The Climbing Tal’s Hill staff has fielded their own fictional baseball team, who could be the “Replacements” of Major League Baseball and the Astros.
Although we don’t have enough contributors to field a full baseball team, here at Climbing Tal’s Hill, we have a few guys who dreamed of playing the child’s game for the rest of their lives. Other than writing about the Houston Astros, our staff has eyed this piece to show you what they can do.
Some may remember the 2000s film, The Replacements, which followed a fictional football team looking to replace current players on strike. While we have former collegiate athletes on staff, we still wouldn’t be much help to Houston baseball, but we can sure dream.
Major League Baseball is currently in a lockout, so here is what Climbing Tal’s Hill has to offer, if sought out by the Astros. Of course, baseball cannot be conducted in a lockout, but let’s look at this hypothetically.
Zach Hablinski – 2B
Standing at 5-foot-7 and 140-pounds, Hablinski is similar to a Jose Altuve build but with somewhat less muscle and a lot less speed. He’s a great get on-base hitter, but relies mainly on bloopers over the shortstop or second baseman’s heads – lots and lots of singles.
He’s a great defensive fielder, but his poor arm strength forces him to play at second, and he may be a weakness on throws to the plate.
Marty Coleman – CF
Standing 5-foot-10, Coleman had the build of Myles Straw in his playing days. A power hitter in Little League, he hit towering 200-foot home runs into the night and did the same in high school, but those 200 footers were now pop ups to short left field.
A decent center fielder, with a good arm and weak bat, he believed the coach when told he was placed ninth in the order because “you’re our second leadoff hitter.” Yeah, right.
Joe Fernandez – SS/CF
Continuing the Astros trend of Cuban acquisitions, Fernandez is primarily known for his speed and defensive abilities. His range plays at both shortstop and center field with a strong throwing arm that profiles well at both positions.
He won’t hit for a lot of power but can get you in the 15 homer range, maybe 20 on a good season. He has a very patient approach at the plate which leads to a high on-base percentage. Everything you just read is based on how he does in his softball leagues every year.
Brian Dunleavy – RF
When it comes to useful players, there’s no more useful than a five-tool righty that you can move around the diamond to best support your team, that is not Dunleavy. As a left-handed, non-pitcher, there aren’t many places left on the diamond for him to fit in.
Although he used to be able to run and hit for power, after the many six packs and years of age, he is relegated to right field. Dunleavy’s arm will keep runners at bay and his power will be able to drive in close to 80 RBI and 20 home runs, as long as he is facing similarly aged players with the same physiology.
Otherwise, he will be a master of the TV remote and penciling in athletes to the lineup who are in shape.
Matt Kunkel – 3B/RP
Standing 6-foot-2 and (let’s say) 210-pounds, Kunkel is a pure contact hitter with below-average power, and Tony Eusebio-like speed. He is a textbook aggressive hitter who loves to swing at the first-pitch…and the second-pitch…and the third-pitch.
In fact, Kunkel rarely ever goes deep into the count. “Strike Out or Barrel it” is his motto. His OPS took a nose-dive in High School, once the defensive shift was instituted and he could no longer rely on his speed.
What makes Kunkel unique is that he is also a very below-average pitcher. The righty reliever relies on a steady diet of 70 MPH fastballs and a “gentle” curve ball that usually tops out at 54 MPH.
He once threw an immaculate inning against his three daughters in the backyard and made them cry (it’s not my fault they can’t lay off the curve). Experts would describe his pitching as a “poor man’s very poor Joe Biagini”.
Christian Espinoza – C
While the team here at Climbing Tal’s Hill would like to put Espinoza behind the dish for his ability to command the game and be a calming presence for pitchers and his jungle cat-like reflexes, the reality is that they want him back there as he can take a 90+ MPH fastball off the dome with little to no issue.
Espinoza’s collegiate alma mater’s mascot was the Mule. Offensively, the 6-foot-4 and 215-pound catcher is just that, a mule.
He is stubborn at the plate, always staying ahead and never allowing a pitcher to dictate an at-bat. Despite the physical frame, he is more of a finesse hitter. The “Dollar Tree Joe Mauer” is always aiming for the gaps while conveniently never stretching doubles to triples.
Kenny Van Doren – 1B
While once a small catcher that could hold his own behind the dish, Van Doren grew to 6-foot-1, and in-part, he lost all aspects of speed and athleticism. Oddly enough, he was one of the best scoopers at the first base position, since coaching couldn’t find him succeeding anywhere else.
Van Doren can sometimes be caught hiding in the bullpen bathroom to avoid playing late into contests, so he can talk shop with the coach in the dugout instead. If you’re looking for a singles merchant that can pick like Yuli Gurriel, Van Doren is your “Walmart” version of that guy.