Pick of the litter (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 8, 2007 12:03PM; Updated: Tuesday May 8, 2007 12:36PM
6. Joe Mauer, C, Twins, 24. The 2006 batting champion was no fluke. Mauer's low-maintenance stroke and mature approach to the game mark him as a reliable "repeater," the kind of player whose annual performance hardly wavers. OK, so Ramirez and Reyes will rack up more total bases for you than Mauer, but a .429 OBP out of the catching position -- for a guy who receives well and handles a staff well -- is exceptional.
7. Brian McCann, C, Braves, 23. McCann ripped 24 homers and hit .333 in only 130 games last year -- the youngest player ever to reach those numbers in so few games and only the second such catcher, joining Mike Piazza. A left-handed-hitting Piazza? Now that's valuable.
8. Justin Verlander, P, Tigers, 24. His innings workload last season concerns me in the short term, but Verlander is too much a rarity to leave off this list: a starting pitcher who throws in the upper 90s with smarts. Imagine a young Mike Mussina with an even better fastball.
9. David Wright, 3B, Mets, 24. Tough choice here between Wright and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, his fellow Virginian who is two years younger. Both third basemen are struggling this season with almost no power, so maybe they are not perennial All-Star locks. But Wright is a career .301 hitter with all-fields power after more than 1,500 major league at-bats, which is too good of a track record to ignore.
10. Matt Cain, P, Giants, 22. He looks like the definitive workhorse, and there is tremendous value to being a consistent 200-inning pitcher. But Cain has great stuff, too. He gives up few hits and as his command improves with age and experience, he will become an elite pitcher.
Honorable mention: B.J. Upton, 2B, Devil Rays, 22; Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels, 23; Cole Hamels, P, Phillies, 23; Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees, 23; Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks, 24.
Needs more time: Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals, 23; Billy Butler, OF, Royals, 21; Brandon Wood, 3B, Angels, 22.