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.
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?
4. SS Stephanie Morgan
Shares a Birthday With: Jarrod Dyson, Oliver Perez, and Scott Brosius
The Tools: 6+ hit, 6 power, 6 run, 6+ glove
Profile: Carlos Correa. Addison Russell. Javier Baez. Francisco Lindor. Stephanie Morgan. It says it right there in the bio; this girl was just meant to play shortstop. As long as your team’s other infielders don’t mind intensely talkative teenage girls, Stephanie could be the perfect fit. Her strengths include barreling up baseballs, turning the 4-6-3 double play, and chewing 63 pieces of Big League Chew at the same damn time. She doesn’t have many other hobbies so you can always expect her to be the first one to get to practice and the last one to leave…at least on the days when she actually decides to go home. The state of the shortstop position in baseball is ugly, and many teams will be working hard to acquire an up-the-middle-talent like Stephanie. She’s ready for the Show.
Predicted Contract/Team: 10 years/$180 million with the New York Mets. After avoiding Stephen Drew all winter, the Mets are gonna spend big on the best shortstop available. Sorry Ruben Tejada
5. RF Jocinda Smith
Shares a Birthday With: Jerry Sands, Ryan Zimmerman, and Micah Owings
The Tools: 7 hit, 7 power, 5 run, 6+ glove
Profile: After Pablo, Jocinda is the bat on the market that teams are gonna be working hard to sign. Hi, excuse me, where can I find .300 with 30+ bombs a year? Oh, you’ll find it right over there, in Aisle JOCINDA GOD DAMN SMITH. Just because her head is shaped like a mutated pear doesn’t mean you don’t want the offensive production she offers in your lineup. Jocinda also has one of the goofier swings you’ll see, but it works for Jocinda and you’re not gonna tell Jocinda what to do. After all, she hits dingers. You don’t hit dingers. She doesn’t have the speed for center, but she’s a quality right fielder with a plus arm and great instincts. There are some concerns about how she will age towards the end of whatever contract she’s going to sign. Jocinda is at least 16 years old, and you have to wonder how soon she’s gonna start declining. For now, Jocinda is an impressive all-around player that any team would be lucky to have.
Predicted Contract/Team: 7 years/$156 million with the Los Angeles Angels. As if The The Angels Angels don’t have any money left. Please. Kole Calhoun kwon’t kbe ktrusted kin kright kfield kuntil khe kchanges kis kname. Jocinda completes the superstar outfield trio along with Jesus Josh and that Mike Trout guy.
6. RF Kiesha Phillips
Shares a Birthday With: Hisanori Takahashi, Pete Incaviglia, and Don Sutton
The Tools: 7 hit, 6 power, 7 run, 5+ glove
Profile: Unquestionably one of the more unique players on the market, Kiesha combines size and speed like no other. She will always be one of the first players you notice when you show up at the field; her large athletic frame looms above the other Backyard kids. Kiesha has always been known for her ability to hit, and should have no problem adjusting to major league pitching after a brief stint in AAA. Her quickness always surprises, if not frightens, spectators. She routinely posts plus-plus home-to-first times and gets out of the box as fast as anyone. She’s an above-average right fielder with a very strong arm. Some scouts question how she will age with her current body because she’s kind of ginormous. Kiesha is a vibrant spirit with a genuine love for the game of baseball and occasionally every other sport. Basically, Kiesha Phillips > Captain Phillips.
Predicted Contract/Team: 5 years/$140 million with the Boston Red Sox. Who needs Jacoby? Kiesha’s shipping up to Boston.
7. LF Annie Frazier
Shares a Birthday With: Brent Lillibridge, Jody Gerut, and Ryne Sandberg
The Tools: 7 hit, 6 power, 6+ run, 5+ glove
Profile: She might not look like a baseball player, but Annie is probably the best left-handed bat on the market. She’s definitely a minimalist and doesn’t care much for advanced statistics. She enjoys the little things in life like lining RBI doubles to the right-center field gap. She keeps it simple on the diamond and doesn’t expect or want any media attention. She’s a decent left fielder with plenty of speed to make up for her sometimes shaky routes. One can only imagine how she would perform if she actually wore cleats.
Predicted Contract/Team: 5 years/$120 million with the Detroit Tigers. They missed out on Choo, and Andy Derps is not the answer in left. Losing Prince also made this team overly right-handed. Annie will fix that.
