As promised, NL squad below. Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years. 22 position players, 10 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule). (S) for starter. Comments below each position.
C: Buster Posey, SF (S), Yadier Molina, StL
Sticking with the 2 catcher maximum here. Kind of had to, with these two being their teams sole representatives. So yup, that means I didn’t select Carlos Martinez for my team. Oh well. He’ll be here more than a few times in the future more than likely. Anyway, the only other real option here was J.T. Realmuto. I can’t believe Realmuto has been on the fringe of my team for two years running. Maybe I should reevaluate him.
1B: Joey Votto, Cin (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Ryan Zimmerman, Was, Freddie Freeman, Atl
This is what I wrote last year, “You can probably pretty much pencil in (Anthony) Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.” Oops. No Rizzo this year. He has rebounded nicely from his early season woes, but it wasn’t enough. Check the water in Zim’s locker. The last time he made an All-Star team was 1909…er, I mean, 2009. But you get the point. .218 in over 400 ABs last year and now at age 32 these numbers? Ok, but he deserves to start. And so does Goldschmidt. But I picked Votto. His numbers are a hair above both. Freeman could probably start too, but he missed half the season. And now he is playing third base. But I couldn’t justify any other Atlanta player being on my team. I don’t care how good Ender Inciarte is defensively.
2B: Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Anthony Rendon, Was, Justin Turner, LAD
Ok, I clearly cheated here. But I had to. To me, Murphs was the only legit 2b I could really consider here. Josh Harrison is a nice player, but not an All-Star. DJ LeMahieu? Nope. Colorado, for one. But secondly, I really don’t understand the infatuation. Whatever. So I am going with a couple of backups that play exclusively 3b now, but have played plenty of second base in the past. And I picked Rendon before his 6 ribbies on Saturday. Turner missed some time due to injury in the first half. But hard to ignore his .377 average and 1.000 plus OPS at the break.
3B: Jake Lamb, AZ (S), Nolan Arenado, Col, Kris Bryant, ChC, Travis Shaw, Mil
Once again, Arenado gets penalized for playing in Colorado. But once again he deserves to be on the team. Just not starting. I really should have started Bryant, but Lamb has the superior numbers this year. By the end of the year that may be different. Bryant didn’t make the real team. That’s a crime. Sure, he isn’t putting up the MVP numbers of last year, but it’s not like he’s hitting .220 either. He has to be on the team, you know, being the reigning MVP and all. Numbers this year are good enough, I say. To boot, he is somehow my only Cub. Little disappointing over there in ChiTown this year. At least Wade Davis won’t blow my game like he did the real one. Last, but certainly not least…Shaw HAS to be on the team. First, Milwaukee is in first place and deserves more than the one rep they had in the real game. Second? What a stupid offseason trade by the Red Sox. Listen, I wasn’t the biggest Travis Shaw fan. He did fade as the year went on last year. But did they have to basically throw him in the trade for Tyler Thornburg? A middle reliever with apparent arm problems? Just seemed like the prospects the Sox sent should have been enough there. And now Thornburg will not pitch this year and the Sox are rotating between various minor leaguers at third base…after they finally pulled the plug on the Pablo Sandoval experiment. Sigh…
SS: Corey Seager, LAD (S), Trea Turner, Was
Thin yet again. Seager is easy. Turner should be easy…and yes, I know he is hurt. Doesn’t matter. Zack Cozart? Really?
OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Mia (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Cody Bellinger, LAD, Charlie Blackmon, Col, Wil Myers, SD, Aaron Altherr, Phi
Seven outfielders, four third basemen, four first basemen…of course some of those guys will fill the DH role. Once again, the starters were no-brainers. Though I suppose if Bellinger had been in the majors all year, he could have supplanted one of them. Since he’s a rookie, he will have to defer this year, either way. Blackmon has his Colorado numbers, but belongs on the team. I suppose I should have listed Myers at first, since he actually plays there. But I didn’t like the look of five first basemen for some reason. And Myers came up as an outfielder. So…who cares anyway? Myers and Altherr represent the Padres and Phillies, respectively. I don’t care how well Brad Hand pitches in the 6th-7th inning, I couldn’t stomach him being the Padres rep, as he was in reality. He’s a middle reliever on a team that has a closer with a 5.30 ERA (Brandon Maurer). If Hand can’t close over Maurer, he’s not an All-Star. As much as we all love Pat Neshek, same deal in Philly. If he can’t seize the closer role from any of the clowns that have closed for that squad this year (Hector Neris??!)…he is also not an All-Star. I feel better about picking Altherr this year than I do about picking Odubel Herrera last year, I can tell you that much.
P: Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Zack Greinke, AZ, Robbie Ray, AZ, Gio Gonzalez, Was, Jacob deGrom, NYM, Ivan Nova, Pit, Corey Knebel, Mil, Greg Holland, Col, Kenley Jansen, LAD
Kershaw is a pretty good pitcher, eh? Once again putting up video game numbers. 14 wins at the break. Nice work. Max and Zack doing what they do. Robbie Ray coming out of nowhere. Well, he was a top prospect, now it appears he has taken the next step at age 25. I took Gio over Strasburg, but both could be here. deGrom is the Mets rep. Toyed with Jay Bruce, but had enough bats already. Nova is the Pirates rep. Underwhelming, I know. The apparently resurrected Andrew McCutchen would probably have been a better choice. But having to take Myers and Altherr and all those other bats left him off in favor of a pitcher. Knebel has been absolutely filthy for the Brew Crew and what Holland is doing in his comeback in Colorado is nothing short of amazing. Jansen has an ERA under 1.00 on that Dodger juggernaut, so he closes my game if it gets there.
There are a few pitchers that may have deserved better…Strasburg, Carlos Martinez, Alex Wood (10-0 at the break, but less innings than other starters), Wade Davis and gulp, Jimmy Nelson (??) could have arguments here. If you like middle relievers, Hand, Neshek and Archie Bradley (1.10 ERA at the break) could be in the discussion as well. Everyone can’t make it. As usual though, I think I nailed both teams!
Yup, the All-Star Game was this past Tuesday. But…close enough. And a nice topic to get back in the swing of things. So here is my team. Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years. 21 position players, 11 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule). (S) for starter. Comments below each position.
C: Salvador Perez, KC (S), Gary Sanchez, NYY
Three catchers are usually selected for the actual game. This year thankfully there were only two…for both leagues. Not sure why this changed, but it’s absolutely for the better. Two is about the max that deserve to be there. Last year I took only one on my team (Perez). If I took a third this year, it would’ve been either Brian McCann or Alex Avila. No thanks. Anyway, I’ve said pretty much enough on catchers. Sanchez may be the future, but not giving him the starting gig over Big Sal…this year.
1B: Justin Smoak, Tor (S), Logan Morrison, TB, Jose Abreu, CWS, Yonder Alonso, Oak
Just…yuck. Just feels really strange with no Miguel Cabrera anywhere to be found here. These guys are simply having better years though. And thanks to the “every team has to be represented” rule, here are each of these 4 teams’ representatives! Smoak started the real game and, sadly enough, he was the right choice. Morrison had a similar OPS (.931 to Smoaks’ .936), so if you wanted him to start, you won’t get an argument from me. Not sure how he didn’t even make the real team. I’m all set with Corey Dickerson. Actually, I’m all set with Morrison too, but his numbers are there this year. Avisail Garcia was the real life ChiSox rep, but I prefer Abreu. Probably doesn’t matter either way. It was either Alonso, Khris Davis or Ryon Healy for the A’s. Alonso’s .934 OPS was also right with Morrison and Smoak. The other A’s were in the .800’s. Plus Davis and Healy DH a fair amount. But still…these 4 guys are All-Stars?
