My All Star Picks: AL

AL
Pitcher
Starters
Well, there are plenty of guys in the AL who have done well, even though the NL is taking some of the good starters. Sonny Gray will have to represent the Athletics as they have a lousy lineup. Although he has a stomach flu, he started the season with an ERA under 2.00 and kept it until June. It now hovers at about 2.05. King Felix hasn’t been dominant, but will take a spot. Chris Archer is in his prime years as well and he deserves a spot. David Price should also get a spot. I have Dallas Keuchel as a fifth guy, and sleeper. He’s an out breaker going 10-3 with the AL for the first year. Ervin Santana is out of it because he just returned from an 80 game season starting suspension, and Chris Sale is below his s expectations. So my final list is
1. Sonny Gray OAK

2. Felix Hernandez SEA

3. Chris Archer TB

4. David Price DET

5. Dallas Keuchel HOU
Relievers
Darren O’Day should definitely earn one spot as a reliever. His sidearm form is one of my favorites by a pitcher. Glen Perkins earns the second spot. He has 23 saves, the most in the AL, and closed last year at Target Field. The final spot is a tough one, but I’d say Sean Doolittle as a sleeper. He is underestimated by fans, and I think it’s time he shows the world what he can do.  
My List

1. Darren O’ Day BAL

2. Glen Perkins MIN

3. Sean Doolittle OAK

Catcher
Starter

My Vote Was: Russell Martin TOR

It Was: Salvador Perez KC
Reserves

If anyone reserves at catcher, it should be Russell Martin. Martin got the second most votes of all stars and unlike most catchers, bats second, and he can hit too. It’s not his defense, but also his hitting. Rookie Stephen Vogt has also shocked everyone, but I’m not a big fan of Vogt. A third candidate is Kurt Suzuki, who took over as starter for Joe Mauer, now at first base.  
First Base
Starter

My Vote: Miguel Cabrera DET

Actual: Miguel Cabrera DET 
Cabrera’s Reserve
I believe Rangers Prince Fielder will take over for Miggy. He has an average over .350 and occasionally also plays DH, but was categorized as first base in the voting. Eric Hosmer of Kansas City is also a candidate, but I think he might be a better reserve.  
Reserves
As I said earlier, Hosmer and Fielder. Albert Pujols is another candidate as he joins the 500 HR club this year. Jose Abreu isn’t as dominant as last year, so I don’t think he can. Mark Teixeira also is a home run champ after struggling for years following an injury.  
Second Base
Starter

My Vote: Jason Kipnis CLE

Actual Starter: Jose Altuve HOU
Backups
Dustin Pedroia would be a choice if he wasn’t hurt, leaving room for guys like Jason Kipnis. Ian Kinsler is also a sleeper pick of mine. Why else would the Tigers trade Prince Fielder for him, if he’s not good. Kipnis has put up the better stats though. And with the Royal overload, I don’t think Omar Infante should be mentioned. Slugger Brian Dozier is a third option after the derby last year and Robinson Cano was never even thought of, he’s a candidate too.  
Shortstop
My Pick: Jose Reyes TOR

Actual: Alcides Escobar KC
Reserves
OK, Reyes would overload the roster with Jays guys, so I would say Asdrubal Cabrera is first choice, a sleeper. He’s been helpful in replacing Ben Zobrist and is a good slugging partner for Evan Longoria. Xander Bogaerts is another candidate, and they need a Red Sox representative. I also like Elvis Andrus as a second Rangers guy. Their lineup, including Andrus is dominant. 
Third Base
My Vote: Mike Moustakas KC

Actual: Josh Donaldson TOR

Reserves
I definitely think Mike Moustakas can still make the roster even with Royals overload. Evan Longoria, Rays star is another option for the roster. Manny Machado of Baltimore is another legit candidate. And there may be room for Adrian Beltre of Texas, former Red Sox player. David Freese of the Angels is also a candidate, but not all star worthy. I even think Kyle Seager is an option. Third base is tight as even Pablo Sandoval of Boston has been hot.  
Designated Hitter
My Vote: Nelson Cruz SEA

Actual: Nelson Cruz SEA
Reserves
Kendrys Morales is good, but out of the picture. I think David Ortiz definitely has a chance, in what might be his last year. Edwin Encarnacion is a second AL East candidate, but I think Alex Rodriguez has the biggest shot, retiring strong from a steroid suspension and proving he has power without steroids. Victor Martinez of Detroit, an ex-Sox catcher and first baseman is a fifth option. Evan Gattis of Houston is even pretty good. Even Billy Butler’s OK.  

Outfield
My Votes: Mike Trout LAA, Michael Brantley, CLE, Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY

Actual: Mike Trout, LAA, Alex Gordon, KC, Lorenzo Cain, KC
Backups
Jose Bautista is a clear candidate for the outfield, and Hanley Ramirez is a Red Sox sleeper. Adam Jones should get a spot though. Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Rios, Melky Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton, Ben Zobrist, Colby Rasmus and even Austin Jackson are candidates that could take second, third, even fourth spots.
Final Roster
Name. Position Team Representative? Starter? 

