Perhaps my favorite thing about the MLB all-star game is that each team is guaranteed to be represented by at least one player. In the earliest days that I can remember following baseball via newspaper box scores and early morning SportsCenter binge-watching, I found it pointless that the Kansas City Royals, who were the league’s laughing stock at the time, would get to send a player such as Mark Redman, who finished his 2006 all-star campaign with a 5.71 ERA, to a game of the league’s best players.
After the past few years of Phillies baseball, in which the team has had no clear cut all-star since 2013 Cliff Lee — Domonic Brown got in because of one month, Chase Utley wasn’t an all-star caliber player in 2014, 2015 Papelbon (eh, maybe), and Odubel in 2016 would not have had a great chance in a stacked National League outfield without the benefit of being on a team with no other worthy all-star.
Things were supposed to change for the better in 2017: Maikel Franco was expected to make the leap into stardom, and Herrera was looking to come back strong from a slumpy second half of 2016. The starting rotation was filled with young arms that would wreak havoc on opposing batters, and Pete Mackanin even set the team’s season goal at 81 wins. But the year has taken a turn for the worse. The Phils are an MLB-worst 24-51 through their first 75 games, and the young core that was supposed to flourish in 2017 has instead wilted.
After posting a batting average of just .218 through the first two months of the year, Odubel has had a promising month of June in which he is hitting .333 with 13 doubles. Maikel Franco, however, has struggled through every month this season, and is reportedly being shopped around the league by Philadelphia.
Aaron Altherr’s .283/.350/.519 slash line would have him in the all-star discussion, if it weren’t for one arm in the Phillies’ bullpen who has been far and away the best player at Citizens Bank Park this season.
Pat Neshek, who leads all major league relievers with at least 10 innings pitched in ERA, has dominated the National League after being traded to Philly by the Astros last offseason.
Neshek, whose funky delivery has been nearly unhittable in 2017, will no doubt (barring injury or trade) be representing the Phillies in Miami for the all-star game. The perfect storm of Pat’s career season, no Philadelphia fielders worthy of selection, and the fact that a team can never have enough relief pitchers make his addition to the team very predictable.
As for Neshek’s future in Philadelphia post-all-star festivities, a source has told CSN Philly that the team already has an offer for the coveted reliever. He also has had a misunderstanding with manager Pete Mackanin. After Neshek needed just 5 pitches to get out of the 8th inning in last week’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mackanin said that Pat did not want to pitch the 9th inning. Neshek denied that Pete asked him to pitch the final inning of the win.
Neshek should not be a Phillie come August. It would be foolish not to cash in on a reliever who is having the best season of his career and is among the best bullpen arms in all of Major League Baseball. Pat will be an all-star in about three weeks, and although it will not be the most exciting of representatives for Philly fans, it could be one of the most valuable. An all-star relief pitcher with a sub-0.60 ERA could be worth gold on the open market.
Photo by Ian D’Andrea (via Flickr)