Creating MLB's 2019 Division-by-Division Superteams

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2019

Creating MLB's 2019 Division-by-Division Superteams

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    On the eve of Opening Day, we set out to create division-by-division MLB superteams.

    Let's set the stage with some parameters.

    • Roster Construction: We selected a 25-man roster for each team, consisting of 12 position players and 13 pitchers who all reside within the same division.
    • Payroll Limitations: To spice things up a bit, we instituted a payroll cap of $150 million for each team based on 2019 salaries (via Spotrac). For pre-arbitration players whose salaries aren't public, we assigned a salary of $575,000.
    • Position Changes: We allowed position shifting within reason to assemble the best team possible. For example, Alex Bregman slid from third base to shortstop on the AL West team. However, we stopped short of an NL Central infield with Anthony Rizzo at first base, Paul Goldschmidt at second base and Joey Votto at shortstop.

    The full roster and payroll breakdown for each superteam can be found here.

    Let's get started.

AL East

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    Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez
    Mookie Betts and J.D. MartinezBillie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. CF Mookie Betts (BOS), 2. LF Andrew Benintendi (BOS), 3. RF Aaron Judge (NYY), 4. DH J.D. Martinez (BOS), 5. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR), 6. SS Xander Bogaerts (BOS), 7. 1B Luke Voit (NYY), 8. C Gary Sanchez (NYY), 9. 2B Gleyber Torres (NYY)

    Bench: C Danny Jansen (TOR), IF Willy Adames (TB), OF Tommy Pham (TB)

    Starting Rotation: 1. LHP Chris Sale (BOS), 2. LHP Blake Snell (TB), 3. RHP Luis Severino (NYY), 4. RHP Charlie Morton (TB), 5. LHP James Paxton (NYY)

    Bullpen: RHP Chad Green (NYY), RHP Diego Castillo (TB), LHP Jose Alvarado (TB), RHP Ryan Brasier (BOS), RHP Mychal Givens (BAL), RHP Adam Ottavino (NYY), RHP Dellin Betances (NYY), LHP Aroldis Chapman (NYY)

    Total 2019 Salary: $147.4 million



    • David Price ($31 million) and Nathan Eovaldi ($17 million) didn't fit the budget to round out the starting rotation behind Sale, Snell and Severino. Marcus Stroman ($7.4 million) was also enough of a question mark to turn elsewhere.
    • Going with J.D. Martinez ($23.8 million) over Giancarlo Stanton ($26 million) at the DH spot made sense both financially and in terms of 2018 performance.
    • While Luke Voit ($575K) still has something to prove, choosing him at first base over Justin Smoak ($8 million) carved out more money for the relief corps.
    • Every team had to have at least one representative, just like the MLB All-Star Game, so Orioles closer Mychal Givens ($2.2 million) got a spot in the bullpen.
    • Splurging on Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million) might not have made sense in another division, but he's far and away the best closer in the AL East.

AL Central

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    Corey Kluber
    Corey KluberTim Warner/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. 2B Whit Merrifield (KC), 2. SS Francisco Lindor (CLE), 3. 3B Jose Ramirez (CLE), 4. DH Nelson Cruz (MIN), 5. LF Eloy Jimenez (CWS), 6. RF Eddie Rosario (MIN), 7. 1B Jose Abreu (CWS), 8. CF Max Kepler (MIN), 9. C Welington Castillo (CWS)

    Bench: C/IF Willians Astudillo (MIN), IF Adalberto Mondesi (KC), OF Byron Buxton (MIN)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Corey Kluber (CLE), 2. RHP Trevor Bauer (CLE), 3. RHP Jose Berrios (MIN), 4. RHP Carlos Carrasco (CLE), 5. RHP Mike Clevinger (CLE)

    Bullpen: LHP Jace Fry (CWS), RHP Trevor May (MIN), LHP Jake Diekman (KC), RHP Joe Jimenez (DET), LHP Taylor Rogers (MIN), RHP Alex Colome (CWS), RHP Kelvin Herrera (CWS), LHP Brad Hand (CLE)

    Total 2019 Salary: $137.1 million



    • The pickings were slim at the catcher position, especially with Salvador Perez out for the season. Grayson Greiner ($575K) was an option as he gets set to take over as the Tigers primary backstop, but we ended up going with the more experienced Welington Castillo ($7.3 million).
    • The team-friendly salaries of Whit Merrifield ($1 million), Jose Ramirez ($4.2 million), Eloy Jimenez ($1.8 million) and Eddie Rosario ($4.2 million) gave us enough leftover money to splurge on Jose Abreu ($16 million) and Nelson Cruz ($14 million) to round out the lineup.
    • The toughest omission was Tigers slugger Nick Castellanos ($10 million). However, Rosario had a better season in 2018 and Jimenez has far more upside in the starting lineup, while Castellanos' defensive struggles make him a less-than-ideal fourth outfielder.
    • The entire starting rotation costs only $41.1 million, including Jose Berrios ($620K) and Mike Clevinger ($592K), both of whom are still making close to the league minimum.
    • White Sox lefty Jace Fry was one of MLB's most underrated relievers in 2018. His 4.38 ERA last season was nothing to write home about, but he backed it with a 2.67 FIP and racked up 70 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.
    • We considered Nate Jones ($4.7 million), Oliver Perez ($2.5 million) and Addison Reed ($8.5 million), among others, for a spot in the bullpen.

