If you were starting a franchise and could pick any player in professional baseball, who would you choose as your franchise player? That's the question we asked 30 of our resident baseball "experts" who are participating in ESPN's fifth annual Franchise Player Draft.
With the annual first-year player draft just around the corner, several of our experts selected baseball's "franchise players" in a 90-minute live event. The draft order was randomly selected.
Fans can use the Twitter hashtag #franchisedraft to discuss who they think should or shouldn't have gotten picked.
Age: 23 Position: CF Team: Los Angeles Angels
Selected by: Mark Mulder @markmulder20 (Baseball Tonight)
Why Mulder selected Trout: There isn't a better all-around player in the game than Mike Trout. And there's no better player to start a franchise with since he is just 23 years old.
ESPN Stats & Info says: 2015 is Mike Trout's age-23 season, and he has amassed 3.2 WAR already. He needs just 4.6 more wins above replacement to tie Ty Cobb for most WAR by a hitter in the modern era (since 1900) through his age-23 season. He's on pace for about 9.8 WAR in 2015.
Age: 22 Position: RF Team: Washington Nationals
Selected by: Alex Cora @ac13alex (Baseball Tonight)
Why Cora selected Harper: Bryce Harper might be underrated! He's becoming the player that every talent evaluator projected when they saw him as a teenager and is improving in every aspect of the game -- and he's ONLY 22. Enough said. The Trout/Harper conversation should be revisited; the gap is closing between them faster than the adjustments Harper is making on a daily basis.
ESPN Stats & Info says: It's easy to forget Bryce Harper is just 22 years old. He's hit 18 home runs in 53 games and is on pace for 57 homers this season. That would shatter the record for most home runs by a player that young in the modern era (Since 1900).
Age: 25 Position: RF Team: Miami Marlins
Selected by: Jayson Stark @jaysonst (ESPN.com)
Why Stark selected Stanton: I came sooooo close to taking Kris Bryant in this spot. But then it hit me: I'm still projecting the career I expect Bryant to have. I already know what Giancarlo Stanton is: possibly the most feared masher on our planet. Power has become the rarest commodity in baseball. And Stanton is a 25-year-old monster who already holds his franchise's all-time home run lead -- and has a chance to break the stadium every time he makes contact. So it's tough to second-guess myself on this pick.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Stanton already has three 30-homer seasons on his résumé and is well on his way to another this year. Only nine other players in the modern era have had four 30-homer seasons by their age-25 season.
Age: 29 Position: RHP Team: Seattle Mariners
Selected by: Pedro Gomez @pedrogomezESPN (ESPN)
Why Gomez selected Hernandez: You have to have a legitimate ace if you're going to compete, and Felix Hernandez is on top of the stack of all pitchers.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Felix Hernandez has six straight 200-strikeout seasons and is working on another in 2015. In the modern era, only Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens and Walter Johnson have posted seven consecutive 200-K seasons.
Age: 25 Position: 1B Team: Chicago Cubs
Selected by: Eno Sarris @enosarris (ESPN Insider)
Why Sarris selected Rizzo: This high in the draft, there's no reason to reach for "coulds" or "maybes" when there's a pre-peak stud that would fit in the middle of any lineup sitting right there for the taking. Among guys younger than 26, only Mike Trout has put up more wins above replacement since the beginning of 2014. The Chicago first baseman combines the ability to make contact with great power -- nobody else has struck out less than 12 percent of the time this season and showed anywhere near as much sock. Of course, he leads the league in hit by pitches, and that could manifest itself in some injuries, but why worry about that now? Just enjoy the smiles, the walks and all of the homers instead.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Rizzo is fourth in the majors with a 1.016 OPS. The Cubs have never had a player aged 25 or younger finish with an OPS over 1.000 in the modern era. In fact, he already has the fifth-best OPS in a single season by any Cub aged 25 or younger (.913 in 2014).
Age: 22 Position: 3B Team: Baltimore Orioles
Selected by: Dan Szymborski @DSzymborski (ESPN Insider)
Why Szymborski selected Machado: Despite previous injuries to both knees, Machado's returned this season without missing a beat, playing his usual Gold Glove-esque defense at third. While it seems as if he's almost a veteran at this point, he still doesn't turn 23 for another month, meaning there's still quite a bit of offensive upside remaining in his bat. Kris Bryant was tempting, but he's the nearly same age -- Machado is six months younger -- and Machado's glove is significantly more polished than Bryant's. So polished, in fact, that since this is my franchise, I'm giving Machado every opportunity to return to shortstop. If he doesn't cut back at short, well, I'll be "stuck with" a young third baseman with power that fields like Brooks Robinson, a vexing problem for a general manager exactly zero times in baseball history.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Manny Machado missed much of last season due to injuries. In 2013, he played 156 games and posted a 6.5 WAR. That's by far the highest by any third basemen that young in the modern era.
