Yesterday the pitchers; today the position players for your Christian college baseball all-stars!
1. *Dee Gordon (SS, Southeastern)
2. Freddy Sanchez (3B, Dallas Baptist)
3. Dale Alexander (1B, Milligan)
4. †Ben Zobrist (RF, Olivet Nazarene and Dallas Baptist)
5. *Stephen Vogt (C, Azusa Pacific)
6. *Larry Sheets (DH, Eastern Mennonite)
7. Lew Ford (LF, Dallas Baptist)
8. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (CF, Azusa Pacific)
9.*Keith Lockhart (2B, Oral Roberts)
I think we’re going to have to win a lot of 3-2 games… The top of the order isn’t bad, though there’s not much power. Gordon is as fast as anyone in the game today (111 SB this season and last) and has got his OBP up over .350. Three-time All-Star Sanchez had little speed or power, but won a batting title in 2006 (.344 with 52 doubles), and was still putting up a better-than-average OPS his last few years in the majors. Alexander is pretty much unknown today, but in his short career (1929-1933) with the Tigers and Red Sox, all he did was put up a .331/.394/.497 slash line, winning the batting title in 1932. (His major league career ended after a knee injury was treated with electric heat that caused third-degree burns and then gangrene!) Zobrist is one of the most versatile players in the game (able to play middle infield positions as well as right field), has a lifetime OPS+ of 118, and leads all former CCCU students in several categories (games played, plate appearances, runs, RBI, homers, and WAR). Vogt — Zobrist’s former teammate in Tampa and Oakland — has tailed off the second half of this, his break-out season, but he’s a good young hitter who’s leading his team in homers (18).
But then things drop off considerably. Sheets had a career OPS+ of 109, but a third of his 94 career homers came in one year (1987). Ford is a sentimental choice as a fan favorite of the 2004 division-winning Twins (and arguably the best offensive player on that team: 15 HR, 20 SB, 114 OPS+); that he’s in this team’s starting outfield given what happened the rest of his career tells you where the biggest weakness is on our roster. Niewenhuis is the most accomplished defensive outfielder available (and the only one to play most of his games in center), but his offensive numbers (.232/.306/.386) are even worse than Ford’s. Lockhart is a decent second baseman who didn’t hit very much, but he performed much better in his 37 career playoff games (all with the Braves) than during the rest of his career.
*Ryan Goins (2B/SS, Dallas Baptist)
Chris Heisey (OF, Messiah)
Jason LaRue (C, Dallas Baptist)
Keith Miller (2B/OF, Oral Roberts)
Goins hasn’t hit much yet in his young career, but he’s a good fielder who can play third and the outfield spots if needed. Heisey brings a bit of speed and power off the bench and could conceivably play all three outfield positions. Five Dallas Baptist Patriots is probably too many for this roster, but I’d rather have LaRue’s experience and occasional pop (at his peak he had five straight years of double-digit homers and SLG higher than .400) than the limited offensive skills of the next best catching options: Erik Kratz (Eastern Mennonite), Orioles back-up Caleb Joseph (Lipscomb — but check back on this one: he’s slugging .428 in only his second year in the majors) and Tom Nieto (Oral Roberts, whose lifetime WAR of -2.3 bests only the -2.7 put up by former Erskine shortstop Virgil Stallcup between 1947 and 1953). Mostly a second baseman, Miller played at least twenty games at five other positions between 1987 and 1995 and even swung a decent bat (.262/.323/.351).