Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano

Projecting the 2011 AL All-Star team

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Same deal as yesterday: 21 position players, 13 pitchers. Let’s give it a go.

Catcher
Locks: Russell Martin
Possibilities: Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, J.P. Arencibia, Miguel Olivo, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer

Martin has more than a 600,000-ballot lead on Avila in second place, so he’s sure to go. It will be interesting to see what happens from there. Avila has been the league’s best offensive catcher to date and he’s second in the balloting, so he’d seem to be the obvious choice. However, if he falls off over the next few weeks, perhaps it’d be possible to sneak Victor Martinez, who is listed as a DH, into the backup slot instead.

First base
Locks: Adrian Gonzalez
Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Konerko, Adam Lind, Justin Smoak

Given that the DH spot is set to be occupied by David Ortiz, there’s really only room for three first basemen, meaning someone very deserving is going to be left out. Gonzalez is probably a lock now after having overtaken Teixeira in the balloting. Even if Teixeira comes back and wins that, it’s hard to imagine Gonzalez being left off. And Teixeira isn’t far off from being a lock himself.

If it comes down to Cabrera and Konerko for that third spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Konerko is the pick. It could come down to which of the two manager Ron Washington would prefer to honor.

Second base
Locks: Robinson Cano
Possibilities: Howie Kendrick, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler

Cano’s spot is assured, as well it should be. His backup is still to be determined. Kendrick leads AL second basemen in OPS, but he’s missed some time and he’s driven in just 23 runs. Zobrist has 36 RBI and a fine .816 OPS. They’re the best candidates right now, but Pedroia could always get hot and Washington would likely take Kinsler if given the chance.

Third base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Maicer Izturis

A-Rod will probably win the vote and lock up a bid; he’s currently 310,000 votes ahead of Beltre in first place. The backup spot should go to Youkilis or Beltre. Youkilis has nearly 100 points of OPS on the Texas third baseman, but Beltre does make up some of that with his glove.

Shortstop
Locks:
Possibilities: Derek Jeter, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar, Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy

I almost listed Cabrera as a lock, since he seems nearly certain to be taken as a reserve if he fails to overtake Jeter in the balloting. However, there’s enough quality competition here that there are no guarantees. Peralta’s .844 OPS almost matches Cabrera’s .850 mark, and Escobar isn’t too far behind at .818. Plus, there’s another possible Ranger pick in Andrus.

Outfield
Locks: Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson
Possibilities: Josh Hamilton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Joyce, Carlos Quentin, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Josh Willingham, Ichiro Suzuki

It’s not the strongest crop beyond the top two.  Hamilton will probably lock up the third starter’s spot now that he’s back healthy.  Joyce, Quentin and Ellsbury are all very deserving of reserve spots, but one of them might get bumped because of the need to represent every team.

I can’t really imagine Ichiro being picked now that he’s not going to be voted in as a starter, but if he’s on the Final Vote ballot, then he’ll have a chance.

Designated hitter
Locks: David Ortiz
Possibilites: Michael Young, Victor Martinez

I think it’s a given that Washington will pick Young is he has the chance.  And that’s fine.  Young is a backup option at both second and third, and the AL team is probably going to have just two players each at those positions.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Jered Weaver
Possibilities: Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, James Shields, Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Ricky Romero, David Price, Jon Lester, Scott Baker, Gio Gonzalez, Zach Britton

There are a handful of other possibilities too, but I had to draw the line somewhere.  Weaver and Beckett would seem to be the top candidates to start for the AL squad.  Both Ogando and Wilson have pretty good cases on their own merits, and Washington figures to choose at least one for the staff.

Relievers
Locks: Mariano Rivera
Possibilites: Jose Valverde, Chris Perez, Jonathan Papelbon, Neftali Feliz, Sergio Santos, Brandon League, Jordan Walden, Kyle Farnsworth, Daniel Bard, Scott Downs, Aaron Crow, Darren Oliver

There haven’t been a lot of great AL relievers this year, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Washington compensate by taking nine or 10 starters for his 13 pitchers.  That’s not usually the way it works, though.

OK, time for the projection…

AL All-Star team

Lineup
CF Curtis Granderson
SS Derek Jeter
1B Adrian Gonzalez
RF Jose Bautista
LF Josh Hamilton
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
C Russell Martin

Bench
C Alex Avila
1B Mark Teixeira
1B Paul Konerko
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Kevin Youkilis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
SS Jhonny Peralta
OF Matt Joyce
OF Carlos Quentin
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Adam Jones
DH Michael Young

Pitchers
Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
C.J. Wilson
CC Sabathia
Scott Baker
Gio Gonzalez

Mariano Rivera
Chris Perez
Jonathan Papelbon
Jose Valverde
Aaron Crow

Though the NL has two more teams, it was a lot more difficult trying to figure out reps for each club on the AL side. The Twins, A’s, Orioles and Royals all have only borderline choices. I went with Baker, Gonzalez, Jones and Crow for the spots, but they were all tossups. I could have easily gone with Gordon or Willingham in Jones’ slot.

With Baker and Gonzalez on the team, Felix Hernandez was the final cut. He’ll probably be working the Sunday before the All-Star game anyway.

(Whoops, can’t do that. Leaves me without a Mariner. Hernandez is back on, and I cut James Shields. Anyway, the rotation will be pretty much a mystery until the last week before the game. Pineda could very easily be on there instead of Felix.)

And, yeah, I have Jeter batting second in the starting lineup. It’s not how I’d arrange it, but at least it does help break up the lefties.

MLB may introduce “tacky” baseballs in 2018

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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Jeff Passan of Yahoo has an interesting report today. MLB and Rawlings are developing a new baseball. It will have a tacky surface on the leather, allowing pitchers to get a better grip without having to resort to sunscreen and rosin and pine tar and stuff. Substances which, in theory, are for grip but which are really used by pitchers to doctor the ball, with MLB and opposing hitters mostly looking the other way.

They tested the new balls in the Arizona Fall League last year and Passan talks to a couple of the pitchers who used the ball. More testing would be required, though, so we’re not likely to see the new balls until at least 2018.

As you know, baseball players love change, so I’m sure we won’t hear another thing about the ball and its introduction will go off seamlessly.

Wait. It’ll still have seams. You know what I mean.

Here we go: Tim Tebow reports to Mets camp

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets speaks at a press conference after a work out at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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The first few days of spring training have been pretty quiet. Guys are going about their business and games are being played, but we haven’t had any news or controversy or silliness or anything fun like that. That’s about to change, however, as Tim Tebow has arrived at Mets camp.

Tebow, a non-roster invite, arrived at the Mets facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida this morning and, unlike every other non-roster invite, had a press conference. You may be surprised to learn that he’s in great shape, is excited to get going and wants to improve steadily each day.

The plan for Tebow is to be a part of the minor league camp, not the major league one, so he’s not going to be as visible at workouts as you might expect. He will be playing in some major league spring training games, however, at least until we get deeper into spring training, after which you’d assume that veterans and players with a real shot of making the big club will play longer.

In the meantime, you can buy Tebow shirts. But not Curtis Granderson ones, it seems: