In case you've missed it, Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant have been doing some pretty incredible things lately. Since the All-Star break Betts is hitting .340/.385/.633, including a game where he went 4-for-6 with 3 homers and 8 RBI. Similarly, Bryant is hitting .336/.412/.570 since the break, including a 5-for-5 game with 2 homers and 5 RBI. And they both have made the highlight reels, Betts with his arm and Bryant with a 469-foot homer.
These two stretches have highlighted the impressive seasons both players are having and solidified their spot at the MVP table in their respective leagues. That's a fun discussion and one we're sure to debate on future podcasts, but today I want to look at another aspect of this. Which group of young position players would you rather have, the Cubs or Red Sox? The 23-year-old Betts and 24-year-old Bryant are just the beginning for both clubs.
First, let's lay out the parameters of the debate. I'm looking at this like an expansion team. When deciding, I have the next 4-8 years in mind. And I'm limiting this to players younger than 28 because that's a number that I picked. Everyone knows that at 29 you officially become old.
|Mookie Betts (OF)||23||6.0 WAR .291/.341/.479||7.2 WAR .313/.353/.555|
|Xander Bogaerts (SS)||23||4.6 WAR .320/.355/.421||2.6 WAR .310/.367/.451|
|Jackie Bradley (OF)||26||2.2 WAR .249/.335/.498||4.7 WAR .275/.355/.509|
|Andrew Benintendi (OF)||21||7th pick in MLB draft||0.5 WAR .323/.366/.477|
|Yoan Moncada (2B)||21||#11 MLB prospect*||#2 MLB prospect**|
|Rafael Devers (3B)||19||#15 MLB prospect*||#19 MLB prospect**|
|Travis Shaw (3B/1B)||26||1.1 WAR .270/.327/.487||1.8 WAR .248/.317/.435|
|Kris Bryant (3B/OF)||24||5.9 WAR .275/.369/.488||6.2 WAR .300/.392/.574|
|Anthony Rizzo (1B)||27||6.2 WAR .278/.387/.512||4.7 WAR .298/.396/.560|
|Addison Russell (SS)||22||3.3 WAR .242/.307/.389||4.0 WAR .251/.336/.445|
|Kyle Schwarber (C/OF)||23||1.2 WAR .246/.355/.487||Injured (crying face emoji)|
|Javy Baez (2B/SS)||23||0.5 WAR .289/.325/.408||2.5 WAR .275/.314/.440|
|Willson Contreras (C)||22||NA||1.0 WAR .270/.352/.455|
|Jorge Soler (OF)||23||-0.1 WAR .262/.324/.399||0.3 WAR .246/.328/.440|
Wow. Wow. Wow. Both teams are absolutely loaded. So much talent. I faced tough choices at the bottom of each list. With the Red Sox, I opted to include Travis Shaw over Brock Holt, mostly because of age (Brock is 28). With the Cubs, I didn't include Jason Heyward, who is one day younger than Rizzo. This is mostly out of frustration with Heyward's performance this year (.225/.302/.320) while making $21 million. He is probably more valuable than Soler going forward, but whatever.
First, let's rank all 14:
Your list might be slightly different (feel free to comment below). This shows me that the Cubs have more top-end talent at the majors right now. Rizzo and Bryant are safer long-term projections than Betts and Bogaerts, but they are a few years older. This list also reveals that the Red Sox have more top-end talent in the minors (Moncada, Devers). Benintendi is also unproven and could develop into a great player.
So, which group would I take? I think my answer comes down to two questions: 1) Can Schwarber make a full comeback? and 2) How good is Yoan Moncada? If Schwarber loses some of his power and can't play the field, that hurts the Cubs chances. And what will Moncada become? He is slugging .563 in AA right now (10 homers in 39 games), but striking out 30% of the time. Also, can he play 2B well enough to stay there?
Today (August 25, 2016), my decision is the Cubs. Probably because I'm a homer and have developed an irrational love for Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber, and others. I love the young Red Sox guys, too, but not enough. So, my expansion team (the Champaign Eagles) will be loaded for years to come. Good luck to Theo and Jed on filling out a lineup next year.