If you were starting a team, who is the one player that you would want to build around? The question is simple, but the responses can vary. My brother Evan and I can go into hour long arguments about what player would be the best to build around. Even though I believe that pitching wins baseball games, I have to admit that I would NOT select a pitcher to be the face of my franchise. There is just so much risk that pitcher will blow out his elbow and my team will never see him again.
The two guys who I absolutely love are Hanley Ramirez and Grady Sizemore. Both guys are having amazing seasons and are unbelievable talents, but it is their long term projectability and age that leaves them open for consideration. Obviously there are many other players who you could make a case for, but to me, these two guys are two great choices.
I find it ironic that my two choices came down to two guys who have so much in common. Both are the best hitters in their respective lineups, but they hit leadoff, not in a power position. Both of these guys are redefining the leadoff spot, which has traditionally been reserved for guys who get on base and can run. Well, these guys do that, but they can also hit the long ball. Furthermore, both of these guys were acquired in massive, franchise changing trades. Sizemore was the centerpiece of the Bartolo Colon trade in 2002 that should haunt the Expos/Nationals for the next decade. And Ramirez was picked up in the Josh Beckett trade that helped the Red Sox win the World Series and delivered a star to the Marlins.
The Case for Hanley
Ramirez, 24, does everything a team could ask an offensive player to do. He hits for power, steals bases, gets on base, and hits for average. Ramirez has already posted 28 HR and 29 SBs this season while hitting an impressive .296. Ramirez is a sure bet to go 30-30 this season and there is no doubt in my mind that Hanley can go 40-40 in the near future.
The biggest knock on Ramirez is that his fielding at SS is atrocious. In each of his three major league seasons, Ramirez has made at least 20 errors at the premium defensive position. However, I think that Ramirez is athletic enough to eventually move to the outfield (BJ Upton) and limit his defensive inefficiencies.
The Case for Sizemore
Grady Sizemore is the American League equivalent to Hanley Ramirez. Sizemore has a classic left handed swing that generates stunning power while he has shown amazing speed and defensive ability in center field. Sizemore, 26, has hit at least 20 HR in each of his first four seasons while showing a knack to get on base (101 BB last season, .383 OBP this season). He has already gone 30/30 this season, but 40/40 is certainly within reach. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Grady is that he plays center field as good as anyone in the bigs today. There is no doubt that Indians pitchers love having Grady in center.
I would absolutely love to have Sizemore patrolling centerfield for me for the next 10 years. While I love both Ramirez and Grady's upside, it is the unknown factor (defense) that shies me away from selecting Hanley Ramirez. Nevertheless, I would take them both in a heartbeat.
Jorge Says No! will continue Who Ya Building Around? with a team feel. We will examine the Mets' left side of the infield (Reyes/Wright) vs. the Phillies' right side of the infield (Utley/Howard).