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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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Random Musings, Red Sox Style…

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?

Opening Day Is When? Conclusion…

As promised, let’s moved on to the bats.  Apparently, the 25 man roster was finalized Tuesday, though it won’t be announced until Opening Day to make sure no one stabs themselves with a pen or trips over a crack in the pavement or something.  And…the offensive side of the ball could probably have been predicted correctly days ago by anyone who doesn’t even follow baseball.  But that won’t stop the Blowhard from making his comments below!

Overall, it COULD be a strong group and SHOULD be a strong group.  But there are some question marks on this side as well.  But we will dive into that when we go through the positions.

Once again, we will be using the 40-man roster as a base, while adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where (if) appropriate:

Catcher (2):

In:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  Well, that was easy.  There are only three catchers on the 40-man roster.  And one of them isn’t really a catcher anymore, I don’t think.  We will talk about that in more detail later though.  As for these two, you could do much worse.  Both are serviceable offensively and defensively.  Looks like Vasky will be around for a while for sure, as he just signed a fat extension…well, a fat one for him anyway.  Leon is never going to hit like he did a couple of years back, but he won’t kill you at the dish.  In this lineup, batting ninth, I don’t think we really care about their offense anyway, right?

Infield (5):

In:  Hanley Ramirez (1B), Eduardo Nunez (2B), Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Mitch Moreland

DL:  Dustin Pedroia, Marco Hernandez

Minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Ivan DeJesus Jr. (NRI)

Comments:  No-brainers here as well, especially after trading Deven Marrero to Arizona a few days back.  Believe it or not, we will talk more about Marrero later.  DeJesus had zero shot at making the team in reality.  But I thought I’d give him some props in this piece since he hit almost .400 this spring.  I still have no idea why the team re-signed Moreland, not to mention giving him 2 years.  I know, Hanley is always a question mark and the Sox did not have J.D. Martinez in the fold yet.  But I think the whole world knew that JD was eventually going to sign here.  And that he was likely to spend more time DHing than in the outfield.  Thus pushing Hanley to first base…I mean, if he felt like playing the field that is.  Because you know he didn’t feel like playing first last year.  The shoulder hurt of course.  Yup.

Anyway, lots of questions here still.  Which Hanley will show up?  Nunez should be a more than capable substitute for Pedroia, then a more than capable reserve after Dustin comes back.  But he signed late.  Is there still concern about his knees?  Devers splashed onto the scene last year.  Can he take the next step?  And perhaps most importantly, will Xander finally reach the supposed unlimited potential that he was earmarked long ago for?  Or will he continue to disappoint?

My take?  Hanley will be extraordinarily average.  But that’s ok since we don’t want him to get the 497 plate appearances he needs to trigger his 2019 option.  Goodbye already, as far as I’m concerned.  Nunez will be just fine.  Devers will have some ups and downs but will be spelled enough by a few guys on the roster so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I will say, it would not shock me that if he starts somewhat slow, he could find his way back to Pawtucket for more seasoning.  As for Bogaerts?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Plenty of people think manager Alex Cora will fix him.  I am not convinced.  Earlier in the spring, X seemed to balk at changing his approach.  You know the one where he took so many pitches right down the middle of the plate.  Maybe that has changed since it looks like he has had a decent spring.  But we will see when the lights shine for real.

Outfield (3):

In:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)

DL:  None

Minors:  Rusney Castillo (NRI)

Comments:  Defensively?  Hard to top.  Offensively?  We will see.  Benny should take another step up, in my opinion.  I’m hoping Betts rebounds himself.  “Rebounds”, I know.  Betts finished 6th in the MVP vote last year.  But, in all seriousness, did he deserve that?  The Blowhard says absolutely not.  But we know he has all the tools.  Let’s hope he uses them to their full capacity again.  Bradley flat-out stinks.  He should have been traded the winter after the 2016 season after what most assuredly will be his career year.  But I suppose I’m biased.  I’ve never liked him.  Sure, his D is awesome.  But can’t Betts and/or Benintendi play center at least at 85-90% of JBJ’s ability?  I think so.  I’m also not saying that the Sox should have kept Bryce Brentz to play left…or even play JD full-time in the outfield.  I’m just venting I guess.  The 7 for 46 (.152) this spring doesn’t help either.  Rusney had a good spring and he also seems like he’s a better player than when he first got here.  But it looks like he will make his 12 mil again this year in Pawtucket.  Just another 12 mil in 2019 and a little over 14 mil in 202o to go on his deal.  Solid.  Wait…maybe he won’t exercise that 202o player option…ummmmm, nevermind.

Designated Hitter (1):

In:  J.D. Martinez

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I honestly did not love the Martinez deal…though if it turns out to be a two-year deal, then it makes it more palatable.  That being said, this dude better hit some bombs.  He also better not chirp about not playing the outfield much.  And Cora better not feel pressure to put him in the outfield much.  Let the record show that he hit zero dingers in camp this year.  I’ll give him the late start.  As well as the fact that he hit over .300.  But I’ll be skeptical of this signing…unless it works out of course.

Utility (2):

In:  Brock Holt, Blake Swihart

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I can’t really call these guys infielders, outfielders or even catchers in Swihart’s case.  These guys will play multiple positions.  Well, Swihart allegedly will.  We really don’t know if he actually can.  We know he won’t catch much.  The pitchers don’t like to throw to him.  Hard to believe he will catch at all under those circumstances.  I wonder if he will get much in the form of at-bats overall.  Cora talks about using Blake similar to the way the Astros use Marwin Gonzalez.  But 500 plate appearances?  I don’t see it.  Welp, the Sox have already done what they could to ruin his career, so I suppose they can tack on some more of that this year.  In all fairness, I suppose the team’s hand was forced with Swihart being out of options.  But still…

You were waiting for the part where we would talk more about Deven Marrero?  Here it is!  We think the Sox should have kept him over Holt.  Marrero can’t hit worth a damn.  But his glove alone was worth keeping him in tow.  Especially considering the infield defense (minus Pedroia) is questionable at best.  And Devers may be the first third basemen to have 100 errors in a season.  Ok, a little hyperbole there.  But you get the point.  Holt can play several positions half-decently, but none exceptionally.  Marrero could occupy the 25th spot on the roster and be a defensive replacement every game if necessary.  Only let him hit when you have to.  There is some value in that, believe it or not.  Holt may have been useful in 2014 & 2015.  But not so much in 2016 & 2017.  And has some concussion/vertigo issues.  We know what he is.  I would’ve moved on.

So there are the initial thoughts on the 2018 Red Sox.  Lots of talent, but also lots of injuries and lots of questions.  There’s only one more thing to say…LET’S PLAY BALL!!

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