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2016 MLB American League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced Tuesday, I present my American League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S)

There will be three catchers selected for the actual game.  How they are going to pick the other two is beyond me.  Have you seen the list of all the AL catchers?  There is no one else even remotely qualified.  So I am not picking more than one here.  There are two other guys that I pick later for my team that have catching experience.  They can be my backups if necessary.  You know, if this game was played on more than this “paper” I “write” on.  Perez likes to catch every inning of every game anyway.  Done.

1B:  Miguel Cabrera, Det (S), Chris Davis, Bal, Eric Hosmer, KC

Cabrera’s year seems to be flying a little under the radar.  Maybe because it’s not as insane as usual.  But he’s putting up some numbers again, in case you didn’t know.  Davis isn’t hitting below .200 this year.  .242 isn’t that exciting, but it’s enough with the power numbers he puts up.  Hosmer can close out the game with his elite glove.  But his offense is improved over the past season and a half and he has some good production in the first half of this year.  Plus, well, KC did win the World Series last year, no?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Robinson Cano, Sea, Ian Kinsler, Det

Altuve is having a monster year.  So even though it’s a nice comeback year for Cano, Jose has to be the choice here.  1 shy of his career high already with his 14 bombs.  Leads the league in average and hits.  1 shy of the league lead in steals.  Nice work.  Glad to see Cano is back, as noted.  Kinsler seems to be the 2nd best Ian in the league this year, but it works out for him that he is the best one at his position.

3B:  Josh Donaldson, Tor (S)

Looks like I am taking only one third basemen here too.  But plenty of other guys on my team can (and do) play third.  They are just listed elsewhere since they’ve played more at other positions.  You’ll see.  Oh wait, Cabrera can also play 3b of course.  As can Davis!  Anyway, two guys I left off here are Evan Longoria and Kyle Seager though.  Close, but decided someone else would represent Tampa in Longoria’s case.  And Seager was a little behind Evan.  Oh, and Donaldson is one of the backup catchers on this roster too.  Good thing like 8 other guys have 3b experience!

SS:  Manny Machado, Bal (S), Xander Bogaerts, Bos, Eduardo Nunez, Min

This year’s shortstop crop is a lot stronger than the past couple of years.  Machado and Nunez are listed here because they have both played a handful more games at short than at third.  So, you see they can back up 3b on my team also.  Hell, even X can, with his experience there as the immortal Stephen Drew slid into that position in Boston in 2014…for whatever reason that was.  I would’ve loved to find room here also for Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.  Maybe I should have anyway.  But they will have plenty more chances.  Nunez had to be here unfortunately because who else could you possibly take from the Twins this season?  But at least his numbers are pretty good, so he was a strong consideration at some position either way.  Nice utility guy…follows up very nicely on Brock Holt’s selection to the game last year.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Ian Desmond, Tex (S), Jackie Bradley Jr., Bos (S), Mark Trumbo, Bal, Mookie Betts, Bos, Carlos Beltran, NYY

Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.  Desmond had a rough start, but has come on huge.  His transition to the outfield from being an error machine at short has been smooth.  So smooth that he is playing mostly center field now.  I actually tried to find a way to NOT add JBJ to the team at all.  When I was putting this together, my initial sense was that yeah, he had that 29 game hitting streak and put up sick numbers in the midst of that.  But what else has he done?  Well, since the streak, he has been pretty good too.  He remains sixth in the league in OPS.  And when you factor in the glove, that gave him the last starting spot over Trumbo…since Trumbo has served as DH for almost half his games.  Mookie is actually only 20th in the league in OPS, but you can’t argue with the overall numbers.  At first glance I was like, Carlos Beltran?  Really?  But he belongs.  And not because he will be the Yankee rep either.  What, you wanted Michael Saunders here??  7th in the league in OPS, Saunders is.  Surprising.  But I can’t see it.

DH:  David Ortiz, Bos (S), Edwin Encarnacion, Tor, Victor Martinez, Det, Nelson Cruz, Sea

4 DH’s?  Yup!!  But in name only…kind of.  Big Papi starts because it is allegedly his final year and I said so.  Not to mention he leads the AL in OPS by .118.  That’s kind of a pretty good lead.  Edwin has played about a third of his games this year at first.  He’s another guy that can play 3rd in a pinch.  Cruz has played over 40% of his games in the outfield.  So he can trot out there if needed.  And Victor serves as my teams’ primary backup catcher too.  We will take the bats any way we can get them!

