Who Should Start the 2017 MLB All-Star Game?

By Thomas Albano

You have mere hours left to get your final votes in for this year’s MLB All-Star Game starting lineups. No home-field advantage in the World Series on the line anymore, keep in mind.

I always do like to give a few votes for all my Yankees and Nationals who are up for nomination, I won’t lie. But, trying to do this from a neutral, journalistic standpoint, and trying to make the best lineup possible, here are the starting lineups I have come up with.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 2.22.39 AM American League:
1B – Eric Hosmer (KC) – I was split between him, Jose Abreu and Justin Smoak. Bringing it down to Hosmer and Abreu, while I like how Abreu’s power has helped him contribute more, Hosmer is just a more pure hitter, and more popular for that matter.
2B – Jose Altuve (HOU) – I was a bit torn between him and Starlin Castro. However, with Castro now on the DL, this spot appears to be Altuve’s for the taking, in my opinion.
SS – Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – I was split between Bogaerts, Didi Gregorious, and Jean Segura. However, let’s face it, it’s Bogaerts, who has proven to be one of the best hitters and defensive shortstops this year.
3B – Jose Ramirez (CLE) – No contest.
C – Gary Sanchez (NYY) – No contest.
DH – Nelson Cruz (SEA) – I would say maybe Matt Holliday had a chance, but now Holliday is a member of the Yankees’ squad that is currently beaten down with injuries.
OF – Aaron Judge (NYY), Mookie Betts (BOS), and J.D. Martinez (DET) – No contest.

National League:
1B – Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – Arizona is having one heck of a hot year, and Goldschmidt is making his case for NL MVP once again. But, so too is Ryan Zimmerman of Washington. Goldschmidt has my vote here, but you can expect Zimmerman (or Goldschmidt if he loses out here) to be the first NL reserve player named.
2B – Daniel Murphy (WAS) – No contest.
SS – Zack Cozart (CIN) – This one’s tricky. Cozart, Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks, and Corey Seager of the LA Dodgers have all staked some claim for this spot. Owings is having himself a good year (again, as all the Diamondbacks are), and Corey Seager is still one of the best youth in baseball. But, Cozart is a bit underrated here. Cozart is hitting .320 with 33 RBIs and a .966 OPS, and I think he’s earned some right in claiming the position, even if he’s on a sucky team like the Reds. Speaking of which, there must be at least one player per franchsie, so I assume Cozart or Joey Votto are getting it for the Reds.
3B – Nolan Arenado (COL) – This one’s the closest race supposedly, with Arenado and Kris Bryant of the Cubs going neck-to-neck. But to me, I think it’s pretty clear Arenado is having the much better season. Plus, now that Bryant has this ankle injury scare, it isn’t looking good for the Cubbie.
OF – Charlie Blackmon (COL), Bryce Harper (WAS), and Marcell Ozuna (MIA) – Blackmon and Harper are no contest. The only outfielder I would consider is David Peralta of the Diamondbacks, but Ozuna plays more days I think. Also, it’s Miami, so hometown pop. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking “What about Giancarlo Stanton?” Well, if you compare the two, Ozuna has produced similar numbers to Stanton while having a higher batting average. Truth be told, I think Ozuna has had such a big year, that maybe this time around, he deserves the starting slot a little bit more.

Some time after starting lineups are announced, I’ll get back with who I think should be each league’s starting pitcher and reserves!

5 Things the Yankees Can Do to Turn Things Around

By Thomas Albano

This weekend, I got to experience my first live baseball game at Yankee Stadium (the one opened in 2009; I went to the old one a few times). As a New York Yankees fan, it brought me great joy and memorable moments from exploring the Yankees Museum, to observing Monument Park, and from running into a good friend to seeing an Aaron Judge home run.

The only thing that could have made it better was if the Yankees had won.

yankee-stadium.jpg

And the Yankees right now are colder than those leftovers you’ve got in your fridge. They have lost 10 of their last 12, they have lost sole possession of their first place standing in the AL East, and they are dealing with a few bad injuries to key players (most recently outfielder Aaron Hicks).

