We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:
Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
No need to rock the boat here. Other than having Vazquez take more playing time away from Leon, that is. Last year, they essentially split time and hopefully that will be adjusted a smidge in the upcoming year. It would appear that these two will be the tandem again. I can live with that. Defensively, they are a solid duo. They threw out about 40% of base stealers, an impressive number in this era. Swihart at one point was a “can’t miss” prospect. Think that one missed. He will be 26 in April and catchers supposedly do develop late. But he has been injured in recent years and also jerked around by the team position-wise. His bat was his primary asset as a potential pretty good offensive catcher, but .190 in almost 200 at-bats in Pawtucket last year does not inspire confidence. I’m not sure if he has options left. If he does, he will likely go back to Pawtucket. If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played a ton in the spring to try to pump up his value and then shipped elsewhere before the season starts. Too bad.
Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Deven Marrero (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Hanley Ramirez (1B), Sam Travis (1B)
This is where some work needs to be done. Based on what the rest of the 25-man roster would look like all around at this very point in time, it would appear 7 of these 9 would have to make the squad. With Pedroia out injured until around June, that would seemingly leave everyone else but Lin on the major league roster. Not ideal. Bogaerts and Devers obviously set on the left side of the infield. Ramirez, in this scenario, remains the designated hitter. That puts Travis full-time at first. And a combination of Hernandez, Holt and Marrero holding the fort at second until Pedroia comes back. Ugh…
Dave Dombrowski insists that Hanley will be ready to play first base next spring. That may well be true in a physical sense. But does anyone really think that Hanley will be up for that plan? Travis looks like he may be able to hit a little. But I’m not sure he is the full-time solution. I don’t think the Sox think he is either. And that is a positive, because it would seem to spur the team on to make a major move involving a 1B or DH. Or an outfielder, but we will cover that in a second.
Speaking of second, I can even live with that combination of stiffs at second base for 60 games or so until Pedroia comes back. Does it really makes sense to go out and (re)sign a guy like Eduardo Nunez to a decent sized deal when you are locked into Dustin for like 14 per until 2021? I think not. I’d personally try to move Pedroia, but the knees, age, contract and 10/5 veto rights pretty much make that impossible. Dombrowski has been talking up Marco recently. But maybe that’s for trade purposes, who knows?
The move to be made at 1B/DH? Could be Eric Hosmer. But I’m not sure I want to spend a ton of dough on a good glove but someone who (other than batting average) may not even be a better hitter than what you had there last year in Mitch Moreland. Carlos Santana? Meh. Again, would seem to be too much money for not much of an upgrade. I don’t care how many home runs Logan Morrison had last year, he’s probably the last guy I want them to sign. Lucas Duda? Surely, you jest.
Hopefully there are some big bats that may be available that we don’t know about. Because I can’t say I totally love the names being thrown out there now.
Oh, and Xander? Part of me (actually, most of me at the present time) wants to unload him now. Underachievement for the last year and a half. Frustrating. But the rest of me tells me they have to keep him. 25-year-old shortstop that presumably has his best years ahead of him. Push comes to shove, I’d probably deal him in the right situation. But it has to be EXTREMELY right. I’m not giving him away. Though I really wanted to last year…
Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), Bryce Brentz (LF/RF)
On the surface, Benintendi-Bradley-Betts left to right would seem to suffice, right? But when teams are searching for a power bat, that bat may be in the outfield. Which would necessitate some sort of adjustment to this outfield alignment.
And no, even though Brentz hit 31 homers in Pawtucket last year, he is not the “power bat” that the Sox are looking to add. Or he shouldn’t be anyway. It’s a nice story, since Brentz was designated for assignment last summer and anyone could have claimed him for nothing. But a nice story is all it is. Dombrowski has been talking Brentz up as the 4th outfielder too. But I’m not even buying that at this time.
Obviously, newly minted National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton is the hot name out there for the power bat. All sorts of reports on him this past week…he wants to play on the West Coast and won’t approve of a trade to the Sox; that his reps are trying to get him to Boston because they think it will be the best fit, on and off the field; the Marlins want the world for him, even though he has almost 300 million left on his contract and on and on.
Stanton is the easy answer. He plays right field though. Right field in Fenway? I suppose if that’s what he wants. You could move Mookie back to center and keep Benny in left. Maybe Stanton would agree to play left and then you would move Benny to center. Giancarlo could of course DH, but he may not be ready to do that. Either way, if he comes here, those “problems” will likely work themselves out.