2B: Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jonathan Schoop, Bal, Robinson Cano, Sea, Starlin Castro, NYY
It’s Altuve and then everyone else once again. Not enough superlatives out there for that guy. Schoop is shockingly enough the Orioles rep. If you wanted to put Manny Machado on the team because he’s Manny Machado, I’d probably be ok with it though. I’m not putting Robby Cano here because he was the MVP of the real game. No, seriously. He is kind of quietly having a pretty good year. As is Castro.
3B: Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Miguel Sano, Min, Mike Moustakas, KC
Jose Ramirez is 3rd in the AL in OPS, .005 behind 2nd place. Jose Ramirez! Let that one sink in for a while. Sure he had a pretty good year last year. But was abysmal two years ago. Of course he was only 22 then, so…but still. Pretty impressive. Sano is another guy breaking out this year. His 120 K’s already are pretty unsightly though. Having second thoughts about “Moose” as I write this…but I guess 25 bombs and good defense should count for something.
SS: Carlos Correa, Hou (S), Elvis Andrus, Tex
You may be able to pencil in Correa’s name here for years to come. Francisco Lindor may have something to say about it eventually, but not this year. Correa has been filthy this season. I will also say Lindor was on the edge of my team and if you wanted to find space for him, it wouldn’t upset me. Andrus was going to be my sole Rangers player, though that did change. Still deserving of a place on my squad however. And please Red Sox fans…admittedly, I am a total homer. But the fact that Xander Bogaerts was in the Final Five voting was an absolute joke, I’m sorry. Disappointing year for X, to put it mildly.
OF: Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Mookie Betts, Bos
This is what I wrote last year: “Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.” His injury this year changes nothing. There really is not much to say about Judge and Springer. Monster years from the both of them. Now here is where I become a little of that Boston homer I just referred to. In my opinion, Betts hasn’t necessarily been “All-Star-ish” this year. Just hasn’t seemed it. Comparatively speaking to last year anyway. But maybe we were spoiled last year. However, when you review the numbers as a whole, you can justify a spot for him. And I did.
DH: Nelson Cruz, Sea (S)
1 DH is enough. One of the jamokes selected at 1B can handle DH in my game if they need to. I would nominate Abreu.
UT: Marwin Gonzalez, Hou
How can a guy who doesn’t even start for his own team be an All-Star? Well, let me introduce you to this year’s Brock Holt!! Except…way better. .967 OPS. He actually has been playing every day for a while now. I mean, Norichika Aoki? Please. But Marwin plays all over the place too. If you play fantasy baseball, and I do, he is pretty much eligible at every position no matter what type of league you are in. That’s worth something if you can create offense along with the defensive flexibility. Oh, and the Astros are 10 games better than everyone else in the American League. Take as many guys as you want from that team and put them here. Although, I will draw the line at Josh Reddick.
P: Chris Sale, CWS (S), Jason Vargas, KC, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Corey Kluber, Cle, Carlos Carrasco, Cle, Michael Fulmer, Det, Ervin Santana, Min, Yu Darvish, Tex, Luis Severino, NYY, Andrew Miller, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos
I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap. I know, fat chance. Anyway, here it is: As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers. Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say. Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball. Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus. Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers. So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last. And if it does, they will go back to another key role.
Last year, I picked 3 closers and 2 part middle relievers, part closers and only 8 starters. Kind of made me sick to my stomach. This year we get back to normal…9 starters, 1 middle man, 1 closer. Sale is the relatively easy choice to start, though if Kuechel or even Kluber didn’t miss time in the first half, they would have certainly made it closer. Specifically Kluber, with his playoff performance last year, as well as the fact that his own Indian coaching staff were the coaches for this years’ All-Star Game. Journeyman 34-year-old Vargas leads the league in wins and ERA, as well as WAR, if that’s a statistic that floats your boat. Good for him for making his first All-Star team.
