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2019 MLB American League All-Stars

No preamble this year.  The real picks (besides the starters) come out later today.  And I am going to beat them…I think for the first time ever.

32 players are selected.  20 position players, 12 pitchers.  This time I am not cheating on the numbers.  Each team will still be represented.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Gary Sanchez, NYY (S), James McCann, CWS

Sanchez is pretty obvious but McCann??  Yup.  Actually, there were a few candidates for the backup job.  Christian Vazquez (Bos), Josh Phegley (Oak), Robert Perez (Cle) or Omar Narvaez (Sea) would have suited just fine.  McCann had the highest OPS of the five.  Done.

1B:  Carlos Santana, Cle (S), Luke Voit, NYY

Similar to catcher, Santana is clear-cut and then there were others that could have been selected instead of Voit.  C.J. Cron (Min…after hitting 30 dingers for TB last year and getting released), Jose Abreu (CWS) or Edwin Encarnacion (Sea/NYY) could have filled this spot too.  Voit had the highest OPS of the four.  Done.

2B:  DJ LeMahieu, NYY (S), Whit Merrifield, KC, Tommy La Stella, LAA

Tail between my legs on DJ.  Although his glove is top-notch, I figured his offense was the product of Coors Field when he played half his games in Colorado.  Whoops.  In my defense, all of the major league teams apparently thought the same, including the Yankees themselves.  When he signed in NY, with Gleybar Torres, Troy Tulowitski (until Didi Gregorius was healthy) and Miguel Andujar were supposed to handle 2B, SS & 3B, respectively.  So where exactly was he going to play?  1B?  Maybe.  But they had Voit and Greg Bird already there too.  People got hurt, DJ played and then made a lot of people look bad.  I will accept that.

Merrifield is the Royal rep, but he has earned it.  Even with the lack of steals this year.  Hunter Dozier was really the only other KC candidate.  But he has missed some time this year and sucked when he came up last year…so maybe it’s just a nice 50-something game run.  I just realized Whit has played a bit more outfield this season than second, but I am going to leave him here.  His versatility will be nice, as will La Stella’s.  Speaking of sucking, La Stella is a journeyman.  But thought he belonged.  Took him over Brandon Lowe from the Rays, who doesn’t play against lefties and has fanned over 100 times already this year.  As a middle infielder…yikes!

3B:  Alex Bregman, Hou (S), Matt Chapman, Oak, Rafael Devers, Bos

Bregman was easy, Chapman was the A’s rep and Devers is having a breakout season.  Yoan Moncada (CWS) is also having a breakout season, so if you put him over Devers I would not argue.  But once again, Raffy has the higher OPS. Don…you get the point.  Gio Urshela (NYY)?  Nice season, but…no.

SS:  Xander Bogaerts, Bos (S), Jorge Polanco, Min

No Francisco Lindor (Cle), who started late and hasn’t quite caught up yet.  No Carlos Correa (Hou), who is hurt…again.  Tim Anderson (CWS) started out blazing…and still has good numbers…and Elvis Andrus (Tex) is there too, but decided on just these two.  Polanco won the real vote, but it looks like X has had the better season…and more established track record.  For the record, I did not exclude Gleybar Torres because he is a New York Yankee.  I excluded him because he has done a great deal of his damage against the wretched Baltimore Orioles.  10 of his 19 homers are against them, for instance.  Enough said…for these purposes anyway.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Joey Gallo, Tex (S), Eddie Rosario, Min, Max Kepler, Min, Trey Mancini, Bal

Trout…yup.  The best player on the planet, still.  Springer and Gallo were a little tougher.  They’ve both missed a whole slew of games.  But have been dominant when healthy, so that gave them the nod.  TWO Twin outfielders?  Yup.  Well deserved.  Mancini is the Oriole rep.  But don’t discount his numbers.  Michael Brantley (Hou) and Domingo Santana (Sea) and even Austin Meadows (TB) have cases.  Wouldn’t fight any of them.  Mookie Betts?  Last years’ American League Most Valuable Player?  Wasn’t even a consideration for me, despite me being an unabashed homer.  While I actually expect him to make the real team, he has…not been very good this year.  Maybe the expectations are too high.  But SHOULDN’T they be?  He looks completely disinterested.  I actually didn’t even have him on my initial list.  Sorry.