I said, along with others, that the 2017 season was going to be one where the Yanks weren’t going to win too much; however, it would all just be to help give the younger players experience. But now with how hot the Yankees had been, it felt like this season has the potential to be an amazing one. Right now, however, it feels like all a tease — just like the end of 2016 all over again.

But, fear not, Yankees fans. The Yankees can rebound and still be great, especially if they do these five things:

1. Get Rid of Headley and Clippard
Headley’s quality as a third baseman has definitely gone hill since his quality season with the Padres in 2012. While there are players in MLB that have worse than a .245 AVG, Headley has an OBP of just .335, and his WAR is only 0.4.

I’d suggest moving Didi Gregorious or Starlin Castro over to third and then find a way to get Gleyber Torres up to the bigs. But now that Torres is done until Spring Training, that’s out the window. So, hopefully Ronald Torreyes can help righten the ship (especially since Headley is out with an epidural)? If this doesn’t work, or heaven forbid Torreyes goes to the DL as well, then how much longer before the calls to promote Tyler Wade come

And since I was there on Saturday, I might as well say it. GOOD GOD, Clippard. Just like I said to you indirectly when I was doing fantasy baseball two years ago, it’s time for you to get lost.

Clippard has compiled an ERA of 4.85 so far this year, with his relief efforts earning him a win and four losses. While relief pitchers don’t get credit for wins and losses often, Clippard’s WAR is just -0.1. A pitcher who usually just pitches an inning per appearance, he has given up 12 hits and 12 earned runs (including four home runs) within the month of June. For a MRP/SU man, the Yankees can clearly do much better.

2. Get a starter
Credit where it’s due. The Yankees have sometimes had great starts. The keyword here is sometimes. But with Michael Pineda struggling, Masahiro Tanaka having an awful season, and C.C. Sabathia out with injury (thanks, Chris Carter…) it’s time to give the younger pitchers a break.

C.C.

Before the trade deadline, the Yanks need to make a move for a quality starter. I had previously thought perhaps Gerrit Cole, but the Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly have no interet in trading him. Ervin Santana? Alex Cobb? Maybe Chris Archer? I know it could be a stretch for a couple of guys with that kind of talent, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Point is: the Yanks need another starting arm. The unfortunate price…?

3. Depart with talent?
Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices to the baseball gods to get to the great gold. And while the Yankees have a bunch of great, young talent waiting in the wings, if it comes down to the dire scenario, maybe some of them have to go.

It’s a problem — a good one, but a problem — with the situation the Yankees have. They have too much talent in one area (outfield): Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Dustin Fowler, etc. And although you’d like all the young blood and talent in the world, sometimes sacrifices need to happen.

Frazier

You could also depart with Brett Gardner, even though he’s batting .262 this season. That could be more of a contract dump, and hey, if the price is right, someone will give him up for something. There are teams who probably could use a good-hitting veteran outfielder.

And what could you get in return? Well, maybe…

4. Hosmer and/or Moustakas
Oh, tell me you wouldn’t want that. It’s clear the Yankees have a problem at the corner infield slots. One first baseman is injured and Chris Carter is (thank God) gone. Meanwhile, I don’t want Headley over at third anymore, but Torres’ injury is a blow (especially with Headley not able to play himself). And if you’re going to make a big move, a potential preview for your next one or two off-seasons, go for some true talent.

Besides, the Royals might be willing to depart with a couple of stars. What a fall they have had since winning the World Series.

5. A Utility guy
Keeping on the theme of depth at the corner infield slots needed, or heck maybe just the entire infield already, it’d be good to have someone to fill whatever hole the team needs filled. Austin Romine plays catcher and first base, and Tyler Austin plays first base and outfield, which is good, but it’d be better to have someone who can play all over the infield, too. Think: what if Austin goes down? Then, Romine plays first but you better have some sort of backup, or else Sanchez plays every day.

Torreyes

I remember there being a plan that after Gregorious came back from injury, Torreyes would be someone to use whenever the likes of Castro, Headley or Gregorious needed a day off. Maybe that plan can finally come to fruition?

 

 

Strickland Struck a Nerve in Me

By Thomas Albano

Well, we all know the story by now. Back on Memorial Day, Hunter Strickland nailed Bryce Harper with a pitch, the two had a scuffle and it turned into a bench-clearing brawl. Both men got suspended, Buster Posey ate criticism for not backing Strickland up or protecting him, and the baseball world spent time debating if Harper or Strickland was more at fault.

Both were suspended four games — Harper already appealed his suspension and it was reduced to three games. Strickland’s appeal of his suspension will be heard tomorrow, June 13.

But if I were to have it my way, Strickland would not only lose his appeal, he’d be suspended for more games.

Strickland hit Harper out of revenge. During the 2014 postseason, Harper took Strickland deep twice. Yes, I said 2014 — not just three seasons ago, but a year when the Giants went on to win the World Series. Strickland got his revenge already by winning a ring! This bean balling was absolutely unnecessary.

And on a side note, can we stop giving Posey crap for not standing up for Strickland and helping him out against Harper? Posey wanted nothing to do with this whole matter, including the brawl, but Strickland went ahead with everything anyways.

Going back to Strickland and his suspension, I know it’s not possible to increase the number of suspended games with an appeal, but, darn it, I feel like there could be a case made here.

During one of the Yankees games he was covering after the announcement of the suspensions, commentator Ken Singleton criticized the decision to ban Strickland and Harper the same amount of games. His point was that one (Harper) is an everyday player and an all-star, while the other is a relief pitcher who doesn’t necessarily play every game.

And Singleton is right; this makes Harper seem more like the bad guy. I get Harper’s got the attitude and people hate his guts (not me though!) But Harper isn’t the one who threw the pitch, Harper isn’t the one who has a World Series ring after that 2014 postseason, and, most importantly, Harper isn’t the one who carried an approximately three-year grudge.

Strickland comes into a game about once or twice a week, and considering he’s the root of this mess, why not a 10-game or 15-game suspension? I feel that should’ve been more appropriate given those circumstances.

And if the MLB wants to reduce big brawls, and show Posey was in the right by not interjecting himself in the matter, how about the MLB follow the NHL’s policy of a third man entering a fight? That is, an ejection, a hefty fine, and a suspension. And in this matter, plus MLB’s lengthy season, I think that could be a major 20-game suspension.

In this case, don’t hate the game, hate the player. If Strickland gets his suspension reduced tomorrow, that’s utter, disgusting, expired bologna.

2017 MLB Draft Preview

By Thomas Albano

All things begin somewhere. For some future MLB stars, that beginning starts in just a short time.

With the 2017 MLB Draft starting in just hours, it’s time to have a look at some of the big prospects that could be picked. There have been rumors swirling about who the Minnesota Twins will take first overall, and it is likely down to three choices — high-schooler Hunter Greene, collegiate pitcher Kyle Wright and collegiate two-way player Brendan McKay.

Brendan McKay

Brendan McKay (LHP & 1B/Louisville/Junior)

Starting off our look into some of the best draft choices out there is probably the best collegiate player in the nation, Brendan McKay. McKay is the 2017 ACC Player of the Year and 2017 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year.

McKay was selected by the San Diego Padres right out of high school during the 34th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, but McKay chose to play college ball at Louisville. Safe to say a stellar choice.

Over the last three seasons, McKay has batted .328 with 213 hits, 27 of them home runs, and 131 RBIs. Like Greene, he is also a two-way player, having just as much success on the mound. In his career at Louisville, he has an ERA of just 2.15, with 31 wins and an OBA of just .191. His success has earned him the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year for the past two seasons.