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Danny Salazar, Cle, Cole Hamels, Tex, Rich Hill, Oak, Michael Fulmer, Det, Steven Wright, Bos, Aaron Sanchez, Tor, Marco Estrada, Tor, Andrew Miller, NYY, Zach Britton, Bal, Wade Davis, KC, Alex Colome, TB, Will Harris, Hou

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.

Unfortunately, this year it seemed I HAD to take 3 full-time closers (Britton, Davis, Colome) and 2 others that have closed for at least part of the year (Miller, Harris).  For the 8 starters chosen, it’s basically Sale and everyone else.  Ok, Salazar and Hamels have been pretty good too.  But although Hill has been pretty dominant when on the mound, he has missed some time due to injury.  Really had to be Oakland’s rep though.  I couldn’t possibly feel good about taking Khris Davis or Danny Valencia.  But with Hill, we are talking about a guy pitching in the independent leagues less than a year ago.  Fulmer has also been pretty dominant, but came up from the minors after 6 weeks in the season had passed or so.  Wright has been a revelation in Boston, since the rest of the rotation has been putrid, to be kind.  But he’s a knuckleballer on a nice run.  And also has a ton of unearned runs, which, well…he still did give up the runs, didn’t he?  Estrada is somewhat uninspiring, though Sanchez has been way more than I think even Toronto expected.  Maybe Jose Quintana has an argument, but it’s like 6 of one, half-dozen of the other I would say.

But because guys like King Felix, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, etc. have been mediocre, injured, downright atrocious or some combination of the three…these are your 8 starters in the All-Star Game folks!!

As for the ‘pen, Miller has been lights out since joining the Yanks last year.  Almost 2 K’s per inning.  Can’t argue his spot.  Britton and Davis are elite closers.  Colome is Tampa’s rep, for better or for worse.  But he was real good before getting hurt.  Harris has been an elite setup man for a couple of years in Houston now.  He recently has grabbed the closer role and let’s wait and see if he has what it takes for that.  But an 0.76 ERA currently would be hard to leave off the team.  Sadly, I also actually gave strong consideration to another couple of middle relievers.  Brad Brach of the O’s (1.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings) and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals (1.40 ERA in 38 2/3 innings).  Just couldn’t pull those triggers though.

So there you go…NL to follow soon.  As I still try to process the Kevin Durant news into some coherent thoughts…

Winding down the disappointment…still…

…as promised (warned?), I wasn’t done from yesterday:

*Xander:  By all accounts, Xander Bogaerts has had an unbelievable season.  But has he?  Please let me preface this by saying the arrow is certainly pointed up.  And he turns just 23 in a couple of weeks.  So please do not take this as extreme criticism of the kid.  Just pointing out facts.

Before Friday’s action, he was hitting .321.  Very nice indeed.  Looks like he will compete for 2nd in batting in the AL.  Hell, Miguel Cabrera leads at .336, and currently qualifies with enough plate appearances.  But Miggy is 38 shy of the 502 necessary at season’s end and if the Tigers shut him down early, X can win it.  Ok, unlikely they will do that, but…anyway, the average is nice.

Only 25 walks puts his on-base percentage at .352.  Not horrible…still tied for 23rd in the AL.  And better than the .297 in 2014.  He’s cut down on his strikeouts from 138 to 85.  His OPS is up over a hundred points to .767.  But .767 for a #3 hitter?  That actually puts him at 38th in the AL.

The glaring thing for me is the FIVE home runs.  He even had 12 last year.  Jackie Bradley Jr. has 8.  Travis Shaw has 11.  Mookie Betts has 15.  The first two listed here have a third of X’s plate appearances.

The kid has had a nice year.  They put him back at shortstop from the start and he has responded.  The future looks very bright.  I’m a big fan.  All I am saying is let’s not get carried away like some of the local yahoo’s have and put him in Cooperstown yet.  There’s a lot more of the upside yet to be realized.  Let’s hope he realizes it before Scotty Boras shuffles him out of town in a few years.

