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National League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game played Tuesday, here is my National League All-Star team.  20 position players, 14 pitchers, each team represented.  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.  NL team was a little harder to pick.  Simply because based on the statistics, I should’ve taken 14 position players and 20 pitchers.  But that of course would look foolish, so…

C:  Buster Posey, SF (S), Yadier Molina, StL

As noted in the AL column, not a huge fan of taking 3 catchers.  Suppose a case could have been made for Yasmani Grandal and his 14 homers over Molina.  But he doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, so I held that against him (did anyone realize only 4 NL catchers actually have enough at-bats to qualify?  I find that interesting, though it may only be me that does.  I get that a lot…).  Plus, we know what Yadier is defensively.

1B:  Paul Goldschmidt, AZ (S), Anthony Rizzo, CHC, Freddie Freeman, Atl, Adrian Gonzalez, LAD, Joey Votto, Cin, Adam Lind, Mil

6 first basemen you say?  I say yes.  For one, all 6 are in the top 11 in the NL in OPS.  For two, no DH’s are to be selected in the NL, so some can play there.  For three, Lind can play the outfield if you were desperate.  For four, I chose Lind as the Brewer rep.  So there you go.

2B:  Dee Gordon, LAD (S), Joe Panik, SF

Can you believe I had Chase Utley here as a backup to Gordon last year?  Wow, what a drop off for Utley this year.  I don’t necessarily love Gordon, as steals are overrated a bit.  But he is hitting .338 too, so…and Joe Panik?  Yeah, I could’ve gone Kolten Wong here too.  But what’s really the difference?  I flipped a coin…actually Panik had the higher OPS, so I went with that.

3B:  Todd Frazier, Cin (S), Nolan Arenado, Col, Kris Bryant, CHC

Frazier and Arenado are having monster years, but Nolan gets penalized for “The Colorado Effect”, so Todd starts.  I was hesitant on Bryant at first.  But the lack of offensive candidates here in general, and the excitement of showcasing the kids that could become faces of the game (you’ll see this for one more example later) led me to select him.

SS:  Jhonny Peralta, StL (S), Brandon Crawford, SF

Thin, but the best of the lot unfortunately.  Yup, Tulo is totally out this year for me.  I went through the whole Colorado thing last year.  No need to rehash that again.  Bottom line:  I penalize guys for putting up huge numbers because of that park.  Right or wrong.  Tulo’s home/road splits aren’t as pronounced as they were at this time last year.  But his overall numbers didn’t do enough for me.

OF:   Giancarlo Stanton, Mia (S), Andrew McCutchen, Pit (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Justin Upton, SD, Joc Pederson, LAD

Can’t get any more airtight than these three starters.  Upton is the Padre rep and for Joc?  See Bryant, Kris above.  .230 isn’t awesome, but he is still in.  You want AJ Pollock instead?  No thanks…

P:  Zack Greinke, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Gerrit Cole, Pit, Clayton Kershaw, LAD, Shelby Miller, Atl, Jacob deGrom, NYM, Jake Arrieta, CHC, Carlos Martinez, StL, AJ Burnett, Pit, Johnny Cueto, Cin, Madison Bumgarner, SF, Francisco Liriano, Pit, Cole Hamels, Phi, Aroldis Chapman, Cin

13 starters and 1 closer?  Yup.  Honestly, there were a whole slew of guys that I could’ve taken here.  Some gaudy numbers all around the league.  Of course, that’s probably because it’s the NL, but the numbers are the numbers.  Anyway, Greinke doesn’t have the K’s that Max or Clayton have, but you can’t argue a 1.39 ERA.  He was the right choice to start.  Yes, I took 3 Pirates.  Cole is 13-3, Burnett has a 2.11 ERA and Liriano has a 1.03 WHIP and is over a K per inning.  Simply stated stats, but they belong.