8. 2B Achmed Khan
Shares a Birthday With: Javier Lopez, Blaine Boyer, and Andy Ashby
The Tools: 7 hit, 7+ power, 6 run, 5 glove
Profile: One of the more popular Backyard kids around, Achmed has near-elite raw power and an innate ability to barrel the ball up when he gets the right pitch. Despite his natural hitting ability, his approach at the plate is very questionable. Some wonder if he ever has any idea what the count is; his Beats by Dre have been blasting Avenged Sevenfold into his brain since he learned how to turn on his iPod Shuffle. I talked to an NL front office executive and he expressed some concerns about Khan’s birthday. “Everyone knows the significance of 7/11; it’s free Slurpee day. MLB has started testing for the mysterious Slurpee substance and I’m not sure I could trust Khan. He could fail a test any day now.” Valid concerns like these might scare some teams off, but it’s difficult to discount Achmed’s talent on the field. He’s adequate at the keystone but is prone to some mental lapses that come with the whole not being able to hear thing. It’s not easy to run with headphones like Achmed’s, but he can get down the line in a hurry and will take the extra base if/when he can’t hear his base coaches screaming at him to stop. Khan is somewhat of a volatile talent, but the kind of offensive production he offers should get him properly paid.
Predicted Contract/Team: 6 years/$143 million with the New York Yankees. The Bankees spending spree continues. Achmed is not Brian Roberts.
9. 1B Ernie Steele
Shares a Birthday With: Josh Rutledge, Jeff Keppinger, and Kip Wells
The Tools: 5+ hit, 5 power, 5+ run, 7 glove
Profile: At 6″5, 97 lbs, Ernie does not have a typical baseball build. Despite his odd proportions, he can definitely pick it at first base and can provide competent production on offense. Ernie is a very specific kind of player that might only fit in certain lineups but he has plus makeup and should make an immediate difference in whatever clubhouse he ends up in. Ernie’s best seasons at the plate can look a lot like James Loney’s 2013, granted the BABIP gods are smiling down on his terrifyingly thin legs. In his down years, Ernie will look more like Casey Kotchman in 2008, whatever the hell that means. Steele’s agent has done a great job preaching the importance of first base defense to the teams that are interested, but only time will tell if it’ll be enough to get Ernie a hefty contract.
Predicted Contract/Team: 5 years/$50 million with the Texas Rangers. Mitch Moreland’s time is up in Texas. Ernie will also allow Texas to DH Prince more often.
10. 3B Sally Dobbs
Shares a Birthday With: Jason Grilli, Mike Bacsik, and Damion Easley
The Tools: 5 hit, 6+ power, 6 run, 6 glove
Profile: Sally brings a distinct aura of self-importance that isn’t exactly the most rare of traits in teenage girls. However, she does manage to back it up on the diamond. She provides easy plus power and good defense at the hot corner. Third basemen are few and far between in this year’s free agent class, so Sally could be looking at nice contract rather soon. Her skill set is fairly comparable to that of Red Sux third baseman Will Middlebrooks; poor contact rates made up for by plus power (almost entirely to the pull side) and above-average defense. She’ll be a nice fit for team looking to contend in the near future.
Predicted Contract/Team: 5 years/$90 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The perfect successor to Juan Uribe.
11. C/RF Mikey Thomas
Shares a Birthday With: Jose Bautista, Michael Young, and Three Finger Mordecai Brown
The Tools: 7 hit, 7 power, 4 run, 6 glove
Profile: Mikey is without a doubt one of the more polarizing players on the market. He looks the part of a bonafide catcher; he’s an exceptional power hitter and has an absolute rocket of an arm. The one problem: he’s left handed. If anyone could do it on talent alone, it’s Mikey Thomas. Unfortunately, many front office executives question Mikey’s drive to do anything, let alone break the most concrete of baseball norms and become the first left-handed catcher in over two decades. I spoke with an AL assistant GM about Mikey. “He acts like a four-year-old. I don’t know if it’s because he might be a four-year-old, but it’s a concern for us. The pure talent is there but his focus on the field is all over the place and it’s difficult to commit to that kind of player long term.” Once you get past his constant #slack and #immaturity, you’re looking at a premium offensive skill set. This is a left-handed bat that can probably slug .600 for the next decade. Of course, all his power is to the pull side, but it will play anywhere. He’s basically a less patient, left-handed version of 2010 Jose Bautista with significantly worse defense in right field. It’s impossible to ignore how slow Mikey is and it’s fair to wonder how soon Mikey will be a DH-only type, despite his cannon of an arm. If only there was a team that enjoyed stockpiling designated hitters and ignoring all the other positions…
Predicted Contract/Team: 8 years/$150 million with the Seattle Mariners. HE CAN HIT DINGERS AND DOESN’T HAVE A POSITION. GIVE HIM ALL THE MONEY.