Age: 23 Position: 3B Team: Chicago Cubs
Selected by: Jerry Crasnick @jcrasnick (ESPN.com)
Why Crasnick selected Bryant: I was pleasantly surprised to find Kris Bryant still available in the No. 7 spot. We're talking about a kid who is 23 years old with extraordinary power (only Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper are in the same stratosphere among young players). And he hit .327 with a .426 OBP in the minors, so he's more than just a masher. By all accounts, he's a good person, a terrific teammate and a diligent worker, so I know I'm going to be able to plug him into the middle of my order at third base for the next 15 years and watch him dent scoreboards, drive in runs and sell a lot of tickets. I definitely hit the jackpot with this guy.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Bryant led all of minor league baseball with 43 home runs last season and led the majors with nine spring training home runs in 2015.
Age: 24 Position: RF Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Selected by: Ben Lindbergh @BenLindbergh (Grantland)
Why Lindbergh selected Puig: Depending on the hot takes you've heard, you might have formed an impression of Puig as an immature, impetuous player. If so, allow me to correct the record. Puig isn't only a naturally talented hitter; he's also a smart, hardworking one. In his debut season, Puig learned to stop chasing the unhittable breaking balls that pitchers threw to tempt what they briefly believed was a raw, exploitable rookie. With that option eliminated, Puig's opponents tried to exploit another apparent vulnerability by busting him inside. That weakness didn't last long, either. The 24-year-old's tools at the plate are superstar-special, but his adaptability -- he's even made himself into a better baserunner -- bodes well for a graceful decline down the road. Moreover, for a fledgling franchise, marketing appeal isn't immaterial, and Puig is one of the game's most charismatic players, even if he has made himself a little less fun by cutting back on bat flips to assuage the sport's nosy neighborhood watch. Put the package together, and there's no player I'd rather have here, even if I have been daydreaming about Nolan Arenado's defensive runs saved totals for the last several sentences.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Puig hit .305 and slugged 35 home runs in his first two seasons (2013-14). Only one other Cuban-born player hit at least 30 home runs while hitting at least .300 in his first two seasons in the modern era -- Jose Abreu (2015 is his second season).
Age: 28 Position: CF Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Selected by: Tony Blengino @tonyblengino (ESPN Insider)
Why Blengino selected McCutchen: Picking ninth, and having a really good idea who the top three selections would be, I knew that I would get one of McCutchen, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Paul Goldschmidt, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez -- the next six guys on my list. It's really splitting hairs to separate these guys. Bryant and Machado have the youth and projection, Kershaw and Hernandez are the two best pitchers on the planet, and Goldschmidt might combine the ability to hit for power and average better than anyone. Bryant, Machado and Hernandez all were gone by the time I picked, narrowing my field.
McCutchen, however, ultimately was No. 4 on my Big Board -- and my selection -- due to his big-time offense/defense combination at an up-the-middle position. At 28, he's got plenty of prime years left, and his skill set should age gracefully. The only reason he lasted this long in this draft is likely his relatively slow 2015 start, and he's picked up the pace of late. About the only area of concern I can find is his puzzlingly low liner rate in 2014-15, which I still believe is just a blip. Sign me up for a high probability of .300/.400/.500 in the middle of the field for at least the next five years.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Since Andrew McCutchen's first full season in the majors (2010), only three other hitters -- Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre -- have been more valuable according to wins above replacement.
Age: 27 Position: LHP Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Selected by: Mark Simon @msimonespn (ESPN Stats & Info)
Why Simon selected Kershaw: I can't believe my good fortune that a 27-year-old pitcher, who has been the best pitcher in baseball for four years running, fell into my lap in the 10th spot. Were people that scared off by his numbers this season? Not only am I getting a face of the franchise on the field, but I'm getting one off the field as well. Even if he tails off after five or six years, I will gladly take the upper-echelon value I should get from him before that occurs.
ESPN Stats & Info says: From 2010 to 2014, Kershaw was worth 33.6 wins above replacement. No other pitcher in baseball is within five wins of that. His 2.26 ERA is nearly half a run better than the pitcher who ranks next-best, Johnny Cueto (2.73).
