If you took all 50 players who will be on the World Series rosters for the Nationals and Astros, put them into a single group, and had two baseball writers draft teams from them, what would they look like?
That's exactly what MLB.com's Will Leitch and Mike Petriello did in advance of the upcoming Fall Classic, choosing two 15-man rosters based on these rules:
• 9 position players (including DH)
• 1 bench player
• 3 starting pitchers
• 1 setup man
• 1 closer
In order to avoid any weirdness like "Zack Greinke, second baseman," the rule is that the player had to have appeared in at least once game at that position (counting all three outfield spots as one) this season. As you'll see, Will did his best to put Mike in a corner anyway. Mike won a coin flip for the first overall pick, giving Will the next two picks, and then it was a standard draft after that.
1) Gerrit Cole, SP, Astros
Petriello: There are a lot of great starters in this World Series, but we’ll begin with the best one in the game right now; for what little pitcher wins and losses matter in today’s game, the Astros haven’t lost a game that Cole has started since July 12.
2) Alex Bregman, 3B/SS/DH, Astros
Leitch: Bregman is an absolute terror, one of those rare players whose career has had a truly linear trajectory: Better every single year, somehow. I still think there’s more talent in there, too. That he’s one of the most likable players in all of baseball doesn’t hurt, either.
3) Anthony Rendon, 3B/DH, Nationals
Leitch: Boom, curveball! I’m gonna take advantage of the one point in this draft where it goes snake -- I still believe the whole thing should snake, for the record -- by taking the second-best hitter (maybe the best?) and forcing you to figure out what you’re going to do at third base. Maybe I’ll put Bregman at short? (He was drafted as a shortstop and played 65 games there this year, after all.) But having these two in the middle of my order will give me plenty of room for error later in this draft. (Room I’ll need, I suspect: I’m gonna make a lot of errors!)
4) José Altuve, 2B, Astros
Petriello: I’m reeling a little from that back-to-back 3B pick -- so much for a "friendly draft!" -- but I’m happy enough to add Altuve here, in no small part because in 11 postseason games, he has more home runs (5) than strikeouts (4).
5) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
Leitch: This is the World Series, Mike: NO TIME FOR NICETIES. In a perfect world, someone with the on-base skills of Soto can bat second in front of two monsters. I happen to have those monsters right behind him. Maybe Cole will get them out. But I dunno if anyone else will. (Plus, it’s always fun to have a guy who will annoy crusty old fans.)
6) George Springer, OF, Astros
Petriello: If Springer hadn’t missed a few weeks in the first half with a hamstring strain, he’d have been right there alongside Bregman in the “let’s try our best to give the MVP to anyone other than Mike Trout” conversation. As it is, he hit 39 homers, slugged as well as Bregman, and can play two spots in the outfield.
7) Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
Leitch: I’m doing this so we can finally solve the Cole-Verlander conundrum and also because I think if we just get them to spend some time together in the dugout, Verlander and Soto will become best friends.
8) Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals
Petriello: You take your future Hall of Fame ace who will make Tigers fans desperately sad this postseason, and I’ll take mine.
9) Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros
Leitch: A little bit of gamesmanship here, in that I think he’s by far the best first baseman on the board, and thanks to your excellent World Series preview, Mike, I now know he was one of the 10 best hitters in the second half.
10) Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
Petriello: The #narrative around this series is that “starting pitching is back, baby!” so let’s just lean right on into that, regardless of whether it’s truly the start of a trend or just a one-year thing, and form a fully functional fire-breathing top three.
11) Trea Turner, SS/CF, Nationals
Leitch: I’m stacking the top of my order, and with those three starting pitchers you have, I might need to manufacture a run or two. Sure, it is definitely going to cost me some roster flexibility later -- with Bregman at short, I have to play him at DH or risk having him play center, which he hasn’t done for a few years now -- but I like him atop my order enough to risk it.
12) Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Petriello: You’re wondering if your shortstop might have to play center, a spot he hasn’t seen an inning in for more than three years. Mine was one of the 15 best hitters in baseball this year, at least when he was healthy, and have you seen his arm?
13) Patrick Corbin, SP, Nationals
Leitch: Yeah, I should probably get me some starters. Though I’m a little worried I might need Corbin to play some center as well.
14) Michael Brantley, OF, Astros
Petriello: Fourteen players in, and I can still find an outfielder who hit .311/.372/.503 this year. These teams are loaded.
15) Zack Greinke, SP, Astros
Leitch: Honestly, Zack Greinke is the sixth starting pitcher selected in this draft.
16) Howie Kendrick, IF, Nationals
Petriello: I had wanted Kendrick to be my DH or bench player, but thanks to Will’s machinations, he may need to start at third base for me. Hey, did you know that his Statcast quality-of-contact numbers are equal or better to Rendon, Soto or Springer? (In fewer plate appearances, of course.)
17) Victor Robles, CF, Nationals
Leitch: I’ll get one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, if just to make sure I don’t have to put Turner out there. Also, gotta say: He’s had plenty of time to rest that hamstring.
18) Adam Eaton, OF, Nationals
Petriello: I definitely had planned to take Robles here as my bench player to force your hand in center field. Instead, I’ll go with Eaton, who had a good-not-great season that was somewhat better than Josh Reddick’s also good-not-great season.
19) Yordan Alvarez, DH/OF, Astros
Leitch: And … now we pay the piper on the Turner pick. With Turner at DH ... oh, man, do I have to put Alvarez in right field? I do, don’t I? YIKES. I am certain Petriello is queuing up clips of Yordan trying to play defense as I type. (Mike chimes in: Hi.)
