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Fort Wayne's All-Time Best Roster in Franchise History

April 7, 2020

While the COVID-19 outbreak delays the start of the 2020 baseball season, let's take a moment to look back on the first 27 years of Minor League Baseball in Fort Wayne. From the infancy of the Wizards in 1993 to the present day, more than 1,000 players have put on

While the COVID-19 outbreak delays the start of the 2020 baseball season, let's take a moment to look back on the first 27 years of Minor League Baseball in Fort Wayne. From the infancy of the Wizards in 1993 to the present day, more than 1,000 players have put on a Wizards or TinCaps uniform. Of those, 188 players have eventually made it from the "260" to The Show. The list of alumni includes All-Stars, Gold Glove winners, a batting champ, and even Cy Young winners.

What if we tried to form a "super team" out of Fort Wayne's big league alums? And then, what if we put our roster up against the rest of the best from around the Midwest League? Well, that's exactly what we're doing.

In an effort led by the Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League Madness is a bracket featuring a field of 16, with each club putting forth its "all-time" roster.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR FORT WAYNE

Now, let's break down Fort Wayne's All-Time Roster. Actually, before we do, in case you missed it, make sure to check out our own bracket of 16 that crowned Fernando Tatis Jr. as the top player in the franchise's history. Like you'd imagine, there's an overlap of these franchise great players.

As you see in the graphic at the top of this page, these all-time rosters consist of eight position players, plus a designated hitter, five starting pitchers, and two relief pitchers.

There's no exact science to assembling such a team. But here's some insight into how we made our choices...

A player's success in Major League Baseball was most heavily weighed. For example, when it came to picking a third baseman, Chase Headley, received the nod over someone like Sean Burroughs. In our top-player-in-franchise-history bracket, we excluded the likes of Headley, Chris Paddack, and Joakim Soria, as they each had just a short stint in Fort Wayne -- in Headley's case, four regular season games in 2005. However, in this scenario, we're going with the approach that if they played at all as a Wizard or TinCap, they're eligible. (For comparison's sake, Lansing's lineup includes Carlos Beltrán, who had just a .353 OPS with 11 strikeouts to one walk for the Lugnuts in 11 games in 1996.) So even though Sean Burroughs holds multiple single-season franchise records after slashing .359/.464/.479 (.943 OPS) in 122 games in 1999, his big league numbers over parts of seven seasons (5.5 WAR) don't quite stack up with Headley (25.9 WAR).

Again, to be clear, this is not a perfect system. It's challenging to evaluate the careers of retired players versus active players, especially young ones on the rise. Feel free to disagree. That's part of the fun (or frustration) of an endeavor like this.

Also, we utilized some flexibility when it comes to positioning. Case in point, since two of the clear-cut qualifiers for this are Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trea Turner, who are both primarily shortstops, we shifted Turner to second base, where he has played 42 times in his MLB tenure.

Without further ado, here's the team...

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski (1995-96)

  • MLB: 1998-2016
  • Why He's Here: 2x All-Star (2002, 2006); World Series champion (2005); Silver Slugger Award (2012)

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First Base: David Freese (2006)

  • MLB: 2009-2019
  • Why He's Here: World Serives MVP (2011); NLCS MVP (2011); World Series champion (2011) All-Star (2012)
  • Note: Freese played the majority of his career playing third base, but also played 149 MLB games at first, where he wrapped up his career last season

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Second Base: Trea Turner (2014)

  • MLB: 2015-present
  • Why He's Here: Baseball America All-Rookie Team (2016); NL Stolen Base Leader (2018); World Series champion (2019)
  • Note: As mentioned above, Turner is primarily a shortstop, but has played 42 MLB games at second

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Third Base: Chase Headley (2005)

  • MLB: 2007-2018
  • Why he's Here: Gold Glove (2012); Silver Slugger Award (2012); NL RBI Leader (2012)

Shortstop: Fernando Tatis Jr. (2017)

  • MLB: 2019-present
  • Why He's Here: Baseball America All-Rookie Team (2019); 22 home runs were most ever for a shortstop before turning 21 years old

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Left Field: Matt Lawton (1993)

  • MLB: 1995-2006
  • Why He's Here: 2x All-Star (2000, 2004)

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Center Field: Torii Hunter (1994)

  • MLB: 1997-2015
  • Why He's Here: 5x All-Star (2002, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013); 9x Gold Glove (2001-09); 2x Silver Slugger Award (2009, 2013); Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame

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Right Field: Michael Cuddyer (1998)

  • MLB: 2001-15
  • Why He's Here: 2x All-Star (2011, 2013); NL Batting Champ (2013); Silver Slugger Award (2013); Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame

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Designated Hitter: Josh VanMeter (2014-15)

  • MLB: 2019-present
  • Why He's Here: The only everyday player from the Fort Wayne area in the franchise's history; Ossian, Ind., native and Norwell High School alum; as a 19-year-old in 2014, led the TinCaps into the Midwest League Playoffs by driving in all four runs in a 4-0 victory at Bowling Green on the final day of the regular season in a must-win game; had the go-ahead hit in the eighth inning of postseason opener against higher-seeded West Michigan to spark series upset; overcame broken leg suffered during April 2015 game to return in August

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Starting Pitcher: Jake Peavy (2000)

  • MLB: 2002-16
  • Why He's Here: NL Cy Young Award (2007); 3x All-Star (2005, 2007, 2012); 2x MLB ERA Leader (2004, 2007); 2x NL Strikeout Leader (2005, 2007); Gold Glove (2012)

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Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber (2008)

  • MLB: 2011-present
  • Why He's Here: 2x AL Cy Young Award (2014, 2017); 3x All-Star (2016-18); AL ERA Leader (2017)

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Starting Pitcher: Miles Mikolas (2010)

  • MLB: 2012-14; 2018-present
  • Why He's Here: All-Star (2018)

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Starting Pitcher: Max Fried (2013-14)

  • MLB: 2017-present
  • Why He's Here: In 2019, at the age of 25, ranked 5th in the National League in xFIP -- a stat that's similar to ERA but focuses solely on the events a pitcher has the most control over (strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by pitches, and home runs); still considered an up-and-coming starting pitcher for the Braves

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Starting Pitcher: Chris Paddack (2016)

  • MLB: 2019-present
  • Why He's Here: Baseball America All-Rookie Team (2019)

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Relief Pitcher: LaTroy Hawkins (1993)

  • MLB: 1995-2015
  • Why He's Here: 1 of only 16 pitchers in MLB history to appear in more than 1,000 games

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Relief Pitcher: Joakim Soria (2006)

  • MLB: 2007-present
  • Why He's Here: 2x All-Star (2008, 2010); Baseball America All-Rookie Team (2007)

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Also considered: INF Corey Koskie, OF Will Venable, C Nick Hundley, SP/RP Oliver Perez, RP Brad Brach, RP Brandon Kintzler

First round voting of MWL Madness will take place until Friday, April 10, with the Elite Eight running from April 14-17, the Final Four running April 21-24, and the Championship decided during April 28-May 1.