12. CF Dante Robinson
Shares a Birthday With: Matt Diaz, Matt Treanor, and Willie Keeler
The Tools: 5 hit, 4 power, 7 run, 6 glove
Profile: Wait, you’re saying you don’t want a tiny version of Coco Crisp on your team? That’s ridiculous. Dante will bring personality and excitement to any team able to offer him the proper amount of food as part of the contract. Due to his excessive eating habits, Dante is most likely a fourth outfielder; his lightning-quick metabolism forces him to leave every two innings to spend some quality time on the locker room toilet. Dante is a plus defender in center and an extremely valuable pinch-runner who is always a threat to steal a base. Because of his speed, Dante has always run high BABIP’s, but his swing is not conducive to extra-base power at all. His offensive upside is certainly limited. Dante’s overall skill set falls somewhere between Ben Revere and the aforementioned Crisp, but his crazy afro and intense dietary habits are what people are gonna pay to see.
Predicted Contract/Team: 4 years/$45 million with the Toronto Blue Jays. Colby Rasmus is almost certainly headed elsewhere next off-season. Robinson provides a perfect stopgap while the Jays wait forever for D.J. Davis to develop.
13. SS Vicki Kawaguchi
Shares a Birthday With: Bryan LaHair, Johnny Damon, and Javy Lopez
The Tools: 3 hit, 2 power, 7 run, 7 glove
Profile: Here’s the thing about Vicki Kawaguchi: she is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, AND I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH, REALLY TERRIBLE AT HITTING BASEBALLS. When Vicki is at bat, outfielders often take the opportunity to spend some time with their loved ones and watch a few episodes of House of Cards. Vicki has literally never hit the ball out of the infield and no one expects her to any time soon. We’re talking .400 OPS territory, if that. But man, she can really pick it at shortstop. She’s as one-sided a talent as it gets, but the defensive skills are both impressive and rare, especially at such a premium position. If Brendan Ryan and Jose Iglesias had a baby, it would be Adeiny Hechavarria. If Adeiny Hechavarria adopted a little Asian girl and trained her to play baseball, it would be Vicki Kawaguchi.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$27 million with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Because one Clint Barmes is never enough.
14. 2B Maria Luna
Shares a Birthday With: Nomar Garciaparra, Don Drysdale, and Pee Wee Reese
The Tools: 6 hit, 5 power, 6 run, 6 glove
Profile: At 4″2, 61 lbs, Maria might not be the most imposing presence, but she’s a very well-rounded player that could start at second base for a lot of major league teams. Her swing is pretty ridiculous, but it produces enough bat speed to catch up to major league velocity and shows enough power to the gaps to keep opposing pitchers honest. She’s a plus runner with good range at second, but her arm is shockingly untrustworthy. In some cases, she might be better off just running the ball over to the first baseman. Frustratingly, she doesn’t take that advice well. Despite having already injured dozens of fans with wayward throws into the stands, Maria refuses to believe her historic inaccuracy is permanent. It’s a definite red flag, but Maria is still a really good baseball player. Omar Infante-level offensive ceiling.
Predicted Contract/Team: 2 years/$22 million with the Baltimore Orioles. As much as we love 8 Jemile Weeks, he’s probably not the best option heading into the season. Maria is a respectable, affordable upgrade.
15. 3B Tony Delvecchio
Shares a Birthday With: Eric Surkamp, Terry Pendleton, and Shoeless Joe Jackson
The Tools: 6 hit, 5+ power, 5+ run, 6 glove
Profile: As the older brother of the ace of the market, Angela, Tony takes pride in being THAT older brother. Tony might be a perfectly adequate third baseman in the major leagues for a long time but he’s far from the superstar that he thinks he is. How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie pop? Ask Tony Delvecchio, if he ever takes it out of his mouth. Historians believe Tony’s been sucking on the same god damn Tootsie pop since he first stepped on a baseball field nearly a decade ago. Tony’s one of the older players available on the market, and you know what that means…right? I don’t know what that means. Anyway, while Tony’s confidence can sometime result in him outperforming his true talent level, it usually ends in immature fits of Italian rage. Sure, Tony thinks he’s Evan Longoria. In reality, he’s probably just Trevor Plouffe.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$45 million with the Miami Marlins. Placido Polanco.
