Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trading Deadline Recap

This years trading deadline had the most action in years. There were several blockbuster trades today, along with many other moves in the last couple of days. All Stars like Jon Lester, David Price, and Yoenis Cespesdes found themselves in different uniforms. The Dodgers, Braves, and Blue Jays stood pat at the deadline. The Athletics, Tigers, and Cardinals made several moves. The slumping Red Sox made several bold moves, while the last place Phillies held on to their stars.

NL East

This division has been a dogfight between the Nationals and Braves all season long, with the Nats holding a 1.5 game lead on the Braves. The Marlins have been playing better and are creeping into the wild card race. Washington is the most talented team in the division, but has been hit hard with injuries. Bryce Harper missed two months earlier in the season, and now Ryan Zimmerman is out indefinitely with a hamstring tear. So the Nats went out an acquired Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for rookie infielder Zach Walters. With Ian Desmond at short, Cabrera will most likely move to second base. Anthony Rendon has been at second, but will slide over to third to replace Zimmerman.

The Marlins added right handed starter Jarred Cosart in a six player deal with the Astros. The Marlins also sent the Astros their competitive balance draft pick. Cosart is only 24 years old in his second season, and will help the Marlins staff trying to make up for the loss of Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery. With Cosart, the Marlins have another reliable starter to go with All Star Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi. The Braves didn't make any moves at the deadline. However, they did promote Tommy La Stella to play second base and released slumping Dan Uggla last month. The Mets and Phillies were dormant at the deadline.

NL Central

The Cardinals made the biggest moves of any team in this division. They signed A.J. Pierzynski last Friday to fill in for the injured Yadier Molina at catcher. On Wednesday, John Mozeliak traded Double A outfielder James Ramsey for Indians starter Justin Masterson. On Thursday's deadline, Mozeliak traded Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for John Lackey and Corey Littrell. This is a big shakeup to the roster and is could shake this team out of its complacency. It also could backfire.

No players stock has fallen as much as Allen Craig's. Last year, Craig was an All Star and drove in 97 runs. From 2011-13, Craig hit .312. This year, Craig has batted .237, slugged .346, and has an OBP of .291. Joe Kelly had a terrific second half, but missed most of this season due to a hamstring strain.  Both of these players are talented enough to rebound in Boston. In return, the Cardinals get a veteran starter who can pitch deeper into games than Kelly and everyone not named Adam Wainwright. Lackey has also excelled in the postseason, winning the deciding games of two different World Series.

This trade opens up a full time spot for Oscar Taveras. Since his promotion, Taveras has only batted .206 in limited playing time. Mike Matheny was still giving Craig most of the playing time hoping he would snap out of his struggles. Taveras has come up with a lot of hype surrounding him, and he will now get a chance to prove himself in the majors. In his first game after the trade, Taveras hit a two run homer. The Cardinals don't hit for much power, and aren't hitting much at all lately. They need Taveras to shine, and Craig's absence won't be missed. With Michael Wacha's status uncertain, Mozeliak felt like he needed to add pitching at the deadline. The team is also concerned about their starters not going deep enough into games, which is wearing out the bullpen. Craig was viewed as expendable because of younger, cheaper options like Taveras and Matt Adams.

The Pirates and Reds did not make any major moves, but the Brewers picked up outfielder Geraldo Parra from the Diamondbacks. Parra has won two Gold Gloves and can play all three outfield positions. The rebuilding Cubs made their major trade earlier in the month, trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals are all within 2.5 games of each other. Currently at third place, the Cardinals have many games left against division opponents to make up the difference. Mozeliak is gambling that Taveras will be an improvement over Craig, and that Lackey and Masterson will bolster the team's rotation.

NL West

The NL West is a race between two teams, the Dodgers and Giants. Despite many rumors about trading for David Price and trading away Matt Kemp, Los Angeles made no major moves. Unless you count picking up Darwin Barney a major move. The Giants traded for starter Jake Peavy after they found out Matt Cain needed a visit with Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. With Cain's status uncertain, the Giants acquired Peavy for two prospects. They also experimented with Dan Uggla for a week, but have released him. Second base has been a black hole for the Giants, with Marco Scutaro missing most of the year.

The Diamondbacks and Padres were the sellers of the division. The last place Rockies didn't make any moves at the deadline. The offensively challenged Padres traded away Chase Headley for Yangervis Solarte and a prospect. Earlier in the month, they traded away Huston Street to the Angels for four prospects. Arizona traded away Geraldo Parra and Martin Prado. Arizona and San Diego are two teams in transition, and both teams have made front office moves in season.