Last summer, McKay played a big part for the USA Collegiate National Team, hitting .326 plus a 2-1 pitching record with a 1.35 ERA and 10 strikeouts.

While researching for the draft, I was blown away by the numbers McKay put up this year. Combine that with a lot more speculation than confirmed information from several MLB clubs about the upcoming draft, and you’ve got a real toss-up among McKay, Wright and Greene.

And With the Twins’ farm system ranked No. 15 entering the 2017 season, a bit of a drop from their last two years, someone like McKay may be something that refurbishes the minor-league affiliates.

Considering McKay’s huge success as a two-way player, and his readiness to be on hand with whatever is needed by a team (plus I feel like I want to go in a different direction than the usual Wright or Greene as the No. 1 pick), my choice for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft is Brendan McKay.

Hunter Greene

Hunter Greene (RHP & INF/Notre Dame (SO) High School/Sherman Oaks, California):

Even if Greene is not the No. 1 draft pick, I believe he could be taken with the No. 2 pick by the Cincinnati Reds. Certainly helps their farm system, which came into 2017 ranked only a spot ahead of Minnesota.

Greene has to have one of the best and most smokin’ bats in high schools across the nation. As of today, Greene’s high school career batting average is at .337, with 72 RBIs and 13 home runs. Last year, Greene managed to bat over .400, just missing that mark in his sophomore season with a .390. While he isn’t near that kind of average this season, he has made up for it in production with 28 RBIs and six home runs.

But it’s not just on the mound where he is good, he excels at pitching as well. Just look at how much he has dominated opposing batters. A high-school career ERA of 1.62, OBA of .183 and OBP of .262.

No matter where this kid goes, if a team wants him to be a big-time hitter, it can go right on ahead. But even if the team wants him to be a pitcher, I’m sure he has the ability to become a very good starter, setup man or closer.

Kyle Wright

Kyle Wright (RHP/Vanderbilt/Junior)

Wright has shown the right amount of excellence needed for a No. 1 draft selection (yes, I’m one of those bad pun people). Over his last three years playing for Vanderbilt, Wright has a 2.60 ERA with a WHIP of just 1.10, a K/BB ratio of 3.40 and 19 wins (13 of them as a full-time starter).

During his time, he has earned several SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. He was named first team All-SEC this season, named second team All-SEC in 2016 and named to the freshman All-SEC team in 2015.

With all the hype around Wright, if he misses out on the first two picks, I don’t see why the Padres can’t take advantage and grab him.

MacKenzie Gore

MacKenzie Gore (LHP/Whiteville H.S./Whiteville, North Carolina)

While he isn’t in my top three, MacKenzie Gore is definitely a dark horse. And you never know, one franchise might just pull it off and pick him.

Gore shows a lot of potential as a pitcher, with a fastball that can top 94 MPH and a noted, slick breaking ball. Unfortunately, with Gore, there are some mechanics issues that have some scouts worried he could risk injury.

Could that hurt Gore’s chance? Perhaps, but I feel any player has a risk of injury. So, why not take the chance?

The only thing I have noted is that he does have a commitment to East Carolina, so he might not sign even if drafted. But, that’s Gore’s choice, and if he does that, it may just pay off for him like it did for McKay.

Logan Warmoth

Logan Warmoth (SS/North Carolina/Junior)
Here’s my choice for someone who I think deserves a little more love than he might get. Warmoth was only projected by minorleagueball.com to be a second or third-round selection back in January, but his numbers this season with the Tar Heels have led some to believe he has the potential to be a first-round choice. At least, I think so.

This season, Warmoth batted .336 for his college, with an OPS of .958, 10 home runs and 49 RBIs. Prior to the 2017 collegiate baseball season, Warmoth played in the Cape Cod League and batted .270/.330/.450 in 100 at-bats.

I think he can be a late first-round pick; however, I can even see him being taken mid-first. A top-five second round pick is my absolute latest for this kid. If he gets passed that, I think that’s quite the mistake.