A Fun Look At Regional Talent

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As I was doing draft research a couple weeks ago, an idea struck me: What if MLB teams were only allowed players from their specific regions? Alternately, what if there was a WBC-style tournament for MLB teams and their regions? I love thinking about fun stuff like this, so I decided to put the teams together to see what they might look like.

In instances where it’s different, I’m going more off of where a player grew up or went to high school, rather than where they were born. But there has to be some flexibility in an exercise like this—whether it be bumping a guy up the defensive spectrum a spot or two to squeeze him into the lineup or borrowing a player from the state next door to make the team better.

While I tried to be as realistic as possible with these teams, the goal is all about fun. So, for example, if there were players available from a certain area (pitchers from Chicago, let’s say), but there were better options available from a neighboring state without an MLB team, sometimes I chose to go with one of those players, placing emphasis on value over proximity. After all, this is just a silly exercise for an event that will never happen and the teams only exist in our imagination.

Let’s take a look at all the teams, from worst to best . . .

30. MILWAUKEE BREWERS

1) CRAIG COUNSELL, SS
2) RYAN SWEENEY, OF
3) CASEY BLAKE, 3B
4) ERIC HINSKE, 1B
5) JEFF CLEMENT, C
6) PAUL HOENECKE, DH
7) BRANDON DOUGLAS, 2B
8) NATHAN MIKOLAS, OF
9) CODY KOBAK, OF
SP) JORDAN ZIMMERMANN

No chance. While Wisconsin has produced four Hall of Famers, the last one to play in the big leagues did so in 1944. Milwaukee is hurt by the fact that they’re basically limited to getting players from Wisconsin and Iowa, since the other states near them have teams of their own to fill. As much as I like Jordan Zimmermann, he’s going to have his work cut out for him with this lineup trying to support him at the plate and in the field.

29. DETROIT TIGERS

1) NATE McLOUTH, OF
2) CHRIS GETZ, 2B
3) DEREK JETER, SS
4) VICTOR ROACHE, DH
5) D.J. LeMAHIEU, 3B
6) MITCH MAIER, OF
7) DANIEL FIELDS, OF
8) MIKE CERVENAK, 1B
9) ADAM ABRAHAM, C
SP) DEREK LOWE

Detroit is in a similar situation as Milwaukee, it’s just that there’s been better talent coming out of Michigan. Still, it’s not a great team.

28. NEW YORK METS

1) FERNANDO PEREZ, OF
2) DONNIE MURPHY, 2B
3) MIKE AVILES, SS
4) MANNY RAMIREZ, DH
5) PATRICK KIVLEHAN, 3B
6) ANGEL SALOME, C
7) CASPER WELLS, OF
8) JOE MAHONEY, 1B
9) DARIN MASTROIANNI, OF
SP) MATT HARVEY

New York has produced many notable players over the years—guys like Craig Biggio, Shawon Dunston, Ken Singleton, Walt Weiss, Devon White, Andy Van Slyke, Lee Mazzilli, Willie Randolph, Frank Viola, John Franco, Pete Harnisch, John Candelaria, Billy Koch, B.J. Surhoff, Bobby Bonilla and Rich Aurilia, not to mention older players like Lou Gehrig, Carl Yastrzemski, Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Eddie Collins, Joe Torre, Phil Rizzuto, and many others. In fact, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s place of birth report, New York ranks as the third-most productive state with 1,176 players, ranking behind just California (2,074) and Pennsylvania (1,391). In terms of active players though (as you can see), there just aren’t as many impact guys.

27. CLEVELAND INDIANS

1) DAVID LOUGH, OF
2) MARC KRAUSS, OF
3) JEDD GYORKO, 2B
4) NICK SWISHER, 1B
5) DEREK DIETRICH, SS
6) GREG ROHAN, DH
7) RYAN RUA, 3B
8) J.B. SCHUCK, OF
9) ERIC FRYER, C
SP) DEREK HOLLAND

Another tough one, especially with two teams in Ohio and many other teams nearby (so stealing players from other states was tricky). The bottom of this lineup falls off in a hurry.

26. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

1) BLAKE DeWITT, 2B
2) SCOTT VAN SLYKE, OF
3) DAVID FREESE, 3B
4) RYAN HOWARD, 1B
5) AUSTIN KEARNS, OF
6) LOGAN FORSYTHE, DH
7) BLAKE BROWN, OF
8) DAN ROHLFING, C
9) DAVID MASTERS, SS
SP) MAX SCHERZER

Just like Ohio above, Missouri is another state with multiple teams, which made putting them together tougher than states with just one team (especially those states with vacant neighboring states, as well). The middle of this lineup is solid, and Max Scherzer is obviously an ace, but the bottom third of this lineup might be the weakest out there.

25. NEW YORK YANKEES

1) FRANK CATALANOTTO, OF
2) JOE PANIK, SS
3) PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3B
4) ROSS GLOAD, 1B
5) RANDY RUIZ, DH
6) TOM MURPHY, C
7) JAMES JONES, OF
8) MIKE BAXTER, OF
9) ANDY PARRINO, 2B
SP) PAT CORBIN

You can see that combining the New York teams would have made things a lot easier. Aside from Pedro Alvarez, there isn’t much star power here.

24. MINNESOTA TWINS

1) MARK ELLIS, 2B
2) JACK HANNAHAN, 3B
3) JOE MAUER, C
4) TRAVIS HAFNER, DH
5) DAN JOHNSON, 1B
6) MICHAEL RESTOVICH, OF
7) ROBB QUINLAN, OF
8) RYAN BOLDT, OF
9) A.J. PETTERSEN, SS
SP) GLEN PERKINS

For a cold state with a middle-of-the-pack population, Minnesota’s history of players is pretty ridiculous. Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Terry Steinbach, Kent Hrbek, Jim Eisenreich and Jerry Koosman from year’s past, in addition to hometown hero Joe Mauer, who anchors this solid squad. The Twins also get some help here from the Dakotas with Mark Ellis and Travis Hafner.

23. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

1) MIKE TROUT, OF
2) JOE WENDLE, 2B
3) TODD FRAZIER, 3B
4) RUSS CANZLER, 1B
5) MATT McBRIDE, DH
6) DEREK FISHER, OF
7) ANTHONY RECKER, C
8) JEFF BIANCHI, SS
9) DARREN FORD, OF
SP) RYAN VOGELSONG

Mike Trout can’t save this team. Joe Wendle is a #personalcheeseball of mine and Todd Frazier is a solid middle-of-the-order bat, but I thought Philadelphia would rank higher, especially because it included South New Jersey. Until someone invents a cloning machine (or a time machine to get Christy Matthewson on the mound and Reggie Jackson in right field), this team would rank in the bottom third of this list.

22. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

1) DON KELLY, OF
2) DEVIN MESORACO, C
3) NEIL WALKER, 2B
4) MATT ADAMS, 1B
5) NOLAN REIMOLD, OF
6) JOE LEONARD, 3B
7) KEVAN SMITH, DH
8) CORY SULLIVAN, OF
9) JOSH WILSON, SS
SP) KEVIN SLOWEY

I really didn’t expect Pittsburgh to rank ahead of Philadelphia, but the team seems a tick better to me. The team would also have its choice of managers between Terry Francona, Art Howe, Jim Leyland and Ken Macha.

21. COLORADO ROCKIES

1) KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, OF
2) ALEX BREGMAN, SS
3) JOHN BUCK, C
4) CHASE HEADLEY, 3B
5) KEVIN KOUZMANOFF, 1B
6) JOSH BARD, DH
7) DARNELL McDONALD, OF
8) BRANDON NIMMO, OF
9) KEVIN RUSSO, 2B
SP) ROY HALLADAY

Nothing too flashy or exciting here, but it’s a solid team. Alex Bregman (from New Mexico, currently a sophomore at Louisiana State) is one of my favorites and I figured adding some young players would be fun in the right circumstances . . . especially since this is all fake.

20. TORONTO BLUE JAYS

1) MICHAEL SAUNDERS, OF
2) RUSSELL MARTIN, 3B
3) JOEY VOTTO, 1B
4) BRETT LAWRIE, SS
5) JUSTIN MORNEAU, DH
6) ADAM LOEWEN, OF
7) JASON BAY, OF
8) GEORGE KOTTARAS, C
9) PETE ORR, 2B
SP) RYAN DEMPSTER

The Blue Jays get the benefit here of being able to recruit from the entire country. Just like with Canada’s last World Baseball Classic, finding a shortstop was difficult, so there was some shifting around the infield.