Age: 26 Position: RHP Team: New York Mets
Selected by: Tim Kurkjian @Kurkjian_ESPN (ESPN The Mag)
Why Kurkjian selected Harvey: Matt Harvey has the stuff of an ace. He has the presence of an ace. He understands greatness, he embraces it, he doesn't run from it. He is the Dark Knight in every way.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Harvey had an adjusted ERA of 157 in 2013 (meaning his ERA was 57 percent better than league average). That's the third-best in Mets history in a season by a starting pitcher under 25 years old.
Age: 30 Position: RHP Team: Washington Nationals
Selected by: Karl Ravech @karlravechespn (Baseball Tonight)
Why Ravech selected Scherzer: With all due respect to the other pitchers who have been selected, none of them has been as dominant as Scherzer this season. He also has no history of any injuries and has become a polished pitcher versus thrower.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Scherzer has been worth 15.7 wins above replacement the past three seasons from age 28-30. Clayton Kershaw is the only pitcher who's been worth more in that span.
Age: 29 Position: RHP Team: Cleveland Indians
Selected by: Mark Saxon @markasaxon (ESPN.com)
Why Saxon selected Kluber: As in the case of Clayton Kershaw, you have to look beyond wins (three) and ERA (3.61) to get a glimpse of how he is actually pitching, and those numbers -- look no further than the 105 strikeouts -- paint a picture of a reigning Cy Young winner who is not only as dominant as always, but improving.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Kluber had 50 strikeouts and only two walks in his last four starts in May this season. He's the first pitcher since 1900 with 50 strikeouts and two or fewer walks in a four-game span.
14. Paul Goldschmidt
Age: 27 Position: 1B Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Selected by: Jonah Keri @jonahkeri (Grantland)
Why Keri selected Goldschmidt: You can count the number of hitters who'll go .300/.400/.550 every year on one hand. Goldschmidt's a card-carrying member of that elite fraternity, and this season has been his best to date. He's an absolute terror at the plate, and he's still just 27 years old. The days of ignoring him -- whether in the draft (he lasted until the eighth round), or coming up in the minors (he was never ranked as a top-100 prospect) are long gone. Goldschmidt is a blue-chipper, and a worthy franchise player.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Goldschmidt is hitting .302 with 50 stolen bases since the start of 2012, and he's one of five MLB players hitting .300 with 50 steals in that span. Mike Trout is the only one of them with more home runs than Goldschmidt (90).
15. Carlos Correa
Age: 20 Position: SS Team: Houston Astros
Selected by: Jim Bowden @JimBowden_ESPN (ESPN Insider)
Why Bowden selected Correa: Carlos Correa is one of the best overall young players in baseball and already fits the criteria of a franchise-type player an organization could build around at age 20. A middle-of-the-order impact bat, he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star, Silver Slugger and MVP candidate. Correa should regularly put up 20-home run, 30-stolen base seasons while challenging for league on-base percentage crowns and playing above-above average defense at shortstop. He also has great makeup, character and baseball IQ.
My previous selections were Buster Posey, David Price, Stephen Strasburg and Yasiel Puig. It was important this year to get a franchise shortstop. Our organization is also pleased to announce we have signed Correa to a 10-year contract.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Correa has increased his OPS in each minor league season, from .705 in 2012 to 1.010 this season. That's 10th among all minor leaguers playing above Class A this season.
16. Yoan Moncada
Age: 20 Position: 2B Team: Boston Red Sox
Selected by: Gordon Edes @GordonEdes (ESPN.com)
Why Edes selected Moncada: You could make the argument that I drank the Kool-Aid, but I'm willing to take a chance on a Cuban import Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington called one of the most talented 19-year-olds in the world. The Sox had to go to record lengths ($31.5 million) to sign him, outbidding the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres, but he appears to have the total package -- a powerfully-built athlete with speed and power who switch hits and can play anywhere on the field. I peg him to arrive in the big leagues by 2017.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Moncada hit .500 with a .643 OBP in Cuba's 16U National League in 2010, and he hit .434 with a .543 OBP in Cuba's 18U National League in 2012. And he debuted in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2012 at age 17, hitting .283 with a .414 OBP.
Age: 23 Position: CF Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Selected by: Tristan Cockcroft @SultanofStat (ESPN Fantasy)
Why Cockcroft selected Pederson: I was sorely tempted to take a pitcher here, but I tend to build with the bats first, and Pederson possesses that rare combination of plate discipline, power and defense. At 23, he has shown better speed in the minors than we've seen thus far in his big league career. Batting average is passé; I'll take years of .375-plus on-base percentages, 30 homers and well-above-average D. Is it that much of a stretch to say he could enjoy a career within range of Jim Edmonds, an underrated center fielder in my estimation?
