Projecting the AL All-Star roster – Take 2

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With All-Star balloting set to wrap up this week, I’m going to try
projecting the AL All-Star roster one more time. Here’s what I went
with four weeks ago (starters in bold):

C – Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez
1B – Kevin Youkilis, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira
2B – Ian Kinsler, Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia
3B – Evan Longoria, Brandon Inge
SS – Derek Jeter, Jason Bartlett
OF – Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Johnny Damon
P
– Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander, CC
Sabathia, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan
Papelbon, Frank Francisco, Andrew Bailey, Joe Nathan, Scott Downs

And now:

Catchers

Starter: Joe Mauer
Backups: Victor Martinez

The vote was over long ago, and Martinez has always been a
no-brainer as the backup. Now it just remains to be seen whether the AL
will opt to make room for a third catcher. No player is especially
deserving, and I imagine everyone would like to see Mauer play at least
six innings.

First basemen

Starter: Mark Teixeira
Backups: Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis just reclaimed a modest 40,000-vote lead in the balloting,
but the Yankees are at home this week and the Red Sox are on the road,
suggesting that Teixeira will move back in front. Both should go
regardless, though I’d still prefer to see Youkilis considered the
backup third baseman, making room on the roster for Miguel Cabrera,
Carlos Pena or even Russell Branyan.

Second basemen

Starter: Ian Kinsler
Backup: Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia

In an extremely close vote, Kinsler currently leads Pedroia
2,170,100 votes to 2,163,270. But again, the Rangers are at home this
week and the Red Sox are on the road, so barring a big Internet push,
Kinsler would seem to have the clear advantage. Aaron Hill has been the
league’s best regular second baseman and should make the team as the
backup. Pedroia, as the defending AL MVP, is quite worthy of a spot
even if his recent slump has left him with weaker numbers than some of
the competition. Odds are that he’d win the Fan Vote for the last spot
if left off the team initially.

Third basemen

Starter: Evan Longoria
Backup: Brandon Inge

Longoria has a lead of 1.6 million votes on Alex Rodriguez for the
position. Inge still seems like the best choice as a backup, though
it’d be hard to argue with Scott Rolen. Inge has an 894 OPS to Rolen’s
881 mark. Unfortunately, Michael Young might trump them both. Chone
Figgins is another possibility.

Shortstops

Starter: Derek Jeter
Backup: Jason Bartlett

Jeter is the AL’s leading vote-getter, and Bartlett has been the
league’s most productive shortstop. They’re the obvious two, even if
Bartlett did recently spend some time on the DL.

Outfielders

Starters: Jason Bay, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton
Backups: Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, Jermaine Dye

Hamilton hasn’t even been any good when healthy this year, but the
fans clearly want to see him again after what he did in last year’s
Home Run Derby. He has a 145,000-vote lead on Torii Hunter for the last
outfield spot.

I’ve replaced Adam Jones and Johnny Damon from the list of backups
with Zobrist and Dye. Zobrist, who wasn’t on the All-Star ballot, has
to be included somewhere and the outfield is the easiest place to do
it. Dye has been just about as valuable as Adam Lind and has his career
numbers on his side. He could be the White Sox representative, though
Mark Buehrle and Bobby Jenks have cases for spots.

Pitchers

Starters: Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Tim Wakefield
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey, Brian Fuentes, George Sherrill

Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver would receive
consideration, but they’re due to pitch on the Sunday before the
All-Star break, likely ruling them out for the game itself. Kevin
Millwood, Buehrle and Joe Saunders are also deserving.

Wakefield may seem like an odd choice, but he is 10-3 and the Red
Sox are pushing for him. It’d be great to see him get to go to his
first All-Star Game at age 42.

Bailey and Sherrill have strong cases anyway, but they can be the
token picks for the A’s and Orioles, respectively. Fuentes isn’t
especially deserving, but he is the AL leader in saves and he’d still
be a fine choice to face a key left-hander in the All-Star Game.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia receives a 15-game suspension for domestic violence

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Mets closer Jeurys Familia has received a 15-game suspension for domestic violence.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Familia saved 51 games for the Mets last year while posting a 2.55 ERA. The Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

Familia has released a statement:

Today, I accepted a 15-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior on October 31, 2016. With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening. I did,however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening.

My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.

I apologize to the Mets’ organization, my teammates, and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Mets and being part of another World Series run. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has a statement as well:

My office has completed its investigation into the events leading up to Jeurys Familia’s arrest on October 31, 2016.  Mr. Familia and his wife cooperated fully throughout the investigation, including submitting to in-person interviews with MLB’s Department of Investigations.  My office also received cooperation from the Fort Lee Municipal Prosecutor.  The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.

