Every team has a franchise player, but not all of them are created equal. For instance, Houston Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve isn’t the same caliber as Boston Red Sox’ Dustin Pedroia, who isn’t on the same level as New York Yankees Robinson Cano. However, they share the same common bond as being the team’s franchise player. So our question this week is, since Mike Trout is an easy answer and therefore out of the question, who would you want to build a franchise around?
If I had to choose a franchise player, I’d start with pitching and take Yu Darvish. The guy is an absolutely monster out on the mound and probably one of the most deadly with his strikeouts. Sure, at times Darvish has struggled with command and has walked a few batters more than he would like, but he’s improving. For him to come over from Japan to America and truly dominate these great hitters has been a treat to watch.
Darvish is the type of pitcher that any starting rotation needs at its front. I try to think where the Texas Rangers would be without him, and I’m pretty sure Oakland would be leading that division easily. Darvish makes those kinds of impacts on a team and since Mike Maddux took over as the pitching coach in Texas, things have improved tremendously, but Darvish brings a lot to the table.
I would start with Matt Harvey. He has the stuff: A 95-98 MPH fastball, 90-92 MPH slider, a curveball, and a changeup that has developed quickly into his most devastating weapon against left-handers. He’s a student of the game and learns quickly. In a little over a year, his command went from shotgun to sharpshooter.
He also has the makeup I’m looking for – a no-nonsense guy who’s serious about winning. He’s also a good teammate. He’s had 12 no-decisions foisted upon him by a weak New York Mets offense and inconsistent bullpen this year. But after each one, he takes responsibility, saying he should have given up fewer runs, even though in most cases, his losses and NDs haven’t been his fault.
His mechanics are sound – his drop-and-drive style of delivery should keep his arm healthy over the long haul.
Finally, he’s shown he can thrive in the pressure of a large market, and has shown the ability to turn it up in the few big games the Mets have played this year. He also thrived on the national stage at the All-Star game.
Not to talk in cliches here, but there really is no better momentum than the next day’s starting pitcher. But to me, a starting pitcher can have even a bigger impact than that. An elite, ace-level hurler can change the attitude of an entire pitching staff. It forces all of the other areas of a team to step up to meet his intensity, and other starters feel compelled to do the same.
Of course there is always the issue of injury, but there is risk involved with all players. That is a risk you need to take. Plus some pitchers are more durable than others. When answering this question, you want more than just talent our your choice. You want someone who will elevate their game in big situations and thrives under pressure. For me, the choice here is Matt Harvey.
Harvey is young, 24, and does not pose an injury risk. Also he has had success pitching in New York, so to me that means he can be successful anywhere. The bigger the game, the better the performance from the ace.
Last season Harvey made 10 starts for the Mets going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 59 innings. So far this season the ace has made 25 starts while striking out 187 batters in 171 innings and he has a 2.25 ERA to go with a 9-4 record. The wins are only down due to lack of run support, and Harvey has come to close to both no-hitters and perfect games on multiple occasions so far in his short career. For the next 10 to 15 years, I am not sure there is anyone I would rather have anchoring the front of my rotation.
The MLB is beginning to transform back into a pitcher’s league, but I can’t bring myself to choose a pitcher to build my franchise around. I need an everyday player, one who plays nearly 162 games, not just 35 games. I would go with Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates as my franchise player. He’s a career .295/.378/.489 (137 wRC+) hitter who doesn’t strikeout too much (16.9%) and draws walks at a good clip (11.2%).
The argument could be said that he hasn’t had to play in a big market, but my rebuttal would be that he’s had to shoulder much of the burden of a franchise that has largely failed since he came up during the 2009 season. He’s been healthy throughout his short career and he plays at a premium position in centerfield. While the defensive metrics see him as an average fielder, he could eventually be moved to a corner spot and rate better. As an added bonus, he can steal bases, which he has recorded at least 20 per season since being with the parent club.
While pitchers can win games by themselves, they can only do it for 30-35 games per year. An everyday player makes more sense to me in the long-term.
I would rather build my team around a guy that could make an impact in 162 games rather than a starting pitcher who’s only going to take the hill every fifth day. At the same time, it would be nice if that same player could give the pitching staff a boost by playing elite defense.
Basically, I want a young guy who can help score runs as well as save them. With that in mind, my franchise player would be Manny Machado. The 21-year-old is already one of the game’s best defenders and is hitting .294/.324/.445. The Orioles have him at third base, but I have no doubt he’ll make a smooth transition back to shortstop when the time is right. I’m also a big believer that his power is going to blossom sooner rather than later. Machado’s league-leading 43 doubles are proof he’s already able to get good pitches and drive them with authority.
For what it’s worth, my top pitching choice would have been Clayton Kershaw. It’s hard to believe that with all he’s accomplished he’s still just 25-years-old.
There are our choices as our franchise players, who would you pick? Let us know in the comment section!