What if the Toronto Maple Leafs were a baseball team?
The Toronto Blue Jays get invited to join the Korean Baseball Organization for the 2021 season, but are stuck in the US and unable to leave. The Leafs, coming off a Stanley Cup Championship, are sent to South Korea to fill in by Rogers. What does the lineup look like?
It has to be Garfield himself, William Nylander. Always with his head in the clouds, empty head, full heart, supremely talented in the corners. There’s no other position for him than way out in left field. If you haven’t read the article by Joshua Kloke on how “he’s his own cat” you have to.
The unofficial captain of a team, the best athlete, the gamebreaker, Morgan Rielly. Not only can Rielly move incredibly fast, he can jump over walls like a cat or an outfielder stealing a homerun. You know Morgan is going to give it his all and lay his body on the line for the brilliant and highlight reel play.
Like Jose Bautista, Tyson Barrie likes to launch it from distance. He’s probably not the best defender, but boy does he love winding up and sailing a ball to home plate. Also a guy with a big offensive bat you want in your lineup.
When I think of third basemen, my mind goes back to Josh Donaldson when he played for the Jays. You have to have that swagger, the confidence, and top-notch hand-eye coordination. Auston Matthews has buckets those qualities, and the strongest arm (shot) on the team. He’s got to be the one who can dig a puck from the dirt, load up, and fire it across the diamond with speed and accuracy. There’s few in the NHL who can do that as well as him. It’s a no-brainer selection.
Everyone wants to be shortstop and on this team it’s Mitch Marner. He can play every situation, he’s got incredible hands and feet, lightning reflexes, and has come into his own as a leader and strategist. He can link up great double plays and make acrobatic moves.
Quick, sharp, good on his forehand and backhand, Kasperi Kapanen is the Leafs second baseman. He’s got the speed to be anywhere on the pitch, he knows how to team up for double plays, and he’s great at catch-and-throw. Best part about Kapanen, I could definitely see him fill in at shortstop or anywhere in the outfield if needed in a pinch. Versatile and useful.
When I think of a first baseman, I don’t think of the fastest guy on the field, but someone with poise and hand-eye coordination capable of snagging balls out of the dirt or stretching for a high-flier while keeping a foot on the base. John Tavares is the guy I picture. A calming presence, doesn’t do a lot of talking, but gets the job done and does it night-in-night-out.
It’s gotta be the goalie, right? Frederik Andersen has made his living with the Leafs catching pucks and pouncing on stray rebounds that fall in his crease. He’s also thrown the occasional long-bomb up to Marner for a quick score.
On the Leafs, Kyle Clifford is literally the designated hitter. I have no doubt he’ll be able to come in, hit some dingers, and leave. He doesn’t fit the classic mold of a designated hitter, but Clifford is jacked and has a great beard, which should be more than enough. Dingers! Dingers! Dingers!
The Starting Lineup
- Mitch Marner (SS)
- William Nylander (LF)
- Auston Matthews (3B)
- John Tavares (1B)
- Kyle Clifford (DH)
- Kasperi Kapanen (2B)
- Morgan Rielly (CF)
- Tyson Barrie (RF)
- Frederik Andersen (C)
Zach Hyman, Ilya Mikheyev, Nick Robertson, Nic Petan, Jack Campbell
Hyman and Mikheyev are the two utility players. They’ll come in later in games as defensive specialists and cover the entire field. They’re both capable pinch hitters and Mikheyev especially has some great legs on him. In basketball Hyman would be considered for Sixth Man of the Year. Wow three sports references in what article? What am I doing here.
Nick and Nic are fantastic pinch runners. Extremely quick, out here to steal every base. You win ball games with fundamentals and these two have it. Petan got shuffled up and down for Adam Brooks throughout the season.
Jack Campbell is the team glue and backup catcher. He provides the candy, the back massages, and is always first in the homerun celly. Ball of energy, adored by everyone.
"I think I packed a pair of gym shorts and one pair of pants for the road trip so had to do a little shopping but I'm just so excited to be here." 😂— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 6, 2020
Jack Campbell spoke to the media about how excited he is to be apart of the @MapleLeafs. pic.twitter.com/xCLnS4PUy9
- Jake Muzzin
- Justin Holl
- Alex Kerfoot
- Travis Dermott
- Rasmus Sandin
Listen, it’s not a great rotation, but it’s like the Leafs defense, you take what you can get. Jake Muzzin might’ve been as high as a #2 in his career, and he can still put in seven or eight innings of work for the team, but on a team struggling to find talent, this wiley vet is looking to make the best of the situation at hand.
Justin Holl is lanky and could probably get some good speed out of a fastball. With his new goatee, he definitely looks like a baseball player.
Alex Kerfoot is a crafty fella with a lot of tools up his sleeve and knows how to keep batters off balance during an at bat. He won’t overpower anyone, but he can make a pitch when it counts and be a solid part in the middle of your lineup.
Travis Dermott is energetic and has buckets of talent. All he needs to do focus his mind and he can be a dynamic and explosive option down the lineup. Super inconsistent right now.
Rasmus Sandin is the kid that walked through AA and AAA and just needs to face bigger competition. He won’t get in every five days, but he’s learning and there’s a talented clever pitcher in the waiting. Future ace.
Pierre Engvall, Cody Ceci, Martin Marincin, Kenny Agostino, Egor Korshkov
Engvall is the long man in the bullpen. He could start, but he won’t get you all the way in a ballgame. He’s tall, crafty, and someone you can put in to stop the bleeding in the middle of a game.
You hope Cody Ceci can pitch a seventh inning and not blow up the entire game. Sometimes he doesn’t, but sometimes he does.
Everyone hates when Martin Marincin pitches but he does a decent job and is never asked to do too much. He sometimes gets a moment in the spotlight and it inevitably gets meme’d for weeks.
No one really knows anything about Kenny Agostino. He was signed to pitch for the AAA team down the road, but he came up during some injuries and did a marvelous job for the team. He’s got a great arm and doesn’t get too flashy with it. He’s now covering the eighth inning before the closer. Underrated.
There are some younger, smaller guys in the minors that have some talent, but Egor Korshkov had the size and power needed for the bullpen. He’s good for 20 pitches every three days and that’s it. Gets injured a lot.
I said this aloud to myself and I loved it, so here it is: “Jason Spezza, the closer.” It just sounds so cool and so right. Spezza has been around the block and has worked his entire career for this opportunity. He used to be an ace back when he was young, but as he got into his 30s he switched into relief pitching and finally has his chance to close games and be a difference maker. He’s got the power and the wits to close out any game.