16. LF Luanne Lui
Shares a Birthday With: Julio Teheran, Tim Beckham, and Gavin Floyd
The Tools: 6 hit, 5 power, 8 run, 4+ glove
Profile: Luanne’s ability to even play every part of the game of baseball with her beloved teddy bear in hand is impressive by itself. While her permanent plush toy undoubtedly handicaps her ability to field the ball, Luanne has somehow devised a remarkable way to swing that allows for enough contact and surprising power. Most notably, if there’s one thing her teddy bear can’t hamper, it’s her wheels. Luanne challenges Pete for the title of fastest player on the market/planet. She appears to glide from base to base with only the pink streak of her teddy racing behind her. She has absolutely ludicrous speed and could probably provide decent value as pinch-runner exclusively. Luanne Lui is basically what would have happened if toddler Tony Campana spent more time in the cage and less time chasing down fly balls…or something like that.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$18 million with the Detroit Tigers. Detroit has had an awfully slow team for a while now, and Luanne should provide the exciting spark off the bench that the Tigers need. Cause, you know, Steve Lombardozzi isn’t the most enthralling baseball player in the world. No offense, Steve Lombardozzi. And no offense to you either, Steve Lombardozzi.
17. SS Reese Worthington
Shares a Birthday With: Eric Young Jr., Todd Walker, and Miguel Tejada
The Tools: 4 hit, 4 power, 6+ run, 6+ glove
Profile: Reese has a very specific skill set that enough teams are going to want, and it should score him a decent contract. He’s a very good defender at shortstop and has enough speed to provide value as a pinch-runner late in games. However, the bulk of Worthington’s value is tied to his name. If a team can convince its fan base that they’re actually signing Reese Witherspoon to a long term deal, his value will either skyrocket or plummet, depending on the city. I don’t know enough about Reese Witherspoon to tell you which cities will have which effect, but it’s not a factor you can ignore. Former teammates of Reese have complained about him being “that kid who follows you around for some undetermined reason but you can’t be too mean to him because he’s small and quiet and needs friends to support him so he doesn’t go home crying.” The talent on the field speaks for itself, though, as Reese is basically a tiny blonde Alcides Escobar with lesser contact ability and a significantly weaker arm. Alternatively, he’s a better version of Pete Kozma. Yeah, I like that comp more.
Predicted Contract/Team: 2 years/$14 million with the Oakland Athletics. Okay Oakland, keep telling yourself Jed Lowrie is gonna stay healthy.
18. LF Jorge Garcia
Shares a Birthday With: Evan Longoria, Kris Medlen, and Chuck Klein
The Tools: 5 hit, 6+ power, 5+ run, 5 glove
Profile: Jorge never actually learned to play baseball. His father, Jerry, very much wanted him to be in with all the other cool Backyard kids, but didn’t have any time to teach him a sport. He sent Jorge some videos of Bryce Harper and Oscar Taveras swinging baseball bats really hard. And thus, the trademark Jorge Garcia swing was born. Since Jorge never learned how to actually swing a bat, he saw Harper and Taveras violently swinging the bat as if to protect their loved ones, and attempted to mimic them. This obviously did not work too well, as Jorge owns one of the most ridiculous swings you’ll ever see. Miraculously, when Jorge started playing in some games around the neighborhood, he was actually hitting. Despite barely watching the ball or the pitcher, Jorge’s reckless swings of violence produce a shocking amount of contact and significant power to the pull side. His defense in left and speed on the bases aren’t anything to get excited about, so there is a lot of pressure on his mysteriously successful hit tool to play up enough to get to the raw power in games. Garcia is one of the higher risks on the market, but the upside is marked.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$46 million with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have to sign one of these kids to a three year deal, right?