*Fat Panda:  Having back issues.  What a big surprise.  I would love if Dave Dombrowski could unload this contract.  Fat chance of that happening, pun totally intended.

I will say, if somehow he gets in some sort of shape…I don’t have to tell you how big an “if” that is…maybe his second year in the AL goes better than the first.  If this lineup is what it should be, all he has to do is do what he did in San Francisco.  And then maybe they can unload him as the deal gets cheaper.

*Kids (offense):  Even though it may have seemed harsh above on Xander (age 22), he has taken a step up this year for sure.  Mookie (22) has as well.  JBJ (25) has shown some competence…more than previous years.  Blake Swihart (23) arrived earlier than expected and survived a rough start to get up around .275.  Rusney (28), though not as young as the rest, has flourished somewhat with regular playing time.  Shaw (25) has been a little bit of a find.  Christian Vazquez (25) missed the year of course, but in 2014 he obviously showed some promise for the future.

These are only the guys that are already here.  There are others like Manuel Margot, Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, et al, that may be here soon enough.  Those are the names you hear most, but according to “people who know”, there are other decent prospects in the lower levels too.

Some of the above will probably go in trades.  Can’t possibly keep them all.  But it is hard not to be excited about the talent we have already seen at the major league level.  Sprinkle in a few pieces here and there and the offense looks like the foundation is set.  Now, for the opposite…

*Rotation:  Thanks to Ben, it appears the 2016 starting rotation is just about set as well.  But ummmmm…this is not a good thing.  Rick Porcello’s 20-plus mil contract kicks in next year.  There is no way anyone is biting on that.  If someone does, Dombrowski deserves Executive of the Year in a landslide.  (How’s that Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson for Porcello trade looking as well, Ben?  Ugh…).  DD has already essentially acknowledged they will pick up Clay Buchholz’ option at 13 mil, “if he is healthy”.  That’s a huge stretch for Clay of course, but at that money and with his stuff, I suppose you kind of have to pick it up.  Despite the fact that he will never be a 200/220 inning guy with 16-20 wins, like his stuff often suggests.

Wade Miley is on the hook for about 15 mil over the next 2 years.  Sadly, he will end the year as the teams’ best starter.  For that price he won’t kill you.  But he also may be tradeable at that price.  I don’t see them doing that though.  DD has already floated that he expects Joe Kelly to be a starter.  Hopefully that was just lip service.  This guy has middle relief written all over him.  Fine one time through the order, but after?  All bets are off.  Throws 98 but doesn’t miss bats.  That’s a nice 10th pitcher on any staff I say.

But there are 4 of the “5 aces” Ben put together at the start of 2015.  Mercifully, Justin Masterson is long gone.  But the other 4 mediocre guys remain.  Throw in the kids that have thrown pretty decent this year, Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens, and one that supposedly has promise in Brian Johnson.  Now all of a sudden you have a crowded rotation…and possibly no room to get that one “ace” that you really need.

Thankfully, Dombrowski is no stranger to the trade market.  And I would guess any one of the above could be had for the right price.  Not that I would just give any of those guys away…other than Porcello.  But I believe that DD will indeed land a top-notch #1 over winter.  David Price would just cost money.  But there are always those studs on small market teams that are heading to arbitration or free agency and can be had for prospects.  Gotta believe he will land that #1 somehow.  I think that interview from earlier this week about “building up the pitching staff, starting from the bullpen” is somewhat of a smokescreen.  Though we’ll talk about the ‘pen later.

What I would do?  Glad you asked!  Go get a #1 for whatever it takes.  Slot Bucky, Porcello, Miley and E-Rod 2-5 (yikes!).  Kelly goes in long relief.  Steven Wright also in ‘pen.  There are your spot starters.  Acquire 87 stout bullpen arms.  If Owens and Johnson are still here in the spring, stash in Pawtucket for the time being.  If Bucky gets off to a hot start, immediately deal him and get a reliable #2.  Try to get a reliable #2 anyway, someone proven.  Something like that anyway.  Bottom line, if Bucky gets back to exhibiting ANY trade value whatsoever…TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!

With all the contracts and limited trade value of a lot of the guys here, that may be the best we can hope for.  It’s easy to say “go get 2 #1’s and a #2, then…”.  But not entirely realistic…no matter how much money you have.