ESPN Stats & Info says: Pederson has 17 homers this season, and in one stretch he became the first rookie in Dodgers history to homer in five straight games.
18. Nolan Arenado
Age: 24 Position: 3B Team: Colorado Rockies
Selected by: Scott Spratt @PFF_ScottSpratt (ESPN Insider)
Why Spratt selected Arenado: It can be hard to stand out on the left side of the Rockies' infield next to Troy Tulowitzki, but Nolan Arenado should soon become a star. He is a good contact hitter, maintaining a career average just shy of .280 and low strikeout rates, and he looks to be having a power breakout in his age-24 season. He already has 13 home runs this year, and despite playing in hitter-friendly Colorado, 10 of those home runs have come on the road. In addition, Arenado might be the best defensive third baseman in baseball. Since his call-up in 2013, he has 58 defensive runs saved, the most among third basemen and trailing only Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons among all players.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Arenado is one of two players in MLB history to win a Gold Glove in each of his first two seasons (Ichiro Suzuki is the other). He's one of three players with 40 homers and 40 defensive runs saved since he entered the league in 2013.
Age: 28 Position: C Team: San Francisco Giants
Selected by: Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN (ESPN The Mag)
Why Olney selected Posey: I thought about taking a pitcher, but you can find pitching more readily in 2015 than 10 years ago. You need offense, and look, to have an elite offensive player at this position is an extraordinary advantage. By all accounts, his skills behind the plate have improved year by year, and as the first player drafted for this franchise, he'll set the tone for how the players will carry themselves; this seems to have worked pretty well for the Giants in his five years in the big leagues. I'm stunned he is still on the board.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Posey is the first player to win a Rookie of the Year Award and a league MVP, and to play for the winning team in three World Series, all before his 28th birthday.
20. Chris Sale
Age: 26 Position: LHP Team: Chicago White Sox
Selected by: Doug Padilla @ESPNChiSox (ESPN.com)
Why Padilla selected Sale: Building around a staff ace can have its rewards, and building around one with a fastball that touches 97 mph, a wipeout slider and a plus-changeup is irresistible. Plus, the lanky Sale is all legs and arms, kneecaps and elbows, using deception and a three-quarter delivery. Sure, there remains the injury concern that was attached to Sale back when he was drafted in 2010, but he has managed to overcome brief sore arm periods and is learning how to use his slider more judiciously. Sale actually could end up being two starters in one: a fastball/changeup guy some days and a slider-heavy strikeout guy when the heart of the season arrives. Which one will you get? It's a question opponents have to ask themselves every time Sale pitches.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Sale (2.81 ERA) is one of three active starting pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched and a career ERA under 3.00.
Age: 21 Position: 2B Team: Chicago Cubs
Selected by: Jesse Rogers @ESPNChiCubs (ESPN.com)
Why Rogers selected Russell: Why take Russell as my franchise player? The better question is, why wasn't he taken earlier? Russell is a lockdown shortstop who hasn't played there in the big leagues yet. And don't be fooled by his smallish frame -- Russell has plenty of pop. His broad shoulders give him very good gap power, as he leads all rookies with 12 doubles despite getting called up in late April. He also has four home runs. All of this is coming earlier than expected for the 21-year-old. That's right, Russell is only 21, one of the youngest players in the league. He's only going to get better with time, and considering his head start, he should have many years in his prime in the big leagues. He's the quintessential franchise player.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Russell ranks fourth among rookies this season in terms of wins above replacement. He also ranks sixth among second basemen in defensive runs saved.
Age: 22 Position: CF Team: Boston Red Sox
Selected by: David Schoenfield @dschoenfield (ESPN.com)
Why Schoenfield selected Betts: I was tempted to go with a fireballing young starter like Gerrit Cole or the injured Jose Fernandez, but I always prefer a position player. There were a couple minor leaguers to consider, but Betts has already proven himself at the major league level. Don't be fooled by the bit of a slow start: He's going to be a .300 hitter in the majors with an OBP approaching .400, and he's on pace for 16 home runs and 32 doubles. Plus, he's played a Gold Glove-caliber center field -- and he's just 22.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Only Bryce Harper has more wins above replacement among players age 22 or younger this season. Also, Betts is tied for fifth among center fielders this season in defensive runs saved.
23. Shohei Otani
Age: 20 Position: OF/RHP Team: Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters
Selected by: Jim Caple @jimcaple (ESPN.com)
Why Caple selected Otani: Because Otani is the Japanese Babe Ruth. He throws 100 mph as a pitcher and hits the ball a mile as an outfielder/DH. And he is only 20.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Otani's 1.75 ERA through June 2 ranks second in the Japanese Pacific League. He also has accumulated 21 wins and 16 home runs at the plate over the last three seasons (186 games).