AL West

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. 2B Jose Altuve (HOU), 2. SS Alex Bregman (HOU), 3. CF Mike Trout (LAA), 4. DH Khris Davis (OAK), 5. RF George Springer (HOU), 6. LF Mitch Haniger (SEA), 7. 3B Matt Chapman (OAK), 8. 1B Matt Olson (OAK), 9. C Robinson Chirinos (HOU)

    Bench: C Omar Narvaez (SEA), IF/OF Jurickson Profar (OAK), IF/OF Joey Gallo (TEX)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Justin Verlander (HOU), 2. RHP Gerrit Cole (HOU), 3. LHP Mike Minor (TEX), 4. RHP Collin McHugh (HOU), 5. LHP Marco Gonzales (SEA)

    Bullpen: RHP Brad Peacock (HOU), RHP Jesse Chavez (TEX), RHP Ty Buttrey (LAA), RHP Lou Trivino (OAK), RHP Ryan Pressly (HOU), RHP Roberto Osuna (HOU), RHP Jose Leclerc (TEX), RHP Blake Treinen (OAK)

    Total 2019 Salary: $145.8 million



    • Alex Bregman slid over to shortstop to accommodate Platinum Glove winner Matt Chapman at third base. While Bregman has primarily played third base in the big leagues, he was originally drafted as a shortstop and has 471 innings under his belt at the position.
    • It's easy to make a case for Omar Narvaez over Robinson Chirinos in the starting lineup, so let's just call that a platoon.
    • Michael Brantley ($16 million) didn't rank above Mitch Haniger and George Springer for one of the starting corner outfield jobs, and he proved too expensive for a bench spot.
    • The most controversial pick might be Jurickson Profar ($3.6 million) over Carlos Correa ($5 million). Correa is likely to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2018 season, but Profar was the better fit in a bench role because of his superior defensive versatility.
    • Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were no-brainers for the rotation, but the other three spots required some thinking. We also considered Yusei Kikuchi ($9.5 million), Wade Miley ($4.5 million), Mike Fiers ($6 million) and Lance Lynn ($9.3 million), among others.
    • This bullpen is stacked. Treinen, Leclerc and Osuna have a chance to be three of the most dominant closers in baseball, Pressly was lights-out in a setup role, Buttrey has future closer potential, and both Chavez and Peacock are capable of pitching in almost any role.

NL East

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    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerRich Schultz/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. CF Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL), 2. SS Trea Turner (WAS), 3. RF Bryce Harper (PHI), 4. 1B Freddie Freeman (ATL), 53B Anthony Rendon (WAS), 6. LF Juan Soto (WAS), 7. C J.T. Realmuto (PHI), 8. 2B Ozzie Albies (ATL)

    Bench: C Kurt Suzuki (WAS), 1B Rhys Hoskins (PHI), IF Johan Camargo (ATL), OF Brandon Nimmo (NYM)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Max Scherzer (WAS), 2. RHP Jacob deGrom (NYM), 3. RHP Aaron Nola (PHI), 4. RHP Zack Wheeler (NYM), 5. RHP Nick Pivetta (PHI)

    Bullpen: RHP Dan Winkler (ATL), LHP Adam Conley (MIA), RHP Drew Steckenrider (MIA), RHP Kyle Barraclough (WAS), LHP A.J. Minter (ATL), RHP Seranthony Dominguez (PHI), LHP Sean Doolittle (WAS), RHP Edwin Diaz (NYM)

    Total 2019 Salary: $147.1 million



    • Deciding how to arrange the batting order was tougher than figuring out who to pick for the starting lineup, as most of the choices were clear-cut. We also considered an order of Turner-Harper-Acuna-Freeman-Rendon-Soto-Realmuto-Albies.
    • Kurt Suzuki ($4 million) gets the nod for the backup catcher spot over more expensive options like Wilson Ramos ($7.3 million) and Yan Gomes ($7.1 million) who didn't fit within the budget.
    • Michael Conforto ($4 million) and Brian Anderson ($575K) were both in the mix for the final bench spot, which ultimately went to Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins ($575K).
    • There was no way to fit both Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in the starting rotation without making a far more impactful move elsewhere. The two players have nearly identical salaries, so Wheeler's strong second half last year served as the tiebreaker.
    • To stay within the payroll restrictions, someone making the minimum salary (or close to it) had to round out the rotation. Breakout candidate Nick Pivetta got the nod over Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb and Zach Eflin.
    • Sean Doolittle ($6 million) is the only reliever on the roster making more than $2 million. In fact, that entire eight-man relief corps costs only $12.8 million.