I’m surprised that Carrasco wasn’t on the real squad. He got hammered in one start in late June that jacked up his ERA a bit. But even so, 3.44 ain’t bad. Combined with his other numbers, he seemed like an easy pick to me. Fulmer was my Detroit pick…as he was in reality (until they added Justin Upton to the squad as well). Can’t ignore Ervin’s contributions to the surprising Twins this year (as surprising as 2 games over .500 is…but they are only 2.5 games out…and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming). Darvish and Severino have high-ish ERA’s, but they are still in the top 10 and have good numbers otherwise. Maybe Lance McCullers Jr. and Marcus Stroman deserve some consideration as well. But they get squeezed out on my team.
Kimbrel is a no-brainer…the guy has been virtually untouchable this year. As has been Miller. Even though Miller doesn’t close, it’s hard to ignore his dominance. As for relievers that missed the cut, maybe a case for Roberto Osuna could have been made. But Alex Colome, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera, Kenny Giles? Nah. Justin Wilson & Dellin Betances? Perhaps. But I’m comfortable with just Miller and Kimbrel.
So there you go…NL to follow..at some point…first I have to celebrate the fact that the Fat Panda is finally out of Boston…good riddance…
Moving on…not much more left to cover I don’t think. Well, as I said, there is one big one left:
*And it’s Tyler Zeller!! Ok, no it’s not. But he’s the 2nd to last one on the current roster to go over. 8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract for next year. To no one’s surprise, I’d rather spend that money on someone else. Like…someone a lot better perhaps. There’s really not much more to say.
*Isaiah Thomas. Of course. IT. What do we do with Isaiah?
I can tell you I have gone back and forth on this one all year…and longer actually. I know, he averaged almost 30 points a game this season, so how can there be any debate?
Well, when thinking about it during the regular season, the fact remained that IT hadn’t done much in the playoffs. Yes, I also know that he hasn’t always had a lot of help. But it was a concern. Another concern was that at his size, how will he hold up over the years? Legitimate question, especially if we are talking about giving him max dollars…or close to it. And his negative value on defense. Ultimately, is he the kind of player you really want to build around?
Lots of question marks. I feel like he played better this playoff season. Of course the Celtics played more games, but I felt better about his overall performance. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him with the death of his sister at the beginning of the playoffs. And sure, he struggled some on the court. But let’s face it, you are going to face better competition in the playoffs, so things are going to be tougher to come by.
Then…the hip. Was this the reason he struggled in some games? Who knows? He supposedly had the injury for several weeks. But then it got to a point where he couldn’t go anymore. I don’t know Isaiah personally of course. But I have to believe that if he was sitting playoff games out, it was pretty serious. I’ve heard some question that and I don’t buy that argument. I believe that if he could have played, he would have.
But the injury adds another layer to it all. We still don’t know how serious the injury is. Early indications were that if he had to have surgery, he’d be out 6-9 months or something like that. But we don’t know if he needs the surgery yet. So…another lingering concern.
Add it all up and what to do with Isaiah is a little tricky. But I’ve made my decision.
I’m keeping him and giving him some dough.
Maybe that’s me just getting caught up in his regular season performance this year. Loving how he keeps proving people wrong. I don’t know. But I do know he has been successful here. He has one year left on his current contract at about six and a quarter million…another bargain year. Sure, he will have to get his money after next season. But the C’s will be able to give him more, based on his Bird rights or some sort of cap mumbo jumbo that no one really completely understands. This will also give the Celtics more room to sign other guys too. So giving IT max or close to max money won’t kill them. From what I hear anyway.
I’ve discussed offering IT in trades before. I wouldn’t totally rule that out either. But the hip injury dampens his value a bit. Plus, he fits this system and may have more value to the local team than any others. Brad Stevens has been able to maneuver things where he can “hide” Isaiah on defense. Maybe not always, but seemingly a lot. Danny Ainge has always loved him and he usually hangs onto guys like that.
I think he stays, gets huge money after next season, but the team continues to build around him and he becomes just a piece and not necessarily the main guy. Just one of the main guys. Hope he will be ok with that…and I think he will be.