I’m all for Giancarlo, even if the price is somewhat high. I suppose it depends what “high” is, but the Sox should explore all options to get this done. J.D. Martinez? Ok…it’s only money for him I suppose. And the Sox print money. If it’s a fallback option, I guess you could do worse. Other names? Haven’t heard much. Again, you never know who may be available, so maybe it’s a name we haven’t heard yet.
Any way you slice it, a big bat is absolutely imperative. The Sox never really replaced David Ortiz last year. Huge hole there, to state the obvious. Where that bat comes in positionally, it doesn’t really matter. Things could be maneuvered to make it work. Bradley is one way things can be maneuvered. I’d look to move him. His ceiling has been reached. Especially offensively. His glove is nice, but can Mookie or Benintendi do at least 90% of that? I think so. And that should work out fine. There has been rumored interest in JBJ. If that is truly the case, I would strike while the iron is hot.
I’d actually like two bats, even if one is a little inferior to the other. Can’t have enough power. But, all in all, this may be the only move the Sox have to make. Some tweaks to the pitching staff, sure. But the big bat should be the one move the Sox should be all in on. Anything else after that should be gravy, no?
…same full disclosure as last year: The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League. This may be quick…
Most Valuable Player:
- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
- Joey Votto, Cincinnati
- Charlie Blackmon, Colorado
- Nolan Arenado, Colorado
- Cody Bellinger, LA Dodgers
- Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
- Marcell Ozuna, Miami
- Bryce Harper, Washington
- Travis Shaw, Milwaukee
I wanted to give this to Goldschmidt. And I still probably should have. But Stanton’s numbers are hard to ignore. And so was Goldschmidt’s September (.175/3/11), which you know I weigh pretty heavily all around. Votto had some crazy numbers and led the league in WAR, again, if you fancy that stat. Maybe I’m blinded by the homers, but I’m narrowly going with Stanton here. If Goldschmidt wins in real life, I won’t argue.
You know how I feel about the inflated Colorado numbers. But Blackmon and Arenado put up some huge ones, so they have to be in here somewhere. Bellinger was big once they brought him up. Zimmerman’s season came completely out of nowhere. Hmmmmmm…Ozuna’s numbers were laaaaaahge. Harper missed about 50 games himself, but just like we did in the AL, we like to include those guys in the voting. But, in all seriousness, Bryce may have very well been on his way to the actual award if he stayed healthy. So he really has to be here. Shawsie 10th? Probably not. But the Blowhard certainly did want to recognize him here for his great year…and for the Red Sox’ mistake in giving him away for nothing. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Daniel Murphy, Scooter, Genn…anyway, plenty of other guys could get some love for the Top Ten as well. It’s all a guessing game once you get past the first few.
I could have also added J.D. Martinez somewhere in these columns. 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games in Arizona. 1.107 OPS. AZ made the playoffs…J.D. hit .303/45/104 between Detroit and Arizona. Nice year. He may actually get top ten votes in the NL for real.
- Max Scherzer, Washington
- Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers
- Stephen Strasburg, Washington
- Kenley Jansen, LA Dodgers
- Corey Knebel, Milwaukee
Down to Max and Clayton. Scherzer made 4 more starts than Kershaw and that pretty much vaulted him into the top spot for me. Hated putting two relievers in the top five, but they had dominant seasons. There were some other starters that had some pretty good numbers, but they simply didn’t pitch enough innings. Even Kershaw and Strasburg were at about 175. Robbie Ray, Alex Wood…not enough. Zack Greinke went over 200 innings, but his 3.20 ERA was a little high for me, comparatively speaking to the other candidates of course.
Rookie of the Year:
- Cody Bellinger, LA Dodgers
- Josh Bell, Pittsburgh
- Paul DeJong, St. Louis
Bellinger should be unanimous. Bell was around all year and that basically gives him second. DeJong spent the first 50 or so games in AAA, so that puts him third. Same goes for Ian Happ from the Cubs. If you wanted to put Happ third instead, I won’t argue. But he was the only other guy worth considering for the top three.
Manager of the Year:
- Torey Lovullo, Arizona
- Dave Roberts, LA Dodgers
- Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Slam dunk here too, even though Roberts’ Dodgers finished 11 games ahead of Lovullo’s Diamondbacks. I think we all knew the Dodgers would be good. Lovullo took arguably the same type of players from 2016 and guided the team to 24 more wins and a playoff spot. Counsell took the Brewers to 13 more wins this year, even though they fell just short of the playoffs. I couldn’t do Dusty Baker this year. Certainly not Joe Maddon. Bud Black? Meh…
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!