19. CHICAGO CUBS

1) JODY GERUT, OF
2) BEN ZOBRIST, 2B
3) JAYSON WERTH, OF
4) ADAM LIND, 1B
5) ERIC JAGIELO, 3B
6) JOSH PHEGLEY, C
7) VICTOR DIAZ, DH
8) KEVIN KIERMAIER, OF
9) TYLER LADENDORF, SS
SP) TONY CINGRANI

Like New York, Illinois also has a rich history (ranking fourth on Baseball-Reference’s place of birth report). But the state’s current crop of players is stronger than New York’s, so it was easier coming up with two teams. Yes, the second half of this lineup also thins out, but the middle of the order is solid and Ben Zobrist is one of the most underrated players in the game.

18. BOSTON RED SOX

1) A.J. POLLOCK, OF
2) GEORGE SPRINGER, OF
3) CHRIS IANNETTA, C
4) CARLOS PENA, 1B
5) NATE FREIMAN, DH
6) MIKE OLT, 3B
7) CHRIS DENORFIA, OF
8) RYAN FLAHERTY, 2B
9) JOHN McDONALD, SS
SP) CHRIS CAPUANO

Even by allowing myself to pull from all of New England, this team is solid but doesn’t have much star power. It may have been better in the mid-90s, when the team could have had Jeff Bagwell at first base and Tom Glavine on the mound.

17. SEATTLE MARINERS

1) JED LOWRIE, SS
2) JACOBY ELLSBURY, OF
3) TRAVIS SNIDER, OF
4) RYAN DOUMIT, DH
5) LYLE OVERBAY, 1B
6) GRADY SIZEMORE, OF
7) NICK HUNDLEY, C
8) MATT TUIASOSOPO, 3B
9) WILLIE BLOOMQUIST, 2B
SP) JON LESTER

Similar to Boston, this team is solid—albeit with a little more star power from actual Red Sox. If these teams were expanded to 25-man rosters instead of just starting lineups, Team Northwest could have a pretty solid pitching staff with Tim Lincecum, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Hammel and Dan Straily slotting in behind Jon Lester.

16. CHICAGO WHITE SOX

1) CURTIS GRANDERSON, OF
2) JASON KIPNIS, 2B
3) SCOTT ROLEN, 3B
4) GARRETT JONES, DH
5) JOSH THOLE, C
6) JAMEY CARROLL, SS
7) BRIAN BOGUSEVIC, OF
8) ERIC LIS, 1B
9) JOE BENSON, OF
SP) LANCE LYNN

Another team that is solid, not spectacular. You’ll notice a few players from Indiana here, like Scott Rolen, Jamey Carroll and Lance Lynn. Like the Northwest, Indiana could put together a very nice rotation after Lynn with Jeff Samardzija, Jarrod Parker, Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer.

15. CINCINNATI REDS

1) BEN REVERE, OF
2) ADAM EATON, OF
3) KEVIN YOUKILIS, 3B
4) COREY HART, 1B
5) KEN GRIFFEY JR., DH
6) COLLIN COWGILL, OF
7) JOSH HARRISON, SS
8) KYLE SCHWARBER, C
9) IAN HAPP, 2B
SP) JUSTIN MASTERSON

If this were a real tournament, this would be my sleeper team. I think this team would be a lot of fun to watch. It has a little bit of everything: speed, power, a timeless superstar, as well as hot up-and-comers like Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, two top prospects for the next two drafts, respectively. This team probably also has the shortest outfield ever (nobody over 5-foot-9!), so hopefully they don’t have to try and rob any home runs.

14. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

1) ANDY DIRKS, OF
2) ALEX GORDON, OF
3) ALBERT PUJOLS, 1B
4) ADAM LaROCHE, DH
5) DEREK NORRIS, C
6) JOHN MAYBERRY, OF
7) JOE CREDE, 3B
8) MATT LAWSON, 2B
9) LOGAN WATKINS, SS
SP) TREVOR ROSENTHAL

To make this team more enjoyable, there will be an Arthur Bryant’s all-you-can-eat buffet on the concourse for all of their games. After all, it is my duty to make this fake event as awesome as possible, right? Baseball and burnt ends . . . mmm!

13. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

1) JIMMY ROLLINS, SS
2) DUSTIN PEDROIA, 2B
3) JASON CASTRO, C
4) DEREK LEE, 1B
5) JERMAINE DYE, OF
6) NATE SCHIERHOLTZ, OF
7) WILL VENABLE, OF
8) JASON BARTLETT, 3B
9) BRETT WALLACE, DH
SP) MATT GARZA

Like the other cities and areas with more than one team, the Northern California teams are watered down some by being split in two. I emphasized this a lot in my last post, but Northern California is somewhat of a sleeping giant of a region.

12. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

1) AARON HILL, 2B
2) RANDY WINN, OF
3) TROY TULOWITZKI, SS
4) JONNY GOMES, OF
5) PAT BURRELL, OF
6) JOHN JASO, C
7) CASEY McGEHEE, DH
8) DAVID COOPER, 1B
9) KEVIN FRANDSEN, 3B
SP) C.C. SABATHIA

Imagine the team you could put together by combining these two organizations. That’s not a new phenomenon, which makes some teams’ decision to combine Northern California and the Northwest into one scouting region all the more surprising. Think about what an all-time Northern California team would look like. Barry Bonds, Joe DiMaggio and Rickey Henderson in the outfield, Frank Robinson at first base, Willie Stargell at DH and either Tom Seaver or Randy Johnson on the mound with Dennis Eckersley coming out of the bullpen.

11. SAN DIEGO PADRES

1) SHANE VICTORINO, OF
2) ADAM JONES, OF
3) ADRIAN GONZALEZ, 1B
4) TROY GLAUS, 3B
5) CARLOS QUENTIN, OF
6) ERIC CHAVEZ, DH
7) EDGAR GONZALEZ, 2B
8) ALEX JACKSON, C
9) KEVIN NEWMAN, SS
SP) STEPHEN STRASBURG

This was actually pretty tough to pull together. With the Los Angeles teams, I could be pretty loose with where players were from, but for San Diego, I really tried to make sure players were actually from the San Diego area, though I let them borrow Shane Victorino from Hawaii. It’s mostly big leaguers, but if you’re unfamiliar with a couple of those names, Alex Jackson is the best high school position player in the 2014 draft, and Kevin Newman is a talented shortstop at Arizona, who became the first-ever freshman to take home a Cape Cod League batting title this summer.

10. BALTIMORE ORIOLES

1) KYLE SEAGER, 3B
2) JOSH HAMILTON, OF
3) MARK TEIXEIRA, 1B
4) MATT WIETERS, C
5) CAMERON MAYBIN, OF
6) JUSTIN MAXWELL, OF
7) STEVE LOMBARDOZZI, 2B
8) KEVIN MENCH, DH
9) ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ, SS
SP) MADISON BUMGARNER

Since another team got most of its players from Virginia, I decided to dip down into the Carolinas for the Orioles. A bit of a stretch, but at least it would make Scott Jackson happy.

9. TEXAS RANGERS

1) MATT KEMP, OF
2) HUNTER PENCE, OF
3) BRANDON BELT, 1B
4) CHRIS DAVIS, DH
5) MATT HOLLIDAY, OF
6) KELLY SHOPPACH, C
7) WILL MIDDLEBROOKS, 3B
8) OMAR QUINTANILLA, SS
9) BROCK HOLT, 2B
SP) CLAYTON KERSHAW

Everything is bigger in Texas and the guys in this lineup combined for 147 home runs in 2013. Sure, Matt Kemp and Matt Holliday are from Oklahoma, and I went with them over guys like Austin Jackson, Evan Gattis and Drew Stubbs.

8. LOS ANGELES ANGELS

1) COCO CRISP, OF
2) CHASE UTLEY, 2B
3) RYAN BRAUN, OF
4) MARK TRUMBO, DH
5) TREVOR PLOUFFE, SS
6) MIKE MOUSTAKAS, 3B
7) JASON GIAMBI, 1B
8) CHRISTIAN YELICH, OF
9) HANK CONGER, C
SP) GERRIT COLE

No surprise here. As I mentioned in my last article, Southern California is the most talent-rich part of the country, and it isn’t particularly close.

7. HOUSTON ASTROS

1) MICHAEL BOURN, OF
2) MATT CARPENTER, 2B
3) PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, 1B
4) JAY BRUCE, OF
5) ADAM DUNN, DH
6) CARL CRAWFORD, OF
7) ANTHONY RENDON, 3B
8) CHRIS SNYDER, C
9) CLIFF PENNINGTON, Ss
SP) CLAY BUCHHOLZ

This would be a fun team, as there’s plenty of power and speed. I love that Michael Bourn and Carl Crawford played Little League together.