19. 1B Billy Jean Blackwood
Shares a Birthday With: Jemile Weeks, Hector Noesi, and Esteban German
The Tools: 6+ hit, 6 power, 5+ run, 4+ glove
Profile: Billy Jean Blackwood is a taller, whiter, more female, right-handed version of Mets first base prospect Dominic Smith. What’s not to love? Not to mention she’s that tall brunette that every country song is talking about; and you know how much baseball players love country music (vomit). Her lanky frame causes some trouble for her defensively, but this girl can absolutely hit. She runs stranger than most, but her absurdly long strides give her above-average speed on the bases. Billy Jean Blackwood is taller than you. Assuming the Minnesota Mauers don’t sign her, Billy Jean will immediately become the most attractive player on the lucky team that signs her. Don’t listen to Michael; Billy Jean is most definitely your lover.
Predicted Contract/Team: 4 years/$68 million with the San Francisco Giants. The perfect platoon mate for the Baby Giraffe. It’s not like Bochy is ever gonna play Brandon Belt every day anyway.
20. 1B Dmitri Petrovich
Shares a Birthday With: Joe Kelly, Mike Fontenot, and Dave Parker
The Tools: 4 hit, 6+ power, 6 run, 4 glove
Profile: It’s very hard to think of a player in today’s game that compares in the slightest to Sir Dmitri. Petrovich has a definite knack for hitting but doesn’t really enjoy playing very much and has remarkably low stamina. He might just be a pinch-hitter but he’s very capable of hitting a dinger when the team needs one and isn’t nearly as slow as you might assume. He’s a borderline disaster defensively; he spends his rare innings in the field on his phone looking up the formulas for xFIP and wRC+. Dmitri’s affinity for advanced metrics might help him get a front office job after his playing days, and who knows how much longer his playing days will really last. Realistically, Dmitri is a bullpen catcher/emergency pinch-hitter for a team looking to improve or reinforce their reputation among the sabermetric crowd.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$10 million with the Tampa Bay Rays. STATZ NUMBERZ SABERMETRICZ. I don’t know. Dmitri might be the hardest free agent to predict this off-season.
21. RF Marky Dubois
Shares a Birthday With: Mitch Moreland. Derrek Lee, and Oyster Burns
The Tools: 5+ hit, 5 power, 4 run, 6+ glove
Profile: Why wouldn’t your favorite team want a player with a pet frog in his overalls? Marky embodies the hillbilly side of major league baseball to the nth degree. He’s an ideal fourth outfielder with decent on-base ability and easy plus defensive chops in right field paired with a tremendous arm. An NL East front office executive remains confused about Marky’s inseparable friendship with his pet frog, Gerald. “Marky is a nice player that will help a team on both sides of the ball, but are we gonna have to burn a roster spot on the stupid frog too? You would hope a player as talented as Marky would realize what’s at stake here but that (expletive) amphibian won’t seem to go away.” It’s been difficult for Marky to understand why teams want him to ditch Gerald and focus on baseball. “Teams ain’t givin’ a darn about that girl Luanne’s pink bear thing. Why they gotta take Gerald away?” It’ll definitely be a story worth tracking as Marky gets to camp. On the field, Marky straggles the talent line between Josh Reddick and Jeff Francoeur, and that’s more than enough to earn him a spot on some 25-man roster.
Predicted Contract/Team: 2 years/$18 million with the Kansas City Royals. They obviously miss Frenchy very much and don’t trust a player as good as Norichika Aoki in right field.
22. 2B Lisa Crocket
Shares a Birthday With: Carlos Gomez, Jerome Williams, and Tadahito Iguchi
The Tools: 5+ hit, 5 power, 6+ run, 4+ glove
Profile: With those huge thick-rimmed glasses, Lisa certainly doesn’t look a major league second baseman. But she’s all business. She’s a professional on and off the field and has recently become one of the more popular players in the neighborhood. BBL Network started this ridiculous competition trying to determine the #FaceofBBL and for whatever reason, crazy local fans voted Lisa all the way to final round. She managed to earn more votes than more notable stars in the league such as Kiesha Phillips and Ernie Steele. Despite eventually losing to Stephanie Morgan in the finals, people were somewhat outraged, calling the competition a farce. “No one even knows who Lisa is!” “Lisa has a .638 career OPS!” “Nerds are stupid!” The complaints were endless. However, even after losing in the final round, Lisa is as popular as ever. She’s probably only backup infielder that you bring in in the seventh inning of a blowout, but she’ll always have more fan support than anyone could ever comprehend. She’s also a little bit like Eric Sogard.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$8 million with the San Francisco Giants. Marco Scutaro at least three times older than Lisa and can only put up comically low K% for so long.