Miller’s performance this year makes you wonder why the Cardinals gave him up.  Usually the Cards know who to get rid of cuz they aren’t very good (see Kelly, Joe, Craig, Allen, Red Sox, Boston).  deGrom and Hamels are their teams’ reps.  Hamels numbers are inflated from a couple of shellings, but his overall numbers are decent enough.  Other than Jonathan Papelbon and maybe Ken Giles, candidates were sparse on the Phils, so I went with the horse.  Bumgarner’s numbers may not be quite as good as others.  But he’s here for a good first half and a dominant postseason last year.  Arrieta’s and Cueto’s WHIPs are both under 1.00, have nice ERAs and average about a K per inning.

Honestly could’ve made cases for John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Tyson Ross, Jason Hammel, Matt Harvey, etc.  But how many starters can you take?

Chapman seemed to be the only dominant bullpen guy out there and thus he was the only one selected.  There are a whole slew of closers with 20 plus saves and a 1-something ERA.  Drew Storen, Jeurys Familia, Trevor Rosenthal, Mark Melancon, Francisco Rodriguez, etc.  But looking at their overall numbers, I didn’t feel it.  Plus, I saw Melancon pitch in the AL.  Not pretty.  I’ll never forget his last meaningful appearance for the BoSox (he got shipped to AAA after that game and then came back later in the year only to pitch mopup).  6 batters, 6 runs, 3 homers, all of them moonshots.  The expression on his face as he gave up his last one?  Complete shellshock.  Happy to be back in NL I bet.

Guys like Pap and John Axford, Brad Ziegler, etc…same boat, with less saves.  Kenley Jansen actually has been dominant (16 saves, 0.55 WHIP, 1.66 ERA, 2/38 BB/K ratio), but he missed half the first half and has only pitched 22 innings.   Not enough.  And seem to be a lot of middle men with gaudy numbers.  But middle men certainly will get squeezed out here with the rest of the candidates.  Ain’t no Wade Davis or Dellin Betances in this group.  Maybe Kevin Siegrist.  AJ Ramos?  Possibly.  But not this year…

Massive (brain) dump…Part II…

Continuing on from a few days ago…

*The Revs scored some goals…and won a game!  I feel better…really…

Ok, back to real sports (sorry Barry…and Guy…and Keo…and…!!!)…slew of Red Sox comments/concerns to catch up on, as well as other baseball notes:

*Christian Vazquez is going to see Dr. James Andrews.  Uh oh.  Elbow problems for the young catcher.  And the MRI showed “something”.  A trip to Andrews is not usually a good thing.  Especially for a catcher that probably won’t ever hit much and will be in the big leagues for years solely on his defense.  Good luck to him.

In the meantime, where does that leave the team?  Last year at one point, they had 5 on the 40-man roster, which seemed high to me.  AJ Pierzynski, Vazquez, David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway and Dan Butler.  Ok, labeling some of these guys “catchers” may be pushing it.  But now?  Just Ryan Hanigan and an unproven Blake Swihart behind Vasky.  Luke Montz, Matt Spring and Humberto Quintero are non-roster invitees this spring, but…ugh.

If Vazquez’ injury turns out to be a short term thing, I see Hanigan obviously getting the bulk of the reps.  But I also see Swihart getting an early cup of coffee.  Not ideal, but I don’t see any obvious 40-man roster cuts at this point to consider adding one of the vets above.  Too early to start cutting roster depth.  If it’s long term, Vasky will likely go on the 60 day DL and that would open up a spot for I would assume Quintero out of the above group.

I guess we shouldn’t really worry about the 9th spot in the lineup though.  As long as any of those dudes performs satisfactorily on defense, they should be ok.

*You think John Farrell may start to be worried about his “5 aces”?  If he isn’t, he should be.  This group still scares the bejesus out of me.  Hasn’t been a great spring.  Clay Buchholz gave up 12 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings plus the other day.  Nice.  I normally don’t pay much attention to spring training stats.  But as it comes to a close I like to see guys pretty much in mid-season form.  Clay certainly isn’t…and no one else seems to be either.

Joe Kelly will likely start the year on the DL.  Masterson and Miley have been up and down.  Scouts have not written good things about any of the starters’ performances this spring.  In addition, it seems as if the team is still auditioning guys.  Steven Wright went yesterday.  Brian Johnson goes today.  Etc.  I am not sure you can depend on any of these guys in the first place.  One guy I haven’t mentioned is Rick Porcello.  I actually don’t mind him and am more confident in him performing ok than any of the others.  But if he is your #1?  Ouch.

