Column/Top kids to rob from the cradle

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 10, 2006

I’ve looked around Major League Baseball and have seen a lot more productive young talent than I can ever remember.

And then I had a thought: What if I could field a lineup of players that are all 25-years-old or younger?

Think of it as “Babyface Baseball.” Catchy, right? No? Well, who asked you?

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You can see my roster of all stars that still use nightlights when we go down “The List.”

Catcher/Brian McCann, Braves, 22 – A catcher that hits lefty, has a strong, accurate arm and is near the top of the league in hitting is worth his weight in gold. I thought when Atlanta traded Johnny Estrada away at the end of last season, it had made its biggest mistake since trading Jermaine Dye for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart in 1997. Wrong!

Third base/Miguel Cabrera, Marlins, 23 – There were other guys at this position that made the decision downright unfair: David Wright, Hank Blalock, Ryan Zimmerman.

But I’ll take Miggy because he has a World Series ring, he’s more athletic and he has far more room to develop physically than the other three guys combined. Scaryyyyyyy.

Shortstop/Jose Reyes, Mets, 23 – This guy leaves no question he is head and shoulders above everyone not named Derek Jeter.

Now that he’s healthy, he’s a force.

Second base/Robinson Cano, Yankees, 23 – That New York didn’t trade away a prospect of his talent is shocking.

He can’t run, and he’s just an average fielder, but a second baseman that hits for average and power from the left side is an A+.

First base/Justin Morneau, Twins, 25 – This guy smells clutch RBIs like dogs smell burning bacon. I love him even more because he knows how good he is, and he’ll make you aware of it the first time you see him.

Plus he’s Canadian. Don’t ask me why, but those guys come to the majors ready to play.

Left field/Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays, 24 – I don’t like the injury risk, but I need another righty to balance my lineup. He’s a leader, and he does most of his talking with his bat and glove.

Center field/Grady Sizemore, Indians, 23 – Five tools plus one they haven’t thought of yet. He has 40-40 ability, and he’s brilliant in the outfield.

Right field/Jeff Francouer, Braves, 22 – Okay, seriously, this kid needs to start taking more pitches. But some guys you pay to bunt, and some guys you pay to swing out of their butts.

What impresses me most about him is that he’s got Al Kaline arm strength.

Designated hitter/David Wright, Mets, 23 – Think a right-handed version of David Ortiz. Umm, yeah.

Starting pitcher/Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, 25 – Innings and wins, innings and wins. The past three seasons, he’s averaged 216 and 14. This is a horse I could ride all the way to Title Town.

Closer/Jonathan Papelbon, 25 – Have you ever seen a close-up of his face when he’s staring in to home plate? I have, and I nearly peed my pants.

Besides the glare, he has foul stuff, and he absolutely knows the game is over as soon as he comes in.

I believe someone once said the same about this guy named Mariano Rivera.

George l. jones is sports editor of the Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at