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2018 MLB American League All-Stars

It’s that time again.  Except, the Blowhard is actually going to make his picks BEFORE the real game, as opposed to previous years.  What a novel idea, eh?  Anyway, 32 players are selected.  20 are supposed to be position players and 12 are supposed to be pitchers.  I’ll stray from that a bit, as we always do here.  19 position players and 13 pitchers for the AL this year, simply because I could not leave one of the pitchers off, while I could have left several positional guys off.  Plus, you already know we cheat on positions themselves.  More of that to come as well.  One rule we do not cheat on?  Each team is represented.  Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule, but for all those spots, I suppose every team should have SOMEONE there.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Wilson Ramos, TB (S)

Wretched.  There is literally only one catcher worth All-Star consideration in the entire league.  All-Star mainstay Salvador Perez is hitting .213.  Everyone’s wunderkind, Gary Sanchez, is hitting .190 and now hurt.  I could go on.  But why?  Someone like Yan Gomes (.247, 10 homers), may well get the backup spot in real life.  Or you can go with designated hitter Evan Gattis (.257, 18 homers, 62 RBI).  And they may well do it.  I was tempted to do it myself since we already went through how we cheat on positions.  But Gattis has caught a grand total of FOUR innings this year.  So even I cannot do it here.  Since the position has been so poor, and we aren’t playing a real game, I’m sticking with just one catcher here.

1B:  Jose Abreu, CWS (S)

Yup, just one guy here too.  Abreu is the only White Sox remotely qualified for selection as well, so this is pretty obvious.  No backups?  Nope.  Anyone can play first base.  And this position is remarkably thin in the league as well.  But maybe not “remarkably thin this year”, perhaps?  Look back at the selections the Blowhard made at 1B last year:  Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso and Abreu.  Abreu has been legit for years.  But those other three dudes predictably came crashing back to earth this season.  Miggy Cabrera is well into the back nine and hurt again anyway.  The person who may well be the backup this year in the real game…and I gave at least slight consideration to?  Mitch Moreland.  MITCH MORELAND!!  But alas, I couldn’t pull the trigger on that one.

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jed Lowrie Oak, Gleybar Torres, NYY

I gave serious consideration to starting Lowrie here.  He’s having a hell of a year.  15 homers and 61 RBI?  Wow.  Good for him though.  But couldn’t put him over Altuve in the end.  Gleybar’s real-life chances may be somewhat torpedoed by his recent hip injury.  But he deserves to be on my team.  Yankee or no Yankee.

3B:  Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Yangervis Solarte, Tor, Alex Bregman, Hou, Mike Moustakas, KC

Ramirez is putting up sick numbers again, so that was easy.  Solarte is far and away the Blue Jays rep.  His numbers are decent enough.  Bregman has been pretty hot and won Player of the Month in June.  That helped grease the skids to get him on this roster.  Plus…he’s pretty good anyway.  Moose?  Welp, the Royals traded away their actual representative in Kelvin Herrera.  So it was between Moose, Whit Merrifield (?) and some pitcher named Keller that was in middle relief most of the year.  Middle reliever that isn’t good enough to close and isn’t (wasn’t) good enough to start on a team that is almost 40 games under .500 already?  Nope.  Moose can also backup at first base on this team since teams now want him as a 1B and he has been playing there recently in the majors.  Not to mention…the Blowhard actually met Moose last year at a game at Fenway.  He graciously shook my hand when he could have just as easily punched me in the face.  That alone is reason enough to put him on this team.

SS:  Manny Machado, Bal (S), Francisco Lindor, Cle

You can start either one, doesn’t matter to me.  Lindor has scored 36 more runs than Machado…THIRTY-SIX!  Of course, the Orioles are horrific, so that doesn’t help Manny.  But both are clear-cut here.  Jean Segura is probably the last guy off my All-Star roster so he may have a case too.  Carlos Correa isn’t having too great a year, but he, along with Andrelton Simmons, Eduardo Escobar and…even Xander Bogaerts…probably warrant bench consideration for the real game.  But not quite for me.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), Mookie Betts, Bos (S), Nick Castellanos, Det, Eddie Rosario, Min, Nomar Mazara, Tex, Mitch Haniger, Sea

