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Friday, June 10, 2011
Faces of the franchises ... circa 2016

By Eric Karabell

Looking around baseball it’s not too difficult to figure out the faces of each franchise. It's not necessarily the best player, as is the case with the, um, New York Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter. In some cases it's not an everyday player at all, but a pitcher, as with Tim Lincecum of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. What, you thought the face of the Giants was Nate Schierholtz?

Anyway, you must recall the very popular franchise draft from two weeks ago, as well as the very successful second-round follow-up with myself and David Schoenfield. But what will the major league baseball franchises look like in five years? Let's take a look -- fun yet serious -- at faces of the franchise, circa 2016!

National League

Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, outfield. Hopefully by then Chipper Jones will not only have stepped aside, but also will have stopped ripping the team's future stud.

Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, outfield. What, you thought he'd still be a shortstop? He's barely one now. I thought about Scott Cousins, but the Giants wouldn't allow it.

New York Mets: David Einhorn, owner. OK, so that's probably not a good idea, but consider the Dallas Mavericks. Is their face Dirk Nowitzki or is it Mark Cuban? Plus, how many current "star" Mets will be gone before August? Will any current Mets be around in three years? Enough. I'm picking the Mets' face to be ... shortstop Wilmer Flores. He's 19 and not tainted yet.

Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown, outfield. Some of the team's core will be retired in five years. The rest ... will be retired in three years. Yeah, it's not a young team. Brown will be good, though.

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, outfield. You might not realize it now, but in five years, this franchise should be extremely competitive. I'll take Harper over Stephen Strasburg, but both should be among the best in the game.

Felix Hernandez
Will Felix Hernandez be pitching for the Cubs in 2016?
Chicago Cubs: Felix Hernandez, starting pitcher. Most people would say Starlin Castro, and I do like him, but when the Cubs trade the farm for King Felix late in 2012, he'll become The Man. Sorry, Seattle.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto, first base. He's already won one MVP. Wouldn't shock me if Jay Bruce gets one soon, as well. Aroldis Chapman finishes a distant eighth in the conversation here.

Houston Astros: Delino DeShields Jr., second base. Last year's top draft pick should be a joy to watch and, let's face it, unless the Astros trade for their next face, there's not much here. Who is the face now? Hunter Pence could be a Yankee by November, let alone by 2016.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, outfield. He'll be there forever, their 21st century version of Robin Yount.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, outfield. A year ago I might have gone with Pedro Alvarez, but not anymore. McCutchen is special, and he can actually hit.

St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols, first base. I nearly put Pujols in a Cubs uniform, but public pressure to keep him in St. Louis will be too great. Then again, look at A-Rod with the Yankees right now; in five years Pujols won't be such a statistical guarantee.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, outfield. Not only that, this Upton, the one with monster power, should be one of the top players in the game and earn MVP awards.

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo may make Padres fans forget about Adrian Gonzalez.
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki, shortstop. Kind of hard to see him elsewhere, or a teammate more important. He has more staying power than CarGo.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Trayvon Robinson, outfield. Matt Kemp is only 26, but Robinson profiles as the center fielder down the road, an exciting athlete who won’t be looking to run from this Dodgers mess as soon as his contract ends. Sorry, sidebar. Plus, who knows if the Dodgers will be able to afford free agents by 2016?

San Diego Padres: Anthony Rizzo, first base. Has one game under his belt, and by 2016 he should be better than 35-year-old Red Sox DH Adrian Gonzalez.

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, first base. Hey, a lot of collisions can happen in five years.

American League

Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado, shortstop. Looks like he'll be a middle-of-the-order presence at a middle-of-the-diamond spot, kind of like A-Rod used to be. Perhaps Matt Wieters will be hitting cleanup when Machado bats third. Or seventh.

Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford, outfield. He's not going anywhere, and the production should be just fine. And that’s not sarcasm.

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, manager. C'mon, that seems outrageous to you? You don't want him playing shortstop even next year, so this is a better deal. By the way, Alex Rodriguez will still be under contract, and clogging the DH spot full-time. Wait until Jeter tries to bench him.

Carl Crawford
By 2016, Red Sox fans will have long forgotten about Carl Crawford's slow start in 2011.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria, third base. Perhaps one of the 1,453 amateur draft picks from this past week will become a stud, but Longoria will still be a Ray, and only 30.

Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie, outfield. Yeah, I think the kid will hit, and hit a lot. And by 2016 the Jose Bautista contract signed this February will have run out, but the franchise's future No. 2 all-time home run hitter (behind only Carlos Delgado) will sign a new one-year deal as the DH.

Chicago White Sox: David Wright, third base. The Mets clean house this winter and the star third baseman ends up in another large metropolis, in a deal centered around reliever Chris Sale and Brent Morel. He finds the Chicago media to be a breath of fresh air.

Cleveland Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall, third base. Pure hitter should be one of the league's top options at the hot corner by 2013. The Tribe will lock him and Jason Kipnis up much like Rockies did with Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, starting pitcher. Former first-round pick should be a future ace, and he and Justin Verlander will get the franchise to numerous playoff appearances. Oh, and Miguel Cabrera will help, too.

Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer, first base. He'll win his first AL MVP award in 2014, and the Joey Votto clone will still be a stud years later. Like the Nationals, put your money on the Royals in five years.

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer, outfield. This will not end like Jeter in New York, because Mauer will switch positions and will be only 33 in five years. And he'll have added two more batting titles to his ledger.

Mike Trout
Mike Trout is a center fielder with power and speed.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout, outfield. You know everything we've been saying about how good Bryce Harper is supposed to be? A lot of people think Trout will be even better. And in five years he'll be only 24.

San Jose Athletics: Grant Green, second base. Team's top prospect will need to move from shortstop, but his bat will play quite nicely. As for the San Jose part, sorry to be negative, but without a stadium ... just blame Al Davis.

Seattle Mariners: Yu Darvish, starting pitcher. One of Ichiro Suzuki's final contributions in his Hall of Fame Mariners career is to convince the overpowering Japanese right-hander to come to the U.S. He accomplishes this a few months after King Felix is dealt to the Cubs.

Texas Rangers: Prince Fielder, first base. I can't see Josh Hamilton, currently 30, still doing this in five years. I can see Fielder with roughly 400 home runs by then.

I’m sure you have thoughts, so share them and remember, this is just an exercise. The commissioner’s office has yet to approve it.