With the All-Star Selection Show scheduled to release the teams to the fans across the world in less than 10 hours, I thought I should chime in with my All-Star starting lineup picks.
C: Mauer – Severe power outage at home (0 HR at Target Field) is insignificant when compared to Mauer’s unparalellled ability to reach base and move runners along.
1B: Cabrera – Would love to give spot to Canadian Morneau, but 11 more RBI in five FEWER PAs for Cabrera hard to ignore.
2B: Cano – AL batting leader gets spot. Closest challenger (Pedroia) is now injured and Cano was already head and shoulders above the competition. Might as well add hips now too. 30/100 not unreasonable at this pace. OPS just under 1.000 (.977) doesn’t hurt either, especially from a notoriously thin position.
SS: Gonzalez – Leads shortstops in SLG, OPS, HR and RBI all with a BABIP that is average to slightly unlucky. Jeter would be closest competition but Jeter can’t hold a candle to Gonzalez with the glove.
3B: Beltre – Fenway has revived the ailing slugger. Leads 3B in OPS and is one point behind Cano for the batting lead. Defense is solid as ever too.
OF: Hamilton – .340/19/59. More than one RBI per game in June. That is all.
OF: Crawford – Low K-rate and .378 OBP led to 28 swipes
OF: Rios – Crawford with a bit less speed, more power. Cannon arm too.
SP: Jered Weaver – Leads AL in Ks while showing no peripherals to indicate major correction looming. Should start on his own mound.
SU: Valverde – SMALL ERA for the BIG Potato (under 1.00).
CP: Rivera – Sandman has been awoken at 40 and removed any doubt as to who the best closer in the AL is.
C: Olivo – .926 OPS stellar from catching position
1B: Votto – Most valuable of 1B in terms of team offense, Leads in WAR/wOBA. Won’t make the team though, because Pujols is the popular pick in arguably his worst year. That makes perfect sense.
2B: Prado – NL batting and hits leader deserves to start. This one should be easy since Chase Utley just had surgery.
SS: Ramirez – Leads NL SS in HR, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG, OPS, ISO and WAR. Closest competition (Tulowitzki) hurt, too.
3B: Rolen – Better OPS than Wright, K rate of 17% (Wright 30%). Still the best defensive 3B in the NL if not the game. Wright aided by absurd .402 BABIP while Rolen is at the average (.300). I sense a correction coming.
OF: Holliday – Most valuable OF in NL by WAR. 11 HR, 39 RBI not typical Holliday, but strong considering the funk that Pujols has been in. A hidden defensive gem, he has also nearly won the Cardinals a game with his defense alone.
OF: Ethier – .940 OPS tops among AL OFs as is .402 wOBA. His only knock is horrendous defense, as he ranks near the bottom of the NL in UZR.
OF: Hart – 18 HR, 60 RBI both near the top among NL OFs. BABIP about average (.308) although 17.8 % HR/FB will correct. Although he has not run much this year (4/7 SB) he has stolen 20+ in the past and his speed is surprising for his size.
SP: Johnson J. – Most valuable starter in NL (3.9 WAR tied with Roy Halladay) while 1.82 ERA is also the best mark. 0.96 WHIP is stellar for a SP, while 9.08 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9 build a ratio befitting of a true ace. Despite a 3.10 xFIP which would predict correction from one of the lowest HR/FB rates in the NL, All-Stars are picked based on past and present, not projections. In short, this is your guy.
SU: Broxton – 12.98 K/9 is nasty and 2.08 ERA shows bad luck, considering 1.32 FIP and 2.01 xFIP. .386 BABIP is unsustainably high, so Broxton should get better. Scary.
CP: Wagner – 14.04 K/9 even better than Broxton. At 39, he has resurrected himself as the most dominant closer in the NL after some injury-plagued time with the Mets. 50.3% FB rate is a concern, but xFIP shows a 2.50 mark, still very respectable. Of course, if the .168 opponents’ average (8th among NL RPs) holds up, the fly balls really won’t matter.
A few weeks back, the Jays sent relief pitcher Brandon League and outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez to their expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners, for pitcher Brandon Morrow.
Initially, I was disppointed in the move, given Morrow’s abuse at the hands of the Mariners, bouncing him back and forth between the rotation and ‘pen like a ping-pong ball. Trading Chavez initially appeared to be a mistake too as he hit .283/.346/.474 with 21 home runs and 89 RBI in A-ball as a 20-year-old. However, upon further inspection, the deal actually seems better for the Jays than I originally thought. At worst, it should be a classic even baseball trade.
I was disheartened by the fact that the Jays were giving up on League and his 98 mph sinker as well as that split-change that was swung on and missed 35% of the time (most for any one pitch in baseball in 2009). I was also concerned that letting Chavez and his great arm (rated #3 in the Minors) go would rob the Jays of one of the few strong prospects they had. That was until I looked at the numbers in closer detail.
Morrow has walked 5.83 batters/9 IP in his Major League career and will be 26 at the end of July, but is much younger developmentally and definitely has room to improve. The key for the Jays will be to settle on a role for the young right-hander. The Jays see him as a starter and providing that his diabetes does not get in the way, he should turn out to be a good #3 or serviceable #2 in most rotations. Ultimately, this is where Morrow’s future lies. His walk rates are too poor to be an effective late-game reliever. The Jays should use him as a starter and commit to that (whether in the Show or minors) regardless of the outcome. Every role switch is a leap back in his development and the time has come where all strides must take place in the same direction – forward.
Chavez did put up good numbers but stikes out a ton (27% in 2009 in A-ball)
League arguably had his best year in 2009 with a 3.16 xFIP, however this simply amounted to 1.0 WAR. This seems right as top relievers rarely reach 3 WAR (Jonathan Broxton led the way in 2009, being worth 2.9 WAR). 3 WAR is what you would expect from a #2 or #3 starter (A.J. Burnett, Randy Wolf, John Danks). That’s right, the top relievers are worth about the same as #3 starters. That’s not the greatest advertisement for relievers. League will all but never have a chance to close in Seattle given the presence of David Aardsma and his penchant for wildness (3.25 BB/9) would also preclude him from being considered as a backup plan. This will provide a career path of a decent, to above-average setup man, really not that much. 1.0 WAR last year was the approximate value of Ross Ohlendorf or Jeremy Guthrie and this is around where League will likely peak.
On the surface, the trade seems rather odd. However, the question truly becomes, “Would you trade Ohlendorf or Guthrie for Morrow?” That requires a one word answer: