I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’. Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.
Part V – Top Ten Current Athletes in Toronto
This will be a quick breakdown of the top athletes currently residing in Toronto and it is a down and dirty look at the athlete’s ready to contribute on the Toronto sports scene. This certainly won’t be referred to as the golden era in Toronto’s sports history, but I’d say the scene is definitely on the up-swing and improving almost daily. The Jays are looking to be competitive in the next 1-2 seasons, the Leafs look to be in good hands with Brian Burke and the Raptors aren’t as bad as most think, though they are looking lottery bound in 2010/11 (not such a bad thing though?). Well, here is my list for the top ten current Toronto athletes.
-A hugely talented arm with untapped potential, he might have the most upside of any of the current Blue Jays arms. Putting together a great first season in Toronto, the future is bright and price to acquire him was right.
9) LW Kris Versteeg – Toronto Maple Leafs
-Coming over from the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (thank you salary cap) in which he was a key third line member and a heart and soul type player described as having a wicked wrist shot. Only 24 years old and coming off back to back 20 goal seasons, I think Toronto fans are going to really like this kid.
#8) SP Shaun Marcum – Toronto Blue Jays
-Looks to be completely back after undergoing TJ surgery and has been the Jays best pitcher this season with 151 IPs, 3.70 ERA, 3.83 FIP and an impressive 3.8 K/BB. Marcum will look to score a longer term contract in the next year or so and will hopefully continue to put hitters away with that nasty changeup for many more seasons.
7) SG Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors
-The 7th overall pick out of Compton, California and USC University, the sky is the limit for Derozan and the ‘Young Gunz’ (along with Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson), fans are hoping for a big breakout year for Demar to give them some (any) hope for a Toronto Raptors eventual resurgence. The kid has all the talent and skills you could want and just needs seasoning and some refinements to certain aspects of the game (mid range jumper and handle) to really take that next step.
6) RF Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays
-Bautista leads the majors in homeruns and has been a total beast for the Blue Jays this season (41 HRs, 607 SLG%, .416 wOBA – 4.9 WAR), he has been so good there is some talk the Jays might be best served dealing their top slugger while the getting is good and his value is at an all-time high. The most debated/discussed Blue Jay player this season, mixed opinions on whether or not he should be around long term.
-What would a Toronto article be without Kaberle, fact remains he is still one of the best defensemen to suit up for the Leafs and if he remains this season will be counted upon to contribute a huge season.
-The smooth, sharp shooting 7-footer was the 1st overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and has shown steady improvement each season (in scoring) over the past three years scoring 10.2, 15.4 and 17.2 PPG. He still needs to improve his overall game, with more focus on rebounding and weak side help defense, however a big man with the ability to drive and dish the rock who will likely average 20.0+ PPG, shoot around 48-49% from the field, 37-38% from 3-point land and hopefully average 7-8 rebounds and 1.5-2 blocks per game don’t exactly grow on trees. Andrea doesn’t get enough credit for the player he has become, expect that opinion and sentiment to change with a huge 2010/11 season as the Raptors go to guy.
3) SP Ricky Romero – Toronto Blue Jays
-JP Ricciardi envisioned this type of success for his first pick (6th overall) in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft but it took Ricky a few seasons in the minors to finally flourish and make it to the big leagues (too little, too late for our old buddy JP though) but flourish he has. The Jays lefty recently signed a contract extension that will keep in Toronto for the next 5 seasons, hopefully his prime years are still to come. In 2010, Romero has been great, in 172.2 IPS he has a 3.54 ERA, 3.59 FIP, solid ground ball rate and a pretty good 7.7 K/9.
2) D Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs
-When you are the new captain of the most popular team in town, you are going to get some attention and since entering the league Phaneuf has definitely drawn his fair share. The top scoring defensemen since joining the league, the hard hitting Alberta native is being counted upon to lead the Brian Burke era in team history and fans are excited and anxious to see what a full season of a motivated Dion Phaneuf can bring to the team.
1) RW Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
-There haven’t been many better skilled Leafs than Phil the Thrill in the team’s long history and the slight forward will again be counted upon to lead the woeful Maple Leafs forward core to the hopeful goal of making the playoffs. Playing with a relatively unknown (and rookie) centre in Tyler Bozak, Kessel still managed 30 goals in 70 games and fans are hoping he can take his game to the next level and become a 40-45 goal scorer with a full season to come in 2010/11.
Drafted in the first round (5th overall) in 2006, he has been called the ‘American’ Sydney Crosby with his unbelievable level of skill and shooting ability. Kessel will only be 23 at the start of the season and though the trade and cost to acquire Kessel is hotly debated, the player we received certainly cannot be, Kessel is legit and one of the most skilled players in the game.
This concludes my five part series looking back at some of the greatest players to ever play for our beloved Toronto sports franchises and also a quick glimpse at who is currently leading the charge for hopeful future success.
Hope you enjoyed it.