AL East

The majority of noise coming from this division at the deadline came from the bottom of it. The Red Sox had already traded Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront in recent days. On Thursday, they traded Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespesdes. The Red Sox had unsuccessfully tried to work out an extension with Lester and decided to trade him at the deadline. Later on Thursday, Boston traded John Lackey and a prospect to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Then they made a rare trade with the Yankees involving Stephen Drew. The Red Sox are clearly a team building for 2015. Expect Boston to go on a free agent frenzy in the offseason. Lester has said that he would still consider signing with Boston if he was traded. I would also expect the Red Sox(and Yankees) to be in the mix for Max Scherzer.

The Rays have been climbing back into the race recently. They are two games below .500 after having baseball's worst record in mid-June. They have talked about moving David Price last offseason, but did not. The asking price was rumored to be very high, and some thought that the Rays would hold on to Price. They still had him for next season. Oddly, they traded Price to Detroit for a much less haul than expected. They only received second baseman Nick Franklin, left hander Drew Smyly, and A-ball prospect Willy Adames in return. Right now, it looks like Tampa Bay got fleeced on this deal.

The Yankees traded for Chase Headley to fill their void at third base. They then Kelly Johnson to Boston for Drew to presumably play second base. After acquiring Drew, they DFA'd Brian Roberts. Later, they traded for the D-Backs Martin Prado. Prado can play several positions, but it looks like he is penciled for right field for now. This moves Ichiro Suzuki to the bench. New York did not make any moves to improve their pitching, outside of Brandon McCarthy. They have had many injuries to their starters, including C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. The Blue Jays did not make any moves, and the Orioles only made a minor one in acquiring lefty reliever Andrew Miller from Boston.

AL Central

Dave Dombrowski might win Executive of the Year after making the deal for David Price. Price gives the Tigers three Cy Young Award winners along with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. This team still has last year's ERA champ Anibal Sanchez and near-All Star Rick Porcello in it. Earlier in the month, Detroit acquired reliever Joakim Soria to bolster their bullpen. It only cost the Tigers Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly, and a A ball prospect to get Price. Jackson was the teams starting center fielder, but they can move left fielder Rajai Davis over to center. Davis is a better offensive player, but weaker defensively. J.D. Martinez can have a full time slot in left field after hitting well in part time duty. This is clearly a team built to win the World Series. Detroit will also have Price for next season, which would help ease the potential loss of Scherzer this offseason. Scherzer reportedly turned down a contract worth $144 million.

The rest of the division didn't do much. Kansas City made one minor deal, and the White Sox none. The Twins dealt away Kendrys Morales and acquired Tommy Milone from Oakland. The Indians traded away Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had been the team's longest tenured player, but with Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings, he was expendable.

AL West

Billy Beane has clearly put Oakland all-in this season. He had already given up his best prospect to get Jeff Samardzjia. Today, he made an even more bold move. Beane traded away All Star left fielder Yoenis Cespesdes for lefty Jon Lester. Clearly, Beane thought he needed to upgrade his pitching, and sacrificed offense for pitching. Beane's teams have repeatedly lost in the first round, and to Detroit the past two seasons. The Athletics will have a very good staff in Lester, Samardzjia, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. They team also recieved Jonny Gomes in the Lester deal to replace Cespesdes. Beane then moved Tommy Milone to the Twins for Sam Fuld. Fuld and Gomes most likely will platoon in Cespesdes left field spot.

Not very often does a contending team trade their All Star outfielder in a pennant race. Boston trading Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay comes to mind. A generation ago, Oakland made a blockbuster move similar to this in 1992 when they traded Jose Canseco for Ruben Sierra, Jeff Russell, and Bobby Witt. Cespedes had been one of the team's better hitters, especially when it comes to hitting for power. He also has a cannon for a arm in left. Cespesdes will be a free agent after next season, and the A's aren't likely to be able to afford him. Lester will be a free agent at the season's end. Beane figures this year might be his best shot at winning a World Series, and that Lester would be more valuable to the team than Cespesdes.

