The great Joe Posnanski recently challenged his readers to make a lineup using an active player from a different country at each spot. No country can be repeated but you can use territories (Puerto Rico, Aruba) as their own thing. I took this challenge to mean make the best lineup for 2017 using these parameters. If this were to recognize entire careers obviously players like Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, and Ichiro would be on the team. This was a fun and difficult exercise but here’s what I came up with.
C- Yadier Molina- Puerto Rico
I went into this thinking Carlos Correa would represent Puerto Rico on this team but ultimately I needed a catcher and Molina is coming off one of his better seasons.
1B- Joey Votto- Canada
Votto continues to be one of the better hitters in the game. Despite his brutal start last year he still finished the year with a slash line of .326/.434/.550. I thought about using Russell Martin as my Canadian which would allow me to use Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela) here but third base forced me to go in a different direction which I’ll explain in a bit.
2B- Jose Altuve- Venezuela
At age 26 Altuve led all second basemen in WAR last year, he finished 4th overall. He’s a great leadoff hitter for any team, especially this one.
3B- Adrian Beltre- Dominican Republic
Beltre, at age 37, is coming off another 5+ WAR season, his 7th in a row. Third base is an incredibly deep position right now however, almost all of the great players at the hot corner were born in the United States. Beltre is the exception. Putting Beltre at third was really the key to this team taking shape. This meant Robinson Cano was out at second base, so that went to Altuve. Altuve is Venezuelan so Cabrera lost his spot, which meant I needed a first baseman who wasn’t born in the United States, hello Votto.
SS- Xander Bogaerts- Aruba
Bogaerts is just going into his age 24 season and he’s coming off a year where he hit .294/.356/.446 with a WAR of 3.7. Shortstop is another deep position across Major League Baseball right now, he was the best available I could slot in.
LF- Yoenis Cespedes- Cuba
Over the last two seasons Cespedes has hit 66 home runs and been worth 9.2 WAR. He was an easy choice in left.
CF- Mike Trout- United States
The United States has the deepest player pool to chose from, I selected the best player in the game. Trout is on a historic pace, no position player in Major League history has been more valuable than Trout through their age 24 season. He was the fist name I wrote in when making this roster, that never changed on any draft.
RF- Max Kepler- Germany
Filling the outfield proved to be more difficult than I expected. Kepler is coming off his rookie season where he was just about a 2-win player. Going into his age 24 season he should continue to improve.
DH- Shin-Soo-Choo- South Korea
I’m cheating a bit here putting Choo at DH but I suspect he will get some playing time there this year considering his defense continues to decline and he’s coming off an injury plagued 2016 season. Choo is an on-base machine but his overall production has dropped since he joined the Rangers in 2014. However, he did have an OPS+ of 125 in 2015. He’s not done yet.
SP- Yu Darvish- Japan
Darvish is coming off a season shortened by Tommy John surgery but his production remains elite. In 100.1 innings last year he struck out 132 batters.
RP- Roberto Osuna- Mexico
Osuna has somewhat quietly become one of the best relievers in baseball. Through his first two seasons he has an ERA+ of 160, 157 strikeouts in 143.2 innings, and he’s finished 12 postseason games. He’s just going into his age 22 season.
MGR- Bruce Bochy- France
Bochy is a future Hall of Famer, a manager who consistently gets his teams to exceed preseason projections and exceptions. He was an easy choice here.
My lineup would look like this:
Ideally, Votto would be in the 2-hole but the lineup is right-handed heavy so I put him third to break that up a bit.
I thought this was a neat exercise. It was fun to see how many different lineup combinations are out there and how one player can affect the entire construction of the roster. Major League Baseball is fortunate that they have a deep talent pool from countries all over the world, many of them will be on display in the 4th World Baseball Classic which begins March 9th.
Joe also challenged his readers to come up with a 25-man roster using the same guidelines, except that you could use historic and active players, I did that too. It was extremely tough, I’ll link to that piece here once I have it posted.
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All data courtesy of Baseball-Reference.