I know I’m a few days early on this, but I realized that I’m not going to have any time to write this post next week. Plus, I wanted to get it out there in plenty of time before the deadline is here for casting votes (July 3rd). I have also decided to add a little bit to this year’s final ballot post. In addition to giving you my final vote on who should be the starters for the All-Star Game, I’m going to list the players that I believe should fill out the entire roster. Each league has 33 players on their roster chosen in a combination of the starters (voted on by the fans), the pitchers & back-ups (16 players voted on by the players, coaches & managers), and the reserves (chosen by the coach of the All-Star team, in cooperation with the league office in order to ensure that each team is represented). Then, after those 33 are chosen, the fans are given a list of 5 players (chosen by the coaches) to choose one final (34th) spot on the team. Since that 34th spot is a newer innovation, and it can go so many different directions, I’m going to focus on the 33 players who will represent their team in the 85th All-Star Game in just a few weeks. Let’s begin with my final ballot – the starters.
AL: Miguel Cabrera (DET). But, by only the slightest of margins over Abreu (CHW). Their OPS is nearly identical, they’re 1 RBI apart, and have exactly the same number of XBH (going into last night’s games). Abreu has a decided edge in HR (22-13), but what tipped the scales for me toward Cabrera is strikeouts. Abreu’s strikeout rate is significantly higher than Cabrera’s, and his walk rate is decidedly lower – in almost 40 fewer plate appearances, Abreu has 20 more K’s. This accounts for why Cabrera’s batting 40 points higher, and his OBP is more than 50 points higher.
NL: Anthony Rizzo (CHC). Also a tight race, with Goldschmidt (ARI). Goldschmidt has the edge in batting (by 16 points), SLG (by 10 points), and RBI (by 9). But, Rizzo has the edge in HR (by 2), OBP (by 22 points), and OPS (by 12 points). So, this came down to a combination of things. First of all, Rizzo has the edge in strikeout and walk rates (20 fewer K’s, 10 more BB’s). Also, Rizzo is the better defender at first. Neither are setting the world on fire with their defensive prowess, but Rizzo has a clear edge with the glove.
AL: Brian Dozier (MIN). Wow, what a tight race! OPS rankings are Cano, Altuve, Dozier, Kinsler (separated by a total of .028); HR rankings are Dozier, Kinsler, then everyone else; RBI rankings are Cano, and then Dozier & Kinsler are tied for second; SB rankings are Altuve, Dozier, then everyone else; SLG is Kinsler, Dozier, Altuve, Cano; OBP is Cano, Altuve, Dozier; wRC+ is Dozier, Altuve, Cano, Kinsler; Defensively, I would rank them Pedroia, Kinsler, Zobrist, Dozier, and everyone else. You’ll notice that there’s only one name that appears near the top of every one of these lists, before the list kind of flames out into “everyone else.” And, it’s Dozier. His .252 batting average looks bad, until you realize he has the best walk-rate among AL 2B, leading to a .366 OBP.
NL: Chase Utley (PHI). There may be some confusion when you go to vote for this one. On the MLB voting site, it lists Washington’s Rendon as an option. And, at first glance, his numbers look better than Utley’s. One small problem – he’s been playing third base most of this season, and Espinosa has been the everyday second baseman in Washington. Be sure you’re voting for the right guy! This is definitely a tighter race than it was a month ago, but Utley still comes out on top – when compared to other guys actually playing 2B. He’s 3rd in RBI, 3rd in batting, 2nd in OBP (by .001 going into last night’s games), 2nd in SLG, and 1st in OPS. No other NL 2B appears in the top 3 in each category.
AL: Alexei Ramirez (CHW). Cabrera (CLE) is batting just .254 with a .322 OBP, so he’s out, in spite of some nice power numbers. Bogaerts (BOS) is batting just .260, has the 2nd highest K-rate among AL SS, and has been subpar with the glove – so he’s out. In my opinion, it comes down to Ramirez or Aybar (LAA). Aybar has the edge in RBI and is head and shoulders ahead of Ramirez defensively. But, Ramirez has Aybar beat in HR, SB, batting, OBP, SLG & OPS.
NL: Troy Tulowitzki (COL). Ramirez (LAD) is having a great year, and has actually overtaken the RBI lead by 1 over Tulo. But, Troy leads all NL SS in HR, batting, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Plus, he’s an above-average fielder, which makes this a pretty easy choice.
AL: Josh Donaldson (OAK). This is a much tighter race than before, as Beltre (TEX), Santana (CLE), and Seager (SEA) have all made significant strides over the last month. Beltre has a nice lead in batting (.321), and OPS (.850), and Santana has the lead in OBP (.366). But, when you look at their entire resume, Donaldson stands out as the one who is competitive in every area. He leads all AL 3B in HR & RBI, is 2nd in OPS & wRC+, and is easily the best defensive 3B in the AL thus far this year.