The Angels made several moves to improve their faltering bullpen. They traded away former closer Ernesto Freiri for the Pirates Jason Grilli. They then put together a four prospect package to acquire All Star closer Huston Street from the Padres. Joe Smith will now move into a setup role for Street. The Angels did not make any moves to bolster their rotation. With C.J. Wilson just coming off the DL, the team is thin behind Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards. The Angels currently have baseball's second best record behind the Athletics, but would have to play in a one game playoff if the season ended today.

The Astros and Rangers made a couple of minor moves before the deadline and our far out of contention. The Mariners have been in contention for the last wild card spot. Seattle has been carried by their pitching and have the best team ERA in the American League. They also have the league's worst offense. They made a couple of moves to bolster their offense, acquiring Kendrys Morales and Austin Jackson. Seattle was rumored to be in the mix for David Price, but settled for Jackson in a three way deal. Morales and Jackson aren't what you would call impact moves, but they could help out a struggling offense. With Felix Hernandez, this is a scary team to face in a potential one game playoff. The Mariners could easily upset a favored opponent with King Felix on the mound for that game.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cardinals Second Half Preview

The Cardinals have had an up and down season so far this year. The team's offense has struggled at times and they rank second to last in the National League in runs scored. The Cardinals are last in the league in home runs and are not hitting as good with runners in scoring position as last year. Allen Craig and Matt Holliday have had down years to this point. Center fielder Peter Bourjos has yet to hit. Starting pitchers Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Joe Kelly have missed significant time. Kelly has just came back from the disabled list, but Garcia is out for the year, and Wacha's status is uncertain right now. Even worse, Yadier Molina tore a ligament in his right thumb. Molina is now sidelined until at least September.

Even with all of these challenges, the Cardinals are only one game back at the All Star break. The NL Central has tightened up. The Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates are all within 3.5 games of each other. This race is far from over, and it looks to be a dogfight the rest of the way. The Cardinals also have the prospects to make a trade, if they choose to do so. They also have a lot of depth, which has helped them deal with the injuries. Mike Matheny has done a better job resting his everyday players and mixing in the bench guys this season.

The offense has shown signs of coming around. The team had two walk off wins via the home run against the Pirates in July, with Matt Adams and Kolten Wong delivering. Adams is second in the NL with a .329 average and has been hitting for power since coming off the DL. Early in the year, he was occupied with beating the shifts which affected his power. Wong hit five homers in a week before the All Star break and leads the team with 12 steals. Despite being sent down for two weeks and being on the disabled list another two weeks, Wong already has more steals than anybody on the team last year. Jhonny Peralta has emerged as the team's top power hitter after a very slow start. Matt Carpenter has still been the on base machine that he was last year.

Holliday still has a .373 on base percentage this year, despite his lack of power. The second half is the time of year Holliday usually gets hot. Center field and right field have been unsettled this year. Jon Jay has taken playing time away from Bourjos because of his bat. Bourjos has the speed and defense skill set, but needs to pick up his hitting for playing time. The same goes for Craig, who has a putrid .293 OBP with little power this year. The Cardinals called up Oscar Taveras a few weeks ago in an attempt to provide a spark. Taveras has not only taken playing time away from Craig, but has also gotten a few starts at center. The Cardinals have options in the outfield, they just need those players to play up to their talent levels.

One thing that has been improved from last year is the teams defense. Carpenter has moved back to his natural position at third base after playing second base last year. Wong's defense at second has been very impressive. Peralta didn't have a reputation for being a glove man, but has looked sharp at short. One thing Bourjos has been able to do well is play defense, and Jay's defense has improved this year when he plays center. Holliday has looked the best he has defensively as a Redbird this year. At first base, Adams is smooth defensively for a big guy. Craig hasn't let his offensive struggles carry over to the field, whether he be at first base or the outfield. He hasn't made an error all year at three different positions.

Speaking of defense, the club will miss Molina's game changing defense the next couple of months. There is no one in baseball with a throwing arm like Yadi. Molina also is very good at blocking balls in the dirt and framing pitches. For young pitchers, Molina has been like an on field coach. He has helped the young staff develop. The team will miss his glove, bat, and especially his leadership. Backup Tony Cruz will step in as a starter, and is capable of doing an admirable job. Cruz probably could start for a few teams in the league. The Cardinals picked up veteran backstop George Kottaras off the waiver wire after Molina's injury. The good news is that Molina should be ready to go for the final stretch of the season and potential postseason games.

