably should have created a manager’s position for him.)

John Hattig, 3B, New York (NL)

Hattig is great because he is the only major leaguer ever born in (on?) Guam, a fact that came up huge one year when I decided to build a fantasy team entirely out of players born outside the United States and Latin America. (Eckstein was also on that team despite being born in Florida. There weren’t any other options available and I figured I could always say I thought he was born in Middle Earth or something if anyone pressed me on it.)

Shane Keough, SS, Oakland

Keough is memorable because his mother was on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills back in the day (I’m not even sure how I know this) and I vaguely remember him from the show. Another interesting fact is that while it was always a big deal that Keough came from a baseball family and was planning on playing in college, his younger brother never got the same attention on the show, but ended up being drafted out of high school.

Khalil Greene, SS, Texas

I’ve written this before, somewhere, but I like Greene for the simple fact that he has problems with social anxiety and tried hard to overcome them. Even if he never got back on the field, I can respect the effort.

Chris Cates, SS, Minnesota

Chris Cates is one of those guys that I sort of hate to write about because he’s so small in physical stature (about 5-foot-3, 140 pounds) that you have to actively work to not make dumb jokes about his size. On the other hand, he gave a great interview and seemed well-respected in the organization, so he’s a guy I’d love to have on my team.

Jermaine Dye, OF, Chicago (AL)
Gary Sheffield, LF, New York (NL)

It always fascinated me that Dye didn’t sign anywhere after a solid season in 2009. Would’ve thought somebody could find a place for him. Same with Sheffield, though he was several years older – it would’ve been interesting to see if he could have had a great year in 2010 and made a push for 3,000 hits (very unlikely, but you never know).

Grant Desme, LF, Oakland

Grant Desme had a 30 homer, 40 steal season in the low minors for Oakland in 2009, then left the game behind to become a priest. Really interesting story, and it never hurts to have God on your side.

Elijah Dukes, RF, Washington

Dukes is just one of those fascinating figures that seems to have entered Bill Simmons’ Tyson Zone fairly early on in his career. Sometimes you need a little crazy on your team, even in situations where personality doesn’t matter.

Ryan Westmoreland, CF, Boston

Westmoreland had a nice debut with Lowell in 2009, was Boston’s top prospect going into the following season, then had a serious issue in his brain (a cavernous malformation, if memory serves) and was never able to get back onto the field. He’s still an inspirational figure for the way he approached his illness and made every attempt to get back onto the field and resume his career.

Relief Pitcher
Tom Gordon, RP, Arizona

Somehow holds the Red Sox team record for saves, with 46 in 1998, which is pretty amazing when you consider the team has also employed Jeff Reardon, Lee Smith, and Jonathan Papelbon as its closer. He was also immortalized in Stephen King’s, “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.”

Garrett Broshuis, RP, San Francisco

Never reached the majors, but was kind enough to do a Q&A with me for Bus Leagues after his retirement from the game. He’s a big advocate of players rights in the minor leagues, which lag far behind those of their major league counterparts.

Joel Zumaya, RP, Minnesota

He threw so hard.

Devern Hansack, RP, Boston

I once saw Devern Hansack no-hit the Baltimore Orioles in a rain-shortened, five inning game. I know it’s not an official no-hitter, but it’s still real to me.

Eric Gagne, RP, Los Angeles (NL)

I feel like Ray Kinsella’s father talking about Shoeless Joe Jackson when I talk about Gagne, who I saw play once in Nashua long after his prime was past, only Gagne couldn’t really pitch by that point.

Brendan Donnelly, RP, Pittsburgh

Donnelly pitched for Nashua before he reached the majors, which was a point of pride even for those of us who hadn’t even heard of the team when he played there.

Dirk Hayhurst, RP, Tampa Bay

One should always include a man of letters on one’s fantasy team when given the chance. You never know when the rules will be amended to include “Weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List” as a category.