I’m still not overpaying for Cole Hamels though.

*Who else is tired of hearing Big Papi open his mouth?  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  Contract, scoring decisions, pace of play rules…just play ball!  What was the purpose of bringing up steroids again this spring?  And do you really feel the need to tout your Hall of Fame candidacy while you are still playing?  For once, I just wish he would just play and not be sour about seemingly everything.  To me, he’s a Hall of Famer.  But we can debate about that when he’s done.

*Speaking of the Hall of Fame, you know who else belongs there?  Pete Rose.  So what if he is a scumbag?  How many others in the Hall are?  Probably most.  You may argue he bet on baseball games and that is a different type of infraction that should keep him out.  I argue that the case against him was while he was managing…and I am not putting him in the Hall for his managerial abilities.  You may deduce that he was betting on baseball when he was playing too.  Well, how many other players were doing that too?  How many guys were doing some sort of performance enhancing drug while they were playing and weren’t caught?  How many cheated in other ways on the field and were never caught?  I could go on.  There are people I know with strong opinions that he should never get in.  I think otherwise.  So be it…

*I have absolutely no sympathy for Brady Aiken.  He was the #1 pick overall last year, to the Houston Astros.  They apparently agreed on a contract that included a $6.5 million signing bonus.  The Astros conducted a physical and it showed something like a UCL being smaller than normal.  They balked and cut the bonus in about half.  They eventually upped it back to $5 mil.  Aiken balked and did not sign.  Then he had Tommy John surgery the other day.

Aiken doesn’t sound too upset about any of this.  And look, he is still just 18 years old.  Tommy John surgery has actually made pitchers come back better on average over recent years.  So he may still get his money.  But if I’m 18, I’m taking the 5 mil and setting myself up for life.  So many things can happen as a kid that could jeopardize future earnings.  On top of that, he may not even develop as planned.  On top of that, it’s not like he went to college instead (he had a scholarship to UCLA, but chose to go to go to some sort of training school, IMG Academy).

Then again, Jeff Allison came out of high school and signed as a first round pick.  Then he apparently spent all that dough on truckloads of heroin.  18 year olds with tons of dough can be easily influenced, we know.  See also, Hamilton, Josh.  So maybe Aiken made the right choice…

*Lastly, for today, Shane Victorino.

In my opinion, this whole thing with him is completely overblown.  For those who missed it, he essentially said he would trade prospects for Cole Hamels in a heartbeat.  He played with Hamels, Hamels is good, why wouldn’t you of course?

The problem people are having here is that the players mentioned most in trade rumors are Mookie Betts, Swihart and Henry Owens.  Betts in particular is the rub here, since technically, Betts and Vic are competing for playing time in the Sox outfield.  People are interpreting this as Vic wanting to trade Betts, therefore kind of guaranteeing him his spot.  And people are asking why Vic would be so open to trading any of these guys, when he knows who is being talked about and he has to share a locker room with these players.

I say…who cares?  Of course Vic wants to play.  But he won a World Series here and I am sure he wants to win as well.  Adding ace (or close to ace) pitchers cannot hurt.  Especially since he played with Hamels, as noted above, and knows what he can bring to a staff/team.  What if Xander Bogaerts was the one regularly mentioned instead of Betts, does that change perception now that it’s not a guy specifically competing with Vic?  What if Vic said he would trade prospects for Chris Sale or Clayton Kershaw or King Felix?  Would people be as upset?  Who doesn’t want to add quality, proven major league players to their team?

Then Vic felt the need to defend himself and probably didn’t do himself any favors in the process.

Big Papi can speak out about anything and the media fawns over him most of the time.  But Victorino can’t?  Just seems stupid.

That being said, I think Vic is close to done and probably should be the odd guy out in the outfield.  I want to see Betts and Rusney Castillo play.  I’d like to see if Allen Craig can regain his value.  He was once pretty good and I’d hate to give him away for nothing.  Daniel Nava has his uses.