Age: 25 Position: RHP Team: Oakland Athletics
Selected by: Curt Schilling @gehrig38 (Baseball Tonight)
Why Schilling selected Gray: The game starts and ends on the bump. Gray is 25, and has pure power stuff with the makeup to go along with it. He'll start Opening Day now and hopefully for the next 5-10 years. I want to build a team that can compete right now, and eventually be a World Series contender year in and year out within three to five years.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Among starters with at least 350 career innings pitched, Gray ranks fifth in ERA+ behind Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Roger Clemens and Brandon Webb.
25. Jose Fernandez
Age: 22 Position: RHP Team: Miami Marlins
Selected by: Adam Rubin @AdamRubinESPN (ESPN.com)
Why Rubin selected Fernandez: Jose Fernandez might be out of sight as he enters the final stage of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. But given the recent track record of successful procedures on young power pitchers, there is a high probability Fernandez returns to the elite level Marlins fans witnessed when he burst onto the major league scene. In 36 career starts, Fernandez is 16-8 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.972 WHIP and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. And he is still only 22 years old.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Of the 112 starters in the modern era (since 1900) that have thrown at least 200 innings by the end of their age-21 season, none have a better ERA+ than Jose Fernandez.
Selected by: Christina Kahrl @ChristinaKahrl (ESPN.com)
Why Kahrl selected Seager: Picking low, I aimed for my franchise's long-term future by picking a player who's just about ready now and has the bat to be the best player at third base in MLB for 10 to 15 years, but whose glove might play at short for a couple of years in the right ballpark and with a high-strikeout staff.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Currently ranked as the No. 2 prospect in baseball by Keith Law, Seager is a career .315 hitter in the minors with 52 home runs in 316 games.
Age: 25 Position: LHP Team: San Francisco Giants
Selected by: Andrew Marchand @AndrewMarchand (ESPN.com)
Why Marchand selected Bumgarner: I love our pick. He is younger and more accomplished than Matt Harvey. Plus, he is on a very reasonable contract. The only thing I feel bad about is some of my fellow GMs might lose their jobs for passing on MadBum.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Bumgarner's 2014 postseason has defined his still-young career. He set a postseason record for most innings pitched (52 2/3), while he was the first pitcher to record two wins and a save in a postseason series since saves became an official stat in 1969. He was also just the fourth pitcher to win a League Championship Series and World Series MVP award in the same postseason, joining Orel Hershiser, Livan Hernandez and Cole Hamels.
Age: 21 Position: 3B Team: Texas Rangers
Selected by: Eric Karabell @karabellespn (ESPN Fantasy)
Why Karabell selected Gallo: Arguably the signature power prospect in the game, Gallo also is walking more and making more contact in 2015. Did you see what he did at the Futures Game last season? I did. The batting practice show, when he broke a car windshield in the stadium concourse in right field, was a sight to behold. Perhaps Gallo won't be quite like his pal Kris Bryant, but the power numbers and gaudy OPS totals should be there.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Gallo became the first minor leaguer with back-to-back 40-homer seasons (2013-14) since Ron Kittle (White Sox) in 1981-82. He was also just the fourth player in the modern era (since 1900) with three hits, a home run and four RBIs in his major league debut.
29. Gerrit Cole
Age: 24 Position: RHP Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Selected by: Justin Havens @jayhaykid (ESPN Stats & Info)
Why Havens selected Cole: Given how aggressive people were in drafting young position players, I'm comfortable taking Cole, who appears to have taken a bit of a leap and is a better pitcher than several arms already selected in this draft. His strikeout rate is up from last year, his walk rate is down, he's getting more ground balls, and his 2.42 FIP suggests his 1.90 ERA isn't completely ridiculous. He was expected to be an ace, and looks like he's fulfilling that expectation in 2015 -- and he's only 24.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Among active starters under 25, only Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller have a better ERA+ (minimum 200 innings pitched) than Cole.
Age: 24 Position: RHP Team: Atlanta Braves
Selected by: Aaron Boone @AaronBoone_ESPN (Baseball Tonight)
Why Boone selected Miller: At 24 years of age we are starting see the emergence of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The command of a two-seamer and cutter have made the need for a changeup not necessary, although I'd love to see him add the change at some point.
ESPN Stats & Info says: Miller is having arguably the best season of any pitcher in baseball, and he's still just 24 years old. His ERA+ is the best among qualified starters in 2015.