Didn’t have to think too hard about the starters.  They are so obvious, not sure I need to say anything really.  Castellanos was Detroit’s clear rep and we picked Rosario over the SS Escobar to represent the Twins.  I suppose one could have gone with Shin-Soo Choo as the Ranger rep.  But since Choo DH’s two-thirds of the time, I chose Mazara.  Despite Choo’s clear advantage in OPS.  Haniger?  Segura?  Nelson Cruz?  Could’ve gone with either of these three for my last spot.  I chose Haniger.  Whatever.  Andrew Benintendi?  Close.  Next year kid.

DH:  J.D. Martinez, Bos (S)

As usual, 1 DH is enough.  Martinez has put up some huge numbers this season.  Can’t ignore those.  Plus, he plays some outfield.  Not well, mind you.  But he still is sent out there sometimes.  Good enough for me.  Already teased above that Cruz is not on my team.  He’s having his usual good year.  But hasn’t played an inning in the field.  Gattis has those 4 innings at catcher, nothing else.  Mike…oops, Giancarlo…Stanton had that horrible start and has since come on.  But everyone else besides J.D. really didn’t move the needle for me enough this season.  Especially when they are all primarily designated hitters.

P:  Luis Severino, NYY (S), Justin Verlander, Hou, Gerrit Cole, Hou, Blake Snell, TB, Corey Kluber, Cle, Chris Sale, Bos, Charlie Morton, Hou, James Paxton, Sea, Trevor Bauer, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos, Aroldis Chapman, NYY, Blake Treinen, Oak, Edwin Diaz, Sea

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.

4 closers this year for me though.  Simply couldn’t find a reason to leave any of them off, they have all been THAT good this year.  If I had to take one off, it would probably be Kimbrel.  Although he has been good this year, he hasn’t been as lights out as last year.  Chapman, Treinen and Diaz have been dominant this season.  Can’t ignore this.

All 9 starters are no-brainers to me as well.  Don’t know how any of them do not make the real squad.  I’ve heard some chatter about Morton being the odd man out.  11-2, 2.83, 141 K’s in 108 innings.  How can you leave him off?  3 Houston starters should make it, deal with it.  And Lance McCullers could have been a fourth in less competitive years.

Came down to Severino or Verlander to start.  Could even make a case for Sale based on the totality of the numbers.  I imagine Severino’s 14 wins will get him the real start.  No complaints here on that.

Shohei Ohtani as a dual weapon in this game?  Not this year due to injury.  But don’t rule it out going forward.

Next:  The 2018 National League All-Stars…

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We Interrupt…

…this prolonged period of silence to rejoice in the fact that HANLEY IS GONE!!!!  I know, the Celtics just lost Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, a truly impressive run; the Bruins are a few weeks removed from a fairly successful season of their own; the Red Sox currently have the best record in baseball and Tom Brady (plus Rob Gronkowski) is being a colossal baby.

But THIS is what brings the Blowhard out of hibernation??  Sure does!  It’s some of the better news we have gotten recently, as silly as this sounds.  But we feel the need to write something about it, no matter.  And we promise to cover the other stuff soon as well.

HANLEY IS GONE!!!  I’m sorry, that just felt good to say again.

Now, Hanley is not entirely gone yet.  Since being designated for assignment last Friday, he is still kind of in limbo.  I suppose there is always a chance Hanley could end up in Pawtucket, if he agrees to it, that is.  That would seem to be unlikely, however.  He will definitely clear waivers if he hasn’t already…no one is picking up that contract.  He could well be traded for a bag of baseballs and some batting practice pitcher screens.  But even though the club that acquires him would only be responsible for the major league minimum salary, this may not happen either.

In a few days, Ramirez will likely be released.  Ending a stint that gave the Sox .260/.326/.450 for a .776 OPS over 431 games over parts of 5 seasons with the team.  5 seasons?  Yup, Hanley had 2 AB’s (2 K’s) as a 21-year-old in 2005, the year before he was dealt as part of a trade for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and I think other flotsam.  Who remembered that?!  Not me…thank you Baseball-Reference.com!