But if Castillo is truly ok about going to the minors to start the year (and with his 10 mil, why wouldn’t he…as long as it’s temporary?), this will all work itself out anyway.  Vic and Hanley Ramirez will likely get hurt.  Craig may be dealt anyway, but also play some first and DH.  Everyone will get at-bats.

Just another reason why Spring Training is too long…people making stories out of really nothing at all…

 

Truck Day!!

Ok, it was yesterday.  But still got me thinking about the warmer weather.  Been quite a lovely few weeks around Beantown, but that’s the kind of thing we sign up for every once in a while for living in this region of the country.  Snow, cold, snow…and some more snow.  Some winters anyway.  As the immortal William Belichick would say, it is what it is.

Anyway, with the Red Sox equipment truck heading to Spring Training in Florida yesterday, it obviously also got me thinking again about baseball…and the Red Sox in particular.

Since the flurry of moves in mid-December, I have been saying that the Sawx are not done shaping the 2015 team.  They can’t go into the year having a rotation full of #3 starters (and saying “#3” may even be generous in a sense), nor can they go in with 112 outfielders either.  OK, people are actually counting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz as outfielders.  Yes, OF technically is their position, as listed on the roster.  But they aren’t playing on this year’s team, so I think we can safely say they don’t really count at this point.  So the number of outfielders the Sox have is not quite that high, but there is still an excess.  It has always seemed as if more moves were actually necessary.

But are they?

Of course they are!!  But I don’t feel the Red Sox feel the same way, at this very point in time anyway.

They absolutely need an ace…or at least a #2 type.  I think they know that.  That’s why you hear all the whispers about Cole Hamels.  Sure, the Sox will take him.  But the Phillies asking price seems to be a little high.  I have no idea what they are asking for, but he is still in Philly in mid-February.  That pretty much tells me the price is too high for any team.  Rumor is they want either one of Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart.  Among other players, I am sure.  And probably eating a significant amount of his remaining contract (looks like 4 years, 94 mil, with another option year that could be a factor as well).

I almost always would trade any prospect for a proven major league stud at any position.  Almost always.  The Carl Pavano/Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro deal was one of my all-time favorites.  But for Cole Hamels?  Not so sure.  I do like Hamels as a pitcher, no question.  But a lot of mileage on that arm.  31 years old now.  NL pitcher his entire career.  Lot of dough to come up with.  Would make me wonder why they just didn’t re-sign Jon Lester…or even sign James Shields, for that matter.  Just would have to spend the money in those cases.  For whatever reason, I’m just not feeling this one.

You start talking Chris Sale though, or a pitcher of that ilk?  Goodbye Mookie.

The Sox are spending a ton of money…and they should.  But personally, I like it when they are able to integrate some homegrown prospects into the mix each year.  Or young prospects that were acquired somehow…you get the point.  As of right this second, I am not trading Betts, Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Zeke Spruill…whoops, no, you can have Zeke.  Those first 4 for sure, and there may be others in the minors that have somewhat elite potential (I hear the names Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot & Brian Johnson a lot), that if I knew them any better I may say I don’t want to trade them either.  And I’m not trading Xander Bogaerts.

Maybe every single one of those guys turns out to be a bum.  But I’ll take my chances.  I think Red Sox management will too…at least for now.  This seems like the first time in quite a while people other than the Red Sox themselves say that the organization has this many high ceiling prospects.  It’s been building over the last decade of course, but it appears they have accumulated a lot of “assets” over the years and are at its highest point currently.  They traded a few of those earlier this winter.  I’m ok with that.  Other than Rubby de la Rosa, who I liked what I saw from him last year, the other guys on the way out seemed to be expendable.  Have never been impressed with Allen Webster.  Anthony Ranaudo?  Maybe.  Raymel Flores and Gabe Speier?  Who the hell knows with those guys?  Will Middlebrooks?  Hahaha…good riddance dude!