 Jose Altuve. 2B. HOU. Yes. Yes

 Elvis Andrus. SS. TEX. No. No

 Chris Archer. SP. TB. Yes. No

 Jose Bautista. OF. TOR. No. No

 Adrian Beltre. 3B. TEX. No. No

 Xander Bogaerts. SS. BOS. Yes. No

 Asdrubal Cabrera. SS. TB. No. No

 Lorenzo Cain. OF. KC. No. Yes

 Yoenis Cespedes. OF. DET. No. No

 Nelson Cruz. DH. SEA. Yes Yes

 Josh Donaldson. 3B. TOR. Yes. Yes

 Sean Doolittle. RP. OAK. No. No

 Edwin Encarnacion. DH. TOR. No. No

 Alcides Escobar. SS. KC. Yes. Yes

 Prince Fielder. 1B. TEX. Yes. Yes

 Alex Gordon. OF. KC. No. Yes

 Sonny Gray. SP. OAK. Yes. Yes

 Felix Hernandez. SP. SEA. No. No

 Eric Hosmer. 1B. KC. No. No

 Adam Jones. OF. BAL. No. No

 Dallas Keuchel. SP. HOU. No. No

 Jason Kipnis. 2B. CLE. Yes. No

 Manny Machado. 3B. BAL. No. No

 Russell Martin. C. TOR. No. No

 Victor Martinez. DH. DET. No. No

 Mike Moustakas. 3B. KC. No. No

 Darren O’ Day. RP. BAL. Yes. No

 Salvador Perez. C. KC. No. Yes

 Glen Perkins. CL. MIN. Yes. No

 David Price. SP. DET. Yes. No

 Colby Rasmus. OF. HOU. No. No

 Alex Rodriguez. DH. NYY. Yes. No

 Kurt Suzuki. C. MIN. No. No

 Mark Teixeira. 1B. NYY. No. No

 Mike Trout. OF. LAA. Yes. Yes

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Buchholz Pitches Complete Game, Red Sox Top Astros

Buchholz Pitches Complete Game, Red Sox Top Astros

The Red Sox easily edged the Astros 6-1 and Clay Buchholz pitched a 7 hit, 8 strikeout complete game. In the nine starts before this one, Buchholz had put up a whopping 2.13 ERA. That’s nearly as good as Sonny Gray’s seasonal ERA.  
It was also Shane Victorino’s first game back, and he turned a 6 game hitting streak into seven games. He had come Inuit before hitting the 15 day disabled list for the second time in May. After giving up a ground rule double and giving up nothing with a man on third, the Red Sox struck.  
Mookie Betts even got the lead off hitter out on a leaping catch against the wall. Betts led off walking. Brock Holt singled him to third, and Bogaerts singled to score the lead off. Unfortunately, RISP trouble held them to just that one run.  
In the second, they struck again. Shane Victorino singled, and Sandy Leon singled to get him to third. Mookie Betts then hit a sacrifice fly and Victorino scored. Buchholz gave up nothing more until the fifth inning, not one hit.
The Red Sox rallied in the fifth. Holt advanced two bases on a throwing error by the catcher. Then Xander Bogaerts doubled to score him. In the sixth, they did it again. Sandy Leon singled, and Mookie Betts doubled to score Leon.  
In the eighth, Buchholz was still in and strong, with 5 H, 8 K and 0 ER. Then the Red Sox had an even bigger rally. Victorino singled, and he went to second on Sandy Leon’s single to shallow left. Then Mookie Betts did it again with an RBI double down the third base line, and it was 2nd and 3rd with no outs. They scored one more with two outs. Big Papi was intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Alejandro De Aza reached on an infield single to score Leon, and keep the loaded bases. But Sandoval popped out to end it. Still, it was 6-0 with only one inning to go.
Buchholz finished what he started, but struggled in the ninth. They wanted to keep him in the whole game, but he was getting tired. He just might have enough to complete the game. Jose Altuve singled, and went to second on a wild pitch. He advanced to third on fielder’s indifference. Luis Valbuena singled him in, with two strikes and two down! 6-1 Red Sox. Buchholz finished and got the next batter out to end it.
The Red Sox had a blowout over the Astros, the top and bottom of the lineup doing most of the work. Shane Victorino came back strong and Sandy Leon got two hits. Betts, Holt and Bogaerts also helped. See them play this weekend series’ finale.  
Also, I’d like to say happy birthday to my closest friend Joe, today, my brother Ryan, July 5 and my mom, July 10. Also, it’s my parents 25th anniversary of their first kiss, at the Boston Pops Fireworks. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that day. Congratulations to them. We’re trying to relive the moment, except Ryan and I are going. Happy fourth to all!!

NFL 2015 Preview & Draft Recap by Division: NFC East

This year, I am doing a 2015 preview along with draft analysis, doing one post per division and one playoff preview post.  I have started with the NFC East.  Do you have NFC East predictions?  Comment on it at the bottom of the post.

