All-Americans In An Alternate Reality
The NCAA Division I baseball season starts today. To celebrate the fact that they’re playing games that count, many with future big leaguers, in those parts of the nation not blanketed by ice and snow, I present an alternative All-America team.
If MLB followed the NFL’s lead and made players spend three years in college before signing, professional and college baseball would look radically different.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year would be a rising college junior. Mark Appel would have been the No. 1 overall pick a year earlier, though he’d still be an Astro. And the defending College World Series champions would be ridiculously loaded.
Here’s what the preseason All-America team would look like in this altered reality:
Austin Hedges, c, UCLA (Padres). It took $3 million in the second round to lure him away from the Bruins, who also lost three first-rounders (Max Fried/Nationals, Lucas Giolito/Nationals, Joe Ross/Padres) and two sandwich picks (Daniel Robertson/Athletics, Tyler Goeddel/Rays) in the last three Drafts. They managed to survive, winning the 2013 College World Series.
Dan Vogelbach, 1b, Florida (Cubs). The Gators would have extended their streak of consecutive CWS appearances to four last year if they had Vogelbach to go with prime 2012 recruits Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros), Jesse Winker (Reds), Lewis Brinson (Rangers) and Avery Romero (Marlins).
Mookie Betts, 2b, Tennessee (Red Sox). Would have the best all-around tools of any college second baseman since Southern’s Rickie Weeks went No. 2 overall in the 2003 Draft.
Javier Baez, 3b, Jacksonville (Cubs). After 48 Drafts without a first-rounder, the Dolphins would have two in consecutive years with Chris Anderson (Dodgers) and Baez.
Francisco Lindor, ss, Florida State (Indians). How strong is the shortstop crop? I had to squeeze Baez and Carlos Correa on here at other positions, and still had no room for Addison Russell (Auburn/Athletics) and Corey Seager (South Carolina/Dodgers).
Byron Buxton, of, Georgia (Twins). The Bulldogs outfield would include the game’s No. 1 prospect in Buxton and the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 Draft (Clint Frazier/Indians).
Albert Almora, of, Miami (Cubs). Chicago currently has the best crop of position prospects in baseball, but that wouldn’t be true without Baez, Almora and Vogelbach.
David Dahl, of, Auburn (Rockies). Wouldn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but would be the Tigers’ best five-tool prospect since Bo Jackson.
Carlos Correa, dh, Miami (Astros). The Hurricanes lost three of the top 14 picks (Correa, Almora, Nick Travieso/Reds) and two sandwich-rounders (Keon Barnum/White Sox, Walker Weickel/Padres)
in the 2012 Draft. Miami also missed out on Henry Owens (Red Sox) in 2011.
Joey Gallo, ut, Louisiana State (Rangers). Led the Minors with 40 homers last summer, hit 98 mph with his fastball in high school.
Jose Fernandez, p, South Florida (Marlins). How would a 2.19 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and .182 opponent average translate from MLB to the college level?
Carlos Rodon, p, North Carolina State. The lone actual collegian on this team, he’s a heavy favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2014 Draft.
Archie Bradley, p, Oklahoma (Diamondbacks). Would have gone to Norman on a football scholarship and might have become the Sooners’ starting quarterback.
Robert Stephenson, p, Washington (Reds). Could have made a run at Tim Lincecum as the Huskies’ most dominant arm ever.
Tyler Glasnow, p, Portland (Pirates). Would be a lock to be the second-highest pick in Pilots history, behind only Ken Dayley (No. 3 overall in 1980).