DH:  J.D. Martinez, Bos (S), Daniel Vogelbach, Sea

J.D. is not having the same season as he did last year, but he is the clear choice here.  Hunter Pence got voted in as the starter in the real world and although he has put up some nice numbers for a surprising Texas team, I just can’t do it.  Vogelbach has cooled after a hot start, but we chose him as the Mariner rep over Domingo.  If you included Pence and Domingo and dropped Vogelbach and someone else…so be it.  There was a pretty tight race to determine a great deal of the American League reserves so I am very interested to see what happens in real life.  Can’t go wrong with several players.

P:  Justin Verlander, Hou (S), Charlie Morton, Hou, Jose Berrios, Min, Jake Odorizzi, Min, Lucas Giolito, CWS, Mike Minor, Tex, Gerrit Cole, Hou, Matthew Boyd, Det, Trevor Bauer, Cle, Shane Greene, Det, Ken Giles, Tor, Aroldis Chapman, NYY

YIKES!!!!!  THESE are the best American League pitchers this year???  For real??  Well, I guess Frankie Montas would have been too.  Damn PEDs!!

The list is so thin, that despite starting the year so putridly, and sitting at 3-7, we still considered Chris Sale (Bos) for the staff.  His ERA sits at 3.82.  But with some of his peripherals (148 Ks in 101.1 innings, 1.03 WHIP and .212 batting average against), he may actually have a shot at making the REAL team.  Hey, he has the track record.  And has started three consecutive All-Star games.  I am not ruling it out.

As for the staff I picked…Verlander is clearly going to start.  Morton is #2.  Cole’s and Bauer’s ERA are a little high, but hey, it’s the era I guess.  Minor, Odorizzi and Giolito?  Sigh…Boyd was going to be my Tiger rep until I realized I couldn’t leave Greene and his 0.90 ERA off.  Giles has always been shaky, but he has a 1.33 ERA and is the only player I remotely considered from Toronto (my sincere apologies Eric Sogard and I guess Marcus Stroman).  Brad Hand (Cle) and Roberto Osuna (Hou)?  Perhaps.  But these are my picks.  As hard as it is to believe…

Next:  The 2019 National League All-Stars…

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The Boys Of Summer…

…have started out like it’s still the middle of winter.

Worried?

I don’t think we should be.  But it is certainly annoying, I can say that much.

The starting pitching has been wretched…and that is being kind.  Is it because they were babied in the spring and really aren’t ready for the start of the real games?  Is it because catcher Sandy Leon didn’t make the team and the pitchers love throwing to him?  Is it because they are starting the season on a loooooong road trip?  Is it because they won the World Series last year and are fat and happy now?

I’d say, no, no, no and no?

Manager Alex Cora came out recently and said they had the same game plan for the starting pitchers last spring and things turned out just fine.  I actually didn’t believe him so I looked up the innings pitched for the starters last spring and…looks like he was right.  Of course.  So we can’t blame that plan I don’t think.

Leon has a great defensive reputation, but it’s not like Christian Vazquez doesn’t.  Blake Swihart sure does, but he’s caught one of the five games thus far.  So we can’t blame him.

Long road trips?  I don’t see it.  These guys are used to the road.  In fact, haven’t they been on “the road” since mid-February at Spring Training?  And I don’t think the hunger is gone from the team.  Though I will allow that oftentimes teams that win and then do not change personnel even a little bit the next year can succumb to that.  Doesn’t seem to me to be in this groups’ DNA however.

Listen, it’s five games into a 162 game season.  There could be a little bit of a “World Series Hangover”, but the Red Sox were bound to regress any way you slice it.  Thinking they will win 108 games again in 2019 is pure folly.

Chris Sale will straighten out for sure.  He’d better.  More on that later.  Of course, he will probably spend some time on the injured list (I still want to call it the “disabled list”, so can I?).  But he will rebound.

Nathan Eovaldi will not be the pitcher we all saw in the playoffs last year, but he will rebound enough as well.  Rick Porcello will be who he always is (innings-eater with a low to mid 4.00 ERA).  Eduardo Rodriguez will be who he always is (injury prone with some untapped talent).  And David Price will not be the same playoff guy either but will be reliable enough.

Let’s not panic one time through the rotation.

