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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

4/19/22 : inexperienced players - 12 championship team compositions

Often times I hear that younger players need regular playing time to further develop and that it’s a disservice to have them be a major league part time player and/or reserve - that prompted me to research that perspective from previous winning team’s roster compositions.

With my focus being primarily on internal player development I was curious on what has succeeded for recent championship teams. How many major league “greenhorns” saw playing time with the team becoming the one to hoist the trophy ? So rather than wondering out loud how many of the more recent World Series winners fielded rosters that included first or second year major league players and how much they played I decided to research it 🤷‍♂️🧐.

I went back to the most recent ten years of champions and “just because” I also included the two Phillies World Series Champions from 1980 and 2008.

The 1980 Phillies :

Outfielder Lonnie Smith was technically a rookie having made just 39 plate appearances previously. He played in 100 games during the 1980 season and made 331 plate appearances posting a .339 batting average and .397 OBP. “Skates” also stole 33 bases that season. Lonnie would further prove to be a championship player in his career as he also went on to win two more rings with the Royals and Cardinals. Although 331 PA’s was significant it was far less than the eight lineup regulars.

Catcher Keith Moreland was also a rookie on the squad and played in 62 games making 171 plate appearances posting a .314 batting average as the back up to Bob Boone. He would go on to have some very nice years with the Cubs and drove in 106 runs for the 1985 Chicago team.

Ramon Avilles was a backup infielder that appeared in 51 games ( 115 PA’s ) and hit .271 - the 28 year old had played in just 28 major league games the previous two seasons. Outfielder George Vukovich played in 78 games in his rookie season and made 64 plate appearances. Twenty one year old infielder Luis Aguayo played in 20 games ( 51 PA’s )

On the pitching side RH Bob Walk was 11-7 in 27 starts as a 23 year old rookie. RH Dickie Noles was a starter in 1979 as a rookie but converted to a reliever in 1980 and appeared in 48 games. RH Marty Bystrom was a late season call up and went 5-0 in six starts as a 21 year old rookie.

A good deal of contributions but other than Walk and Noles on the pitching staff the others weren’t necessarily lineup regulars.

The 2008 Phillies :

Carlos Ruiz was in his second full season as the primary catcher and made 373 plate appearances in 117 games. Chris Coste played in 98 games in his 3rd year with the Phillies making 305 plate appearances. In essence they spilt the regular season relatively evenly.

RH Kyle Kendrick was in his second major league season and posted a 11-9 record in 30 starts as a member of the rotation.

LHP JA Happ appeared in eight games in 2008 totaling 31 1/3 IP - 4 were starts.

The core of the team was home grown but other than those mentioned above every player who saw significant time was at or beyond their third year of major league service.

The Past Ten World Series Champions :

2012 - San Francisco Giants

1B Brandon Belt played in 145 games and made 472 plate appearances in his second year of MLB service as a 24 year old. SS Brandon Crawford was also a second year big leaguer and played in 143 games ( 473 PA’s ). RH reliever George Kontos made 44 appearances and posted a 2.57 ERA in his first full year of big league play. Lineup regulars for the most part.

2013 - Boston Red Sox

3B Will Middlebrooks played in 94 games ( 374 PA’s ) in his second full season as a 24 year old. SS Jose Iglesias ( 23 yrs old ) played in 109 games ( 382 PA’s ) in his first full season - he had appeared in 25 games the year before. Twenty three year old rookie CF Jackie Bradley Jr played in 37 games ( 107 PA’s ). Twenty year old SS Xander Bogarts played in 18 games.

Twenty four year old RHP Brandon Workman pitched in 20 games as a rookie. RHP 26 year old reliever Junichi Tazawa pitched in 37 games and posted a 1.43 ERA in his first full season in the show.

No first or second year player appeared more than those mentioned.

2014 - San Francisco Giants

2B Joe Panik played in 73 games ( 287 PA’s ) and hit .305. The team was an established and experienced roster otherwise.

2015 - Kansas City Royals

RHP Yordany Ventura was in his second full season and made 28 starts. Other than that it was a very talented and relatively home grown roster but all were well into their big league careers.

2016 - Chicago Cubs

SS Addison Russell was in his second full season and made 598 plate appearances in 151 games. Kris Bryant was in his second full season and played in 155 games ( 699 PA’s ). Catcher Willson Contreras was a rookie and appeared in 76 games ( 283 PA’s ) as was OF Albert Almora ( 47 games - 117 PA’s ). 24 year old RHP Carl Edwárds Jr pitched in 36 games in his first full season.

2017 - Houston Astros

3B Alex Bregman was in his second year of MLB service time and made 626 plate appearances in 155 games - definitely a lineup regular. OF Derek Fisher was a 23 year old rookie - he played in 53 games ( 166 PA’s ). Infielder JD Davis played in 24 games as a rookie. RHP Chris Devenski pitched in 68 games ( 80 2/3 IP ) posting a 2.68 ERA as a 26 year old second year big leaguer. RHP Michael Feliz, then 24 years old pitched in 46 games in his second full season. RHP Joe Musgrove ( 24 yrs old ) appeared in 38 games in his second season. Twenty one year old rookie RHP Frances Martes pitched in 40 games.

2018 - Boston Red Sox

Twenty one year old 3B Rafael Devers played in 121 games ( 490 plate appearances ) in his second season. It was otherwise a veteran laden ball club.

2019 - Washington Nationals

OF Juan Soto was in his second full season at the age of 20 and played in 150 games amassing 659 plate appearances posting 34 home runs and driving in 110. Twenty one year old center fielder Victor Robles played in 155 games ( 617 PA’s ) in his first full season action. RHP Tanner Rainey ( 26 yrs old ) pitched in 52 games in his first full season. RHP Eric Fedde ( 26 yrs old ) pitched in 21 games ( 78 IP ) in his second full season.

2020 - Los Angeles Dodgers

Twenty five year old Catcher Will Smith played in 37 games in the shortened 60 game season as the primary catcher in his 2nd big league year. Second year players Gavin Lux ( 22 yrs old ) and Matt Beatty ( 27 yrs old ) played in 19 and 21 games respectively. Twenty two year RHP Dustin May pitched in 12 games ( 10 starts ) in his second MLB year. LHP Victor Gonzalez ( 24 yrs old ) pitched in 15 games ( 20 1/3 IP ) posting a 1.33 ERA in his rookie year.

2021 - Atlanta Braves

Catcher Willam Contreras ( 23 yrs old ) played in 52 games ( 185 PA’s ) in his rookie season. RHP Ian Anderson ( 23 yrs old ) made 24 starts ( 128 1/3 IP ) in his first full season. Twenty three year old RHP Huascar Ynoa made 17 starts in his first full year.

Conclusion 🤷‍♂️ :

Basically these 12 championship teams had a handful of first or second year “regular” position players that exceeded 550 plate appearances. First/second year players that were on the clubs and contributed in support roles didn’t seem to have any lingering ill effects from a part time status in those championship years. Experience seemed to be the rule on these 12 champions for winning the last game of the season.

While not suggesting that this year’s Phillies are going to the World Series playing fellas like Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling or any other first/second year players in support roles is seemingly more the norm than the exception for clubs that consider themselves as championship contenders - just sayin 😎

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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