Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder

Projecting the 2011 NL All-Star team

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With one month until the game, he’s my first attempt to project the NL All-Star roster.  The team will have 34 players, usually 21 hitters and 13 pitchers.  Remember that all 16 teams need to be represented.

Catcher
Locks: None
Possibilies: Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Chris Iannetta, Ramon Hernandez, Jonathan Lucroy

With Buster Posey down, I thought Molina would cruise in winning the popular vote for the third straight year. However, now it looks like McCann might get to start an All-Star Game for the first time. He’s currently 300,000 votes ahead of Molina.

It will be interesting to see if Molina makes the squad if he’s not voted in. He got off to a great start offensively, but he’s cooled now and he’s not having his usual success throwing out basestealers. Montero looks like he’ll have a pretty good case for the spot, but since he’s another left-handed hitter, he doesn’t exactly compliment McCann.

First base
Locks: Albert Pujols
Possibilities: Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Gaby Sanchez, Todd Helton

I’d like to say Votto is a lock, but he’s second to Pujols in the balloting and he wasn’t picked as a reserve last year. He only made the team by winning the fan’s Final Vote as the 34th player.

Even with Adrian Gonzalez out of the mix, first base is stacked. Pujols seems likely to win the vote now that he’s overcome his rough start. With the DH spot available, the NL could take four first basemen and start both Pujols and Votto. Fielder should be the third man in. Howard could well be the fourth, even though he’s not having the season that Sanchez is.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, Neil Walker, Danny Espinosa, Kelly Johnson, Justin Turner

I think Weeks is pretty much a sure thing to make the team, even though he’s currently 300,000 votes back of Phillips. Utley is as 470,000 votes back and probably has too big of a gap to make up. Besides Weeks, no NL second baseman is having a very good year. Excluding Utley’s 20 games, Daniel Murphy is the only even occasional second baseman with a .750 OPS and he’s playing first now.

That said, I do think Walker has a shot here. He’s driven in 42 runs already.

Third base
Locks: Placido Polanco
Possibilites: Chipper Jones, Ryan Roberts, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley, Scott Rolen, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez

Injuries have really decimated the competition here. Polanco is the vote leader by a cool 630,000 ballots over Jones, and it’s hard to see that changing. Chipper deserves to go as the backup as long as he’s still healthy in mid-July.

Roberts could be an option if the NL insists on taking a utilityman, like it did with Omar Infante last year.

Shortstop
Locks: Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes
Possibilities: Stephen Drew, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Alex Gonzalez

Tulo is going to win the vote, and Reyes is pretty much guaranteed of a spot as a backup. Drew is the obvious choice if the NL takes a third shortstop, and given the lack of quality options at second or third, it might as well.

Outfield
Locks: Ryan Braun
Possibilities: Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, Ryan Ludwick, Mike Stanton, Carlos Beltran, Mike Morse, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Martin Prado, Drew Stubbs, Shane Victorino, Kosuke Fukudome

Berkman and Holliday have substantial leads over Ethier and Kemp in the balloting, so it looks like they’ll go. As much as Votto deserves to start for the NL, the team would actually be better off putting Kemp or McCutchen into the starting lineup and using Berkman as a DH. Otherwise, it’s going to Holliday in center field to start.

Pence is the obvious choice to go as the Astros’ rep, and it’s hard to imagine Bruce being overlooked.  It’d be nice to see Beltran get a nod for his performance this year, but it’s probably for the best that he takes the three days off to rest up.

Starting Pitchers
Locks: Roy Halladay
Possibilities: Jair Jurrjens, Cole Hamels, Tommy Hanson, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Jhoulys Chacin, Anibal Sanchez, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Tim Stauffer, Ian Kennedy, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee, Jaime Garcia

It still too early to try to make the calls here, though I am listing Halladay as a lock.  A few spots will likely come down to who pitches the Sunday before the game.

Relievers
Locks: None
Possibilities: Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan, J.J. Putz, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonny Venters, Huston Street, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Storen, John Axford, Mike Adams, Tyler Clippard, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall

I’ll be pretty upset if Venters isn’t selected.  He’s been the NL’s best reliever all year long.

OK, let’s give it a try:

NL All-Star team

Lineup
3B Placido Polanco
DH Joey Votto
1B Albert Pujols
LF Ryan Braun
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Lance Berkman
CF Matt Holliday
C Brian McCann
2B Brandon Phillips

Bench
C Yadier Molina
1B Prince Fielder
1B Ryan Howard
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Chipper Jones
SS Jose Reyes
SS Stephen Drew
OF Matt Kemp
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Jay Bruce
OF Hunter Pence
OF Mike Stanton

Pitchers

Roy Halladay
Tommy Hanson
Cole Hamels
Jair Jurrjens
Tim Lincecum
Clayton Kershaw
Shaun Marcum

Brian Wilson
Heath Bell
Jonny Venters
Joel Hanrahan
Drew Storen
Carlos Marmol

I didn’t have a Cub in my original go, so Marmol squeezed Ryan Madson out of a slot.  Sean Marshall might be an even better choice, but I’m already pushing my luck by picking one setup man.

The Nationals got their selection in Storen, though Tyler Clippard would be just as good.  Jordan Zimmermann is starting to look like a candidate, too.

As it turned out, Stanton makes it as the lone Marlin.  Leo Nunez and Anibal Sanchez were near misses.

I held back with the Giants, even though Bruce Bochy will want some of his own players on there. He might have gone with Freddy Sanchez as a reserve infielder, but that’s no longer a possilbility.  I’m sure he’ll squeeze one of his starting pitchers on the team, whether it’s Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner.  Also, Wilson will likely be reserved for closing duties if there’s a save opportunity.