NL Central

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. CF Lorenzo Cain (MIL), 2. RF Christian Yelich (MIL), 3. 3B Kris Bryant (CHC), 4. 1B Paul Goldschmidt (STL), 5. SS Javier Baez (CHC), 6. 2B Scooter Gennett (CIN), 7. C Willson Contreras (CHC), 8. LF Starling Marte (PIT)

    Bench: C Tucker Barnhart (CIN), 1B Anthony Rizzo (CHC), IF Eugenio Suarez (CIN), OF Harrison Bader (STL)

    Starting Rotation: 1. RHP Jameson Taillon (PIT), 2. RHP Miles Mikolas (STL), 3. RHP Kyle Hendricks (CHC), 4. RHP Jack Flaherty (STL), 5. Jhoulys Chacin (MIL)

    Bullpen: RHP Dakota Hudson (STL), RHP Keone Kela (PIT), RHP Jeremy Jeffress (MIL), RHP Jordan Hicks (STL), LHP Felipe Vazquez (PIT), RHP Corey Knebel (MIL), LHP Josh Hader (MIL), RHP Raisel Iglesias (CIN)

    Total 2019 Payroll: $148.0 million



    • Only being able to roster two of Joey Votto ($25 million), Paul Goldschmidt ($15.5 million) and Anthony Rizzo ($11.3 million) was excruciating. Since Votto will earn almost as much as the other two combined, he became the obvious choice to omit.
    • Big-ticket players like Jon Lester ($27.5 million), Yadier Molina ($20 million), Yasmani Grandal ($16 million), Matt Carpenter ($14.8 million) and Francisco Cervelli ($11.5 million) likely would have found their way onto the roster if money was of no concern.
    • We're banking on Eugenio Suarez being able to play shortstop in a pinch since there's no true backup on the roster. He was primarily a shortstop when he broke into the majors, and he's played 865.2 innings there since joining the Reds.
    • Standout defender Harrison Bader gets the nod over a number of other options for the fourth outfielder spot because of his stellar glove. The 24-year-old racked up 19 DRS in the outfield last season and has only scratched the surface of his offensive potential.
    • The starting rotation lacks an elite ace, but it's a rock-solid group from top to bottom and it costs only $24.1 million combined. Reds breakout candidate Luis Castillo ($575K) was a tough omission.
    • Adding flamethrowers Felipe Vazquez and Jordan Hicks to the three-headed monster at the back of the Brewers bullpen and anchoring that group with Reds closer Raisel Iglesias would make this bullpen virtually unhittable.

NL West

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Starting Lineup: 1. RF David Peralta (ARI), 2. 2B Corey Seager (LAD), 3. 3B Nolan Arenado (COL), 4. 1B Manny Machado (SD), 5. CF Cody Bellinger (LAD), 6. SS Trevor Story (COL), 7. LF David Dahl (COL), 8. C Austin Hedges (SD)

    Bench: C/IF Austin Barnes (LAD), IF/OF Max Muncy (LAD), IF/OF Chris Taylor (LAD), IF/OF Ketel Marte (ARI)

    Starting Rotation: 1. LHP Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 2. RHP Walker Buehler (LAD), 3. RHP German Marquez (COL), 4. LHP Kyle Freeland (COL), 5. LHP Madison Bumgarner (SF)

    Bullpen: RHP Kenta Maeda (LAD), RHP Craig Stammen (SD), RHP Joe Kelly (LAD), LHP Tony Watson (SF), LHP Will Smith (SF), RHP Kirby Yates (SD), RHP Archie Bradley (ARI), RHP Kenley Jansen (LAD)

    Total 2019 Payroll: $149.9 million



    • We had to get creative to fit Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, Trevor Story and Corey Seager into the starting lineup. Slotting Cody Bellinger in center field opened up first base for one of the corner guys, so take your pick between Arenado and Machado to move across the diamond.
    • As for the middle infield spots, Seager is a better defensive shortstop than Story, but he's also recovering from Tommy John surgery and hip surgery. Easing him back into action at second base makes sense.
    • It was tempting to go with rookie Francisco Mejia for the starting catcher spot in a division bereft of top-tier catching talent. Instead, we opted for the defensive skills of Austin Hedges and the versatility of Austin Barnes.
    • Spending big on Clayton Kershaw ($31 million) pushed the payroll right up against the $150 million cap. However, we didn't have to make any major cuts to fit him onto the roster, and he's still one of the best in the business when he's healthy.
    • Not finding a spot for Chris Paddack ($555K) could look like a mistake a few months from now. The 23-year-old rookie earned a spot in the San Diego rotation after an excellent spring.
    • Rockies right-hander Scott Oberg ($1.3 million) was a tough omission from the bullpen. In 56 appearances, he tallied 14 holds while posting a 2.45 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and a 57-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 58.2 innings.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.