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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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Opening Day Is When?

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:

Rotation (5):

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?

Bullpen (7):

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

Red Sox Offseason Primer-Conclusion

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:

Catchers (3):

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.

Infielders (9):

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…

Outfielders (4):

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?

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