*Bullpen:  What a colossal disaster.  Combination of washed up major leaguers, “not ready” minor leaguers and veteran AAAA guys right now.  And I am not even including Rich Hill, who somehow dominated a start last week.  Get ready for 3 1/3 IP & 7 runs if he gets another one.  Look at the names:  Breslow, Cook, Mendez, Machi, Layne, Hembree, Ogando, Aro, Barnes, Ross and some dude named “Noe”.  Of course Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are their best 2 relievers.  But, predictably, Koji is hurt and Junichi’s arm actually fell off earlier this month.  Ben clearly missed the trade window on these guys…but they aren’t the first players he missed trade windows on, ssssooooo…it just sucks that a lot of us have been pining for the return of Edward Mujica.  Ok, maybe not…but the point has been made I believe.

Solution?  Keep Koji and Taz, but don’t warm them up 3 times a game every game through June whether or not they get into the actual game.  Think the trade value on them now is low, so there is not really much choice.  Sign/trade for 2 or 3 REAL relievers, preferably ones that throw hard.  Overpay if you have to…you can, you are the Red Sox!  Load up on 5 other decent guys and then see what falls out in March.  Stash a few in AAA if you can.  Tell Barnes he is either a starter or reliever and have him prepare accordingly over the winter.  Maybe he can be salvaged.  Bullpen arms are tricky.  Never know what you are going to get from year to year.  Just toss some dough at bunch of them…can’t really give you anything more scientific than that, unfortunately.

*Kids (pitching):  At various points in 2014, think of all the young arms the organization was touting:  Owens, Barnes, Rodriguez, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Johnson, maybe even Drake Britton or Eduardo Escobar…maybe more.

Well, like a year later, where do these guys stand?  Not necessarily pretty.  de la Rosa was fairly decent last year.  Webster was not anywhere near that.  They both were dispatched for an average Miley.  And those 2 remain about the same in AZ.  Ranaudo was sent straight up for Robbie Ross Jr.  That should tell you all you need to know.  And Ranaudo has been shelled in TX when up this year for good measure.  Britton was terrible in Pawtucket last year in the bullpen, and was busy getting blasted in the Cubs farm system this year as well, both starting and relieving.  Escobar was hurt essentially all year.  Johnson got hurt in the 2nd half.  Though Owens has pitched ok this year overall, his stock has fallen in the past couple of years.  Barnes wasn’t very good as a starter or reliever.  The only one that came close to matching all the hype was Rodriguez.

As opposed to the kids coming up through the system as every day players, the ground has not been as fertile for the young pitchers rising up.  All the more important for DD to make the right decisions here over the winter and through into next season…guess that goes without saying…





American League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game played Tuesday, here is my American League All-Star team.  22 position players, 12 pitchers, each team represented (as much as this pains me, I suppose since the roster is so damn big, everyone should have a guy there at the very least…though they don’t do that in the NFL).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Stephen Vogt, Oak (S), Salvador Perez, KC

As I’ve always said in the past, I have no use for 3 catchers on a roster.  Could’ve probably made a case for either Russell Martin or Brian McCann.  But putting better players on the team at other positions is my preference.  Vogt edges out Perez to start, but I wouldn’t quibble either way.  Maybe Perez deserves it since his team is better.  Whatever…I’m sticking with Vogt.

1B:  Miguel Cabrera, Det (S), Albert Pujols, LAA, Mark Teixeira, NYY, Mitch Moreland, Tex

4 first basemen may be a little steep.  And Teix and Mitch Moreland(??)?  Don’t love Teix’s .240 average.  But 22 dingers and 62 RBI’s, plus 10th in league in OPS is hard to ignore.  Moreland has 16 bombs and is 13th in the league in OPS, if you can believe that.  I’m putting him on, like it or not.  Miggy is still the man and Albert must have found some juice again with his 26 taters…but it’s all good for the game.

