The 2014 MLB season is a little under a month away. The fiery hot stove of the baseball off-season is slowly but surely cooling off, as 47 of MLB Trade Rumors’ Top 50 Free Agents have signed. While each of the three notable free agents remaining could definitely help a team, there is a whole other free agent market waiting to be exploited. That, of course, is the market that consists of 30 premature superstar talents that can’t wait to play on a major league field. These 30 kids have defected from the metaphorical island of ineligibility and are ready to sign with your favorite team.
Let’s venture into the world of Backyard Baseball 2001.
Recently, it was announced that one of the most notable baseball video games to ever exist, R.B.I. Baseball, was returning in 2014. People throughout the internet rejoiced with glee and excitement; their pixelated childhood pastime was returning to them from the grave. Despite being born AFTER the 1994 strike, I have indeed played R.B.I. Baseball before. It was enjoyable, but paled in comparison to the game I would go on to spend hours playing as an eight-year-old, and now as an eighteen-year-old. When the kind souls of the Twittersphere gather to debate the greatest baseball video game of all time, I remain the leader in the effort to prove that Backyard Baseball 2001 is the closest thing to virtual baseball perfection the world has ever seen.
If you’re anyone who knows anything, you know that Backyard Baseball 2001 was not the first game of the Backyard Baseball franchise. The original Backyard Baseball, released in 1997, included all 30 of the glorious children you’ll be reading about in these rankings. However, not until Backyard Baseball 2001 were we able to play with 31 different big leaguers (one from every team, two from the Cincinnati Reds). This incredible collection of late 90′s MLB superstars included all of our favorite sluggers like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., and Marty Cordova. The quirks and personalities of each of the little big leaguers were unforgettable. Frank Thomas, for example, was one of the best pitchers in the game; some would argue he was even better than the two actual pitchers in the game, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Barry Bonds, one year before he broke the single-season home run record, was actually one of the fastest players in the game along with Kenny Lofton. Mike Piazza and Mark McGwire could mash, but they were so unbelievably slow that you had to legitimately question if they were worth drafting for your squad. Jose Canseco was just Jose Canseco. Derek Jeter has a perfect defensive rating! Jeromy Burnitz represents the Brewers! JASON KENDALL IS IN THIS GAME!
Okay, enough about the MLB kids. While I might expand on them in a future post, that’s not what this is about. Spring Training is well underway and the 30 original Backyard kids need teams. Preferably teams that give them ridiculous amounts of money.
It’s worth pointing out that I’m not the first one to attempt to properly quantify the baseball skills of these 30 eclectic children. Friend of the BBQ Nick Selby ranked his top 10 Backyard kids and provided some intense #analysis along with it. Anthony Zonfrelli wrote a piece for Deadspin devoted to calculating what the best Backyard kid of all (and the number one free agent on this list), would do in Major League Baseball. You can read about the results and his methodology by clicking here.
I decided to attempt convert the classic Backyard Baseball scale of “1-10 baseballs” to the more commonly used 2-8 scouting scale. If you don’t know what that is, just go read this because I wanna talk about Mikey Thomas already. Essentially, a 5 grade tool is major league average. A 6 grade tool is above average, 7 is well above-average, and 8 is elite. While it would be nice to have the ratings on all five tools (hit, power, run, arm, and glove), the Backyard Baseball rating system only provides three: “Batting”, “Running”, and “Fielding”. I created the following conversion chart for each of the skills:
- 1 baseball = 2 hit/3 power
- 2 baseballs = 3 hit/3 power
- 3 baseballs = 4 hit/4 power
- 4 baseballs = 5 hit/4 power
- 5 baseballs = 5+ hit/5 power
- 6 baseballs = 6 hit/5 power
- 7 baseballs = 6 hit/5+ power
- 8 baseballs = 6 hit/6+ power
- 9 baseballs = 7 hit/6+ power
- 10 baseballs = 7 hit/7 power
- 1 baseball = no players with this rating
- 2 baseballs = no players with this rating
- 3 baseballs = 3 run
- 4 baseballs = 4 run
- 5 baseballs = 5 run
- 6 baseballs = 5+ run
- 7 baseballs = 6 run
- 8 baseballs = 6+ run
- 9 baseballs = 7 run
- 10 baseballs = 8 run
- 1 baseball = 2 glove
- 2 baseballs = 3 glove
- 3 baseballs =4 glove
- 4 baseballs = 4+ glove
- 5 baseballs = 5 glove
- 6 baseballs = 5+ glove
- 7 baseballs = 6 glove
- 8 baseballs = 6+ glove
- 9 baseballs = 7 glove
- 10 baseballs = 7 glove
- All ratings were assigned according to the aforementioned scale, with a few exceptions. Some ratings were adjusted according to the biography of the player i.e. Sally Dobbs.
- With the exception of Angela Delvecchio, all players are judged as position players. Angela has a perfect rating in the pitching category, and her other skills (her atrocious fielding, for example) were not good enough to consider her as a position player. Besides her, I ignored the pitching ratings entirely.