The Cardinals pitching has been very good this year. Ace Adam Wainwright is having a terrific season and is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA. Wainwright is making another run at his first Cy Young Award, but will be competing with Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto for the award. After Wainwright, Lance Lynn has been our second best starter this year. Lynn has good stuff, but can be inconsistent. He can be dominant in one outing, and get rocked in the next start. Lynn is 10-4 with a 3.14 ERA this year. He is a durable 200 inning pitcher, that is learning how to pitch more efficiently. That lesson is something Shelby Miller is still looking for. After finishing 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting last year, Miller sports a 6-7 record, with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He has left many starts early, and may have problems with his back. Matheny left Miller off the postseason rotation last year when he was much better. The Cardinals need Miller to find his 2013 form.

The Cardinals got Kelly back just in time. Kelly hurt his hamstring in April and missed close to three months. He replaced rookie lefty Marco Gonzales, who was just drafted last year. Gonzales has a lot of potential, but needs more seasoning in the minors. Carlos Martinez started the season in the bullpen, but has moved into the rotation with the injury to Wacha. Martinez has filthy stuff, but like the other young pitchers, is still learning. He has pitched well out of the rotation in all starts except for last Sunday's start vs. Milwaukee. The team is uncertain when Wacha will be back after hurting his shoulder. Understandably, the Cardinals want to be careful with the 2013 NLCS MVP.

The bullpen has had some hiccups this year, but has been solid for the most part. Trevor Rosenthal is second in the NL with 28 saves. However, Rosenthal hasn't been as good as he was last year when he was primarily a set up man. Rosenthal saved 4 games in last year's postseason and pitched 11.2 scoreless innings. This season, Rosenthal has a 3.50 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Part of the problem is that Matheny has overused Rosenthal this year.

Pat Neshek has been a great low cost signing for the Cardinals this year. Neshek went from being a non roster invitee to a All Star reliever. The sidearming righty has a 0.70 ERA and has moved into a set up role for the Redbirds. Jason Motte has came back from Tommy John surgery, but hasn't found his groove yet. Kevin Siegrist was great last season, but has missed a month and a half and just started a rehab assignment. Randy Choate started the year as the Cardinals second lefty, and his ERA has been inflated by one bad outing. In Siegrist's absence, Sam Freeman has filled the void. Freeman has been very good this year, and sports a 1.42 ERA. He had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues before, but has finally figured it out.

Another big question is if John Mozeliak is planning on making any big trades before the deadline. In the past, Mozeliak has been careful, but has shown a willingness to make big moves. In 2009, he traded away prospects like Chris Perez and Brett Wallace to get Mark DeRosa and Holliday. In 2011, he traded Colby Rasmus to get pitching help. Other years, he made minor moves, like in 2012 when he acquired Edward Mujica at the deadline. There are a lot of rumors on what the Cardinals will do in the next couple of weeks. Teams will be asking about Taveras, Wong, Martinez, Gonzales, and other top prospects in the minors. Mozeliak will have to decide if on how good he thinks these players will be in the future and if its worth giving up these guys in a deal.

Some of the names being floated around are Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, Jake Peavy, Cliff Lee, and David Price. This happens every year at the deadline, and most of the time the trades don't happen. The Cardinals explored a Tulowitzki deal last offseason, but balked at the asking price. They signed Peralta instead, and it is very unlikely the Cards trade for Tulo. The Marlins insist that Stanton is not on the market, and the asking price for him would be very high. The Cardinals reportedly looked into a Peavy for Craig deal, but backed out. The Samardzija deal set the asking price for prospects high, and the Rays would be asking a ransom for Price. Lee could be had for cheaper, although it comes with a costly contract. I can see Mozeliak making a move, but I doubt he parts with a Taveras, Wong, or Martinez.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Athletics Looking to Take Next Step

                                                The Seven Athletics All Stars

Coming into the All Star break, the Oakland Athletics possess the best record in baseball at 57-33. They have won the last two AL West division titles over high spending rivals like the Rangers and Angels. However, they lost in the fifth game of the Division Series to the Tigers both years. With the Angels and Mariners pushing the A's for the division, they made a big trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. GM Billy Beane is pulling out all the stops to make a World Series run and finally win that elusive last game of the season. In the movie Moneyball, Beane's character lamented how his team could be so successful in the regular season, but couldn't get over the hump in the postseason. Beane's teams have made the postseason 7 times, but never reached the World Series.

