Even though Spring Training doesn’t start for a couple weeks and Opening Day isn’t until April 2, some people just can’t wait to talk baseball.
Just like they did with their “way-too-early” NFL power rankings, ESPN came out with a list of “way-too-early” predictions for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.
While it’s not at all surprising that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt made writer David Schoenfield’s National League roster, the inclusion of starting pitcher Robbie Ray may surprise some.
Schoenfield has Goldschmidt making the team as a reserve after winning the player vote over Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds and Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves while losing the fan vote to Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.
Goldschmidt is one of 12 players who have made the All-Star roster each of the past three seasons and it would be a major upset if he were to miss out this season.
The 29-year-old hit .297 with 24 home runs and 95 RBIs last season, while setting career-highs in runs (106) and stolen bases (32). His runs scored and stolen bases were also tops among MLB first basemen.
While Goldschmidt is an established veteran, Ray is entering his fourth year in the majors and owns a 4.65 career ERA. He was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in a 2014 three-team trade that sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees.
Schoenfield referred to Ray as “a pop-up All-Star candidate” due in large part to his live arm and 218 strikeouts last season. In fact, his 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016 ranked second behind the late Jose Fernandez.
Although the 25-year-old pitcher finished last year with a forgettable 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP while allowing 71 walks, he also ranked as one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball.
Ray’s defense-independent ERA of 3.61 ranked 18th in the majors and he led the league with a .345 batting average on balls in play. His BABIP was 16 points higher than the next-highest score, which belonged to Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees.
A simple regression to the mean would make Ray a quality starter for the Diamondbacks and could push him into joining Goldschmidt in All-Star consideration.
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