MLB-MLBPA announce the postponement of the Puerto Rico series due to Zika concerns

Ricardo Arduengo -- Associated Press
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This, as we have noted previously, was inevitable. But Major League Baseball and the MLBPA just issued a joint press release announcing the postponement of the late May series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins in Puerto Rico. The reason: fears of Zika in light of the outbreak on the island. The series has been moved to Marlins Park in Miami.

From the release:

The Players Association requested that Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. relocate the games after numerous players expressed concerns about contracting and potentially transmitting the Zika virus to their partners.  Players and staff of both Clubs received full briefings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) science staff regarding the risks associated with the Zika virus, and the recommended precautions for travelers including those with partners who are pregnant or attempting to conceive.  After discussing the issue with all involved parties, and consulting with federal and Puerto Rican government officials at the highest levels, Commissioner Manfred decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico.  Because too many regulars on both Clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.

The release goes on to say that, in lieu of the games, MLB will stage several youth baseball and community events in Puerto Rico later this month, which will be attended by Commissioner Manfred and several former MLB players. Both MLB and the Players Association also will make contributions to the CDC Foundation to assist the efforts to eradicate Zika in Puerto Rico.

Ultimately, far too many players voiced concerns about playing in Puerto Rico. Expect officials from Puerto Rico to blast the decision as hysteria and alarmism, as they did in anticipation of it in recent days. Also, expect there to be more discussion about Zika in the future, as it’s already something that is entering Florida and will likely be a bigger problem on the U.S. mainland in the future than it is now.

 

What’s on Tap: Previewing Friday’s Action

New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws during the first inning of the baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field, Sunday, May 1, 2016 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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One game started already. Nats and Cubs in Chicago. As I write this, the Cubs are up 4-2 and Max Scherzer has given up three home runs. Woops.

The rest of the action is ahead of us, however, and the future holds any number of possibilities. Like a Kenta Maeda vs. Marcus Stroman matchup in Toronto. And Vince Velasquez and the Phillies trying to cool off a red hot Marlins team in Miami. Way out west in San Diego Noah Syndergaard goes against the Padres. This has been quite a year for pitchers putting up their best line of their lives against the Padres, so look for Syndergaard to strike out, like 30 Padres. Which, yes, I realize that’s impossible, but I have faith in both Thor and the Friars to do the impossible if they really put their minds to it.

Anyway, here are the games. Most of you are off work tomorrow so stay up late, have fun and watch baseball. And maybe do it even if you gotta work.

Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) @ New York Yankees (Michael Pineda), 7:05 PM EDT, Yankee Stadium

Oakland Athletics (Rich Hill) @ Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez), 7:05 PM EDT, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Los Angeles Dodgers (Kenta Maeda) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT, Rogers Centre

Kansas City Royals (Yordano Ventura) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT, Progressive Field

Milwaukee Brewers (Tyler Cravy) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 7:10 PM EDT, Great American Ball Park

Philadelphia Phillies (Vince Velasquez) @ Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen), 7:10 PM EDT, Marlins Park

Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels) @ Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmermann), 7:10 PM EDT, Comerica Park

Arizona Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:35 PM EDT , Turner Field

Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Chicago White Sox (Mat Latos), 8:10 PM EDT, U.S. Cellular Field

Seattle Mariners (Taijuan Walker) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT, Minute Maid Park

Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez), 8:15 PM EDT, Busch Stadium

Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer) @ Los Angeles Angels (Cory Rasmus), 10:05 PM EDT, Angel Stadium of Anaheim

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ San Francisco Giants (Madison Bumgarner), 10:15 PM EDT, AT&T Park

New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard) @ San Diego Padres (Drew Pomeranz), 10:40 PM EDT , Petco Park

CC Sabathia goes on the disabled list with a strained groin

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throws to the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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CC Sabathia pitched wonderfully Wednesday night, tossing seven shutout innings in what was easily his best start in ages. But since we live in a world in which we simply cannot have nice things, that sweet has to come with some sour: the Yankees just announced that they have placed Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin.

The Yankees have replaced Sabathia on the roster with their old friend Phil Coke, whose contract they just purchased from Scranton.

The Yankees have had bad luck with all of their starters not named Masahiro Tanaka so far this year. Losing one of them just as he put together his best start of the season is just a killer.

Tim Lincecum’s showcase is a lot bigger a deal than it seemed before

Tim Lincecum
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When a pitcher doesn’t sign anywhere before or during spring training people sometimes wring their hands a bit, but it’s usually the case that they’ll be OK if they are patient. Once the season starts guys start going down with injuries left and right or show that they’re ineffective. In such cases, a free agent pitcher’s value goes way up. He’s a relatively low cost option for a team which, a month ago, seemed set but is now suddenly desperate.

Tim Lincecum may benefit from that dynamic.

As we noted earlier today, the Angels’ rotation is a hot mess now that Garrett Richards is out for the year and Andrew Heaney‘s absence may be just as extended. The back end of the Giants’ rotation is likewise a mess. Lincecum was never seriously on San Francisco’s radar this past winter, but given how Matt Cain and Jake Peavy are going, those crazy kids may get back together. The Dodgers could use a pitcher and their competition with the Giants may make this whole situation a lot more profitable for Lincecum than it might have otherwise been.

Of course, Lincecum still has to show that he can pitch and that he’s healthy. That’s why he’s having the showcase, that goes down here very shorty — 2:30 eastern time — and you can watch it streaming live at CSNBayArea.com.