Projecting an All-Decade team for the 2020’s is as fun as it is maddening. Baseball has been skewing younger during the last five seasons and there are so many good players it’s easy to look past younger veterans like Aaron Judge or Kris Bryant, both of whom could be very productive into their mid-to-late 30’s. If the National League adopts the DH, it could also extend the careers of natural hitters like Nick Castellanos, Nolan Arenado, and Christian Yelich.
For this exercise, I will only be selecting players who are 26 or under. Many of those chosen may have not peaked yet, but look to be solid enough to provide above average or elite stats between now and 2029. Wow, it sounds odd just mentioning that year.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 13, 2019
- Catcher – Willson Contreras, Cubs: The only question with Contreras is whether or not he will be able to stay at catcher for the remainder of the decade. A move to the outfield is probably just a few years away, especially given Chicago’s farm system catching depth. One player who may challenge Contreras is Orioles minor league backstop Adley Rutschman.
- First Base – Cody Bellinger, Dodgers: Bellinger plays a lot of outfield, but by the time MLB starts its 2030 season, the reigning NL MVP should be a full-time first baseman. White Sox prospect Andrew Vaughn is someone to watch, too.
- Second Base – Ozzie Albies, Braves: Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux could very well be the better player by the end of the decade, but I’ll take Albies for now because he’s already proven himself. Nico Hoerner is a dark horse, and given his desire to constantly improve, he’s someone whose development will at least be fun to watch.
- Shortstop – Gleyber Torres, Yankees: Torres will be the best MLB player of the decade, hands down, and is so good his inclusion eliminates Francisco Lindor, who is still young enough to make this list. Potential Cubs prospect Cristian Hernandez is probably 4-5 years away from the bigs, but could be something special and, getting way ahead of myself, might make the 2030’s squad.
- Third Base – Matt Chapman, A’s: He’s only 24 and has already been worth almost 20 WAR in his young career thanks to a .341 OBP and 74 home runs over 2+ seasons. Chapman gets the nod over Rafael Devers of the Red Sox, who realistically belongs at first base or DH. A deep prospect that I like a great deal is RBI machine Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers. I would love to see the Cubs acquire Vargas as an eventual replacement for Bryant.
- Outfield – Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves: Like Torres, Acuña is a candidate to end up as the best player of the decade. He gets a little lazy defensively, but there’s no denying his offensive firepower and he is a threat to be a 40/40 guy every season. Keep your eye on first-year starter Luis Robert of the White Sox, too.
- Outfield – Juan Soto, Nationals: Soto just turned 21 and is coming off a year where he hit 34 home runs, was worth 4.6 WAR, won a World Series, and made everybody in Washington forget about Bryce Harper. Nearly half of his hits went for extra bases in 2019 and he’s fearless at the plate. Angels prospect Jo Adell could be this years version of Soto.
- Outfield – Eloy Jiménez, White Sox: The sophomore left fielder needs a little more plate discipline, but there’s no questioning the young man’s prodigious power. Cubs fans already hate that Jiménez and Dylan Cease were packaged in the trade for José Quintana, but prospects Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez may help ease that pain in the near future.
- DH – Pete Alonso, Mets: The power is special and Alonso should be a threat to hit 50+ home runs annually.
- SP – Walker Buehler, Dodgers: The best young starter in baseball is slowly transitioning into staff ace and may be considered 1A as soon as this year, taking the mantle from Clayton Kershaw.
- SP – Jack Flaherty, Cardinals: By the time this decade ends, Chicagoans will hate Flaherty, who looks to be as dominant as any pitcher in baseball and could be better than Buehler when all is said and done.
- SP – Tyler Glasnow, Rays: He’ll need to stay healthy, but Glasnow could be every bit as good as Gerrit Cole if he does.
- SP – José Berríos, Twins: If I had to choose one starter that I believe will win multiple Cy Young awards in the upcoming decade, it would be Berríos. His stuff is electric and should get better as he enters his peak years.
- SP – Shane Bieber, Indians: The Cleveland starter does it quietly, but owns a 3.27 ERA/3.32 FIP with 11.09 K/9 against 1.83 BB/9 in 162 1/3 frames of action. Only four MLB starters out-pitched Bieber’s K/BB ratio of 6.06 last season. Minor league starters to watch, starting as soon as this season, include Matt Manning and Casey Mize of the Tigers, MacKenzie Gore of the Padres, Jesús Luzardo of the A’s, and Dustin May of the Dodgers.
- Closer – Lance McCullers Jr., Astros: He’s a starter now, but I believe injuries will force him to the ‘pen and he could be elite closing games for Houston. A minor league starter who might also convert nicely to the back end of the bullpen is Daniel Lynch of the Royals.
Apropos of Nothing
Had Quintana helped lead the Cubs to another World Series title, the trade of Jiménez and Cease to the White Sox would look like a solid move. The Cubs are a better team with Kyle Schwarber in the lineup, but imagine if Chicago got Glasnow and/or Cole for the pair instead? The price for Houston to acquire Cole from Pittsburgh was basically Colin Moran and Michael Feliz, which was grand theft.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hoerner has taken to Cameo to raise money to benefit study-from-home students in the Chicago Public School system during the pandemic shutdown.
- A number of Cubs players are relying on creativity to stay prepared for a potential return to baseball.
- Mark Prior was named the most-hyped prospect in team history by David Schoenfield of ESPN.
- Back in 1917, both the Cubs and the White Sox prepped for the start of the regular season by scheduling exhibition games against a couple semi-professional baseball clubs local to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Back then, teams barnstormed during the winter in addition to holding spring training in places like Tulsa, New Orleans, and Hot Springs, Arkansas.
- Retired starter Fergie Jenkins faced six future Hall-of-Famers during his 11 Opening Day starts, which included drawing the honor seven times during his two stints with the Cubs.
- The Sim-Cubs stewed their Pittsburgh counterparts 8-4 yesterday thanks to Anthony Rizzo, whose homer buried Pirates starter Chris Archer. Our own Sean Holland has the recap.
- Meanwhile, the first-place Strat-O-Matic Cubs fell to 8-4 on the season, including 2-4 away from home, after a 2-1 loss in 13-innings at PNC Park. Shoddy fielding cost Craig Kimbrel, who gave up his first run of the season while taking the loss.
- The Cubs have a number of young, rising stars in what is becoming a truly deep farm system.
- Michael Burkhart, the organization’s visiting clubhouse manager, has died of cancer. He was 63.
Odds & Sods
MLB News & Notes
Bruce Springsteen is missing baseball. Join the club, Bruce.
I’m so tired of the short-season debate, but Tom Verducci of SI offered his two cents in case you’re interested.
We also delivered our first meal in New York to PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL.
200 MEALS tonight because of ur generosity.
Thank you for making a difference. pic.twitter.com/oEUcmoR4Y5
— A. Rizzo Foundation (@RizzoFoundation) April 4, 2020
They Said It
- “We’re just trying to spread the love and keep encouraging our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are in the thick of this thing. What they’re doing is amazing. I keep thinking about them. Supporting people is so important. And checking in on people is huge. Being alone is not easy. This is for our parents and grandparents. We want them to be around for a long time.” – Anthony Rizzo
Thursday Walk Up Song
Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd – If you were asked to pick one live performance as best ever, Skynyrd’s rendition of Free Bird from the Fox Theater in Atlanta in 1976 would certainly garner strong consideration. This performance from Knebworth, in which they stole the thunder from headliners The Rolling Stones, is a worthy entry as well.