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.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.