The plan for today’s article is pretty complex in its simplicity. I set out to build a championship-level redraft team for 2023 using only rookies from 2022.
C: MJ Melendez
1B: Jose Miranda
2B: Vaughn Grissom
3B: Bobby Witt Jr.
SS: Oneil Cruz
MI: Jeremy Peña
CI: Gunnar Henderson
This infield is good. Might not win us the league, but getting steals all around the diamond puts us on a winning path. Not just because speed is increasingly rare but because these steals come from middle-order hitters with power.
Catcher is a pretty clear win. I suppose the Sal Perez team has a leg-up on you if they’ve got anyone in the C2 spot, but aside from that, we’ve got a top-of-the-scale catching duo.
Second base might be tough if Atlanta can’t find room on their All-Star team for Vaughn Grissom. Dansby Swanson is a free agent though, and either Grissom or Albies could slide back over to short, where they spent much of their prospect lives.
Jeremy Peña’s spot on the team is tenuous at best. Josh Jung could be started at CI, pushing Witt to the middle, Gunnar to third and Peña to the bench. Spencer Torkelson is also a person. I’d take Matt Mervis over any of these guys, I think: “these guys” meaning Jung, Tork and Peña. Feels crazy to say it out loud, but that’s just how the truth feels sometimes.
Miguel Vargas gets a look in that CI spot if he finds an angle on some playing time.
Vinnie P is holding down the Utility spot in this configuration, but it might be smarter to just put him at CI and slide Peña into Util where he’ll find some stiff competition for at bats.
OF: Julio Rodriguez
OF: Michael Harris II
OF: Corbin Carroll
OF: Joey Meneses
OF: Steven Kwan
U: Vinnie Pasquantino
This outfield is where the project began as I realized you probably couldn’t build this team in a redraft league. I guess maybe if you put together some kind of miracle auction, but I doubt that. Maybe you could land Julio and Harris with a medium-late first-rounder or turn pick, but I think Julio’s going to settle inside the top five, and Harris will be gone by pick 25. Even if you build this dynamite outfield duo, you have Witt, Strider, Cruz, Henderson, and Kirby all coming off the board in quick succession. Doubt you can catch ’em all.
I’m curious to see how the draft price of Joey Meneses fairs in the off-season echo chamber. He has to be on this team because batting average is a tough category, and he’s been a monster this season, but he’ll also be the cheapest of this infield to acquire on draft day and for pretty good reason. We’ve seen his profile fizzle and fade before, but he’s been a lot better than the typical late-career rookies who pop, and his at bats and lineup spot seem about as secure as they get. He should’ve been a big leaguer long ago, anyway. He’s got 24 games in the outfield, so even though he feels like their everyday first baseman for next year, we get another year of putting him in a tough spot to fill.
P Joe Ryan
P Felix Bautista
P Alexis Diaz
When I began building this team in my head during a run, I thought we’d have no chance to compete on pitching. Would need some free agent adds. That in fact the rookie crop of pitchers coming up in 2023 will be better than this year’s group.
Now that I’m seeing the whole of it, I’d be happy to roll with this pitching staff. I love closers, as you may know, and this team has plenty of closers. I love all three, and fourth man Brandon Hughes is good, too. He’d probably edge out the worst match-up of the week among the three middle starters if I were setting early-season weekly lineups. You don’t lose much in the Win column but gain a lot in the rates and saves if you go 5/4 early season in a deep weekly league.
Strider is out with an oblique injury. Here’s hoping that’s all it is and he’ll be back like Aragorn in Return of the King in season two.
George Kirby was everything we could have hoped for, pitching 126 innings across 24 starts with a 3.21 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, recording an 8-and-4 win-loss record in the process. I think it’s fair to map a little development onto his game, given the coaching staff’s success with Logan Gilbert and Kirby’s plus command, which tends to age better than any pitching trait.
Greene, Lodolo and Contreras might be tough on the Wins column, especially with the unbalanced schedule on the way out, but seventh starter Hunter Brown could help if luck’s on our side. Hopefully Ryan and the aces can pile up the dubs.
Cubs LHP Brandon Hughes is going to return his draft price next year and then some.
Same goes for Cubs OF Seiya Suzuki, I guess.
Diamondbacks RHP Drey Jameson builds in some redundancies we’ll need on the pitching side. Pitching development team is rocking and rolling under Brent Strom, and I feel like this is a rising tide team for 2023.
In summary, this might not be the best team in a 2023 redraft league, but I’d be thrilled to have it and think I’d be seeing dollar signs on my way out the draft or auction. I’m sure there’s been a rookie class that could do this before. I don’t remember any, but I’m also in rhythm with this season in a way I’ve never been, I think. 2022’s rookie class was a unique stew of covid-delays and CBA delays and Olympic delays and cheap-team delays, and the damn just kind of broke. I’d bet against next year’s rookie crop coming anywhere close to this one, but maybe we’re just entering a new reality where teams start trying to field their best team rather than playing for some hypothetical title ten years down the road. Even if that’s the case, the wellspring of minor league talent is just not overflowing the way it was last winter. In fact, the hitters who missed the starting lineup here might be able to hold their own against next year’s team, though I suppose that’s complicated by the guys like Henderson and Carroll who could be on both teams. Like I said, complex in its simplicity. I had to make so many rules just to get myself to the finish line! But hey, I’m here now! Hope you enjoyed the jog!
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.