NL: Todd Frazier (CIN). Rendon (WAS) deserves some credit here (as opposed to 2B), and is my runner-up. He and Frazier are clearly the cream of the crop (Arenado, from a month ago, has been injured). But, Frazier leads all NL 3B in HR, SLG, OPS (by almost 50 points!) and wRC+. He’s also 2nd in RBI, 3rd in batting, and a slightly above average fielder.
AL: Salvador Perez (KC). Norris (OAK) is clearly the best offensive catcher in the AL right now. He is also clearly below average defensively (throwing out just 10% of base stealers). So, the key for me was finding the right balance at this position in the AL. And, Perez is that. He’s arguably the best defensive catcher in the AL (though, Gomes, Avila & McCann are in that discussion), and is also 2nd in the league in HR, 3rd in batting, 2nd in SLG, and 4th in OPS. Others have glaring weaknesses either offensively or defensively.
NL: Jonathan Lucroy (MIL). Over the last month, Lucroy has opened the gap even further between himself and the rest of the catchers in the NL. He leads all NL C’s in batting, OBP, OPS, wRC+, and is 2nd in SLG & RBI. He’s middle of the pack, defensively, so you can’t count that against him. Others, who might have an edge on defense, are clearly behind on offense.
AL: Victor Martinez (DET). He finally caught Cruz (BAL) in a number of categories. This is precisely why I wait to cast most of my votes until close to the deadline. Cruz might have the edge in HR (23-19) and RBI (60-50), but Martinez leads Cruz in batting (by over 30 points), OBP (by over 20 points), SLG, and OPS (by more than 30 points). Martinez also strikes out significantly less often than Cruz (22 times this season, going into last night’s games – compared to Cruz’s 69 K’s).
AL: Mike Trout (LAA), Jose Bautista (TOR), Michael Brantley (CLE). No change from a month ago. Though, Cespedes (OAK), has an argument here, primarily based on his defensive highlights of late. But, Brantley leads him in batting (by over 50 points), OBP (by almost 70 points), and SLG (just barely). Trout leads all AL OF in HR, RBI, SLG, OPS & wRC+. Bautista leads them all in OBP, and is the only AL outfielder with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line.
NL: Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Yasiel Puig (LAD). Smith (SD), deserves honorable mention here. In addition to the three I’m voting for, he is the only NL outfielder with a wRC+ score above 160. But, he’s the odd man out, since he’s the only one of the four with less than 10 HR, and is batting below .300. As for these three guys, they are the only ones in the NL with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line. Stanton is flat our murdering the ball, and has a .592 SLG. McCutchen leads NL OF with a .422 OBP. And, Puig . . . well, have you not seen the highlight reels?
PITCHERS: My starting pitcher for the AL this year would be Felix Hernandez (SEA). He leads the league in WHIP (0.95) & FIP (1.95), is 2nd in ERA (2.24) & K’s (128), and 3rd in league BAA (.216), and this time around, he actually has some wins to go along with his other stats (9, so far, with at least one more start coming before the voting deadline).
The remainder of the pitchers I would choose to represent the AL would be: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY); Mark Buehrle (TOR); Scott Kazmir (OAK); Yu Darvish (TEX); Koji Uehara (BOS); Jake McGee (TB); Wade Davis (KC).
BACKUPS & RESERVES:
PITCHERS: My starting pitcher for the NL this year is Clayton Kershaw (LAD). In spite of having 4-6 fewer starts than the rest of the league, he still has an 8-2 record, leads the league in FIP, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB, and is 2nd in WHIP & ERA.
The remaining pitchers I would choose to represent the NL in the All-Star game would be: Adam Wainwright (STL); Johnny Cueto (CIN); Madison Bumgarner (SF); Jon Niese (NYM); Jean Machi (SF); Craig Kimbrel (ATL); Zach Duke (MIL); Tony Watson (PIT).
BACKUPS & RESERVES:
Many of the backups I chose could change in the next couple weeks before the All-Star break, because their stats are often very close. There are also only two teams that I felt forced to make a pick, because they had to have someone on the team: the Rays and Mets. The Rays reliever that I chose is actually pitching really well, so that wasn’t so hard. The Mets don’t have anyone on their team that seriously deserves consideration for the All-Star game. The reason I went with Niese is because he’s currently their best all-around starter, and he’s a lefty, which I needed more of. I’m certain that there are more deserving players that have been left out (particularly at NL 1B & OF), but had to be overlooked because players were needed at other positions. Let me know what you think!