Let’s also not place all of the blame for the teams’ 1-4 start on the rotation.  The bats haven’t exactly been on fire…other than J.D. Martinez and perhaps Rafael Devers.  Of course, when the offense gets down 6 runs early seemingly every day, it’s a tough hole to continue to climb out of.

In any event, let’s let some games play out and take a look down the road.  Then we can panic a little if needed.

Some other Red Sox thoughts, in no particular order:

*Opening Day Roster.  We really didn’t do a roster projection like we would normally do towards the end of Spring Training for two reasons.  We pretty much covered it in the mid-March pieces.  And also because there really wasn’t much for us to talk about.

Sam Travis made the team because Steve Pearce suffered an injury late in Spring Training and started on the Disab…er, Injured List.  But Travis won’t be around long.  Colton Brewer made the team because the Sox decided to have Dustin Pedroia start out on that Injured List as well.  The team went with an extra pitcher to start the year…and thank God they did since the bullpen has gotten quite a bit of work.

Nothing really to see there though.

The one “controversy” was Swihart over Leon.  But was that really a controversy?

Leon may be a good defensive catcher.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.  Swihart supposedly can hit but is still a work in progress behind the plate.

The reality is, no matter how well Swihart hit in Spring Training, and he did hit over .400, he wasn’t likely to fetch much in a trade.  The “top prospect” status has faded and teams still don’t know if he can catch.

Vazquez was always likely to be the main catcher, what with his defensive capabilities and the fact that they spent money on him after the 2017 season.  Meaning, the Sox liked him.  But also meaning, no one was trading for that contract.

As a good field, no hit catcher, Leon had no market either.  Plus he was getting paid almost 2.5 mil as well.  Steep for one of those types of guys you can find anywhere.  And of course, the Sox found out about his market when they tried to shop him and there were no takers.  Then they outrighted him off the roster into the minors and no one claimed him off waivers either.

We are kind of shocked here that the Sox didn’t “play it safe” and keep the two defensive-minded catchers this season.  After all, they rode them to a World Series championship last year.  But we also would have made the same choice with Swihart over Leon.  Let’s see what the “kid” can do now.

I just hope they give him enough playing time to truly find out.

And on top of that, Sandy is waiting in the wings in Pawtucket anyway.  We have not seen the last of him, I can assure you of that.

*Contract extensions or lack thereof.  Sale and Xander Bogaerts signed lucrative extensions.  Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello did not.

Sale signed for 5 years and 145 million.  Seems steep based on his health issues from last year and the fact that he typically wears down each year in the second half.  That being said, in the last piece I said I would extend him for 3-4 years even if the money was silly.  So another year or two at silly money?  What the hell?!  The Sox have the money and it’s not going to preclude them from signing anyone else if they wanted to.  More importantly, if he is the Chris Sale we normally see, then the dominance for even 3/4 of a season is probably worth the dough.  Although the 5 year no trade clause seems a little excessive.  It’s like Peter Chiarelli was brought in just for that part of the deal.

As for Bogaerts…shocking.  Not that I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s shocking he would sign for “only” 6 years, 120 million.  With Scott Boras as his agent, no less!  I honestly felt that Xander would hit the market, some team would wildly overpay and he would be gone.  Regular MO for Boras clients.  What a deal for the Sox.

Porcello, yeah, I guess it’s not a big deal he hasn’t been extended.  Rumor has it he offered a “discount” though.  How much is anyone’s guess.  Not to mention if it is actually true.  And maybe his money can be better spent elsewhere.  That all being said, at least we know he’s almost always taking the ball every 5 days.  Can’t downplay that.

Betts is the main one.  That kind of goes without saying.  Now yes, we know Mookie has 2 more years here before anything HAS to happen.  But he has given no indication that he even wants to be here.  Does he like it in Boston?  Does that matter?  Especially if an 18-wheeler full of dollars is dumped in Mookie’s driveway?  It might.

In the wake of a whole slew of veterans signing lucrative extensions prior to entering free agency in recent weeks (Sale, Bogaerts, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Verlander, etc.), in addition to many younger players that are a ways away from free agency signing long-term deals way before they need to (Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Brandon Lowe (who?), German Marquez, Aaron Nola, etc.), maybe now Mookie be up for doing the same?