Beane took over as the Athletics GM after the 1997 season. Beane had been a failed top prospect and finished his career as a part-time major leaguer on Tony La Russa's Bash Brothers era teams. Beane had just taken over a franchise that traded away slugger Mark McGwire to the Cardinals that summer, and had parted ways with Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Terry Steinbach, and Dave Stewart in recent seasons. This was clearly a rebuilding project.

Within a couple of seasons, the A's were back in contention. This group had strong offensive talent like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and Eric Chavez. But the key to this run of success was the trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. These three homegrown pitchers were the foundation of four straight postseason appearances from 2000-03. Giambi left for a big deal with the Yankees after 2001, and Tejada left for the Orioles in 2003.  Beane then would trade Hudson and Mulder away after the 2004 season, but stayed in contention the next couple of years. Young players like Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and Huston Street; along with low cost acquisitions like Jason Kendall and Frank Thomas led the team back to the playoffs in 2006.

The A's finally won a playoff series in 2006 after losing four straight times in the Division Series earlier in the decade. That would be the highest point the franchise would have for years. They were swept by the Tigers in the ALCS, and Beane fired manager Ken Macha after the season. Zito left for a $126 million deal with the Giants, and Chavez couldn't stay healthy. Beane would wheel and deal a lot the next few years, but the team struggled. He would trade Haren for Carlos Gonzalez and prospects after the 2007 season. He would then trade Gonzalez and Street the following offseason for Matt Holliday. By the trading deadline in 2009, he traded Holliday for 3 prospects who never panned out(Brett Wallace being the best of the three). He would sign aging players past their prime like Mike Piazza, Nomar Garciaparra, Ben Sheets, Giambi, Mike Sweeney, and Hideki Matsui looking to see if he could get a bargain. People were beginning to wonder if Beane lost his touch.

Beane would again remake his roster during the 2011-12 offseason. The Angels had just signed Albert Pujols and the Rangers signed Yu Darvish. Beane's team was thought to be rebuilding and traded away All Star pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey. Those trades brought back Derek Norris, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook, and Josh Reddick. Beane signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes that offseason. Other key players like Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, John Jaso, and Luke Gregerson were acquired via trades. Brandon Moss and Jesse Chavez were picked up the scrap heap. Coco Crisp and Scott Kazmir were low cost free agent signings. Only Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle are the only major contributors drafted by the Athletics.

This has ended up being a strong core for a team gunning for it's third straight division title. While Beane and manager Bob Melvin have said that the Samardzija/Hammel trade was about winning the division and avoiding the wild card game, this is a team with bigger aspirations. They are looking to make a run at a World Series championship. They felt like they needed to add pitching to compete with their playoff nemesis Detroit after losing Parker and A.J. Griffin for the season. They may also look to upgrade second base, were starter Eric Sogard has struggled, and Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo don't represent big upgrades.

The Athletics are the most balanced team in the American League. They are first in runs scored and second in runs allowed. They play good defense, and have a good bullpen. Oakland also has good depth, and sent down Milone after the trade. Milone had been one of the team's hottest pitchers. They have guys who hit for power, guys who can steal bases, and contact hitters. Other AL teams have issues. The defending World Series champion Red Sox are in last place. The Yankees and Rays have struggled. The Orioles, Tigers, and Angels have bullpen issues. The Mariners and Royals have offensive issues. If there was a season the A's could break through, this is it.

This is a scrappy underdog team that everybody loves to root for. The low budget A's don't have the resources to spend like other teams. Beane actually does employ scouts(unlike what Moneyball portrayed) which had identified low cost players who can help. Beane had also found a manager who would be receptive to some of his other ideas like defensive shifts and playing certain players. However, there window to compete is limited. That is why they parted with their top prospects in Addison Russell and Brian McKinney. Many players will be due big raises, and the Athletics won't be able to keep all of them around in future seasons. The immediate future looks bright for this team, though.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

All Star Game Preview


National League

Starters: Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig

Reserves: Jonathon Lucroy, Devin Mesoraco, Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Dee Gordon, Starlin Castro, Matt Carpenter, Todd Frazier, Charlie Blackmon, Josh Harrison, Hunter Pence, Giancarlo Stanton

Pitchers: Julio Teheran, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Tyson Ross, Madison Bumgarner, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Francisco Rodriguez, Tony Watson, Pat Neshek

