All-Star Snubs – American League

The 2018 baseball season is more than half over. Major League Baseball’s All Star Game is next Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (on FOX) and the rosters for the All Star Game were announced Sunday evening. Yesterday, we took a look at some National League players who were snubbed for the mid-summer contest. Today we’ll get a glimpse at a handful of guys who should have initially made the squad in the American League, but were overlooked.

Blake Snell – (Rays) Since Snell is our featured image above, we’ll start with him. He’s sporting a 12-4 record with a miserly 2.09 ERA and somehow he didn’t make the cut. I am sure Snell will end up an alternate since Justin Verlander is scheduled to start for Houston on Sunday, thereby eliminating him from pitching the the all star game. But how he didn’t make it on his own is just ridiculous.

**UPDATE** 7/13 – Added to AL All Star team, replacing Corey Kluber.

Andrelton Simmons – (LA Angels) The Angels shortstop is having an excellent season (.213/.372/.442), hitting 40 points higher in batting average and OBP than his numbers in 2017, but Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor got the All Star nods. Simba is also providing his typically excellent defense with only five errors this season as of this writing.

Nick Castellanos – (Tigers) With young 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario joining the team out of spring training, the Tigers switched Castellanos to right-field this season. So far it’s worked out well for Nick. His slash-line (.306/.359/.523) are at all time highs for him, and he is roughly on pace to match his career highs of 26 home runs and 101 RBI, set last season.

Whit Merrifield – (Royals) Not much has gone right in Kansas City this season, but young Merrifield has been a diamond in the rough. He can play most positions in the field except catcher. he’s hitting .306 and boasts an OPS of .810. He has only five home-runs, which says he’s adept at driving balls into the gap. I’ve heard his name mentioned in trade-talks, so it remains to be seen if he will be dealt. Any team who deals for him will be getting a spark-plug kind of guy who hustles and is fun to watch. Also, Whit just has a cool baseball name — don’t ask me why, but he does.

 

Eddie Rosario – (Twins) – He doesn’t get all the press that guys like Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and many others get, but Rosario is quietly putting together a good season up in Minnesota. Currently he has 18 HR’s to go along with a slash-line of .300/.341/.530. His defense has slipped a bit from 2017, as he currently has six errors in left field, compared to four all of last year. Nonetheless, the 26 year old Rosario is an exciting young player who’s been flying under the radar up north.

Charlie Morton – (Astros) How Morton was left off the All Star Team is beyond my comprehension. After his career high 14 wins last season for the World Champion Astros, “Ground Chuck” is on pace to obliterate his numbers from last season. Morton is boasting a record of 11-2, with an ERA of 2.83. He is striking out just a shade under 12 per nine innings. Morton has indicated that he may retire after this season to spend more time with his wife and kids. Hopefully he will make the squad as an alternate in what could be his last chance to play in an All Star Game.

UPDATE: 7/13 – Charlie Morton added to All Star team, replacing Aroldis Chapman.

**Late Addition**

Andrew Benintendi – (Red Sox) Somehow I overlooked one of the more obvious guys who should have been on the AL team to begin with. The young Benintendi has been somewhat streaky in 2018, hitting .242 in April. However, he ramped things up in May batting 100 points higher (.349), and has hovered around .300 since. Benintendi has 14 HR’s on the season and 17 steals to go along with 57 RBI. In the field, he runs down everything hit at him and also has six assists on the season. The 24 year old outfielder lost out on the “Final Vote” to Seattle’s Jean Segura, and has since been put on the Bereavement List due to a death in his family.

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Hired Guns – Who Will Load Up in the AL?

As we approach the halfway point of the 2018 season, this is when contenders start to separate themselves from pretenders. These contenders then look to the pretenders to see where they can shore up weak-spots via trade before the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades. Most deals will involve players who are set to become free-agents after the season or from teams looking to shed payroll.

Today we will take a look at contending teams in the American League to see where they could use some help via trade. We will start with teams in the American League East and work our way through the Central and the AL West. We will look at the National League in an upcoming entry.

AL EAST

New York Yankees – The Yankees, sitting atop the AL East, don’t have many holes to fill. GM Brian Cashman is actively seeking a starting pitcher, (Cole Hamels‘ name has frequently been mentioned) and that’s their only real need. That said, rookies Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga are more than filling the need, especially German. The bullpen has been in lock-down mode all year, but they could use another situational LOOGY, because Chasen Shreve is shaky at best.

Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox are sitting two games back of New York, and could use help behind the plate, where the platoon of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon get on base barely more than a quarter of the time. If somehow GM Dave Dombroski could pry Salvador Perez from the downward spiraling Kansas City Royals, he would be a great fit in Boston. Otherwise, Jonathan Lucroy of the Oakland A’s would be an upgrade, and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. Jackie Bradley, Jr. has a slash-line of .181/.278/.292 in center-field, but is still only 28 years old and plays stellar defense. He may not win a game with his bat, but he usually won’t cost you the game with his glove-work.

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians – The 1st place Indians are currently five games ahead of the Tigers and six above Minnesota. They could really use another starting pitcher with Danny Salazar out until at least September and Carlos Carrasco a concern with an elbow contusion. Beyond the solid trio of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, the Tribe has been relying on the likes of Josh Tomlin, Adam Plutko and currently Shane Bieber in the rotation. The 23 year old Bieber worked seven scoreless innings tonight in his third MLB start against the Detroit Tigers. A lefty addition such as the aforementioned Hamels, J.A. Happ or Derek Holland would help balance Cleveland’s all righty rotation.

Minnesota Twins – The Twins sit in 3rd place in the Central, six games behind the Indians and are currently five games under .500.

There is a lot of good talent on this Minnesota Twins team. Steve Pearce or Lucas Duda would serve well as an upgrade from first baseman/DH Logan Morrison (.191/.297/.340). Jorge Polanco is expected to be reinstated from his 80-game suspension for PED use on July 2, and Byron Buxton is currently on rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester and will soon be ready to rejoin the parent club. The addition of Polanco and Buxton will add instant offense for the 2nd half. The team could also use an inexpensive lefty starter (Derek Holland again comes to mind) to balance the rotation. Say a few Hail Mary’s for closer Fernando Rodney..

AL WEST

Houston Astros – The Astros are poised for another run to the players, hoping to repeat as World Series champions.

Their starting rotation appears to be bulletproof with Justin Verlander leading the way. Houston also has a deep bullpen, although closer Ken Giles can be shaky when off-kilter. Their lineup is solid from top to bottom, their weak-link currently is CF Jake Marisnick (.176/.200/.321) but minor league prospects Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker will soon be on the horizon. The Astros could stand to get younger behind the plate, and trading for Kansas City Royals backstop Salvador Perez would set them up for the next several years. A package involving prospects including Tucker, Forrest Whitley, Yordan Alvarez and J.B. Bukauskas could help entice Royals GM Dayton Moore into pulling the trigger.

Seattle Mariners – The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since God was a baby (Okay, since Lou Piniella was at the helm, seven managers previous), but GM Jerry DiPoto and current manager Scott Servais are pushing to get back in the postseason.

This team is talented! DiPoto fleeced the Dbacks when he acquired OF Mitch Haniger and SS Jean Segura for Tijuan Malker and Ketel Marte. The weak-spot in the offense has been catcher Mike Zunino, who is struggling at .202/.266/.424 but he’s too good to not rebound. Dee Gordon slid into his much more familiar spot at 2nd base when Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games for performance enhancing drugs. To the credit of this team, the Mariners have won 23 of their 35 games since Cano’s suspension was announced. DiPoto traded for Denard Span and Alex Colome from the Tampa Bay Rays to shore things up. The M’s have a lefty-heavy rotation and could use another righty starter for additional depth. Someone like San Diego’s Tyson Ross would be a nice fit, if DiPoto opts to add another right-hander.

Next time, we will take a look and see who could be “hired-guns” in the National League.

Big League Umpshows Need to Stop

Umpires in Major League Baseball have a thankless job, as do umpires in the minor leagues, college, little league and so forth. Usually the only time you hear of them are when things go awry for one or both teams when calls are missed.

Last night was no different. In an interleague contest between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, home plate umpire Chris Segal called time just as Cards righty John Brebbia began his delivery. The ball sailed wildly because he attempted to stop his pitch, but just released the ball anyway. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina immediately got up out of his crouch and began loudly voicing his displeasure with umpire Segal, as neither Molina nor Red Sox batter Eduardo Nunez called for time. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny quickly intervened to save Molina an early shower, pushing him back away from Segal. Matheny began arguing with Segal, and soon was boisterously thrown from the game by the young umpire. The Cardinals lost the game a few minutes later when Mookie Betts hit a two-run double, giving the Red Sox a walk-off win.

