Ever wondered what it would look like for Ryan Zimmerman and Jose Reyes to play side-by-side? What about a middle-of-the-order that includes Chase Utley, David Wright and Mike Stanton? How about facing Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee on consecutive days (oh wait)?
Well, alas, your day is here. Below is the best team that NL East money could buy, with a full roster and notes on the close calls, guys that just missed, and guys that may be able to sneak their way onto this team before long. If you missed it, there's a quick preview of these posts here, but let's get to the fun.
(Note: While we're not totally ignoring specific outfield positions, players can be shifted to outfield positions that they're reasonably capable of playing even if it's not their primary position in the real-world. In other words, we can conceivably shift Angel Pagan to right field, because he's a center fielder that's clearly capable of playing right. But we can't shift Jason Bay to center, because, well, that would be a mess.)
No. 1: Jose Reyes, Shortstop, New York
Probably would've been Hanley Ramirez before the season, but Reyes' monster 2011 may have been enough to push him into this spot before even factoring in how the Marlins shortstop has fallen apart. A ridiculous combination of impact value on offense, defense and the bases.
No. 2: Shane Victorino, Center Field, Philadelphia
Competition for this up-the-middle position was fairly weak, but that's beyond the point here. Victorino's been one of the elite players in the game so far this season; he's been the fourth-best outfielder in the game so far this season according to FanGraphs.
No. 3: Chase Utley, Second Base, Philadelphia
In terms of raw WAR, you obviously take Washington's Danny Espinosa here. But Utley is proving that he's still an all-around stud as long as he can get onto the field, and he's a better player on a per-game basis. The Nats may have unearthed a possible gem, though.
No. 4: Ryan Zimmerman, Third Base, Washington
One of the underrated players in the game because he's truly elite but doesn't quite have that cachet, Zimmerman is a ridiculously good all-around player that probably would've posted a third consecutive 7+ WAR season if it wasn't for spring injuries. Entering his prime, he's one of the best cornerstone talents in the sport.
No. 5: Gaby Sanchez, First Base, Florida
Sanchez doesn't have Ryan Howard's power, but when you strike out at half the rate, you can give up a little power. And realistically, power is Howard's only advantage. Sanchez is the better defender, better contact hitter and better base-runner, and they get on base through the walk at a similar clip. An extra home run here or there can't quite make up for all of that. (And frankly, Howard is probably the No. 3 first baseman behind the Mets' Ike Davis. Sorry for forgetting to mention him, and a hat tip to fellow BtBer Bill Petti for correctly pointing out that he deserves to be in the discussion.)
No. 6: Brian McCann, Catcher, Atlanta
Another underrated star because he doesn't put up gaudy counting numbers, McCann's easily the best catcher in the division. Heck, if anything, McCann's back-up David Ross could probably start for a few teams in the division.
No. 7: Carlos Beltran, Right Field, New York
Went back and forth between Stanton, Beltran and Morrison, but decided that Stanton was the weakest link at this point because of his contact issues. Stanton will likely pass Beltran as some point in the next year, but Beltran is still such a well-rounded hitter that it's hard to take the free-swinging Stanton at this point.
No. 8: Logan Morrison, Left Field, Florida
The whole "well-rounded versus free-swinging" hitter thing comes into play here, too. Stanton's power might be the best in the game, but Morrison going to have some massive advantages in the batting average and on-base percentage categories unless Stanton can figure out how to cut down on the K's.
No. 9: Roy Halladay, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia
You know, he's not here to hit.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Washington
This is why you don't trade catching depth. It simply doesn't exist. The Twins should have had a perfect in-house replacement for Mauer when he got hurt in Ramos, but instead they have a closer taking in one of the biggest salaries on the team in Matt Capps.
Infielder: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
It's a little scary how bad Ramirez has been so far, but the characteristically solid K/BB numbers leave me optimistic that he'll return to somewhere near his previous level of performance. And when you've spent years as a top-5 player in the entire National League, you can afford to give back a few runs and still be a star.
Infielder: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia
Provides most of his value through superb defense at this point, but he's still a league average hitter that's capable of going on hot streaks when his BABIP isn't ridiculously low. Probably isn't a good sign that the defensive metrics are down on him across the board so far this season, though.
Outfielder: Mike Stanton, Florida
We've pretty much gone over this before: he's already very, very good because of the power, and that very power is what gives him the potential to be truly great, but none of that is going to happen unless he can improve his approach. Luckily, he's only 21 and he's on pace for a 35+ homer season, so things are looking bright.
Outfielder: Jason Heyward, Atlanta
No. 1: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
No. 2: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia
No. 3: Josh Johnson, Florida
No. 4: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
No. 5: Tommy Hanson, Atlanta
We'll talk about the rotation as a whole. The big three from Philly were no-brainers, as was Johnson from Florida. Really, the only tough spot to figure out was No. 5, because there were a bunch of very good options. I opted with Hanson because I love the stuff and he's pitched so well this year, but taking someone like Florida's Anibal Sanchez or Washington's Jordan Zimmermann would've been entirely defensible. This rotation is like playing Backyard Baseball with an eternally full juice box.
Long: Leo Nunez, Florida
Middle: Drew Storen, Washington
Middle: Eric O'Flaherty, Atlanta
Middle: Francisco Rodriguez, New York
Set-Up: Ryan Madson, Philadelphia
Set-Up: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
Closer: Jonny Venters, Atlanta
As you can see, high-end pitching is becoming a trademark of the NL East, between the Phillies' vaunted rotation and Atlanta's stacked bullpen. The Braves have arguably the best reliever in the game right now in Venters, plus two more elite relievers in Kimbrel and O'Flaherty. Kimbrel closes in Atlanta, but I want my best reliever, Venters, to be closing here. O'Flaherty and Venters are the only two non-closers in this entire bullpen; outside of those two, we've taken the closer from each team. But in this instance, it's actually because the teams have tapped their best relievers at closers.