Ok, so it’s really the 4 years, 88 mil that Hanley stole from the Sox from 2015-2018 that is the problem.  Sure, 2016 had some highlights.  But other than a few then, a colossal waste.

Left field was a disaster in 2015, and although we can’t entirely blame Ramirez because he shouldn’t have been stuck there, we CAN blame him for a complete lack of effort in trying to get better out there.  Jeez, guys like Mike Greenwell, Jim Rice and even Manny Ramirez became at least serviceable out there during there careers…for the 81 games in the small left field in Fenway anyway.  Hanley didn’t even try.

Hanley WAS serviceable at first base in 2016.  However, 2017 came and he basically refused to play there again.  There was some bogus shoulder injury or something.  Then in 2018 he comes in all ready to play first and was chirping about a 30/30 season or some nonsense along those lines.

I don’t think anyone who follows the team, specifically principal owner John Henry, wanted to see Hanley rack up the 497 plate appearances during the 2018 season, that would vest the 22 million dollar option for 2019.  Yet here he was in the lineup every day, middle of the order, and actually having a strong April.  Whoops.

Then Friday happened.  Did anyone see this one coming?  I think not.  The little leader in Dustin Pedroia was to be activated and I think everyone believed (former) prospect Blake Swihart would be the casualty.  I think the Sox took huge advantage of Hanley being 0 for his last 20 and down to .254/.313/.395 to make this move.  What if he was still hitting over .300?  Perfect timing.  I’d also call that “dodging a bullet”.

By giving Ramirez all of that playing time early on, they were playing with fire on that 2019 option.  What if he kept the hot April going and later in the year started approaching those 30/30 predictions?  Hanley looked to be in decent shape, seemed to be playing a good first base, appeared to have had a better attitude this year and all that.  You never know…especially when there is a carrot worth 22 million dangling in front of him.

The Sox lucked out that Hanley cooled off.  Simple as that.

Now, would losing Swihart have been the end of the world?  Most assuredly not.  He just would have gone on that long list of especially recent “hot prospects” that the Sox hung onto too long before everyone realized that…they weren’t really prospects after all.  So they haven’t even been able (or willing?) to trade high on them before they all flamed out.  Brian Johnson is one currently on the team.  But you know, Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Ryan Lavarnway…the list is endless.  You can probably also throw in their top 2 2018 prospects in Jason Groome (Tommy John surgery recently) and Michael Chavis (80 game PED suspension)…but I digress…

Something about Blake I like though…but I could be wrong…since he is still being buried now.  We’ll see.

Ok, this looks like about 800 plus words and it was supposed to be just a few words to get back into the swing of things.  So Hanley Ramirez is gone and I am clearly happy.  But this Sox team still has a lot of the same unlikeable characters from last year.  This may explain why I am still not in love with the team despite their success thus far this year.  A story for a different day perhaps.

But if they could DFA David Price, Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. also, that may help me a little bit…

Red Sox Offseason Primer

The General Manager meetings started Monday.  I know the World Series has barely ended.  And all of the 2017 awards have not been handed out yet.  But free agency has technically started.  So let’s take a look by position group to see who the Red Sox currently have and what they potentially could (should?) do.

The 40-man roster presently stands at 37.  If they want to protect any prospects from the Rule V draft, they will have to do so by November 20th.  But since Dave Dombrowski has basically traded all their prospects, they may not have to add anyone.  This is not to bash Dombrowski, just to state a fact.  I probably would have done the same thing as him.  In any event, after scanning MLB.com’s list of the Top 30 Sox prospects and comparing it to the list on Soxprospects.com of eligible Rule V players, the top prospect eligible (at #16) is some lefty pitcher named Jalen Beeks.  Yup, someone most have never heard of, including myself.  He did go 11-8, 3.29 between AA and AAA last year and is only 24.  So maybe he takes up a spot.  But I’m not searching for other players that may occupy the three open spots.  Doesn’t appear to be any no-brainers that NEED to be protected, but what do I know?

Let’s just dive right in:

Starting pitchers (10):

Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hector Velasquez, Steven Wright.