Overview of Records Projected

NFC

NFC East

Philadelphia 11-5

Dallas 10-6

NY Giants 8-8

Washington 5-11

Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

Draft

Round   Pick   Player                       College   Pos.  Grade

1           20       Nelson Agholor         USC       WR      B

2           15       Eric Rowe                 Utah        CB      B

3           20       Jordan Hicks            Texas     ILB       B

6           15       JaCorey Sheperd     Kansas    CB      B

6           20       Randall Evans          Kansas State   CB  B

7           20      Brian Mihalik            Boston College  DE   C

Overall: B

This new squad traded quarterbacks with the Rams, which means they have injury prone Sam Bradford as a starting QB.  They dropped star running back LeSean McCoy, but brought in former Cowboys even bigger star, DeMarco Murray at running back.  The defense could still use some improvement, but the offense is a complete powerhouse that can boost them a couple of games beyond the past two years’ 10-6 record.

My Pick: 11-5

Dallas Cowboys

Draft Results & My Grades

Round   Pick    Player                 Pos.   College     Grade

1            27       Byron Jones      CB      UConn        C

2           28        Randy Gregory   OLB   Nebraska    A

3          27           Chaz Green       OT     Florida        C

4         28            Damien Wilson   ILB    Minnesota   C

5        27             Ryan Russell      DE     Purdue       C

7       19             Mark Nzeocha    OLB   Wyoming   C

7       26             Laurence Gibson   OT  Virginia Tech  B

7     29                Geoff Swain         TE      Texas         C

Overall: C

Acquiring Darren McFadden as No. 1 running back will never make up for the loss of DeMarco Murray.  However, the receivers and tight ends Tony Romo has access to makes up for it.  The defense also has increased its power since the start of the 2014 season.  So really, their only holes are some defensive positions not currently filled, and running back, so feel okay about your team Cowboys fans, the rest of the Cowboys’ depth will make up for losing Murray without getting an all star running back in return.

My Pick: 10-6

New York Giants

Draft

Round   Pick    Player                     Pos.    College    Grade

1           9       Ereck Flowers        OT       Miami (FL)    A

2           1        Landon Collins       S        Alabama       A

3           10     Owa Odighiwuza   DE           UCLA       D

5            8      Mykkele Thompson  S         Texas        C

6           10     Geremy Davis         WR      UConn       C

7            9        Bobby Hart           OT      Florida St.   C

Overall: B

The team is very similar to last year, but there are a few aspects that will make them better.  First, Shane Vereen will take the role as passing back.  Also, Odell Beckham Jr. has improved greatly from last year to this year.  Also, the new defensive picks will definitely improve the defense.  The defense will be a lot better this year.

My Pick: 8-8

Washington Redskins

Draft Picks

Round       Pick     Player                          Pos.   College               Grade

1                  5        Brandon Scherff          OT       Iowa                      A

2                  6        Preston Smith              DE       Mississippi St.      C

3                31        Matt Jones                   RB       Florida                  C

4                 6         Jamison Crowder         WR      Duke                    B

4               13         Arie Kouandjio              OG      Alabama              D

5                 5         Martrell Spaight          OLB      Arkansas             B

6                 5         Kyshoen Jarrett               S      Virginia Tech       C

6                 6         Tevin Mitchel               OLB     Arkansas            B

6               11          Evan Spencer                WR    Ohio State         B

7                 5          Austin Reiter                     C    South Florida     B

Overall: B

They are very similar to last year, but have the added pressure of the carefully chosen rookies.  They lucked out in the draft, making up for trading their No. 2 2014 pick after going 3-13, and being the worst team in the NFC in 2013.   Only the dreaded 2013 2-14 Texans of the AFC were worse then the Skins in the entire 2013 NFL.  I expect a similar record to 2014, maybe raised by a game or two, even without Roy Helu as backup for Alfred Morris.

My Pick: 5-11

Red Sox Pass Blue Jays, Estrada Collapses

The Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays 4-3 by pouncing on them early.  In the top of the 1st, Betts reached on an error by Devon Travis.  Then, after walking four batters with two outs, it was 2-0 Red Sox.  Swihart struck out to end the inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first home run since May 31, 2014.  3-0 Sox.  And in the 3rd, David Ortiz crushed his 13th homer of the year high in to the right field stands of the Rogers Centre.  Jays pitcher Marco Estrada left the game after only 2.1 innings, giving up 2 homers, 4 walks and 4 runs, 2 of them earned.

Meanwhile, Eddie Rodriguez held the Blue Jays scoreless, until the 4th inning that is.  Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground rule double to center field.  Chris Colabello singled him in, advancing to second on the throw.  Rodriguez went six innings with only one earned run.  But when Tommy Layne came in on relief, there was trouble.

Kevin Pillar singled and advanced to second on the ground out that followed.  With two outs, Jose Reyes knocked a ball into the bullpen for a home run.  Alexi Ogando settle the Blue Jays down, and Koji Uehara finished the game, earning the save.  The Red Sox edged the Blue Jays 4-3.   They will play a day game today at 1:00 that I may cover in my free time at Multi-Media camp.