2B:  Brian Dozier, Min (S), Jose Altuve, Hou, Jason Kipnis, Cle, Dustin Pedroia, Bos

Not enamored with taking 4 second basemen.  But the first 3 are legit.  That’s actually exactly what I wrote last year, albeit with different players.  Dozier gets the start, but again, I would not argue if you wanted to go with Altuve or Kipnis there either.  Pedroia?  Well, he is my one rep for Boston.  .819 OPS (22nd in league), 9 dingers, .306…works for me.  Brock Holt was in the real game as the Red Sox lone rep.  Love the dude and what he has done.  But All-Star?  I think not.  Clay Buchholz?  Hahaha…that guy is a joke.  Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts?  Close, but couldn’t do it.  More on them later…

3B:  Josh Donaldson, Tor (S), Alex Rodriguez, NYY

This is where I start taking some liberties.  It’s my team, I can do it if I want.  Donaldson is the clear choice here, especially since he may be one of the leading MVP candidates now.  Backup?  Sticking A-Fraud here.  I know he hasn’t played here in a while.  But so be it.  It’s a crime that he didn’t make the real squad.  MLB celebrated Pete Rose in this year’s game, but A-Rod wasn’t there?  Didn’t seem right.

SS:  Manny Machado, Bal (S), Carlos Correa, Hou

You thought last year’s shortstop crop was weak?  Putrid this year.  Downright atrocious.  That’s why I’m sticking Machado here.  He could still do it I am sure after going through the Orioles system as one, but being blocked by JJ Hardy in the bigs.  And I am taking Correa too, despite the less than 150 plate appearances so far in the bigs.  He’s come in with a bang.  Let’s start rewarding the kids!  Alcides Escobar started in real life…yikes!  Jose Iglesias was his backup…double yikes!  Xander Bogaerts is better than both those guys, but I still didn’t think he had enough.  Plus I didn’t want to be accused of being a homer…anyway, back to Iglesias, yeah, he’s fifth in batting at .314.  But it’s about as empty a .314 as you can get.  He still looks terrible at the plate.  His defense is probably still top notch (made a fantastic play in the actual game), but if it is such a difference, why is his WAR only 1.3?  He’s even only 9-15 in steals.  Couldn’t go there.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), JD Martinez, Det (S), Lorenzo Cain, KC (S), Jose Bautista, Tor, Alex Gordon, KC, Brett Gardner, NYY

Trout and JD Martinez are obvious.  You could argue Gardner over Cain, but really doesn’t matter.  Don’t love Bautista’s .239 average, but like Teixeira, can’t ignore the power numbers.  Plus, he could play some third on this team!  Maybe could make a case for Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts or even Hanley Ramirez but went with Gordon…a full year after writing, “Alex Gordon?  Nah.”  He is a better player than I ever gave him credit for I will say.  You may say, “where is Adam Jones?”  I may say, “where is he is right!”  Had a phenomenal start to the season, but has tapered off dramatically since then.  I’m penalizing him for it.  I heard someone mention Josh Reddick as a candidate.  I pretended I didn’t hear that.

DH:  Prince Fielder, Tex (S), Nelson Cruz, Sea

‘Nuff said, just like last year.  Start either one, fine with me.

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Felix Hernandez, Sea, Sonny Gray, Oak, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Chris Archer, TB, David Price, Det, Corey Kluber, Cle, Wade Davis, KC, Dellin Betances, NYY, Andrew Miller, NYY, Zach Britton, Bal, Glen Perkins, Min

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.

The first 6 starters are no-brainers.  I picked Sale to start, but go with any of the others if you choose.  Kluber may be the most controversial choice of course.  Had a rough April and not a great June, but has had periods of dominance this season as well.  K’s are huge and ERA is respectable.  The fact he won the Cy Young last year cannot go unnoticed.  Rather take him here than the likes of Hector Santiago, Scotty Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo and of course Wei-Yin Chen!

This is what I wrote about Davis and Betances last year:  “Wade Davis and Dellin Betances have been exclusively middle relievers.  And have been dominant.  But not All-Stars in my book.”  Maybe they heard me and got pissed.  Because they have been even MORE dominant this year, and have also closed games for stretches where the regular closers have been out.  Makes them All-Stars this year, I’d say.  Darren O’Day could have a case here as well, and some Harris dude from Houston.  But 2 middle relievers is enough for me.

Speaking of dominant, Andrew Miller was just that before he got hurt.  Somehow the real voters forgot that.  Signed to be a setup guy, he grabbed the role in the spring and never looked back.  Speaking of failed starters…but his performance this year cannot be overlooked.  Britton and Perkins have been pretty damn good as well.  Huston Street?  Maybe, but no worries from me about leaving him off.

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