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.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.