6. LOS ANGELES DODGERS

1) FREDDY SANCHEZ, 2B
2) FREDDIE FREEMAN, 1B
3) EVAN LONGORIA, 3B
4) GIANCARLO STANTON, OF
5) ALLEN CRAIG, OF
6) JASON KUBEL, OF
7) LUCAS DUDA, DH
8) DANNY ESPINOSA, SS
9) AUSTIN HEDGES, C
SP) JAMES SHIELDS

I wonder how many Southern California teams you could make before creating one that would lose to the Wisconsin team.

5. MIAMI MARLINS

1) JON JAY, OF
2) MANNY MACHADO, SS
3) YADIER MOLINA, C
4) EDWIN ENCARNACION, 3B
5) ANTHONY RIZZO, DH
6) RAUL IBANEZ, OF
7) MIKE MORSE, OF
8) ERIC HOSMER, 1B
9) SEAN RODRIGUEZ, 2B
SP) GIO GONZALEZ

This team has some international flavor, as I decided to include Puerto Ricans (Yadier Molina and Edwin Encarnacion). It’s a very good team with a lot of thunder in the lineup.

4. WASHINGTON NATIONALS

1) DAVID WRIGHT, 2B
2) RYAN ZIMMERMAN, 3B
3) MICHAEL CUDDYER, DH
4) MARK REYNOLDS, 1B
5) JUSTIN UPTON, OF
6) B.J. UPTON, OF
7) L.J. HOES, OF
8) JAKE LOWERY, C
9) EMMANUEL BURRISS, SS
SP) JUSTIN VERLANDER

This is really Team Virginia, as there are so few players actually coming from D.C. I initially considered this team for No. 1 because the core is so strong and obviously any team with Justin Verlander on the mound has a chance to win any game. Ultimately though, the bottom third of the lineup is pretty weak compared to the teams ranked ahead of them.

3. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

1) IAN KINSLER, 2B
2) J.J. HARDY, SS
3) BRYCE HARPER, C
4) PAUL KONERKO, 1B
5) IKE DAVIS, DH
6) KRIS BRYANT, OF
7) D.J. PETERSON, 3B
8) ANDRE ETHIER, OF
9) PETER BOURJOS, OF
SP) MATT MOORE

This is mostly an Arizona team, but obviously there’s some help from Las Vegas (Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant) and New Mexico (Matt Moore). Ian Kinsler and Peter Bourjos have already been traded this offseason . . . will Ike Davis and Andre Ethier be next?

2. ATLANTA BRAVES

1) DEXTER FOWLER, OF
2) JASON HEYWARD, OF
3) BUSTER POSEY, C
4) BRIAN McCANN, DH
5) DOMONIC BROWN, OF
6) BRANDON PHILLIPS, 2B
7) MITCH MORELAND, 1B
8) STEPHEN DREW, SS
9) JEFF KEPPINGER, 3B
SP) ADAM WAINWRIGHT

I strongly considered this team for the No. 1 spot, too. It is obviously a very strong team. It’s mostly players from Georgia, but I took Mitch Moreland from Mississippi, as my only first base options from Georgia were Russ Branyan or Brandon Moss. The more amazing thing is that every one of these players, with the exceptions of Moreland and Adam Wainwright, played for the same travel ball program—East Cobb Baseball. If you wanted to have an all East Cobb alumni team, you could put Hunter Morris at first base and Zack Wheeler on the mound.

1. TAMPA BAY RAYS

1) DENARD SPAN, OF
2) HOWIE KENDRICK, 2B
3) ANDREW McCUTCHEN, OF
4) PRINCE FIELDER, 1B
5) CHIPPER JONES, 3B
6) BILLY BUTLER, DH
7) MATT JOYCE, OF
8) JONATHAN LUCROY, C
9) JAVIER BAEZ, SS
SP) ZACK GREINKE

This is the team to beat with All-Stars at seven positions and at least one Hall of Famer. Collectively, this team has appeared in 20 All-Star Games, won two MVPs, a Cy Young, nine Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove. Even for the positions without All-Stars, you’re talking about Denard Span, a solid everyday leadoff hitter who had the 12th-most hits in the National League last year, a catcher (Jonathan Lucroy) coming off a breakout, 18-home run season, and one of the game’s most exciting prospects in Javier Baez.

So . . . who did I miss? Go ahead and get all worked up over a silly, imaginary event. That’s part of the fun of the offseason, right?

Edited 11/30/2013 after a couple key reader suggestions