A few weeks ago the Sun-Times Chris DeLuca named Alexei Ramirez the city's best player. While I was not doubting DeLuca, it got us to thinking who we felt the best player was. And determining a list like this is never easy, and while there are 15 potential preseason all-stars combined on the Sox and Cubs, none of them stuck out as a unanimous pick for #1. But we thought we should have a go at it. So below are TTCS' top Chicago baseball players.
10. Bobby Jenks
After back-to-back 40-save seasons in 2006 and 2007, Bobby took a small step backwards in '08 with only 30 saves. He claims he took something off on his fastball so he could save his arm a little more and throw his splitter with more of a purpose. It is tough to say as to whether or not that idea will eventually pay off, but one thing is for sure; he gets the job done. He only blew four saves last year and only one of them was after June 4th. He just finds ways to close out games.
9. Mark Buehrle
Buehrle is the rock not only of the rotation, but probably the entire clubhouse. While his numbers have curtailed since his extraordinary 2005, a 3.79 ERA is still very good in the steroid era of baseball. Not to mention that there isn't a better big-game pitcher in the city than Mark.
8. Ryan Dempster
While even another good year for Dempster will probably not equate to last season's totals, it is hard to not put a 17-game winner with a sub-3 ERA off this list. For Cubs fan's sake (and Eli) I hope he doesn't re-gain his "Dumpster" tag after signing that monster contract.
7. Geovany Soto
All the field-players on this list can hit. But Geo is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He committed only five errors in 136 games. Not to mention he hit 23 homers drove in 86 in his rookie campaign, good enough for NL Rookie of the year. And Geo is only going to get better.
6. John Danks
There hasn't been this much promise from a young Sox pitcher in maybe a decade, but 2009 could be the year Danks makes himself a household name. His 12-9 record last season is very deceiving when looking at his 3.32 ERA and 1.226 WHIP (not much run support on days Danks took the bump). He also struck out a solid 159 batters last season.
5. Alfonso Soriano
Injuries and a slow start plagued the Fonz's 2008 season. But for weeks at a time he can single-handedly lead an offense (See May 12-17: 6 games, 15 hits, 7 home runs, 13 RBI, 10 runs). While it is impossible to keep that pace the entire year, if he can gain some sort of consistency Lou will have no choice but bump him lower in the order... and make us put him higher on this list.
4. Alexei Ramirez
DeLuca's pick for the Chicago's best baseball player, and it is hard to question that. He is the most well-rounded of anybody on the list, especially when we put speed and glove work into the equation. There is really not much of a reason he is not #1 other than the fact that he is playing a new position this season, and while he played short in Cuba and I hope the transition is smooth, him being unproven at the ML level gives pessimistic Sox fans (myself) reasonable doubt.
3. Aramis Ramirez
A-Ram deserves a spot on this list solely because of his performance in the three-game series at Wrigley against the Sox (4 home runs, 8 RBI) last year. But his 27 homers last year to go along with 111 RBI and 97 runs are nothing to scoff at either. With an exception of a sub-par July, his numbers were pretty consistent throughout the year.
2. Carlos Zambrano
While his numbers were down last season, and while there are a lot of good starters in the city, I think he would be the ace of an All-Chicago team. He pitched a no-hitter last season that put his dominance on display. Not only that but the intimidation and intensity he brings cannot be matched by many in baseball, much less Chicago.
1. Carlos Quentin
Q is sick. Plain and simple. Nobody carried their respective team for as long as Quentin carried the Sox last April and May. In his first season with an everyday starting position, Carlos hit 36 homers and 100 RBI while hitting .288 with a .394 on-base percentage. And to think, Ozzie didn't initially have him in his opening day plans. If not for breaking his hand the Sox would have had their first MVP since Frank Thomas earned the honor in 1994. According to reports it doesn't sound like Quentin has lost any of his pop either since Spring Training opened two weeks ago.