Back to Segal, who looks barely old enough to shave. It was bad enough that he called time when John Brebbia began his delivery, which could potentially cause an injury. More upsetting, Segal’s explanation for calling time was because “I needed a break”.

Really? Sheesh, that’s brutal.

In his postgame interview, Matheny said he told him, “Nobody is here to watch you.”

This isn’t a good look for MLB umpires. From the naked eye, it seems Segal is defiant and possibly trying to further bait Matheny and Molina.

In the past few weeks, umpires have been making headlines around Major League Baseball, and not for the right reasons. On July 26, Gerry Davis, normally a well-respected umpire, threw future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers out of their game that night because he moved the on-deck circle.

Umpire Davis told Beltre to move over to the on-deck circle because he didn’t like where he was standing. Beltre’s reason for being where he was, was to be in a safer spot to avoid being hit with a foul ball or a fragment of a broken bat. Needless to say, Beltre’s ejection didn’t go over well in the baseball world.

The next afternoon, July 27, the Blue Jays faced up against the Oakland A’s in Toronto. Home plate umpire Will Little tossed out manager John Gibbons for complaining about his inconsistent strike-zone in the top of the 5th inning. Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman walked the next batter. After he got the ball back, he stepped off the rubber, and as he was rubbing up the ball he glanced at umpire Little, quickly ejected Stroman — apparently for looking at him. Jays catcher Russell Martin no sooner turned around to protest this and was also booted. Both Stroman and Martin were incredulous and had to be restrained before leaving for the clubhouse.

Did you think I wasn’t going to mention Angel Hernandez? Don’t be silly. Three days ago, Detroit Tigers 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler was batting against Martin Perez of the Rangers, when Hernandez ejected him in the middle of an at-bat — because he looked back at him after the second pitch.

Kinsler thought the first pitch of the at-bat, a very low pitch called a strike by Hernandez was a poor call (It was). Kinsler didn’t like the call but certainly didn’t make a scene. After being thrown out, Kinsler had his say, as did Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

After the game, Kinsler was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying of Hernandez: “It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does.”

Stinging comments, but he’s right. If you look, there is data supporting Hernandez’s poor performance over more than 25 years of umpiring at the major league level.

Major League Baseball really needs to reign in some of these guys and explain to them that fans don’t pay to watch umpires call games. No one is there to see them. I agree with what Ian Kinsler said, that games are being unnecessarily being altered.

I have always thought that the best umpires are ones fans never hear of. MLB would be better off if they weed out the “big names” and replace them with guys we don’t know of.

Related: Not a Good Night for MLB Umpires

Brian Cashman: Yankees MVP

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is over and the contenders who landed their guys are figuring out where to put them in their lineups or pitching staffs. Usually deadline days are hectic and somewhat chaotic, and this one was no different. Plenty of teams made their deals today. The Dodgers landed Yu Darvish right at the 4:00 PM deadline, upgrading their rotation. They also upgraded their bullpen.

The New York Yankees landed Sonny Gray in a trade with the Oakland Athletics that sent prospects Jorge MateoDustin Fowler and James Kaprielian to the A’s. Both Fowler and Kaprielian are currently recovering from injuries, but all have high upsides.

Yankees Senior VP and General Manager Brian Cashman has been busy in July. On July 19, he traded for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and former Yankee David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox in return for much maligned reliever Tyler Clippard and prospects Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo. Yesterday, Cashman traded minor league pitchers Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Minnesota Twins for lefty starter Jaime Garcia, who himself was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Twins a handful of days earlier. Numerous other lesser trades also have been made which can be seen in Yankees transactions.

All these moves were made by Brian Cashman without the team having to part with their best prospects. A’s GM Billy Beane, an excellent executive in his own right, originally wanted Clint Frazier (#2) and Estevan Florial (#4 prospect) in the deal for Gray.

Since Cashman took over as GM in 1998, the experience he has gained has served him well. I am blown away that the Yankees never had to part with their very best prospects while loading up in a big way for a run at a World Series title. Which I must repeat:

Well done, Mr. Cashman. Well done.

Brian Cashman thumbs up