Hey, don’t yell at me because Elias, Johnson and Owens are listed first.  Blame the alphabet.  I think most of us hope that none of these guys are in the rotation at any point during the season.  Actually, I read somewhere that Johnson may be in the bullpen next year because he is out of options.  That sounds awesome, no?  Yeah…

In any event, barring health concerns, it appears the five starters are set heading into the season:  Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Porcello and E-Rod.  Presumably, Wright will have to make the squad as well.  So there’s seven guys already that are locked in to begin the year.  Not entirely a bad thing considering the time bomb that Price’s elbow is.  Plus, you can count on E-Rod having to miss time with…something.  And does anyone expect Pomeranz to hold up for a full season next year?  Not to mention that Johnson doesn’t exactly stay healthy often himself.

If Price can approach a return to past All-Star form, then it’s not a bad rotation, with a little bit of depth.  But what if he doesn’t?  One also has to factor in that with the heavy workload Sale had last year, in addition to his annual second half regression, even he has some question marks going in.  You may not know what you get out of any of these guys.

As for the rest…the way Velasquez was used at the big league level last year pretty much indicates he is a mop-up dude…maybe Elias is too.  Maybe the Sox think more highly of Elias than most others do though.  He was hurt pretty much all year, then they squeezed him back into a roster spot late.  I have no idea why Owens is still on the roster.  At some point in the past he was not only one of the Sox’ top prospects, but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball.  That ship seems to have sailed however, what with his pathetic performance all of last season.  Which included a demotion to AA.  Where he walked 55 guys in 57 innings.  Yikes!

All in all, it looks like the Red Sox hands are tied here.  There will be no major free agents coming in.  Maybe E-Rod gets thrown in a deal, but I’m not counting on it.  I think you will see all of these characters in camp.  And then probably the aforementioned seven breaking camp with the team.  And I believe the Sox brass will be satisfied if that is the case.

Relief pitchers (11):

Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Williams Jerez, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Austin Maddox, Robby Scott, Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman.

The Sox will probably bring another five or so fringe major league relievers into camp once the moves this winter are all said and done.  But if Wright and Johnson make the club as swingmen, then that leaves only five spots open in the ‘pen.  Some of the extra relievers will be signed to minor league deals, so they can stick with Pawtucket and be called up later if necessary.  Think Blaine Boyer types.  Any way you slice it, there are always a lot of arms in Spring Training.

As for the five spots?  As of right now, seems easy.  Barnes, Kelly, Kimbrel, Smith and either Hembree or Workman.  I’d take Workman, but if he still has options left, which I don’t know if he does, then he goes to Pawtucket.  I imagine Jerez and Taylor will start at Pawtucket as well.  The club seemed to love Maddox at the end of the year, especially since they included him on the postseason roster.  But I am sure he has options left, which puts him in the minors to start the year.  Scott is fungible and likely has options himself.  Thornburg of course should be in the ‘pen to start, and recent reports indicate that he may be ready for the start of Spring Training, but I’m not counting on that.  How can anyone after his saga last year?  There’s probably a pretty good chance they take it slow with him anyway.

I’m not expecting any major moves here this winter either.  Not even a semi-major move, something like bringing Addison Reed back.  I expect them to sign several more relievers, as noted above.  But none that will move the needle.

I think the pitching staff that ended last year will be the bulk of the pitching staff that starts 2018.  I believe that, especially in the bullpen, that the Red Sox feel that getting a couple injured guys back at full strength will account for any upgrades that need to be made.  If Smith and Thornburg get back to where they were before their injuries, then they may have a case.  Time will tell on all of that.

What SHOULD the Sox do on the staff?  Believe it or not, I’m ok with throwing all of the above bodies up there, adding those fringe bullpen arms as well and then seeing what sticks.  I’m not sure a major move needs to be made anywhere on the pitching staff.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t LOVE everyone listed, probably not even half of them.  But they can get by with these guys.  After all, they did win 93 games last year with plenty of time missed by a few significant pitchers noted above.

I’d say anything major being done with this team needs to be done to the offense…which we will cover soon…

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