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.

Advertisements

Hired Guns – National League

In our last entry, we took a look at some American League teams possibly looking for trade partners to fill holes for the pennant drive ahead of the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades. Today we’ll assess teams in the National League who could look to make moves within the next five weeks. We will start with the NL East division and work west. Let’s go!

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves – Yes, you read that right……the FIRST PLACE Atlanta Braves. Coming into 2018, I wouldn’t have expected this young team to be this good this quickly, but here we are. Ronald Acuna, Jr., Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are studs. If these guys play as well as their ceiling projects, they could easily rival the early 90’s Atlanta teams. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb could front their rotation the next several years.

GM Alex Anthopoulos would likely want to add another arm for their rotation (I mean, how long can Anibal Sanchez pitch to a 2.55 ERA?) and one for their bullpen (Adam Ottovino or Zach Britton could be good fits). Third base is a bit of a weak spot with Johan Camargo hitting .238. If Anthopoulos looks to upgrade by the deadline, he could look at Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers or Josh Donaldson of Toronto. Donaldson would come far cheaper despite being quite a bit younger than Beltre, but he’s had trouble staying healthy and struggled at the plate.

Philadelphia Phillies – These “Fightin’ Phils” are right in the middle of this race with a current record of 41-33, riding a three-game winning streak. Like the Braves, the Phillies are primarily a young team mixed with a few seasoned vets.

This team really doesn’t need much. First baseman Carlos Santana started slowly in his 1st season in Philly, but he’s heating up with three HR’s in his last four games. Right-fielder Aaron Altherr struggled mightily at .179, but manager Gabe Kapler plugged in Nick Williams in his place and is getting good production. The back end of Philadelphia’s bullpen needs help. 23 year old Seranthony Dominguez has been brilliant in his limited big-league experience, but GM Matt Klentak will need to give him some help. The aforementioned Zach Britton and/or Adam Ottovino could slide in nicely. One time Phillie and soon to be free-agent Jake Diekman could be a nice rental for the pen from the Rangers.

Washington Nationals – Predicted by many (including this writer) to handily win the NL East, the Nats are currently in third place at 40-35, and have lost seven of their last 10 games. Injuries are beginning to affect this team, with starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson and reliever Brandon Kintzler on the shelf. The rotation could use more depth behind Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and the inconsistent Tanner Roark. Cole Hamels would be a nice addition who is comfortable pitching in the heat of a NL East pennant race. GM Mike Rizzo has enough prospects in the system to pry Hamels away from Texas. Rizzo added a proven bullpen arm on July 18 when he acquired Kelvin Herrera in a trade with Kansas City.

NL CENTRAL

Milwaukee Brewers – The Brew Crew is for real. Milwaukee has a deep team with few holes. General Manager David Stearns added Lorenzo Cain as a free agent and traded for Christian Yelich over the winter to bolster an already talented lineup. A couple weak-spots: Catcher Manny Pina (.224/.285/.376) struggled in the early going, but is finally warming up after spending most of the 1st half hovering around the “Mendoza-Line”. Shortstop Orlando Arcia has been cold all season, possessing an anemic .201/.234/.259 slash-line. With prospect Mauricio Dubon out until 2019 with a torn ACL, perhaps Stearns will continue making bold moves and trade some of the team’s depth/prospects to the Baltimore Orioles for a few months of Manny Machado? The package could include recently demoted right-fielder Domingo Santana, Eric Thames or top-five prospect Brett Phillips, who is blocked in AAA Colorado Springs. The Brewers have an abundance of good young pitchers who could be added in, but I wouldn’t part with rookie bullpen sensation Josh Hader or recently promoted starter Freddy Peralta, who has dominated.

Chicago Cubs – The Cubbies are two games back of Milwaukee as we inch closer to the All Star Break. In my opinion, starting pitching will be what makes or breaks this team in 2018. Veteran Jon Lester, now 34 years of age, has been the ace his team expects. Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana will give you a chance to win more often than not, but neither are better than number-three starters. I love Theo Epstein, but I’m not sure what he and GM Jed Hoyer were smoking when they handed 38 million dollars for three years of Tyler Chatwood. No one can convince me he’s better than Jake Arietta. Chatwood is a bullpen-killer, not even averaging five innings per start, and walking a batter almost every inning. Oft-injured starter Yu Darvish, currently out with biceps-tendonitis, is due to return in July. They are going to need him to stay healthy if the Cubs are going to keep pace with Milwaukee. They don’t have any other glaring needs, they just need their rotation to pull their weight.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are very much in the mix for the Central Division, but it’s doubtful they have the horses to get there in 2018. Injuries have hurt St. Louis, with Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, Paul DeJong and Luke Gregerson all missing large chunks of time. The Cards have lost nine of their last 13 games, and have a lot of work to do to right the ship. The Pirates are a young team with a lot of talent and a bright future. Youthful teams can be inconsistent, and right now they are, losing 13 of their 20 games in the month of June. Pittsburgh’s front-office needs to stay the course; there’s no question Bucs fans will see the Jolly Roger raised often in the near-future.

NL WEST

Arizona Dbacks – The Diamondbacks lead the NL West by 2.5 games over the Dodgers, who seem to have found their footing. If Arizona expects to retain their hold on the division, they are going to need a little help. With shortstop Nick Ahmed still putting along with a .219 average and closer Brad Boxberger continuing to exceed in mediocrity, GM Mike Hazen would do well to upgrade in both areas. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece about how Manny Machado could be a good fit in Arizona.  Baltimore could be an excellent partner not only for Machado, but also for closer Zach Britton. Arizona has a deep farm system loaded with prospects they can send for Machado and Britton. Young starters Zack Godley, Matt Koch could also be added-in, as could Shelby Miller, set to be activated tomorrow after completing a rehab assignment in his return from 2017 Tommy John surgery.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers have recovered from a horrific 16-26 start to win 24 of their last 33 games, and are now 2.5 games in back of the Dbacks. The team hasn’t hit collectively well in 2018, although playing the Mets seems to cure everything. The offense took a hard hit when shortstop Corey Seager injured his elbow in early May, requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. There was immediate talk of tying to orchestrate a trade for Machado after Seager went down, but seems nothing has materialized. I think LA will be fine as they are, as long as their pitching stays healthy — particularly starters Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Rookie starter Walker Buehler was also pitching very well until he was sidelined with a micro-fracture in one of his ribs. That could be problematic if he’s pushed back too quickly. Hyun-Jim Ryu and Julio Urias could also return later this summer and be good additions for the club.

Last night’s return of the leader of their rotation, Kershaw, can also be a psychological lift for the ball club. The Dodgers, and baseball as a whole is better when Clayton Kershaw is healthy and pitching.

The next five weeks will be interesting to watch as clubs decide whether to stand pat or go after hired guns to load-up for what should be a fun pennant race in Major League Baseball.

 

 

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