Do you love (and miss) baseball? Do you love Survivor? Join the club.
With pro sports in the United States on hold during the pandemic, Survivor has become a competitive viewing outlet for many people. When 8 p.m. ET arrives each Wednesday night, we’re ready. A couple of weeks ago, Season 40 frontrunner Tony Vlachos threw his own version of a Survivor perfect game by finding a hidden immunity idol, winning an immunity challenge and pulling off a blindside all in one episode.
So, here’s a fun thought: Let’s combine two of America’s greatest pastimes. What is the best cast we could make for Survivor that is comprised exclusively of current Major Leaguers?
The setup: One player from each team must be represented, so this cast jumps from Survivor’s standard 20 participants up to 30. From there, let’s be mindful of how Survivor’s producers seemingly cast -- entertainment factor and star quality are obviously important -- and consider some of the traits that frequently have led to success for contestants.
Here, then, are our five MLB Survivor categories: physical strength, clutch, social (players with popular social media accounts), swagger and resourcefulness. Each division will have all categories covered to make up its tribe.
Here we go.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST TRIBE
Yankees -- Aaron Judge (physical strength): The 6-foot-7, 282-pound superstar would be a beast in challenges. Per Baseball Savant, he had the highest average exit velocity last season (95.9 mph). He also has an endearing personality, which never hurts when it comes to gaining allies.
Red Sox -- Nathan Eovaldi (clutch): Career regular-season ERA? 4.30. Career postseason ERA? 1.61. He was especially clutch in the 2018 World Series, when he allowed just one earned run over eight innings (three appearances). He’d turn up the heat when needed in dramatic tribal councils.
Rays -- Blake Snell (social): Snellzilla4 has an active presence on Twitter and Instagram and treated viewers to some solid trash talk on Twitch en route to winning the MLB The Show Players League championship. His interviews would be stellar.
Blue Jays -- Bo Bichette (swagger): His flowing locks and those roundhouse swings scream cockiness. He was the first player in history with 10 extra-base hits in his first nine career games. Bichette would be the young tribe member who’s boisterous from the outset.
Orioles -- John Means (resourcefulness): He made the All-Star team in his first full season, pulling off a 3.60 ERA despite a 4.41 FIP. He’s effective at generating weak contact. He probably could convince other tribe members he'd found a hidden idol even if his pockets were empty.
AL CENTRAL TRIBE
Twins -- Josh Donaldson (physical strength): Of his 219 career homers (at least 33 in each of his past four full seasons), 29 percent have gone to center or the opposite way. He’s an intimidating presence who seems ready to mix it up. Also, his nickname “Bringer of Rain” will fit right in during those inevitable South Pacific storms.
Royals -- Salvador Perez (clutch): He had the game-winning hit in extras in the Royals’ 2014 AL Wild Card Game win vs. the A’s, then hit .364 to win MVP honors in the five-game World Series victory over the Mets the following year. Salvy won’t crack under pressure.
White Sox -- Tim Anderson (social): Big personality @timanderson7 always brings his 143,000 Instagram followers tremendous content, and his teammates love when he brings out the home run chain.
Indians -- Francisco Lindor (swagger): Since his first Major League callup in 2015, Lindor’s personality and game have dripped with flair. He’s one of the sport’s best players (27.6 career WAR), one of its most popular (four All-Star selections) and is a flashy fielder (two AL Gold Glove Awards). Oh, and you can’t forget his stylish 'dos (who doesn’t love a blue mohawk?) and, of course, that smile.
Tigers -- Daniel Norris (resourcefulness): He already has experience growing an epic beard and living on his own in a van. Perhaps no active player would be better suited to adapting to the minimalist Survivor lifestyle.
AL WEST TRIBE
Mariners -- Daniel Vogelbach (physical strength): The Mariners slugger came into his own last season with a 30-homer campaign. He used to hover around 300 pounds, and Survivor has had several inspiring stories of competitors who overcame weight struggles.
A’s -- Mike Fiers (clutch): Despite being just 10 games over .500 in his career, Fiers has two no-hitters to his name. He makes the most of his opportunities and wouldn’t back down from a tough situation -- look no further than his courage discussing the Astros’ sign-stealing situation from 2017.
Rangers -- Joey Gallo (social): He recently joined TikTok, made one epic video and immediately got more than 54,000 likes. That’s impressive, just like his back-to-back 40-homer seasons in 2017-18.