Side note:  You can argue the return in all of those deals for sure.  An old backup catcher for Middlebrooks (who despite all of his criticisms is still relatively young and has power potential)?  De la Rosa, Webster AND Flores for Miley?  Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson AND Speier for maybe one year of Rick Porcello?  Ranaudo for Robbie Ross?  To me, the Sox overpaid in all of those deals.  But that’s me.  I also would have kept Drake Britton, who was designated for assignment to fit Alexi Ogando onto the 40-man roster.  Yes, Britton was wretched in Pawtucket last year.  But he is 25 years old, lefty and has had some success in the majors, albeit in limited action.  I’d have kept him over a guy like Tommy Layne.  Because he is, well…Tommy Layne.  Nice run last year.  But basically a career minor leaguer himself.

Anyway, after thinking about all of this recently, I think the Sox’ Opening Day Roster is actually set right now, with the players they already have.  And no ace coming or surplus outfielders going.  I see it as:

Starting pitchers (5):  Clay Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson

Relief pitchers-left (3):  Craig Breslow, Layne, Ross

Relief pitchers-right (4):  Anthony Varvaro, Ogando, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara

Catcher (2):  Christian Vazquez, Hanigan

Infielders (5):  Mike Napoli (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Bogaerts (SS), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Brock Holt

Outfielders (5):  Hanley Ramirez (LF), Rusney Castillo (CF), Shane Victorino (RF), Allen Craig, Daniel Nava

Designated Hitter (1):  David Ortiz

To those that are actually paying attention, they may count two notable omissions from my list.  Mookie Betts and to a lesser extent, Edward Mujica.  Mujica was largely atrocious last year, but pitched better in the 2nd half.  Maybe the pressure was off since the team was bad.  But either way, there has been some smoke around his name lately.  I see this as being their only move of the spring, as of now.  They probably move him for a bag of baseballs to free up the spot.  John Farrell seems to like 3 lefties in the bullpen, so they all stick.  It really doesn’t matter that Ross is more effective against righties…I guess because Varvaro is more effective against lefties…so they say.

As for Betts, that’s a little more difficult.  Holt needs to be on the team for the simple reason is that he is the backup shortstop.  Also in this scenario he is your backup centerfielder.  Not to mention you can plug him in anywhere else in a pinch.  You could free up a spot for Mookie by trading any one of Napoli, Nava, Craig or Victorino.  But Nappy is hopefully primed for a comeback year with his sleep apnea surgery and with one year left on his deal, I don’t see it.  Craig’s value is as low as it could be.  Nava is who he is and has minimal value.  He will be an asset against righties though.  No one is taking Vic’s 13 mil unless the Sox pay 12.95 of it.

My feeling is this:  Between the roughly 1,400 plate appearances combined from 1B and RF, Napoli probably gets 500 or so and the other 3 will split the rest.  Or I believe that to be the initial plan.  Even if there is no way that is how it will work out.  Victorino is not likely to stay healthy, nor will Hanley for that matter.  Ortiz will take some days off.  They laughably have Craig taking grounders at 3B, so maybe they try and give him AB’s there as well.  All these guys will get a decent amount of playing time somewhere on the diamond though.  I also include Betts in that projection.  The Sox will start with this plan and as soon as someone gets hurt or they get a decent offer for one of them, Betts will be up and likely playing RF regularly.  But my sense is he starts the year in the minors.  And that’s why I don’t think they are dealing any OF’s anytime soon.

Same goes for the pitchers.  Other than Mujica, projecting the staff right now was easy.  Unless the Hamels price comes down, they will stand pat I believe.  I feel that they WILL add an ace at some point, but not immediately.  I’m not saying that they should proceed this way, I just feel like they will.  They’ll see how this setup goes and work from there.  Maybe someone gets hurt and they call up Rodriguez or Matt Barnes and they get a look first too.  The bullpen, as always, will be volatile.  A guy like Brandon Workman will start in Pawtucket as well.  But he will be in the mix at some point.  Probably Eduardo Escobar, Heath Hembree, Steven Wright and Spruill as well.  And/or one of the veteran arms they signed to a minor league deal, like Dana Eveland or Mitchell Boggs.

As disappointing and even disheartening it will be to some, it appears that what you see is what you get and this is the team we will see heading into April.  Just hope that they make the necessary adjustments quickly along the way, especially when that rotation proves to be putrid…

 

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