Imagine if Pablo, Keisha, Pete, Tony, and the rest of the Backyard Baseball kids ended up playing in the Majors when they grew up...
Us sports fans have really been struggling to get our fix in these trying times. Many of our favorite sports have been cancelled or postponed, which has laid waste to the fantasy-playing, shit-talking, line-betting lifestyle we were so used to.
Here’s something to brighten the moods of millennials though, and maybe even some Gen-Xers and Gen Zers: Backyard Baseball. Damnit did I love this game as a kid. There was the OG version, released in ’97, which featured fictional players only. Then Backyard Baseball 2001 came out, and we were introduced to the cherubic versions of some of MLB’s biggest stars at the time. Griffey, Jeter, Bonds, Piazza, McGwire, Sosa, Ripken, Nomar, Schilling, (Randy) Johnson, Pudge, and others graced our computer screens with their incredible abilities. In total, I probably spent a couple years of my life playing Backyard Baseball. Worth it.
As fun as the 2001 version and all the versions that proceeded it were, I always preferred the one featuring just kids. Unique characters, lopsided skill sets; they were just hilarious and fun all around. And they were no slouches either.
Everybody that has ever played a Backyard Baseball game, or any Backyard sports game for that matter, knows exactly who the GOAT is. It’s Pablo Sanchez, and it’s not even close. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s skilled, he’s tiny, he doesn’t speak a lick of English, and he’s going to lead you to victory unless you absolutely suck. Pablo is the first pick. 100% of the time.
Then you have Pete Wheeler, the fastest man (boy) who ever lived. And Keisha Phillips, who can hit balls into orbit. And Tony Delvecchio, who was born with an absolute rifle for an arm. The prominent players not named Pablo Sanchez could all hold their own, even when the pros were added to the game.
So let’s get down to business here. Imagine if Pablo, Keisha, Pete, Tony, and the rest of the Backyard kids ended up playing in the Majors when they grew up. What kinds of careers would they have? Who are their MLB comps? Take a look at the hypothetical stat lines and player comparisons for some of Backyard Baseball’s true superstars.
Note: I’m just analyzing the main guys. Kick rocks, Marky Dubois.
Pablo Sanchez, CF
.331/.466/.630, 120 R, 35 2B, 7 3B, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 41 SB, 115 BB, 65 K, 11.1 WAR
He’s the best. Pablo has a tiny strike zone, leading to his high walk total. His hit and power tools are elite, so if he’s not mashing a 450-foot bomb, he can easily lace a two-strike slider down the right field line. He can move; he’s a threat to swipe 2nd and 3rd if he gets on. And as a centerfielder, he tracks down balls in the gap like a cheetah racing after a poor wildebeest. Pablo is a perennial MVP candidate.
Comps: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Jose Altuve
Pete Wheeler, OF
.278/.325/.476, 106 R, 28 2B, 13 3B, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 55 SB, 37 BB, 131 K, 4.9 WAR
The appropriately-named Pete Wheeler has 80-grade speed. If there was a grade above 80, he’d have it. The kid absolutely scoots. No other part of his game really stands out, but he is serviceable enough with the bat and his glove to be an All-Star caliber player. He isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, so expect Wheeler to not have the greatest plate discipline or situational awareness on defense or on the base paths. But man, if he hits a ball in the gap, it’s three bases, guaranteed.
Comps: Starling Marté, Cedric Mullins, Jorge Mateo
Keisha Phillips, 3B/1B
.245/.325/.588, 80 R, 31 2B, 2 3B, 48 HR, 121 RBI, 7 SB, 47 BB, 165 K, 5.4 WAR
Keisha isn’t the most polished hitter, which is hard when you have a strike zone as big as hers. Don’t make a mistake though, ‘cause if she gets a hold of one, break out the tape measure. Her power is far and away her best tool, but the other aspects of her game are a bit underrated. You would think she was a station-to-station base-clogger, yet she moves pretty well on the bases and in the field. Her arm is also above average. But the oomph in that bat of hers is what will put people, and pitches, in the seats, as she can change a game with one swing.
Comps: Pete Alonso, Jorge Soler, Giancarlo Stanton
Achmed Khan, LF/RF
.295/.378/.569, 88 R, 45 2B, 2 3B, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 5 SB, 67 BB, 98 K, 4.9 WAR
My favorite Backyard player. Loved the headphones, loved his taste in music, but most importantly, I loved that bat speed. Couple that with the fact that Achmed doesn’t really contribute much on defense, and his true comp becomes Gary Sheffield, another undersized slugger with a loud bat and a questionable glove. Bases loaded, two down, Aroldis Chapman on the bump, and the game on the line, gimme Achmed. He’d turn that 103 MPH fastball around and hit a missile somewhere.