23. 3B Amir Khan
Shares a Birthday With: Trayvon Robinson, Sean O’Sullivan, and Jose Constanza
The Tools: 6 hit, 5+ power, 5+ run, 4+ glove
Profile: It’s true, Amir doesn’t provide quite the offensive punch that his brother Achmed does. That doesn’t mean he can’t help a team in need of a solid-average bat at the hot corner. Amir swings a questionably large bat for his size; most believe Achmed pressured him into it but somehow that strategy has worked out for both of them. Khan would love to play with his brother, but there can only be so many Hairstons in this world. Amir has a very strong arm at third with good instincts but below-average range. He’s always been capable of getting a big hit when the team needs it; you might even call him CLUTCH. (Don’t call him clutch). Khan is the chemical reaction to David Freese giving a high five to Justin Turner.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$16 million with the New York Yankees. The KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNs get to play together. A-Rod is smuggled into another country.
24. LF Ronny Dobbs
Shares a Birthday With: Anthony Gose, Wilson Ramos, and Brandon Lyon
The Tools: 5 hit, 6 power, 5 + run, 4 glove
Profile: Dobbs has been overshadowed by his older sister for the majority of his brief career in baseball, but he can help a team in the right situation. Ronny swings as hard as anyone, but the fact that he’s only 53 lbs does not help him in the power department. Surprisingly, he is still able to put the ball over the fence when he squares it up. Dobbs’ frail frame does not bode well for the 162 game grind of the MLB season, so teams are looking at him mainly as an option off the bench. An AL West scout that saw a majority of Ronny’s games last season expressed his concern about his overall mental toughness. “Ronny’s a good little player, but the number of times I saw him sobbing on the bench after grounding out last season was bothersome. You wanna see a little more maturity from your players. The ‘I’m still in first grade’ excuse only goes so far when you’re playing in the big leagues. I can’t even imagine how he’ll react the first time Verlander brushes him off inside.” Dobbs is definitely capable of being a fourth or fifth outfielder on a contender, but time will tell if he’s truly tough enough for the major league life.
Predicted Contract/Team: 1 year/$5 million with the Milwaukee Brewers. Ronny will need a small market environment and a nice hitter’s ballpark in order to succeed. Ryan Braun is the perfect type of veteran to help develop Ronny both as a player and a person.
25. 2B Kenny Kawaguchi
Shares a Birthday With: Jeff Locke, Greg Holland, and J.D. Drew
The Tools: 5 hit, 4 power, 6+ run, 4+ glove
Profile: Look at that smug face. That’s the face of a paraplegic baseball player who thinks he’s better than everyone because he’s in a wheelchair. The older brother of Vicky, Kenny is a controversial figure in the Backyard community. Kenny is unquestionably good enough to play with the other kids. He’s got a swing that should put the ball in play enough to allow his speed to play to its full potential, and he’s a competent defensive second baseman.The issue is that his wheelchair, God bless it, has become rather dangerous to the players around him. Obviously it helps Kenny regularly put up plus-plus home-to-first times, but the biggest problem his chair poses is at the keystone position, particularly when turning double plays. Runners are trained to slide hard into the bag, sometimes into the legs of the second baseman making the turn. When there is a large chair in front of second, it makes it a bit difficult and increases the risk of a torn ACL by about 382%. You might think, “oh, move him to the outfield”, but Kenny’s tried that and the collisions out there proved to be even more dangerous. Kenny also isn’t nearly a good enough hitter to be an everyday DH so that’s ruled out as well. The reality with Kenny is that when he’s on the field, someone could end up in a(nother) wheelchair. Some team is gonna take on the risk because of his value on the bases, but it will be fascinating to see just who that team is.
Predicted Contract/Team: 2 years/$10 million with the Miami Marlins. They’re gonna need any weird advantage they can get.
