The premise is simple; create the perfect baseball franchise from scratch. The idea was suggested by The Athletic’s MLB senior managing editor, Sarah Goldstein, but bizarrely, she did not invite Bat Flips & Nerds to participate, instead favouring The Athletic’s beat writers.
So, we conducted our own “MLB MEGA DRAFT” with a British twist.
The rules were as simple as the premise. Each participant had to draft one of the following:
- Face of the Franchise (hitter)
- Face of the Franchise (pitcher)
- General manager
There was very little brief given to the Bat Flips & Nerds participants, other than “Build the perfect franchise.”
Judging criteria would be down to the judge, who had not yet been named.
Do you choose the ownership group with the deepest pockets? The one with the most successful track record? The most innovative? The owners who are hands-off?
FACES OF THE FRANCHISE (One hitter, one pitcher)
Dilemmas for these two categories include whether to choose an older, past-peak superstar or a younger stud with a less proven track record. Rookies don’t always pan out as expected; the careers of former AL Rookie of the Year winners, Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Fulmer haven’t gone as expected.
This seems more straightforward. The game has a surplus of incredibly bright, supremely engaging general managers… and Ben Cherington.
Any of the current 30 MLB stadia relocated to the city of your choice (below).
This can be any city in North America; an existing MLB city or one with an enthusiastic fanbase or an emerging market.
Choose from any of the 30 managers, a former manager, or someone who could be a successful MLB manager. Sir Alex Ferguson is allowed but not Ted Lasso.
|Face of the Franchise (hitter)||Fernando Tatis Jr.|
|Face of the Franchise (pitcher)||Marcus Stroman|
|General manager||Theo Epstein|
I liked Tom’s pick of Marcus Stroman as the Face of the Franchise pitcher. It was an interesting to choose someone who would reflect values of the franchise and mentor younger pitchers. The Fernando Tatís Jr. pick shows exactly why this task is so tricky. In January 2022, Tatis Jr. was coming off a season that saw him finish third in MVP voting while leading the NL with 42 home runs, despite missing 32 games. One year later, and I suspect Tatís Jr. does not get picked.
|Owner||Guggenheim Baseball Group|
|Face of the Franchise (hitter)||Juan Soto|
|Face of the Franchise (pitcher)||Jacob deGrom|
|General manager||James Click|
Mets (now Rangers) starter, Jacob deGrom enjoyed an incredible 2021 campaign in which he struck out 146 batters in 92 innings for a 1.08 ERA. And despite missing the first four months of the 2022 season, the aura surrounding deGrom continued as shown by 13-year MLB veteran, Jerry Blevin’s hyperbolic tweet. Remember this was 7 August and deGrom had only tossed 11⅔ innings.
Although deGrom allowed a few too many earned runs in his final four starts of 2022, the 34-year-old finished the season was an impressive 2.13 FIP. I am genuinely interested as to whether Mets fans still consider him the best baseball player on the planet even when wearing Texas Rangers blue.
Unfortunately for Russell, the Astros had less confidence than him in James Click’s general manager abilities, having relieved the World Series-winning GM of his duties in November.
|Face of the Franchise (hitter)||Wander Franco|
|Face of the Franchise (pitcher)||Max Scherzer|
|General manager||Chaim Bloom|
Rays’ shortstop, Wander Franco’s, perceived value took a hit in 2022. The 21-year-old missed 79 games due to two separate IL stints, and was unable to make the expected improvement on his 2021 rookie campaign.
He remains one of the youngest players in the league. In fact, of players with more than 300 plate appearances last season, only Michael Harris was younger… by three days. However, I suspect Franco would not be as high on the list of potential “Face of the Franchise” candidates as he was this time last year.
At the opposite end of the scale, our adjudicator felt the Scherzer (and deGrom in Russell’s franchise) was too old and not reliable enough for extra credit, although obviously, if healthy, both are studs for a single game.
|Face of the Franchise (hitter)||Bryce Harper|
|Face of the Franchise (pitcher)||Walker Buehler|
|General manager||Jerry Dipoto|
|Stadium||Globe Life Field, Arlington|
I have a soft spot for both Jerry Dipoto and Curtis Granderson, but picking someone with no managerial experience probably wasn’t wise. Bryce Harper felt like an obvious choice as “Face of the Franchise” and I would happily pick him again. In January 2022, Walker Buehler was a 200-inning ace and still under 27 years old. It felt like another perfect pick, but just shows the fragility of starting pitchers.
Having both of my “Faces of the Franchises” undergo Tommy John surgery probably didn’t help my case.
|Face of the Franchise (hitter)||Vlad Guerrero Jr|
|Face of the Franchise (pitcher)||Shohei Ohtani|
|General manager||Andrew Friedman|
The Friedman/Cash combo is as good as any pairing, and Shohei Ohtani feels like the correct choice for “Face of the Franchise”, whether it’s hitter or pitcher, so in the eyes of the adjudicator, Baseball Prospectus’ Darius Austin, Ben came closest to building the perfect franchise.
Darius commented that he wasn’t a fan of choosing a first baseman (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) as a franchise hitter but the second place (Russell) had Juan Soto who is “hardly a defensive stud.”
As baseball fans, we tend to be blinded by recency bias. If this exercise was repeated this month, Aaron Judge would undoubtedly be picked, and probably Julio Rodriguez, or maybe even Rafael Devers. Yet in another 12 months, perhaps they will seem like poor options with Wander Franco and Fernando Tatis Jr. back in favour.
We are also incredibly fickle about pitchers. Sandy Alcantara, Justin Verlander, and Dylan Cease were not even in contention as “Face of the Franchise” last January.
This little challenge demonstrates the dangers of long-term contracts. So, now it is over to you.
OVER TO YOU
Don’t worry about the owner or manager or city or stadium, simply pick one pitcher and one hitter as the Face of your Franchise. You are looking for players that will be elite over the next FIVE seasons.
To assist you, these are currently deemed the Top 12 players:
- Shohei Ohtani
- Juan Soto
- Ronald Acuña Jr.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- Trea Turner
- Julio Rodriguez
- Corbin Burnes
- Bobby Witt Jr.
- Fernando Tatís Jr.
- Sandy Alcantara
- Bo Bichette
- Bryce Harper
Answer in the comments below or on Twitter. We will review your choices next January. You never know, the best one might win a prize.
Featured image of Walker Buehler by G Fiume/Getty Images