Projecting the AL All-Star roster

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Following yesterday’s attempt at the guessing the NL roster, here’s a preview of the potential AL All-Star roster.

Catchers

Starter: Joe Mauer
Backups: Victor Martinez

Martinez is listed as a catcher on the ballot, so he’s the obvious
choice to back up Mauer. If the AL goes with three catchers, then Jason
Varitek and Mike Napoli would enter the mix. It wouldn’t surprise me to
see Varitek end up as the 32nd player on the team by virtue of the Fan
Vote.

First basemen

Starter: Kevin Youkilis
Backups: Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira

Youkilis currently has 600k votes to 506k for Teixeira and 483k for
Morneau. Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Pena are also awfully deserving, but
there’s only going to be room for three with the game in an NL park and
no DH available.

Second basemen

Starter: Ian Kinsler
Backup: Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia

Kinsler currently has a 146,000-vote lead on last year’s AL MVP.
Pedroia isn’t playing quite as well now as he did last year, but he
still deserves to go. I’m guessing three second basemen will be carried
at the expense of a third shortstop. If not, then perhaps Pedroia will
win the Fan Vote.

Third basemen

Starter: Evan Longoria
Backup: Brandon Inge

I’d actually be in favor of carrying just the one third baseman and
letting Longoria play the whole game if it meant that Cabrera would
make the team. Actually, the best-case scenario would have Morneau
overtaking Youkilis at first, so Youkilis could replace Longoria at
third during the contest.

Of course, there will be an actual backup at third. Inge, Mike Lowell
and Michael Young all look like rather equivalent candidates, and Mark
DeRosa could be the token Indian if Victor Martinez somehow gets passed
over. I don’t think Alex Rodriguez will be rewarded with a spot.

Shortstops

Starter: Derek Jeter
Backup: Jason Bartlett

Jeter is just behind Longoria for the overall lead in votes. Both
Bartlett and Marco Scutaro have built really strong cases for making
the team, but I think there’s only room for one. Bartlett would seem to
have the edge unless he spends more time than expected on the disabled
list.

Outfielders

Starters: Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki
Backups: Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Johnny Damon

Ichiro has 28,000 votes on Ken Griffey Jr. and 41,000 on Crawford
for the third outfield spot. It’d be quite a surprise if he’s
overtaken, especially with the way he’s heating up.

Jones gets the nod over Nick Markakis as the token Oriole. Nelson
Cruz and Jermaine Dye look like the top alternates now, though Curtis
Granderson would still be a possibility if he keeps hitting homers.

Pitchers

Starters: Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Frank Francisco, Andrew Bailey, Joe Nathan, Scott Downs

Greinke and Halladay should be definites, but the rest of the
pitchers will partly depend on who works the Sunday before the game and
who doesn’t. I expect that either Buehrle or Bobby Jenks will go as the
lone member of the White Sox, though Dye would be an option in the
outfield. Andrew Bailey makes sense as the only Athletic.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 22, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

Report: Josh Hamilton likely to undergo another knee surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.

More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.

Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.