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…
More bullet points!
*I know the Sox have the best record in baseball. And maybe this alone gives Manager Alex Cora some leeway to “experiment”, if you will. Because don’t you get the feeling he is doing that sometimes?
Well, other than with Blake Swihart…but we will chat about him in more detail later.
A couple of recent examples here. Robby Scott has been buried in the minors all year. He had options remaining. But he isn’t very good either. Cora brought him into a tie game last week in the eighth inning…when the rest of the “good” relievers were rested and available. Scott promptly hit a guy and walked another. Next thing you know, the game is lost.
Xander Bogaerts hurts a finger and for depth (and since the Sox were carrying 13 pitchers and only 12 position players), the team brings up Tzu-Wei Lin from Pawtucket. Cora sticks Lin in the leadoff spot and Tzu-Wei promptly goes 0-4 with 2 K’s. Oh, and Lin didn’t hit in his first go around here this year. And…wait, he was at .299 in the minors? A couple of weeks ago he was around .214. Ok, so maybe he got hot. But that doesn’t always translate to the majors of course. Leadoff?!
I don’t know, sometimes it seems Cora is pulling stuff out of his arse like this often. Like Brock Holt batting fifth in the same game as Lin hitting leadoff. Just hope it doesn’t cost the team a game and then they lose the division by that game and as a result have to play in the Wild Card game.
*That all being said, I can’t say I have too many complaints about Cora overall this season. Seems to be doing a pretty good job. Of course, the league stinks. But still…
*If there is anyone in the organization to complain about, it may be Dave Dombrowski. The cupboard is bare in the minor leagues. How are they going to get reinforcements for this stretch run?
Listen, I know guys like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel are here because prospects were dealt to get them. I also know that a proven major league player is better than a random prospect. Many of these much-ballyhooed Red Sox prospects over the years end up being garbage. Some are dealt before they become that. Unfortunately, many have stayed in the Sox’ system too long and become garbage before they are moved. But I’ll take a proven stud over a question mark most days of the week.
But damn, there appears to be less than zero left! Their two best prospects are Jay Groome and Michael Chavis. Groome had Tommy John surgery and Chavis got popped for PEDs.
So who is next? Rusney Castillo? Ugh…you just don’t hear any names for real prospects in the Sox’ system. Does anyone have value?
I imagine we will find out over the next month or so leading up to the trading deadline.
*As for Castillo, I agree with some of the local talk radio hosts…Rusney deserves another chance in the bigs. Well, “deserve” may be a strong word. But have you seen the OPS’s in this lineup?
Jackie Bradley Jr., .581, Eduardo Nunez, .634, Christian Vazquez, .538…and on and on.
Can Rusney be worse? And they are paying him like 11 mil this year anyway. Bring him up and see what happens.
I don’t care if Bradley had three hits Sunday and Tuesday. He has been abysmal. And apparently has options remaining. Yeah, the team has been winning and he plays great defense. But enough is enough already. Send him down to find his swing. If he can. I’ve said it before and will say it again: He should have been dealt after his “All-Star” season in 2016. Didn’t we know that’s the best we were going to get? And that he is so damn streaky, it could only go downhill from there? I did. Sorry. I did.
*If the Sox won’t bring up Castillo because they don’t want his contract to count against the luxury tax, which is what some believe, then do something else. I say that something else is to play Blake Swihart every day for 3-4 weeks and give him a chance to get going. Sure, his OPS of .388 is worse than everyone. But I suppose that can happen when you are given a mere 80 plate appearances in 79 games up to this point. While also being asked to play positions you’ve rarely played before.
I have no idea if this kid can play in the major leagues. I have no idea why I seem to like him and really want him to play. Perhaps because the Sox have kind of ruined his career by jerking him around? Specifically in 2016, when he is the Opening Day catcher, drops a couple of foul balls in like the first 8 games, then they panic and dispatch him to Pawtucket (while also bringing up Vazquez, who missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and clearly wasn’t ready to be back in the bigs at that point). Then bring him back up later in the year and shoehorn him in the outfield and he busts his ankle in the summer.
This year, Cora says he wants Blake to be like Marwin Gonzalez…play all over the diamond and get close to 500 AB’s. Yup…hasn’t happened. In fact, Cora started him at catcher in one game then kind of blamed him for the pitch selection after the game. Yup, that’s why Jalen Beeks got hammered. Maybe he shouldn’t have given Blake the start behind the plate for the first time this year with a kid making his major league debut on the mound?
Or maybe my affinity for Blake is not to become another highly touted Sox prospect that has stayed in the organization too long and is eventually exposed and found to have no value. Like…
*Brian Johnson! His ship has sailed now that he is 27 years of age. The last guy on the staff. On top of that, clearly does not pitch well as a bullpen guy. Maybe he wouldn’t as a regular rotation guy either. But why bother? Let him go to another team.
*And…Henry Owens! Did you know Owens was completely out of baseball for a couple of weeks in May? Me neither. This guy was once “can’t miss”. Boy did he miss…
*We covered Hanley a while back. I was happy he was gone and that hasn’t changed. But now with all this stuff coming out about him allegedly having major drug connections and all that, he has returned as a popular topic on the airwaves. “With the Sox looking for a right-handed bat that can hit lefties, if this proves to be nothing, why wouldn’t they just re-sign him?” and “I don’t like the Sox releasing someone because of the money (if he got enough at-bats to vest his 2019 option)”…blah, blah, blah.