26. LF Ashley Webber and 2B Sidney Webber
Shares a Birthday With: Didi Gregorius, Alex Rios, and Jamey Carroll
The Tools: 5+ hit, 5 power, 6 run, 4 glove
Profile: A common misconception is that the teams in the past that have employed the Webber twins have been forced to sign both of them; they’re a package deal that will only play if they’re on the same team. However, as the Webbers hit MLB free agency, many organizations have come out with a different explanation as for why they feel the need to sign them together instead separately. An NL GM opened my eyes up to this reality. “Honestly, we just can’t tell them apart. Although they have certainly performed well when on the same team, neither of them really minds playing by themselves. The reality is that we have no idea which one is which, and it’s only safe to sign both. That’s the only way we can be sure we’re getting the Webber we want. It sounds silly, but not a single team has figured out the difference between them yet. I personally prefer Ashley…I think.” On the field, the Webber twins are both average hitters, plus runners, and below-average defenders at their respective positions. Ashley models her game after Martin Prado; just don’t strike out and you’ll end up providing a lot of value to your team. Sidney is more of a Brian Dozier type with less pop in the bat. Together, they’re probably worth about five wins above replacement. Apart? We’ll probably never know.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$30 million with the Minnesota HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA GET IT
27. CF Ricky Johnson
Shares a Birthday With: Derek Norris, Damaso Marte, and Pretzels Getzien
The Tools: 3 hit, 7 power, 6+ run, 6 glove
Profile: Ricky Johnson is important. Ricky Johnson is symbolic. Ricky Johnson represents all the crazy awesome spectacular athletes that teams sign out of high school and pray to Christ Davis that he can learn how to play baseball. At this point, Ricky is looking like another disappointment. The volatility in Ricky’s game is extreme. Ricky Johnson makes Lewis Brinson look like a surefire bet to advance past Double-A. But god damn it Ricky Johnson looks fantastic in a baseball uniform. He’s got all the tools and absolutely no clue how to use them. Some team will convince themselves that THEY are the organization that can turn Ricky Johnson into a baseball behemoth. Spoiler alert: they can’t. Poor Ricky. Chances are he’ll end up accepting the football scholarship at his local ridiculously-good-at-every-sport private school.
Predicted Contract/Team: 1 year/$5 million with the Texas Rangers. The perfect match.
28. 2B Gretchen Hasselhoff
Shares a Birthday With: Jake Peavy, Dave Roberts, and Kenny Lofton
The Tools: 3 hit, 3 power, 6+ run, 4+ glove
Profile: Gretchen loves everybody. Everybody loves Gretchen. Gretchen loves baseball. Baseball doesn’t love Gretchen Gretchen is far and away the most spastic, hyperactive kid you’ll find in the Backyard neighborhood. She’s fun to be around and can talk forever. She’s been known to be exploited when on base, as opposing infielders tend to engage in riveting conversations about the latest episodes of Gretchen’s favorite Disney Channel shows and then proceed to pick her off. Another theory surrounding Gretchen’s immense popularity is the mysterious presence of her celebrity uncle David. He shows up to a few games every season and just lurks behind home plate. David, having previously starred in Spongebob Squarepants, is remarkably popular among the other Backyard kids, but most of them are often too starstruck to ask him for an autograph. Gretchen’s near plus-plus speed is her only carrying tool, and her lack of focus detracts from her potential value on the bases anyway. If you put her in the right Triple-A park she might scrape out a .750 OPS, but it’s hard to see a major league team finding much use for her right now. Unless, of course, they’re interested in bringing in her uncle for promotional purposes. I would assume every team is interested in that to some extent.
Predicted Contract/Team: Minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers with an invite to Spring Training. Hollywood, baby.
29. RF Kimmy Eckman
Shares a Birthday With: Jason Motte, Ian Kinsler, and Brad Hawpe
The Tools: 5 hit, 6 power, 4 run, 4 glove
Profile: The important thing to take away from Kimmy’s tool grades is that she is THE WORST PLAYER AVAILABLE and she has a remarkably similar profile to that of a Randal Grichuk. Randal Grichuk is not a terrible baseball player. Grichuk, also a right fielder, was recently traded from one of the worst farms in baseball (the Angels), to one the best farms in baseball (the Cardinals). Randal Grichuk is still a decent baseball player but now he’s ranked against the absurd amount of talent in the Cardinals farm system instead of the flaming pile of garbage that is the Angels farm. So sure, Kimmy Eckman/Randal Grichuk doesn’t look that special relative to her more gifted peers. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for Kimmy Eckman/Randal Grichuk in major league baseball. If everything breaks right, she’s a fourth outfielder on a really good team. I think Kimmy Eckman/Randal Grichuk deserves that. I think we all deserve that.
Predicted Contract/Team: 3 years/$23 million with the Chunichi Dragons. Because duh.