That does it for the end of season roster. But we are not done. Some more players/points to talk about:
*Geurschon Yabusele/Ante Zizic. 2016 first round draft picks. These two will be here next year. Not sure how much they play though. Both averaged about 100 points a game overseas I believe. But against Chinese and Turkish competition, I also believe. Noted powerhouses they are not. Zizic HAS to be better than Zeller and has some size, so hopefully he can add something. I don’t really have much more to say really…
*Abdel Nader. 2016 2nd round pick. He will be here I bet too…because they got him to stick around last year up in Maine instead of going elsewhere. Likely made him a promise for 2017-18, since the 2016-17 team had a roster crunch. But again, he has to be end of bench material. I guess he played well for Maine, but that is the WNBA…er, I mean the NBA Development League. I think James Young put up 40 every time they sent him there. So I am not expecting much.
*The “other”Marcus Thornton/Ben Pepper. 2nd round picks, Thornton from 2015 and Pepper from 1997. Ok, they won’t be here. But the team still holds their rights. That has to count for something.
*Lonzo Ball. Please God, nnnnooooooo…
*Markelle Fultz. I think the C’s keep the #1 pick and take Fultz. Since I know nothing about college hoops, my analysis may really end here. Fultz seems to be the consensus #1. Maybe some other guys are good too, but it looks like Fultz is the guy.
And if he is, he needs to be the 3rd guard (presumably behind IT and Marcus Smart, with Terry Rozier the 4th guy, if he remains here…and Avery Bradley traded…as I see it anyway). Fultz needs to play. But not start…yet. He definitely needs to come in and play meaningful minutes though.
*2018 Brooklyn first round pick. Giddyup!!
*Three 2017 second round picks. Yaaaaawn.
*Gordon Hayward. And there’s this offseason’s Al Horford. Maybe he likes Utah and will stay there. I just don’t see it. Sure, a lot of people are talking about this because of the Brad Stevens/Butler connection. But I also hear that Boston can offer Hayward more money over the long haul. I have no idea if this is true, but if so, that has to mean something too. Boston over Utah, just in general? Has to be a no brainer. Ok, maybe another team makes a run at him too. But it just feels like a done deal. I’m probably wrong.
Is Hayward a top 10 player in the league? Maybe not. A pretty good player nonetheless. And many believe he will actually come here. No small feat when you consider the Celtics have problems attracting marquee free agents in their history, despite being the most decorated NBA franchise. Then put him with IT, Horford, Fultz, Smart, Jaylen Brown, etc. and you may start to have something.
*Paul George. Seems hell-bent on eventually landing in Lakerland. At least that is the popular opinion. I’m not sure I would trade for him if that is the case.
*Jimmy Butler. Whatever. Good player. I just think the other options available to the Celtics are preferable.
*Big man X. I don’t know who this is. Hopefully someone who can bang around in the paint. I know Brad likes his big guys to heave up threes and all. But they should have a better presence inside somewhat next year. I think anyway. Ideally, they can dangle Bradley and/or Jae Crowder. We’ll see.
Ok, so where does that leave us? What it may look like:
Center: Big Man X, Zizic
Power forward: Horford, Yabusele, Jerebko
Small forward: Hayward, Brown, Nader
“Shooting” guard: Smart, Fultz
Point guard: Isaiah, Rozier, Jackson
A cheap veteran and/or 2nd round picks fill out the roster. Bradley is your trade chip, tough to keep Crowder if Hayward is here and Brown needs minutes, Jerebko could be cheap and Brad loves him, Kelly Olynyk is still an option, but he may get some dough…or get squeezed by the team needing his money for other guys. Moving pieces here and I’m certainly not looking to give Crowder and Bradley away. Hell, they could still end up being here under their reasonable contracts. They probably will, to be quite honest.
Championship team? Nope, but one with some promise. Especially if “Big Man X” is a player.
BUT if Anthony Davis is available and can be had…well…I may have to rewrite these three posts in their entirety…