Comps: Nelson Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Adolis Garcia
Jocinda Smith, 3B/1B
.280/.350/.495, 74 R, 34 2B, 0 3B, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 0 SB, 71 BB, 106 K, 4.6 WAR
Jocinda has three or four good tools, albeit no stellar ones. She can hit for average, she has pop, she can defend her position, and her arm is not a liability. She’s not fleet of foot, like, at all, so consider her a liability on the base paths. You’re not winning a World Series if Jocinda is your best player, but she’s a valuable piece in the middle of a lineup and at a corner infield spot. Very steady and reliable.
Comps: Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Trey Mancini
Mikey Thomas, DH
.268/.379/.545, 75 R, 25 2B, 0 3B, 41 HR, 104 RBI, 0 SB, 89 BB, 128 K, 4.4 WAR
There’s only one place on the field that Mikey Thomas excels; the batter’s box. He can’t run, he can’t really field, and his arm is middling at best. But at the dish, there are few hitters who can do more damage than the diminutive powerhouse that is Mikey Thomas. You’d probably have to hide him at 1B or one of the corner outfield spots when he's not DH-ing. He’s gonna boot a ball or two in any given game, but the inevitable three-run jack he hits will make up for it.
Comps: Kyle Schwarber, Rowdy Tellez, Daniel Vogelbach
Tony Delvecchio, RF
.257/.322/.410, 71 R, 27 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 3 SB, 43 BB, 127 K, 2.9 WAR
Tony’s arm is second to none in the world of Backyard Baseball. He routinely uncorks balls from the warning track in right all the way to 3rd base, nailing the runner tagging from 2nd or the one trying to stretch a double into a triple. The rest of his game? Eh. He’s not a negative at the plate, but he won’t be winning any awards. There is nothing to report in terms of his wheels either. Tony is just the guy you want out in RF because of that cannon of his. That sounds like a fourth outfielder, but it wouldn’t kill your team if he was a regular.
Comps: Ramon Laureano, Brian Anderson, Alex Verdugo
Stephanie Morgan, SS
.270/.337/.401, 93 R, 27 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 10 SB, 55 BB, 92 K, 3.6 WAR
There is no part of Stephanie’s game that is subpar. She is the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none. She’s always going to make the right baseball play, and can be counted on to contribute in all facets of the game. Her best tool, probably her glove, makes her a solid candidate to be her team’s starting shortstop.
Comp: Brandon Crawford, Miguel Rojas, José Iglesias
Dante Robinson, OF
.241/.310/.368, 81 R, 22 2B, 7 3B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 39 SB, 44 BB, 106 K, 2.1 WAR
Dante Robinson has quite a unique look and set of quirks. His metabolism is so fast that he wolfs down a cheeseburger or hotdog before every at bat, yet is still able to bust it down the line with the best of ‘em. He also has an Oscar Gamble-esque afro, so that’s pretty sweet too. Dante has game-changing speed and a decent glove, but not much else. He belongs at the bottom of the order or as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement/pinch runner. Still valuable, but there are better starting options.
Comps: Billy Hamilton, Jon Berti, Tim Locastro
Kenny Kawaguchi, P
19-7, 208 IP, 54 BB, 220 K, 2.96 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 149 ERA+, 6.4 WAR
Kenny Kawaguchi is in a wheelchair, but this doesn’t stop him from carving up opposing hitters. The absurd movement he creates on his pitches will generate plenty of Ks, which helps him keep his FIP down. Kenny is an ace through and through. Roll him out there every fifth day and your team is in good shape. He’s an anchor of a pitching staff and a Cy Young candidate.
Comps: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola
Angela Delvecchio, P
14-6, 178 IP, 62 BB, 227 K, 2.78 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 154 ERA+, 5.6 WAR
Tony’s little sister. Angela’s stuff is just as good as Kenny Yamaguchi’s, if not better, she just doesn’t have the stamina to be a top-of-the-rotation horse like he is. She profiles better as a max-effort #2 starter. Angela is giving you five or six innings and racking up the Ks, but she might not have enough in the tank for a third or fourth trip through the lineup. She also won't be winning any Gold Gloves; she's a Dellin Betantes-level fielder.
Comps: Corbin Burnes, Yu Darvish, Robbie Ray
God, I miss this game. It doesn’t work on modern computers, so you have to rig it in some way by downloading an emulator and then doing this and that and I don’t even know. Seems complicated. I haven’t gotten around to putting my computer at risk in order to get it. But I’m getting there, that much is certain, for this quarantine has put all options on the table for me.
Regardless, a team featuring the adult versions of Backyard Baseball’s most prominent fictional stars wins the World Series. Fact.