The All Star break is upon us, and here are the guys I think should be playing in the game.
The MLB All Star game is this Tuesday at Target Field. While I hope many of you will be able to attend the game in person, I know I’ll, regrettably, be watching from home.
The official results of All Star voting were released on Sunday evening, but I’m writing this before looking at them, in hopes to make my selections as authentic as possible. These are the players I think should be on both teams. I’m listing my starters at every position and then the next five guys I would have on the team as a reserve for one reason or another.
There were close battles for catcher, first and second base in the American League. I chose Kurt Suzuki over Salvador Perez because of Perez’s bad lefty splits. Edwin Encarnacion and rookie Jose Abreu both have really comparable numbers, but Edwin’s injury on Sunday made this an easier decision. I reluctantly added the AL batting and steals leader, Jose Altuve, in at a highly competitive second base group, ahead of Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, and Brian Dozier. After leaving the Yankees, Cano took a while to find his power swing, which goes against him, and Dozier’s low average makes him look like a weaker choice.
Alexi Ramirez has cooled down since a torrid April but is still the only AL short stop with any combination of power and speed, and can flash the leather at age 32. Josh Donaldson, even after a rough four week stretch, seems to be accepted as the best all around third baseman in baseball right now, so he has to be on the team (his only competition was Adrian Beltre and maybe Kyle Seager).
Mike Trout, Jose Bautista and Michael Brantley make up my outfield. All three guys have been batting around .300 for the year. Bautista leads the league in walks. Trout had a monster June where he lead the majors with a 1.23 OPS. And Brantley’s been a very overlooked player over the last three or so seasons, and is finally putting up the numbers to get him noticed.
The team’s DH has to be Victor Martinez, who has hit over 20 homers, is batting around .330 and has only struck out 23 times in 2014.
Miguel Cabrera is the first of my five reserves. He’s been performing as expected, but hasn’t had any signature moments in 2014. However, an All Star game without the sport’s most consistently dominant bat seems criminal. Dozier gets in not only because of his 20-20 pace, but that he’s a player from the home team, which counts for something. Derek Jeter doesn’t deserve to play significant time by any means in this year’s game but should definitely be given the nod in his final season, especially in a weak shortstop class. Two Orioles round the list out, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, who is having a career year after his PED suspension.
Most of the decisions in the National League were obvious in my mind, but that’s not to say that they’re a worse group by any means. The NL is home to the five or six best catchers in baseball, and, without hesitation, Jonathan Lucroy gets the start for me, as does Paul Goldshmidt at first base and Troy Tulowitzki at short, who leads the majors with an average over .350. Todd Frazier’s speed really came out of nowhere last month and compliments his power nicely at third. Daniel Murphy hasn’t had a great year, but is doing more or less what he always does, and is one of five NL second baseman with over 300 at bats this year.
The NL outfield should be the most entertaining unit in Tuesday’s game, featuring reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen, the strongest hitter in the game, Giancarlo Stanton, and the always energetic Yasiel Puig.
I’m giving the NL a utility guy to replace the DH position found on the other side, and my man is Josh Harrison, who’s been on a tear over the last month and a half and would be a useful player off any bench, spending time in the outfield, second, third and even at short this season for the Pirates.
My last five in are a fun group, starting with Dee Gordon, who gets in for what he can do off the bench with his legs, and because there is a chance that this is an outlier season for him; he may never bat close to .300 again. The only reason Anthony Rendon isn’t starting in the game is because he has played an equal amount of games this year at second and third base for the Nationals, but he’s dominant with his glove at either position and has emerged as one of the best hitters in their lineup. The selection of Nolen Arenado could be questioned because he missed a lot of time on the disabled list, but he was the most exciting player to watch in April when he was healthy, thanks in large part to his 28 game hit streak and unbelievable glove work at the hot corner, making him worthy of an All Star apparence in my mind. My last two in the NL are Anthony Rizzo and Carlos Gomez, both exciting players who emerged onto the scene midway through 2012 and haven’t looked back.
MLB includes 11-13 pitchers on their All Star rosters, but I think that’s a bit over kill for one game. I’m just going to mention four starters, and three relievers (a lefty, a righty and a closer) from each league.
Felix Hernandez, Masahiro Tanaka, David Price and Chris Sale start for the AL, while the bullpen features Jake McGee, Dellin Betances, and Greg Holland as closer, just edging out Sean Doolittle. The four starter’s shouldn’t be a surprize to anyone. Outside of Tanaka they’re the top names in baseball every year. One caveat against Sale is he missed some time on the DL but his peripherals are right there with everyone else’s. Betances is probably the most exciting relief pitcher this year, putting up starter type strikeout numbers in the seventh and eight innings.
My NL starters are Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto and Julio Teheran, with Tony Watson, Pat Neshek, and Craig Kimbrel coming out of the pen late. I don’t think the first three starters need to be defended at all, and although Teheran’s numbers aren’t as convincing, since being part of Atlanta’s rotation last season he’s been as consistant as they come. As a left/right duo, Watson and Neshek are no brainers to me; both have an ERA and WHIP below one, haven’t been tagged with a loss all season, and are top five in the league in hard-hit rate (Watson leads the majors in the category at 4 percent)