- The one obvious tool missing in the rating system is arm strength. I did not devise a way to grade arm strength for every player. However, some of the bios, as well as extensive playing experience, clued me into which players had strong arms.
- I determined each player’s position based on the skill set and or what is mentioned in their biography.
- There are no switch-hitters in the Backyard Baseball 2001 universe.
- I am completely aware that this rating system made it significantly easier for players to be given absurdly high grades on their tools. That’s the point. These are the best players in the world. Especially Pablo.
- Oh man, Pablo.
- To this day, no one knows how old these kids are supposed to be. I’d guess they are all between the ages of 7-14.
- If you have any other questions, comments, concerns, outrages, or inquiries regarding these rankings, direct them @CespedesBBQ on Twitter.
CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OF THESE WONDERFUL PLAYERS’ SWINGS IN .GIF FORM.
LET’S DO THIS.
1. C/1B/2B/3B/SS/LF/CF/RF Pablo Sanchez
Shares a Birthday With: Evan Gattis, Roberto Clemente and Bobby Higginson
The Tools: 8 hit, 8 power, 7 run, 8 glove
Profile: Pablo, more commonly known as #MVPablo, is widely considered to be the greatest baseball player in the history of the universe. That’s the kind of thing that gets a player a lot of money. Pablo combines elite power with elite contact ability. It’s become increasingly rare to see major league hitters put up .300/.400/.500 slash lines for full seasons. Pablo has the potential to put up a .500/.600/.700 season. His offensive talents are so far beyond anything that has been seen throughout the course of major league history. He can easily hit the ball out of any part of any park. Rumored to have time-traveling capabilities as well, Pablo supposedly went back to 1954 and took batting practice in Polo Grounds. Legend has it that Pablo hit 17 home runs in a row…all to dead center field. Pablo can also steal bases like (metaphor for stealing bases well). Due to his unfathomably tiny stature, pitchers do not often see Pablo take off from first base. This advantage, combined with Pablo’s blazing speed despite his understandably short strides, should allow for him to steal 50+ bases annually. While Pablo can get to any ball on the ground with ease, his limited height can affect his teammates’ play around him. Pablo has the defensive chops to play any position on the diamond, but it might not be the best idea to put him at first base where he could be forced to deal with countless throws over his head and into the dugout. If he stays healthy, which he will because he’s Pablo Sanchez, Pablo will instantly be the best hitter on whatever lucky team is able to sign him, and should be challenging Bonds’ home run record by the time he can buy a cigarette.
Predicted Contract/Team: 20 years/$640 million with the Lo$ Angele$ Dodger$. $40 million vesting option for 2035 if Pablo breaks Sadaharu Oh’s global home run record.
2. CF Pete Wheeler
Shares a Birthday With: Taylor Buchholz, Trevor Hoffman, and Eddie Mathews
The Tools: 6 hit, 6+ power, 8 run, 6 glove
Profile: Blah blah blah Billy Hamilton this, Billy Hamilton that. Pete Wheeler makes Billy Hamilton look like he’s running with the Iron Boots from Legend of Zelda. Yes, that is a reference I just made. Wheeler is always a huge threat on the bases when he knows what base to run to. While his “baseball IQ” might not be top-notch, his physical tools would be a fantastic addition to any team. Some (crazy people) even argue that Pete is the best free agent available in this year’s class. Pete doesn’t possess nearly the hitting acumen that Pablo does, but the raw power is immense when he can make contact. In the outfield, Wheeler’s speed allows him to chase down any fly ball, but is known for taking extremely weird routes. He’s basically Drew Stubbs, except he’s left-handed and 3,472 times better at baseball. Questions about his ginger nature remain, but the on-field production is indisputable. This is a premier talent.
Predicted Contract/Team: 150 years/$7 million with the Cincinnati Reds. Pete will mix a few things up while negotiating.
3. RHP Angela Delvecchio
Shares a Birthday With: David Wright, James Shields, and Oscar Gamble
The Tools: 7 fastball, 6+ slow ball, 6 left hook, 7 right hook
Profile: As the only pitcher worth a damn on the market, Angela will be coveted by a number of teams (and ultimately sign with the Yankees). However, positional scarcity isn’t the only thing driving this right-hander’s price up; she’s pretty awesome at pitching too. Angela combines innocent deception with stuff that can only be described as “unhealthy”. Delvecchio will sit in the 45-95 MPH range with a hammer of a curveball/right hook that sometimes goes around the batter entirely before landing comfortably in the catcher’s glove, firmly in the strike zone. Angela is an absolute wizard on the mound and can throw any of her four devastating pitches in any count. Her Italian heritage instills in her a certain kind of confidence rarely seen in such a young girl. Her older brother Tony won’t be thrilled when she gets the bigger payday, but even he recognizes her prodigious talents on the bump. This kind of pitcher doesn’t hit the market at this young of an age very often.
Predicted Contract/Team: 7 years/$187 million with the New York Yankees. What’s another Tanaka for the Bankees?