Projecting the NL All-Star roster, Take 2

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Four weeks ago, I projected the following roster for the NL All-Star team (starters in bold):

C – Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Bengie Molina
1B – Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Chase Utley, Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez
3B – David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones
SS – Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez
OF – Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe
P
– Johan Santana, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, Wandy
Rodriguez, Josh Johnson, Johnny Cueto, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan
Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero

Let’s look at the new vote totals and put together a better guess now.

Catchers

Starter: Yadier Molina
Backups: Brian McCann, Bengie Molina

If three catchers are chosen, it figures to be the same trio. Yadier
Molina has a nice edge on McCann in the balloting (1.85 million to 1.46
million), and McCann is a lock to be on the team either way. There
aren’t any other catchers truly deserving of a spot, but Bengie leads
the field in RBI and his team is playing very well.

First basemen

Starter: Albert Pujols
Backups: Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder

I went with just the two first basemen in the first projection, but
it’s going to be very difficult to deny Fielder and Gonzalez is still
very deserving, even if he’s no longer hitting a homer a day. My guess
is that Pujols and Gonzalez will be named to the team and Fielder will
win the fan vote for the last spot on the roster. It’s just too bad
there’s no DH. Ideally, Pujols would get to play the entire game at
Busch Stadium, but that can’t happen now.

Second basemen

Starter: Chase Utley
Backups: Brandon Phillips, Freddy Sanchez

I’m still going with the three second basemen, but Phillips is
replacing Orlando Hudson for one of the spots. Hudson has been just as
valuable this year, but Phillips has the sexier numbers, with his 11
homers and 51 RBI. Sanchez makes a ton of sense as the lone Pirate on
the team, though Zach Duke also has a case.

Third basemen

Starter: David Wright
Backups: Mark Reynolds

Wright has locked up the starting spot, leaving quite a competition
for perhaps just one reserve spot. Reynolds (916 OPS, 21 HR, 54 RBI),
Pablo Sandoval (965 OPS, 11 HR, 38 RBI), Chipper Jones (884 OPS, 9 HR,
33 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (861 OPS, 12 HR, 43 RBI) are all deserving,
and Zimmerman has the big advantage in that he could be the only
National selected. Reynolds will probably make the squad, and Chipper’s
career should outweigh Sandoval’s hot streak if the NL finds room for
three third basemen.

Shortstops

Starter: Hanley Ramirez
Backup: Miguel Tejada

The balloting was very close between Jimmy Rollins and Ramirez when
it was time to make the first projection, and I had Rollins winning the
vote. Now that Ramirez has a 255,000-vote lead, we no longer have to
worry about that possibility, and Rollins has no chance of making the
squad as a backup with the way he’s performed. Tejada is hitting .330
and has driven in 41 runs, giving him a pretty good case for the backup
job. Besides Ramirez and Tejada, Troy Tulowitzki is the only NL
shortstop with an 800 OPS.

Outfielders

Starters: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Beltran
Backups: Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe, Matt Kemp

I’d like to cut an outfielder to make room for a third third baseman, but seven figure to go.

The last outfield spot would seem to be the only one still up for
grabs in the NL. The injured Beltran currently has a 170,000-vote edge
on the struggling Alfonso Soriano. Beltran might not be able to play
even if he does win the vote, but I’m still rooting for him. Not only
is Soriano undeserving, but his addition would likely cause the NL to
put two center fielders on the bench and none have truly earned in.
Kemp is a stretch for one spot, and Shane Victorino would likely be
next in line.

If Beltran is on the team, then we could have a situation in which
the NL’s top six outfielders in OPS are all represented. Ibanez is
first, followed by Hawpe, Braun, Upton, Beltran and Dunn.

Pitchers

Starters: Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Johan Santana, Matt Cain, Javier Vazquez
Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Franklin

Now that we’re closer to the game, we can see what starters might be
unavailable to pitch in the All-Star Game because they’re scheduled to
work the Sunday before. Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo,
Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright all appear set to pitch then and could be
scratched from consideration as a result. For that reason, I’m going
with six starters and six relievers. Too many of the deserving starters
are likely to be unable to pitch.

The Braves will be serving some insane food this season

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Lots of teams have crazy concession items and lots of them will circulate photos of the more gonzo ones in the coming week leading up to the baseball season. The Braves, however, have been one of the more aggressive players in the gimmick concession item game in recent years, and they just sent around a release talking about some of the stuff they, and their concessionaire, Delaware North, will be serving at their new ballpark, Sun Trust Park, in 2017.

Among them:a blackened catfish po boy, which is a blackened 6-ounce filet of catfish cut up among three tacos, with a cajun remoulade. Some BBQ beef brisket sliders. A double burger. An ice cream bar. They’re also going to have a regionally-inspired thing called “The Taste of Braves Country,” showcasing southern cooking from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Which they’re calling “Braves Country.” Accurate enough, I guess, even if some of us are old enough to remember when they aspired to be a national team. Alas.

The big item, though, is this one:

It’s called the “Tomahawk Chop” sandwich. It’s a fried pork chop with collard green slaw and white BBQ sauce. It serves four and costs $26. I’m guessing it tastes fantastic, but I think the name is pretty cringeworthy for the same reason the cheer which gives it its name is. And, given the dynamics of the Braves move to their new stadium, the choice of BBQ sauce is . . . amusing? I dunno.

Anyway, enjoy, Braves fans.

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.