It is clear that Mr. Familia regrets what transpired that night and takes full responsibility for his actions.  Mr. Familia already has undergone 12 ninety-minute counseling sessions with an approved counselor specializing in the area of domestic violence, and received a favorable evaluation from the counselor regarding his willingness to take concrete steps to ensure that he is not involved in another incident of this type.  Further, he has agreed to speak to other players about what he has learned through this process, and to donate time and money to local organizations aimed at the prevention of, and the treatment of victims of, domestic violence.

2017 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Milwaukee Brewers.

Every year, Major League Baseball plays host to two casts of characters: the contenders and the rebuilders. You might find slight variations — the rebuilders who stand a chance of contending, the contenders on the verge of rebuilding, or those stuck somewhere in between — but by and large, the lines are clearly drawn.

The 2017 Brewers, for better or worse, are rebuilders. Sure, you won’t find them at the bottom of the NL Central come October (that place is unequivocally reserved for the Reds), but neither will you see them snag a Wild Card berth or run away with the division title. This is the year of cultivating a fertile farm system, giving their big league prospects room to stretch and grow and figuring out whether Ryan Braun has a future in Milwaukee beyond 2017.

If the Brewers did anything right this winter, it was deepening their reserves at nearly every position. Behind the plate, Andrew Susac, Manny Pina and newly-acquired Jett Bandy bandied for the spot. Susac injured his back during camp, and while the MRI results didn’t reveal any significant damage, it doesn’t look like he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day. Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell has yet to identify a full-time catcher and could start the year with Pina and Bandy in a hybrid role after both backstops impressed during spring training.

Eric Thames replaced Chris Carter at first base, and while he’s expected to split duties with Jesus Aguilar, appears to be an unconventional acquisition for the Brewers. On paper, the two look miles apart. Carter slashed .222/.321/.499 with 41 home runs and an .821 OPS for the club in 2016, pairing his league-leading homers with a league-leading 206 strikeouts. Thames, meanwhile, flamed out in the majors in 2012 and has not returned to the major league stage since. Never mind that he has only ever played the outfield or that he’s technically made only 181 big league appearances in the last five years, though. Over the past three seasons, he mashed an incredible .349/.457/.721 with 124 home runs and a 1.178 OPS for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, and the three-year, $16 million contract he signed with Milwaukee will look like a steal if he can replicate those numbers in the United States.

The outfield posed another set of questions for the team, who was looking to fill right and center field with a combination of Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kyle Wren. Broxton and Santana claimed spots in center and right, respectively, with Nieuwenhuis beating out the rest of the backup candidates to secure his position as the team’s fourth outfielder. Braun will resume his station in left field after a quiet spring training, during which he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic or most of the Cactus League competition in order to stay healthy for the upcoming season. (At least, that’s one plausible reason. He also told the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal’s Todd Rosiak, “I just don’t feel like I need at-bats to feel ready for games.”)

Of course, every team in the throes of rebuilding has at least one weak spot, and the Brewers are no exception. The starting rotation lacks clarity and talent outside of Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, both of whom flourished in their sophomore campaigns with Milwaukee in 2016. The club acquired left-hander Tommy Milone on the cheap, adding him to a lengthy list of candidates that included right-handers Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson. Spring training did little to illuminate a clear path for the rotation: Garza imploded, Peralta shone, and Nelson and Anderson proved inconsistent at best.

The bullpen doesn’t look much better beyond newly-minted closer Neftali Feliz, who signed a one-year, $5.35 million deal with the Brewers after polishing off a healthy, productive season with the Pirates in 2016. While his bounce-back season looked like a good omen for Milwaukee, Feliz struggled through a rough spring, working 10 hits, six runs, three walks and seven strikeouts through nine innings in camp. He appears to be fully recovered from the “biceps fatigue” that curtailed his last season in Pittsburgh, and Counsell believes that he’ll improve with more reps this spring.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, the club is hurting for left-handed relief after optioning their only lefty candidate, Brent Suter, to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. A suitable replacement for Suter has yet to be named, but there’s some chatter that Milone could assume a position in the bullpen if necessary.

Overall, the Brewers didn’t improve their major league roster as much as they stabilized it, opting for low-cost stopgaps while they condition younger, less-seasoned players waiting to break through to the bigs. A plethora of high-caliber prospects crowd the upper rungs of their farm system, so much so that the club has had difficulty trying to find enough room for all of them to develop at the appropriate level. Just take Triple-A Colorado Springs, which boasts a talented outfield of Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell and Brett Phillips and rotation battles among Hiram Burgos, Josh Hader, Paolo Espino, Wilkerson, Taylor Jungmann, Wei-Chung Wang and the aforementioned Brent Suter, among others.

Milwaukee is looking at a bright future, to be sure, but that future won’t be fully realized right now. The Brewers’ 2017 season will undoubtedly be more satisfying for its front office than its fans, unless those fans also have a ticket to Security Service Field. Given a few more years to develop their prospects and build out their farm system, however, these rebuilders could begin to look something like contenders.

Prediction: 4th place in NL Central.