Hanley has not been good for most of his career here. And not the greatest guy to have around, drug connections or no drug connections. So please stop it! They should have done everything they could to make sure that option didn’t vest. It was stupid to play him every day right at the beginning of the season.
Let’s not all pretend we loved Hanley and NEED his bat. For most of his tenure here it was “what bat?”.
*Joe Castiglione…we love you, man. You’ve had a nice career. But…I don’t know. Sometimes I just can’t listen anymore. Last week against the Twins, he was pointing out a fact that the Twins catchers had 17 RBI’s for the year. And was seemingly surprised that the number could be so low. Ummmmm, at the time, the Sox catchers had combined for 19 RBI’s on the year. Just sayin’…
*I leave you with this: With the Sox having some key contracts expire after 2018 & 2019, as well as some of their younger players due for big raises through the arbitration process. Not to mention that barren farm system again. My question is this: Is it time to start taking offers on one Xander Bogaerts? One more year of arbitration, then free agency after 2019. Scott Boras as his agent. A career that hasn’t taken off as many expected.
X has been decent. But does the team break the bank to keep him under the circumstances? Especially with the pitching staff in total flux over the next few years and no one coming from the farm? And Mookie being due after 2020 on top of that?
I’m investigating this. Are you?
March 29th, to be exact. Thursday. In March. Boy, that sure crept up fast. I suppose that’s what happens when it is basically still winter up here in the Northeast and baseball is not top of mind when it’s 30 degrees out and plenty of snow remains on the ground. Not to mention the fact that the Bruins and Celtics are having great seasons, thereby keeping the focus on them for a while…possibly until both are out of the playoffs.
Perhaps also the expectations for the Red Sox aren’t as high this year either? I don’t know. I’m not that high on them anyway. I’m not sold on the rookie manager. Too many question marks on the pitching staff, especially relating to injuries…or injury risks. Didn’t necessarily love the J.D. Martinez deal. Hanley…everything about him. The Yankees lineup looks prodigious…and have young potential stars on the way to boot. Some of this stuff we’ve been through before. Rest assured, we will get into more detail on my hesitations in the paragraphs that follow.
Listen, the Sox should be plenty good this year. They should be in the mix for the playoffs…of course. And for the money that the players are getting, they’d better be. Alex Cora HAS to be better than John Farrell, right? If he rejuvenates the younger players in the lineup, that alone is a huge win. You know, those young players who were supposed to be the future stars and the core of this team for years to come?
So anyway, let’s start with a quick look at the roster. No, it is not officially set yet, but it’s close enough. In all likelihood, the roster was pretty much set before the spring even started, for all intents and purposes. Basically just had to be adjusted a little for any spring injuries and for those who need a little more time to recover from previous offseason surgeries and whatnot.
Now let’s be honest, I did not watch a whole ton of spring training baseball. But I read all the box scores! And more importantly, I stayed away from all those “feel-good” stories that come out every March. Didn’t need those influencing my feelings. Because you all know how I feel for the 72nd guy on the roster. Root like hell for whoever that may be! In any event, because Spring Training results are fairly useless, we probably didn’t miss much.
Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position, using the 40-man roster as a base, but adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where appropriate:
In: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Brian Johnson
DL: Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez
DL/Suspension: Steven Wright
In limbo: Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden (NRI)
Minors: Jalen Beeks, Roenis Elias
Comments: If Pomeranz and E-Rod aren’t out long, then the starting five should be more than acceptable. But that’s the big part of the problem. Those two aren’t the healthiest hurlers around. They could be out only a week or two, or we could see them in June. No one ever knows with them…E-Rod specifically. Price has apparently had a nice spring. But are we out of the woods on his elbow yet? Not so sure. Johnson is in the Opening Week rotation because of all these injuries. But how about HIS injury history? Marcus Walden is only noted here because he may actually be the #5 guy at the start since Hector has been less than stellar this spring.
Bottom line? Lot’s of holes here. If the starters remain in good health, it could be a top rotation. But what are the chances of that happening?
In: Craig Kimbrel (closer), Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree
DL: Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox
In limbo: Bobby Poyner (NRI), Tommy Layne (NRI)
Minors: Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez
Comments: There seem to be some other guys hanging around camp, like William Cuevas, but we don’t need to talk about guys like him. They won’t be going up to Boston for Opening Day. Anyway…lots of questions here as well. Kimbrel was dominant last year, let’s hope he can do it again. But the rest? Smith resurfaced at the end of last year, but let’s see how he handles a full season now. I am no fan of Kelly and Barnes so I don’t even want to talk about them. If Thornburg can regain his health, that SHOULD help. Then again, he has pitched in Milwaukee his whole career. Who knows how he adjusts to the AL East? Workman has been a huge disappointment this spring and I have no idea what the hell is wrong with late-season darling Maddox. He hasn’t pitched all spring it looks like and I haven’t even heard his name mentioned. I have heard Poyner’s name mentioned, as he has apparently turned some heads. But the Sox had to go sign Layne in the middle of the spring. That can’t be good.
There will be a lot of bodies on and off the pitching staff all year-long. But I don’t love all the questions right out of the gate. If I had to guess, Sale, Price, Porcello, Johnson, Velasquez, Walden, Poyner, Hembree, Kelly, Barnes, Smith and Kimbrel head to Boston at the start. In case you were worried, there is one open 40-man spot for one of Walden or Poyner and another spot can be opened when someone like Dustin Pedroia goes on the 60-day DL. Or someone like Chandler Shepherd gets designated for assignment. But, as you know, I’m the only one that cares about the last 40-man roster spot…
Next: The bats