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.

Giants acquire Eduardo Nunez from the Twins

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 07: Eduardo Nunez #9 of the Minnesota Twins throws for an out at first in the fourth inning during a game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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The Giants have acquired All-Star infielder Eduardo Nunez from the Twins in exchange for minor league pitcher Adalberto Mejia, the club announced on Thursday night.

Nunez, 29, went 0-for-4 in Thursday night’s game against the Orioles. He’s hitting .296/.325/.439 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI, 49 runs scored, and a league-best 26 stolen bases in 391 plate appearances this season. Nunez has played mostly at shortstop this season, but has also logged significant time at third base and a handful of games at second base, so he’ll give the Giants some versatility.

Nunez will likely play a lot of third base for the Giants as Matt Duffy is still sidelined with a strained left Achilles. He’s earning $1.475 million this season and will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility heading into 2017.

Mejia, 23, was considered the Giants’ seventh-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento last month after posting a 1.94 ERA with Double-A Richmond. In seven starts with Sacramento, he has a 4.20 ERA with a 43/11 K/BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings.

With a roster spot open, the Twins called up infield prospect Jorge Polanco from Triple-A Rochester, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger.

Report: Mariners’ Taijuan Walker drawing “strong” trade interest

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 08:  Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker #44 of the Seattle Mariners looks on from the dugout after completing eight innings against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field on June 8, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports that the Mariners have received “strong” trade interest for starter Taijuan Walker. The right-hander is currently on the mend from tendinitis in his right foot.  He’ll throw a bullpen on Friday at Wrigley Field with scouts in attendance.

Walker, 23, has a 3.66 ERA with an 80/18 K/BB ratio in 86 innings this season. It’s his first bit of sustained success at the major league level. What’s arguably just as intriguing is the fact that Walker will be under team control through 2020.

The Mariners have been hovering around .500 for the last month and entered Thursday six games behind the first-place Rangers in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot, behind three other teams as well as the two Wild Card leaders. It’s enough uncertainty which could push the Mariners to sell.