Selected, but Ineligible: Jeff Samardzija

34th Man: Justin Morneau, Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Rendon, Casey McGehee, Justin Upton

American League

Starters: Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Josh Donaldson, Adam Jones, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz

Reserves: Kurt Suzuki, Derek Norris, Jose Abreu, Brandon Moss, Jose Altuve, Alexei Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Yeonis Cespedes, Michael Brantley, Alex Gordon, Edwin Encarnacion, Victor Martinez

Pitchers: Jon Lester, Dellin Betances, Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, Mark Buehrle, Max Scherzer, Scott Kazmir, Sean Doolittle, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Glen Perkins, Greg Holland

Selected, but Injured: Matt Wieters

34th Man: Dallas Kuechel, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Rick Porcello, Garret Richards

Major League Baseball announced the rosters for the July 15th All Star Game in Minneapolis. 26 players were named to their first All Star games. Derek Jeter was named to his 14th All Star appearance as the AL's starting shortstop in his final season. He will be joined by former teammate Robinson Cano as his double play partner. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout have battled for MVP the last couple of seasons, and will both be starters. Josh Donaldson was voted in to start third base, and the Athletics sent a league high 6 players to the team(7 if you include Jeff Samardzija). Salvador Perez was elected by the players and will start in place of injured fan selected Matt Wieters. Jose Bautista was named the AL's home run derby captain and will start right field. Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz of the Orioles round out the AL's starters.

In the National League, Yadier Molina was selected to his sixth All Star appearance. This will be Yadi's fifth time as the NL's starting catcher. The central division leading Brewers will send Carlos Gomez and Aramis Ramirez as starters. Cuban superstar Yasiel Puig makes his first appearance in the midsummer classic. Andrew McCutchen rounds out the outfield starters. Troy Tulowitzki idolized Jeter as a kid, and will be the NL's starter this year. Tulo is having a MVP type season on a mediocre Rockies club. Paul Goldschmidt and Chase Utley will be the starters on the right side of the infield.

As most years, there were a few snubs on the All Star teams. One of the most surprising is that AL manager John Farrell left off his own closer, Koji Uehara. Uehara was a huge part in their championship season last year and is having a dominant year this season. Josh Harrison was a strange selection for the NL, since he has been a utilityman for the Pirates this year. Harrison was a manager's pick by Mike Matheny. His versatility may be useful, but there are many other players much more worthy. Justin Upton, Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Rendon, Michael Morse, Justin Morneau, Marcell Ozuna, and Matheny's own Matt Adams would of been better picks than Harrison. Morneau still may find his way on the roster somehow, especially since the game is at his former team's park.

There still will be a few replacements to be named to the roster. Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays left Sunday's game with a quad injury. That might open up a spot for someone like Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier, Kyle Seager, Lonnie Chisenhall, or Albert Pujols. After the 2002 tie game, baseball has put a rule in place prohibiting pitchers who start on the Sunday game prior to the Tuesday All Star Game. This could effect Masahiro Tanaka, Julio Teheran, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto, who are all scheduled to start next Sunday. Matheny will have plenty of other deserving candidates to pick from, including Kyle Lohse, Henderson Alvarez, Tim Hudson, and Josh Beckett. Yu Darvish had indicated last week that he prefers to 'go sightseeing' during the All Star break and may be replaced on the roster.

Matheny will still have plenty of good options for his starting pitcher. Most likely he will pick his own starter in Adam Wainwright. If he don't, Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke would be good options. Matheny will also have a good bullpen led by Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. With Tanaka potentially unavailable, Farrell 's most likely choice will be Felix Hernandez.

Some notable first time All Stars are Jose Abreu, Puig, and Cespedes. All three of these players defected from Cuba in recent years. Japanese sensation Tanaka also made the team in his first season in the U.S. The Athletics finally have received some respect at the All Star game, with there most selections since 1976. Cespedes, Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and Sean Doolittle will all be making their first appearance after playing a big role in their consecutive western division crowns. Dee Gordon of the Dodgers almost didn't make the team this year, but has had a good year as the team's second baseman. Gordon leads the NL with 42 steals. Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek will be making his first All Star appearance in Target Field, a city where he began his career in 2006.

For the Home Run Derby, Bautista and Tulowitzki will be the captains choosing the hitters. Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Cespedes, Puig, Abreu are players who will likely be asked to participate. Someone like Morneau could be invited, considering his Minnesota roots. Should be an exciting home run derby and All Star game this year.