If you can pick one player to start a franchise who would you take? A stud shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki? How about a young outfielder in Justin Upton? In this piece I will take a look at some of the young stars of today and determine who the best player would be to start a franchise.
Troy Tulowitzki: Tulowitzki is really, really good. He's only 26 years old, already has complied a 24.4 career WAR and is technically just starting to enter his prime. This year Tulowitzki is on pace to put up his best season of his career, already posting a 6 WAR. He has a .238 ISO, a .389 wOBA, 28.3 wRAA and a 138 wRC+. His BABIP is .299 so one would think he'll remain consistent but his career BABIP is .315 so he could see a slight increase in his numbers. He has a really good eye at the plate, striking out in only 10.8% of his at-bats this year and walking in 10.8 of them.
His career numbers are just as good as this years numbers but are skewed due to his 2008 season. His career ISO is .211 but that's slightly skewed because of his injury plagued 2008 season where he posted a .138 ISO. His career wOBA is .371, a wRC+ average of 119, again, skewed due to 2008. He's always had a good eye, only striking out 15.9% of his at-bats and walking 9.5% of the time. UZR rates him as an above average defender, posting a 15.2 in 2007, .1 in '08, 2.4 in '09, 7.1 in '10 and 11.4 so far this season. In his career Tulowitzki has already given the Rockies $104.8 million dollars worth of value and should continue to contribute in Colorado for a long time after signing a huge $134 million, 7 year deal last season. Let's see how Tulo ranks against one of the best SS of all-time in Cal Ripken Jr., another power hitting SS.
When you first look at the graph you may think no way does Tulo compare but remember that dreadful '08 seasn he had. In Ripken's second and third season he also put up crazy WARs of 8.8 and 10.3. After that he put one more double digit WAR then started to hover around the upper 4 to 6 WAR. Ripken is one of the game's best and who knows if Tulo will ever be that good but he's off to a nice start as he begins to enter his prime and is an excellent piece if you want to start a franchise.
Justin Upton: The younger of the Upton's is starting to come into his own, on his way to a career year, on pace to post over 6 WAR. So far this year he's at 5.5. Upton is an all around stud, posting good power, an exceptional eye, good speed and all around defense. This season he has a career high .248 ISO, a ridiculous .398 wOBA, 33.1 wRAA and a 148 wRC+. His BABIP is pretty high at .332 but his career BABIP is .342 so he should remain stable. His eye is exceptional, walking 8.5% of the time and striking out 17.9%.
His career numbers are just as good. Due to his poor season last year they are a little lower then what we should expect for the rest of his career. He has a solid .210 career ISO but that should increase as the years go on. His .365 wOBA is solid and his 119 wRC+ is ok but again skewed do to last year. His career BB% is solid, 10.2% but his K% is a little high, 24.1% but has improved this year. In his 3 full season he has a 13.7 WAR and remember he's only 23 years old and the sky's the limit. Let's take a look at how he compares to one of the best OF ever in Ken Griffey Jr.
Both started off with similar power numbers, KGJ had slightly better wOBA numbers but the WAR numbers aren't too far off. In Griffey's third season he posted a 7.4 WAR, if Upton turns it on in the last month and a half he could push 6.5 WAR but Upton's only 23 and will continue to get better. UZR tells us that Upton is an above average defender, posting a 13.2 career UZR.
Upton has given the DBacks $60.4 million dollars worth of value and will be producing in Arizona for quite some time and is an excellent choice to start a team with.
Evan Longoria: Longo has been a stud since his arrival in the big leagues. He's been hurt this year so his numbers so far aren't at his true playing level. He has a 3 WAR, .220 ISO, a disappointing .340 wOBA, 7.1 wRAA and a 117 wRC+. His BABIP is an abursdly low .233 so he should expect an increase in his stats before the season's over. He has a keen eye, walking 11.8% of the time and striking out 16.8% of the time.
His career stats are more along what you can expect. He has a .234 ISO, .370 wOBA and a 131 wRC+. His career BABIP is also .305, much more sustainable. He walks 10.6% and strikes out 20.3% which is solid.
UZR likes him a lot, posting a 15.2 in 2008, 17.7 in '09, 11.1 last year and 5.4 so far this year. Really solid numbers.
He's also given the Rays $102.2 million dollars worth of value. Not bad for someone who has a 7 year, $16.5 million dollar contract. Let's see how he stacks up against George Brett.
Wow, they are almost identical in WAR when they were 25 years old. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves now but Longoria will be good for along time as he begins to enter his prime.
I only gave you 3 examples in this post but you could also look at Dustin Pedroia, Matt Kemp, Felix Hernandez. Personally I would choose Tulo. It's rare that you find a power hitting shortstop who also plays excellent defense and is just about ready to enter his prime. Any 3 that I presented would be an excellent choice.
*Edit: Click graphs to make them larger*