A few years ago, I had a fantasy team that won a title in part thanks to a certain fantasy stud named Mike whose last name just happens to be the name of a fish.* My wife – not exactly a baseball fan, though she spends more time around the game than she might wish – thought I should go all in: cut everyone NOT named after a fish and build a team entirely of fish-themed players.
No matter how many times I tell her this would be nearly impossible, she insists I should try (in much the same way I insist that my son should try putting away his toys when he insists he needs help). So today, I try to build a fish-themed team, and look for other, potentially more successful themes.
Fish names are pretty rare in baseball. I know they seem common, and if we were building an all-time roster, we’d have some pieces – Mike Trout, Catfish Hunter, Tim Salmon, Mike Carp. There are a handful of Fisher’s in MLB history. A couple more Trouts (Dizzy and his son Steve). But the options for 2016 are limited. You can add A.J. Pollock to the list. Anthony Bass. You can stretch for Matt CARPenter. Chris BASSitt. It would not be a good team, and you would have a lot of empty roster spots.
So let’s open things up – what if we say not just fish but ANY animal? Greg Bird, Starling Marte, any Jay’s (Bruce being the only one who comes to mind) and Marlon Byrd (small stretch…). If you want a bigger stretch, you can add Mike MOUStakas, perhaps. And you are starting to field a lineup. The OF of Trout, Marte, Pollock, Bruce isn’t half bad. Bird, Carpenter and Moustakas start a solid IF, too. Collin COWgill would work, too. Maybe we can count J.A. “but it is pronounced Jay” Happ? Jeff Samadzija counts if we want to include nicknames, I suppose. He could even be on the fish team!
So animal names is tough, too. What about a team made up of guys who don’t go by their first name? What about an IF of Jose Miguel Cabrera, James Brian Dozier, Mariekson Gregorius, James Gordon Beckham, and David LeMahieu. You could have Gerald Posey behind the plate. The OF is solid, too – Allen Pollock, Julio Daniel Martinez, Markus Betts, William Fowler and Senger Peralta. That’s a reasonable lineup.
Of course there are other plays off names. If you used only alliterative names, you could put together a competitive team: Miguel Montero, Edwin Encarnacion, Freddie Freeman, Chris Coghlan, Manny Machado, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Correa, Mike Moustakas on the IF, an OF of Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Colabello, Seth Smith, and Billy Burns. Depth with Mitch Moreland. Even your rotation – Carlos Carrasco, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Lance Lynn, Rubby De La Rosa – is strong. And you can get just enough saves from Brad Boxberger, Mark Melancon, and perhaps Jeremy Jeffress to make a pen that works. And you get some youth, too – Byron Buxton, Trea Turner, Manual Margot, David Dahl…
There are other options besides names. I am partial to the current and former Indian lineup (Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Johnny Peralta, Luis Valbuena, Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Mark Reynolds, David Murphy, Shin-soo Choo, plus the current stellar rotation and, just for fun, Bartolo Colon). You could rebuild the World Baseball Classic using only MLB players – The U.S., the Dominican Republic, and a few other countries would field competitive teams.
My personal favorite is the 25 and under team – Trout, Harper, Machado, Bryant, Correa, Heyward, Rizzo, Betts, Arenado, Altuve, Bogaerts, Cole, Bumgarner, Gray, Miller, Martinez, and more. Now that would be a fun team.
*It was Mike Carp. Seriously.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.