The Ten Best Cubs Right Now: Goat Picks

Again, this list is meant to rank the current Cubs on talent in the current moment. If you needed to win a game tomorrow, who would you ask to pitch? If you needed a hit off a major league pitcher in the next 15 minutes, who would you send to the plate?

Yesterday I published the average results of your votes. Now here's where I stand on the matter:

10. Carlos Marmol

Where would this team be without him? The guy with the best pitch in baseball has done well in the closer's role for the Cubs. But I have him down here because he'll only ever pitch one inning in a game for you. I don't even care that he walks a batter an inning, because he can strike out anyone at any time.
9. Alfonso Soriano

He's not slow, and he's got a great arm, but Soriano continues to be a liability defensively because he takes "interesting" routes to the ball and has a bit of an iron glove after he gets to it. Lacks grace, you might say. But with the bat, he's got the second-most power on this team -- enough to justify even his .275 average and .300 on-base percentage. Sure he's overpaid at $18 million, but he's easily worth at least $10 million.
8. Aramis Ramirez

How the mighty have fallen -- although 2011 won't be as bad as we thought it might be just a few weeks ago. Aramis' bat is still good enough to get the job done, but the power decline is undeniable, even if he does bring his numbers back up somewhat in the second half. From 2004 to 2007 his slugging percentage was at or above .550; in 2008 and 2009 it fell just a bit, to .520, and in 2010 he ended up with a .452. He's now at .408. There's also the issue of his defense at third; the aggregate defensive ratings at Fangraphs suggest Aramis was 10 runs, or a full win worse than the average 3B on D in 2010.

7. Kosuke Fukudome

Fukudome still probably has less power potential than a declining Aramis, and they'll both hit around .270 from here on out. But Kosuke's eye at the plate is incredible, and has given him a .409 OBP so far this year. Plus, the defense: he's at least average in right field, according to the numbers, and the eye test says he's better than that.
6. Ryan Dempster
Demp had a terrible April, but since then: 53 strikeouts, 14 walks, and 20 runs allowed in 56 innings pitched, putting him in the low 3s for ERA. He won't be that good the rest of the way, but if the season started over today he'd still be considered a solid addition to any rotation in the majors. He's worth every dollar he's paid.
5. Carlos Pena

I can see Rob flipping out now; "He's hitting .220!!" It's true. (Wait 'til you see my pick for #4.) But like Dempster, Pena has rebounded from a rough April: of his 169 PA in May and June, 34 ended with hits, 30 ended with walks, and 10 ended with a home run. That's a .379 OBP and a SLG near .500. And even though first base isn't the most valuable defensive position, Pena plays it at a Gold Glove level.
4. Geovany Soto

This is probably the pick for which I will receive the most flack, especially considering Soto's poor batting line so far this season. A .220/.307/.384 is simply not good. But he's a career .263/.355/.460 hitter that plays CATCHER, and plays it well, ahead of Miguel Montero and Brian McCann in caught stealing percentage this season, and just .001 percentage points behind Yadier Molina. ZiPS ROS thinks he'll hit .250/.350/.450 the rest of the way (at catcher!!); if he doesn't, I'll buy you a beer.
3. Matt Garza

Bad timing on this one, after he just got lit up by Milwaukee yesterday. At least he got the win! Regardless, Garza has thrived in the NL Central, with 78 K in 71.2 IP against 29 walks. Yes, he's been hittable -- 73 allowed -- but it's up to you to decide whether that's skill, luck, or both (still a .340 BABIP this year, down to .275 in May/June). Personally, I like his stuff -- his average fastball velo is 93, and his slider is great. I think he's the best pitcher on the team.
2. Marlon Byrd
I guess I'm disregarding my own instructions; technically Byrd wouldn't be allowed to play "right now" by the team medical staff. But when he comes back, he'll be the Cubs second-most talented player right now. He hits .290, has a 10 HR/10 SB floor, and plays solid defense in a premium position on the field. He might not have enough power to hit 3rd, but I wouldn't mind having him hit 2nd. Also, guess who leads the team in Fangraphs WAR since Opening Day 2010? Yep, it's Byrd, and it's not close; his 5.7 WAR is well ahead of Soriano, Soto, and Castro, who are each at about 4.
1. Starlin Castro

Speaking of Castro, how 'bout that 21-year-old kid!! Seriously, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 10 triples and 20 steals are well within his reach -- and he plays shortstop! And he's 21! There are two knocks on him at this point, which are that he doesn't walk, and he's still error prone in the field. To the latter point, I would say that it's the easy plays that Starlin has the hardest time with, which makes me think it's a mental problem and not a skill problem -- which isn't to say that solving it is a foregone conclusion, but I at least think it is solvable. (In contrast, you can't teach Ryan Theriot range or arm strength.) As for the walks thing... how can you argue with those batting stats?! Also he walked twice yesterday, so there.
Long Live King Starlin! Now, please commence with the criticism of my ranks. Thank you!

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  • I'mma quibble with you on your very first entry. The guy with the 'best pitch in baseball'

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