Astros -- Alex Bregman (swagger): He just oozes confidence. Those stares into the camera after his homers? So smooth. And just imagine this superstar in the same tribe as Fiers. That could be interesting. ...
Angels -- Shohei Ohtani (resourcefulness): Yes, we’ll put the first full-time two-way player since Babe Ruth on MLB Survivor. Ohtani’s versatility is exactly what the show requires to be successful. He’s been a star in two professional leagues as well, showing just how adaptable he is.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST TRIBE
Mets -- Pete Alonso (physical strength): An engaging personality who set the rookie record last season with 53 homers and is nicknamed “Polar Bear?” Easy choice. Oh, and he has no problem running around without a shirt on, a longstanding Survivor custom.
Nats -- Howie Kendrick (clutch): The reigning World Series MVP Award winner hit the game-winning homer in last year’s Fall Classic and has managed to survive 14 big league seasons. Impressive. He’d also have some great immunity challenge victory celebrations.
Phillies -- Didi Gregorius (social): A master of emojis on Twitter, @DidiG18 has amassed quite a following (more than 300,000). He made his mark by taking over as Yankees shortstop after Derek Jeter retired, so he knows something about challenging situations and endearing himself to teammates.
Braves -- Ronald Acuña Jr. (swagger): There’s no one quite like Acuña. The game comes so easily to this 22-year-old superstar, who has made it known he wants to be the first 50-50 player in history. He has the cachet and self-confidence that can make for a great Survivor villain.
Marlins -- Miguel Rojas (resourcefulness): Rojas has played games at every infield position in each of the past four seasons and has turned himself into a capable big leaguer. He’d be the worker type in the tribe, doing whatever was needed, advancing far and staying beneath the radar.
NL CENTRAL TRIBE
Reds -- Michael Lorenzen (physical strength): Have you seen his workouts? He’s a physical specimen who probably could swim into the ocean, retrieve keys 20 feet under water, swim back to shore and then dig up puzzle pieces buried in the sand … all without getting winded.
Cardinals -- Adam Wainwright (clutch): The big right-hander immediately made a name for himself as a rookie in 2006 with his clutch performance to close out the Mets in that year’s NL Championship Series and has gone on to post a lifetime 2.81 ERA in 105 2/3 postseason innings. He may be past his peak, but the wily vet still managed to win 14 games in 2019.
Pirates -- Chris Archer (social): He’s one of the most thoughtful players in the game and has built a strong social following (@ChrisArcher22 on Twitter, @chrisarcher24 on Instagram) with a good mix of serious content and light-hearted humor.
Cubs -- Javier Báez (swagger): Is there any player with more swag than Javy? He can make breathtaking plays in the field, pull off no-look tags and even try the hidden-ball trick. He’s the type of player who would find an immunity idol and hide it so quickly no one would even notice. There’s a reason he’s called “El Mago.”
Brewers -- Brent Suter (resourcefulness): First, he went to Harvard. Then, he made it to the Majors despite being a 31st-round Draft pick. He’s also a master of impressions and could keep the tribe loose.
NL WEST TRIBE
Giants -- Jeff Samardzija (physical strength): The former Notre Dame football star has carved out an impressive 12-year MLB career. And he wouldn’t be the first “Shark” to make an appearance on Survivor.
Padres -- Fernando Tatis Jr. (social): Sure, his on-field exploits from a dynamic rookie season were sensational (4.1 WAR in 84 games), but how about that Instagram following (@fernando_tatis21) of more than 420,000? He knows how to promote, an important Survivor skill.
D-backs -- Madison Bumgarner (clutch): Doesn’t Bumgarner seem like the type of contestant who would flourish being in the middle of a jungle for 39 days? He certainly wouldn’t wilt under pressure. You may have heard he’s been pretty, pretty good in the World Series … 4-0, 0.25 ERA. And how funny would it be to hear other contestants tell him to retrieve items out of the ocean?
Dodgers -- Walker Buehler (swagger): He’s good. And he knows he’s good. He’ll vote you out of the tribe and wave goodbye as your torch is being snuffed. Teammate Gavin Lux referred to him as “the most confident human being on the planet.”
Rockies -- Ian Desmond (resourcefulness): When he was a free agent in 2016, he signed with the Rangers, became an outfielder for the first time in his career and turned it into a $70 million contract with the Rockies. That’s making the most of an opportunity, just like the best survivors do.