Doesn’t appear likely.  Let’s get into 2020 before we do anything drastic, however.  “Drastic” meaning considering dealing Mookie because he is leaving.  We have a little more time before that comes into play.

Also makes you wonder what J.D. Martinez will do when he gets the chance to opt out of his deal after the season.  Even if he has another monster year, will he test the market again?  The market was slow to develop for him prior to the 2018 season.  He will be 2 years older and pretty much be labeled only as a designated hitter.  With the way these guys are all signing to guarantee their money now, it would seem that J.D. should stay in this deal, similar to what Price did last year.

Time will tell on that one as well.

*Bullpen/closer.  Welp, hard to tell thus far, since their two “best” relievers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, have pitched one game apiece.  Barnes got a save in his game, but I am not convinced he is the sole closer.

The rest of the bullpen has been used often because, as discussed, the starters have been awful.  We will never know if Tyler Thornburg can ever regain any competence.  But at least he is getting some action to try to find out.  Pitching 3 out of the first 5 games has to be encouraging as well.  Heath Hembree had an abysmal spring, which has continued into the regular season.  Simply because he cannot find the plate it appears.  This is a slight concern because although he is nowhere near elite, Hembree did have plenty of positive moments out there in 2018.  Yes, I just did say that.

I still think the bullpen stinks overall…but at least I can’t bash them too much for what they have done thus far this season.

And well, at least the Sox are winning tonight as I wrap up this post…oh wait…

Spring Training Nonsense, Part II…

Now, the bats.  As with the pitchers, we will cover everyone who has appeared in a Boston Red Sox Spring Training game.  This should be a lot of fun, as not only are their 50 players that have been on the diamond in a game thus far, there’s a handful of dudes that I’ve never even heard of.  Let’s get to it!

Catcher:

Locks:  None

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Roldani Baldwin (#29)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Juan Centeno, Oscar Hernandez, Austin Rei, Jake Romanski, Jhon Nunez

Comments:  Not as easy as last year, now that Swihart is “officially” a catcher again.  None of the three guys that were around all of last year can be considered locks, I don’t feel.  Why?  The Red Sox have supposedly decided that carrying 3 catchers this season is not ideal.  So one has to go.  Who?

Vazquez signed a fairly big extension prior to last season.  Then he promptly went out and underperformed during the season.  He would seem to be the #1 guy, based on the combination of decent enough offense and damn good defense.  But now that may be in question.

If you ask the pitchers, Leon would be the guy.  Great “game caller” and also great defensively.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.

Swihart still has the most upside.  Better bat than the other two.  Worst of the three defensively, though the team has said in recent months that he has made tremendous strides.

It would seem that Swihart, just about to turn 27, would have the most trade value.  But how much actually is that nowadays.  Vazquez may have some value, but I would bet the organization wants him to assert himself in the #1 role…especially since he has the biggest contract.  I know, his price is not even close to exorbitant.  But for him, it may be.

My guess is they keep the defensive-minded guys and trade Swihart for a fraction of what they could have traded him for a few years back.  But it’s anyone’s guess as to what actually happens.

Centeno and Hernandez seem to be on track to be the Pawtucket tandem.  The 4 other guys have 10 at-bats between them this spring, so I am not sure we will ever have to worry about them.

Infield:

Locks:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (INF), Steve Pearce (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B),

DL:  Marco Hernandez (INF)

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Michael Chavis (3B-#1), Bobby Dalbec (3B-#3), C.J. Chatham (SS-#9), Josh Ockimey (1B-#25), Pedro Castellanos (1B-#26)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin (INF), Sam Travis (1B), Tony Renda (INF), Chad De La Guerra (INF), Mike Miller (INF), Jantzen Witte (3B), Jeremy Rivera (SS), Brett Netzer (2B), Josh Tobias (3B)

Comments:  Heavy part of the roster here.  But pretty cut and dried, to be honest.  Moreland and Pearce platoon at first, X and Raffy on the left side most of the time.  That leaves second base.

Pedroia probably thinks he can play every day.  And will likely try to talk his way into doing just that.  But it remains to be seen if he can even play ANY of the games.  That knee is troublesome, that is no secret.  And who knows if the rehab he did this winter even worked?  He’s started playing a little this spring, but we will see.