As for the bat, I know the Yankees series was rough, but come on, we’ve seen what this guy did to baseballs, right? Anyway, I’m not entirely certain Turner wouldn’t still be better in right than Alvarez ... but that seems against the spirit of this exercise. So -- GULP -- to right field you go, Yordan.
20) Roberto Osuna, RP, Astros
Petriello: Sean Doolittle is immensely more fun to watch, but the difference between their two performances -- Doolittle had a 5.56 ERA in the second half, to begin -- is too much to overlook here.
21) Ryan Pressly, RP, Astros
Leitch: The Game 4 appearance was all I needed to be back aboard this train. I have a sense we are about to go on a bullpen run here. This is much later than I expected us to be just starting to take bullpen dudes in a World Series in the year 2019.
22) Aledmys Díaz, IF, Astros
Petriello: I also wanted Pressly, because he’s dominant, but the fact that he threw all of one pitch in ALCS Game 6 before his knee popped was terrifying. Instead, I’ll push Kendrick to first base and go with the surprisingly productive Diaz (.271/.356/.467) to play third base, which, I can confirm, is something very far from my original plan.
23) Will Harris, RP, Astros
Leitch: Funny Aledmys Díaz story: Harris striking him out in the 2016 All-Star Game, when Díaz was the lone Cardinals representative, with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a 4-2 game … is the main reason Games 6 and 7 of that World Series were played in Cleveland rather than Wrigley Field. This, of course, was back when the All-Star Game determined home-field advantage in the World Series, a practice that ended prior to the 2017 season. Oh, and Díaz was pinch-hitting for Corey Seager. Aren’t All-Star Games something?
24) Josh Reddick, OF, Astros
Petriello: Thank you for reminding me how much better off we are now that the team with the best record gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Since you’re maxed out on your five pitchers, I can leave my last one until the end, and while Reddick didn’t exactly have a great season, you still need a third starting outfielder, so I’m happy to add a solid veteran one to my bench first.
25) Brian Dozier, 2B, Nationals
Leitch: Yeah, I got too excited for the Harris-Díaz connection to make an entirely lucid pick there, but I like me some Harris anyway. I’m a little checkmated at second base, so I guess I have to pick Dozier here. He was hitting 40-plus homers out of nowhere before it was cool to hit 40-plus homers out of nowhere. Sure, once it became cool to do it he basically stopped hitting entirely, but I’m gonna pretend it’s 2016 by science or magic anyway.
26) Matt Adams, 1B/DH, Nationals
Petriello: I suppose at some point I’ll need to get a catcher, but I’d rather have one more big bat off the bench, particularly one with a history of big October hits to strike right at your Cardinals-loving heart, Will. Come on down, Matt Adams, who, believe it or not, actually played by far the most first base innings for Washington this year, giving me some extra flexibility with Kendrick.
27) Robinson Chirinos, C, Astros
Leitch: A while back, I was trying to figure out some sort of Machiavellian way to get both starting catchers on my roster so you had to start Martín Maldonado or something, but it’s not like any of those catchers are so much better than the other ones and besides, do I really want one of my catchers as a bench bat? I am not sure I do. Also, I like imagining who the emergency catchers on our 15-man rosters are. I’m going with Verlander.
28) Kurt Suzuki, C, Nationals
Petriello: "It’s not like any of those catchers are so much better than the other ones” is exactly why I waited for you to pick one first. I am obligated to choose a catcher. Kurt Suzuki is definitely a catcher.
29) Gerardo Parra, OF, Nationals
Leitch: If you are asking me if I am picking my bench bat based on getting 45,000 human beings standing up at once and singing a children’s song -- really, a toddler’s song -- my answer to you, Mike, is yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I apologize for NOTHING. Also: Uh, it’s possible I might need some late-inning defensive help in right field.
30) Sean Doolittle, P, Nationals
Petriello: Look, I know I said above that Doolittle wasn’t at his peak, but you’re going to let me get him to be my setup man with the 30th and final pick? Done and done.
Notable players who were not picked
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, WSH
Aníbal Sánchez, RHP, WSH
Asdrúbal Cabrera, INF, WSH
Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU
Jake Marisnick, OF, HOU
1) Trea Turner, DH
2) Juan Soto, LF
3) Alex Bregman, SS
4) Anthony Rendon, 3B
5) Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6) Yordan Alvarez, RF
7) Victor Robles, CF
8) Brian Dozier, 2B
9) Robinson Chirinos, C
Bench: Gerardo Parra, OF
Game 1: Justin Verlander, RHP
Game 2: Patrick Corbin, LHP
Game 3: Zack Greinke, RHP
Relievers: Ryan Pressly, RHP; Will Harris, RHP
1) Jose Altuve, 2B
2) Michael Brantley, LF
3) George Springer, CF
4) Carlos Correa, SS
5) Howie Kendrick, 1B
6) Adam Eaton, RF
7) Aledmys Diaz, 3B
8) Matt Adams, DH
9) Kurt Suzuki, C
Bench: Josh Reddick, OF
Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP
Game 2: Max Scherzer, RHP
Game 3: Stephen Strasburg, RHP
Relievers: Roberto Osuna, RHP; Sean Doolittle, LHP
So who has the better team?
The combined hitting lines for these squads are pretty similar, though if you add up the total Wins Above Replacement for these rosters (Fangraphs version), Leitch definitely has an edge. However, that gives him full credit for Alvarez's WAR as a DH, which would almost certainly be reduced if you put him in right field, and also hinder the effectiveness of his pitchers in the process. The same can probably be said for playing Bregman out of position, though to a lesser extent.
Petriello: .287/.353/.501, 123 wRC+, 25.3 WAR
Leitch: .284/.372/.525, 132 wRC+, 35.9 WAR
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.