Thomas Mastny, RP, Cleveland

The only player in major league history born in Indonesia. He’s the John Hattig of the pitching staff.

Chad Paronto, RP, Boston

New Hampshire, represent! If my calculations (aka quick mental subtraction from the numbers at Baseball-Reference) are correct, he has the third most relief appearances of any pitcher born in the Granite State, behind Exeter’s Stan Williams and Londonderry’s Brian Wilson. Paronto is from the tiny town of Woodsville (population 1,126).

Starting Pitcher
Casey Fossum, SP, Baltimore

I’m old enough to remember when Casey Fossum was supposed to be the next big thing in Boston. He had some good moments (and a fun-looking 12-to-6 curve, if I’m remembering right) in the majors, but never quite got it together consistently.

Kris Benson, SP, Arizona

The first overall pick in the 1996 draft, by Pittsburgh, Benson was kinda average-to-below average for most of his career. He’s probably known more for having a crazy (now ex-) wife than for anything he actually did on the field.

Bryan Bullington, SP, Kansas City

The first overall pick in the 2002 draft, by Pittsburgh (I’m seeing a trend there; I’m wondering how comparable the drafts of those Pirates teams are to the Devils Rays of roughly the same era), Bullington is a questionable inclusion on this list because he is currently playing in Japan, which puts him closer than most to rejoining a major league organization. It just felt right to have both him and Benson here, though.

Tim Wakefield, SP, Boston

A class act. He has the dual distinction of being my wife’s favorite player of all time and the starting Red Sox pitcher in the first game I ever attended at Fenway Park. I really thought he was going to pitch forever and am still a little disappointed that he didn’t.

Mike Hampton, SP, Arizona

I was hard on Hampton back in the day because he missed two full seasons due to injury and then seemed to hurt himself every time he got anywhere near a pitcher’s mound, but the guy really earned a lot of respect just by getting back out there again, even if he didn’t pitch well. Sometimes just doing something is what matters, right?

Brandon Webb, SP, Texas

One of those random sad stories that I don’t know if a lot of people still think about. From 2006-08, Webb averaged a 19-8 won-loss record, a 3.13 ERA, and 187 strikeouts in 233 innings for Arizona. He won the National League Cy Young award in 2006 and finished second in 2007 and 2008. For that three year period, he was one of the best pitchers in the league. And then, on Opening Day of the 2009 season, he gave up six runs in four innings, striking out two and walking two, injured himself, and never appeared in the major leagues again.

Pedro Martinez, SP, Philadelphia

Doesn’t matter how old he is or how long it’s been since he pitched for the Red Sox: I will always miss Pedro. My dad and I had an ongoing joke for years – I’d extol Pedro’s many virtues and my father would tell me how overrated he was. After Martinez signed with the Mets, I bought the old man a couple t-shirt jerseys that he still wears to this day.

Orlando Hernandez, SP, Washington

I have a soft spot for ageless wonders. I always think El Duque was more successful than he actually was, probably because I’m confusing/combining him with his brother Livan, who won 178 games in 17 seasons. The two have five World Series rings between them, including four for Orlando.

Jeffrey Allison, SP, Miami

Allison was a local kid from Peabody, Massachusetts, who did his best to follow the Josh Hamilton Plan: drafted in the first round by Florida, he battled drug addiction for years before finally getting clean. Unlike Hamilton, however, there was no fairy tale ending: Allison never reached the majors, topping out with sixty games at Double-A from 2009-11.

Dewon Brazelton, SP, St. Louis

It says a lot about the state of the early 2000s Tampa Bay Devil Rays that Brazelton (the third overall pick in the 2001 draft; picks 1-2-4-5 that year were Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Gavin Floyd, and Mark Teixeira) was the team’s Opening Day starter in 2005 despite entering the season with a career record of 7-15, a 5.34 ERA, 93 strikeouts, and 82 walks in 182 innings pitched. He ended the season 1-8 with a 7.61 ERA, 43 strikeouts, and 60 walks and was traded in the offseason.