Holt looks to take most of the starts at second when Pedey can’t play.  Maybe Nunez too, but he stinks at second.  Nunez will likely play a little third against tough lefties in place of Devers, at least that’s what I would do.  Actually, I wouldn’t have given Nunez a 2 year contract last offseason, but at 5 mil, it obviously doesn’t kill them.  Holt will also play a little outfield I imagine.  So Holt and Nunez will get decent at-bats whether we like it or not.

Chavis is the teams’ top prospect, kind of a scary proposition.  Why?  He wasn’t very good his first three years in the lower minors, then hit 31 homers in 2017 after apparently finding the juice.  Which caused his half-year suspension in 2018.  He hit well upon his return and hit 4 homers pretty early this spring, so maybe he found the juice again.  But…maybe he gets caught again.  Not ruling anything out.  In any event, if he hits this year and doesn’t get pinched, he could be the Sox’ regular 1B in 2020 once the contracts of the current platoon pair expire.  And that should mean he gets major league AB’s this season.

We know who won’t be the Sox’ regular first basemen in 2020.  Sammy Travis.  Looks like the ship has sailed on that former “top prospect”.  But Lin is still on the fringe.  The team is working him all over the field, apparently trying to make him “Brock Holt Lite”.  If that excites you.

I love Tony Renda’s Red Sox career.  He was up for like a week or 10 days last summer.  Scored the winning run in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as a pinch runner.  Then disappeared for the rest of the year.  No other appearances before or after that one.  If history repeats itself, Renda will get a World Series ring.  Beautiful, no?

The rest of the prospects are too far away and the rest of the random bodies will not likely appear at Fenway this season, so I at least hope they are all enjoying the spring.

Outfield:

Locks:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Gorkys Hernandez

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Jarren Duran (#10)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Rusney Castillo, Bryce Brentz, Cole Sturgeon, Tate Matheny, Danny Mars, Cole Brannen, Jagger Rusconi, Marino Campana, Tyler Esplin, Chris Madera, Joseph Monge, Kervin Suarez, Jordan Wren, Keith Curcio

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  Could be the best outfield in baseball.  Defensively for sure anyway.  Oh, did you hear that Bradley worked with a swing coach this offseason?  We will see how that works out, but I am not expecting miracles.  Better yet, where was this swing coach over the past several years?  I would have traded JBJ after his All-Star year, as has been noted previously (probably a thousand times), but I wonder what will happen going forward?  Lots of contracts up over the next two years.  I can’t imagine JBJ will be anywhere in line for a lucrative extension.

Speaking of extensions, Mookie!  No indication he will sign one.  But I hope they are trying.  Bryce Harper only got like 26 mil a year.  Mookie will want more than that.  But the question continues to be unanswered:  Does he even want to be here long term?  No one even knows.

J.D. can opt out after this year.  No one knows if that will happen either.  With the top guys waiting into Spring Training the last two years and not necessarily getting the dough that people thought they would, maybe he doesn’t take a chance by opting out.  Especially since he is basically a designated hitter.  Sure, he is listed here as an outfielder.  But I didn’t want to do a whole ‘nutha section for one DH.  And sure, he will see starts in the outfield to appease him a bit.  But no team actually views him as one.

Gorkys may get that last spot if the Sox are serious about not carrying three catchers.  He seems to be the likely choice.  We know it won’t be Rusney.  I’ve said that he deserves another shot.  You know, since he’s making like 11 mil down in Pawtucket and has played well down there.  But there were opportunities for him to come up and contribute last season.  And never a sniff.

Bryce Brentz is back!!  We more than likely won’t see him in Boston again though.  If anyone cares.  Cole Sturgeon is a name I recognize every year in Spring Training.  Seems like he is 35 years old.  But alas, he is only 27.  And that 3-20 this year won’t help him at all.  Matheny is the son of former big leaguer (and also former St. Louis manager) Mike Matheny.  But that’s about all I really can say about him.

Nothing much to add about the rest of that list.  I am not even sure I would add anything even if I knew who most of them actually are.

That about sums things up.  Most of the team returns from last year.  Not necessarily a good thing to have little turnover.  Not necessarily a good thing to have a bullpen that looks like it does.  But it’s a long season folks.  And it should be a successful one at that.  But another World Series win?  I’m not betting on that…

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