Well, we are over a month-and-a-half into the MLB season, and several weeks into All-Star voting. With batters having over 150 at-bats, and pitchers having at least 10 appearances, the time has come to start discussing who should be going to the Midsummer Classic.
Here are my picks for all 68 roster positions, (largely disregarding fan-fickleness) and the reasons for each one.
I have allocated roster spots based on the fact that each MLB club needs to be represented at the game. I have also allocated the positions as follows, based on roster trends and the original (before injury) lineups of the 2010 and 2011 games:
- Eight starting position players for each team (a catcher, first, second and third base, a shortstop, and three outfielders)
- A starting DH for each team
- Twelve reserve-batters for each team, including a backup at each of the eight positions, a third catcher, and three additional batters, one of whom is the backup DH and one of whom is the "34th man"
- Thirteen pitchers, eight of whom are normally starters, three of whom are normally closers, and both left- and right-handed middle relievers
An important note: When there are multiple bench players at a position, they are listed alphabetically; they are not ranked.
There are always good players left off the All-Star team. Here are five healthy players who have made the team in the past, who should not this year:
- Albert Pujols: Need I remind you of how horrible Pujols was in April? He had a triple-hash of .217/.265/.304, with only 4 RBI and no homers. Even now, Pujols' OPS is well-south of .700, and his batting average is only .025 above the Mendoza line.
- Adrian Gonzalez: Adrian Gonzalez's season has been better than Pujols', but it is nothing to write home about either. His triple-hash is .269/.333/.406, meaning his OPS is much lower than its career .882. Gonzalez has only three home runs, and is tied for 30th in total bases.
- Roy Halladay: The Phillies ace is 4-4 this season, and his ERA stands at 3.58. He is only hurling 7.2 Ks per nine, and his WAR is just 0.7. In addition, the Phillies are under .500, and you will find that they are adequately represented without Halladay, who would be sitting out the All-Star Game for the first time in five years.
- Alex Rodriguez: Once again, the Yankees are proving they overpaid for A-Rod. A-Rod is tied with A-Gon in total bases, and has just a dozen extra base hits. A-Rod is also hurt by the depth at AL third base this season.
- Tim Lincecum: Last year, Lincecum somehow made the squad despite being 6-6. He should not make it this year. He is 2-4 with an ERA of 6.04 and a WHIP of 1.59. He has had a single quality start all season.
Now, on to the people who actually deserve to make the squad...
I know that the 34th man is decided by fan vote, so I have acknowledged popularity a bit for these next two slides only. The 34th man is often on a franchise with a lot of fan-following, so for the first of my 68 selections, I will go with the favorite son of the defending World Series champions.
Freese had a solid April, with a .333/.375/.560 triple-hash, five dingers, and 20 driven in. However, a .194 average in May dropped Freese out of the NL starting lineup in my book. Freese is still leading all third baseman in homers, however.
The depth at first base in the American League means that Prince Fielder is the third- or fourth-best first baseman in the majors, but only the third- or fourth-best first baseman between the White Sox and Tigers.
The three-time All-Star's stats have seen somewhat of a drop-off this season, with his OPS down to .807 from a career .924 and his slugging down to just .461.
But the perennial fan favorite still has 76 total bases and has driven in 25, and still has one of the best batting averages of AL first basemen, so look for him to make another All-Star appearance.
Look for the Brewers' backstop to make his first All-Star appearance. He is fifth in the league in batting average at .349, has an OPS of .990, and is seventh in the NL in WAR.
He is also first among catchers in total bases, RBI, and range-factor.
Look for two-time World Series champion and four-time Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina to make his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance.
Molina is third among backstops in total bases, and is leading all backstops in doubles and stolen bags. He also continues to be one of the best catchers in the league in terms of reliability and defense.
Arencibia is second among MLB backstops in home runs, fourth in RBI, and in the top eight in total bases. He is also leading AL catchers in assists from the plate.
Baltimore's switch-hitting backstop looks to make his second-straight All-Star appearance. He is leading all backstops in homers and total-zone runs, while being fifth in total bags.
The 22-year-old Altuve, who stands at just 5'5", is one of three NL second basemen to be hitting .300, down from .360 in April alone.
The second-year Astro is the top 20 of the NL in a number of categories, including average (16th), hits (10th), and stolen bases (11th).
Since third base is again relatively weak for the NL, (only one man batting .300 or OPSing over .800) Headley, who is third among NL third basemen in OPS and third among all in NL players in walks, gets the nod.
Six players in the NL have an OPS of 1.000 or more. One of them is Bryan LaHair. In his first season with more than 150 plate appearances, LaHair is fourth in the NL in homers and fifth in the NL in OBP.
The Cubs' first basemen is also hitting over .300.
Journeyman first baseman Adam LaRoche, now with the Nationals in the absence of Michael Morse, is second in homers among NL first baseman behind LaHair. He is leading all NL first basemen in runs batted in, and is fourth in that category among all NL batters. He is also 11th in the NL in OPS and 18th in total bases.
Look for the 33-year-old third baseman, who has three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, to make his third-straight All-Star appearance.
Adrian Beltre is 13th in the AL and 2nd among MLB third basemen in total bases. He is also 10th in the AL in slugging, 10th in batting average and 9th in OPS.
The Royals' first baseman and DH is the most likely candidate to be the representative of the host squad.
Butler is fifth in the AL in RBI and ninth in total bases. He also has nine homers and 50 hits.
Cabrera should be making his second-consecutive All-Star appearance at shortstop. He is leading all AL shortstops in OPS and doubles, while hitting over .300.
He is also leading all AL shortstops in range-factor per nine innings.
Adam Dunn has emerged from last season's slump and could be looking at his first All-Star appearance in a decade.
The White Sox's first baseman and DH is fifth in the AL in slugging percentage and fifth in OPS. His 14 homers are second in the league, and his 88 total bases are ninth in the league.
Dunn is also leading the league in both strikeouts and walks.
Look for 27-year-old journeyman Melky Cabrera, who has played for four different teams in four seasons, to make his first All-Star appearance.
The Giants' outfielder is currently first in hits, first in triples, fourth in the NL in batting average at .356, fourth in total bases, eighth in runs scored, and 15th in OPS. He also has five triples.
The five-tool McCutchen should be slated to make his second-straight All-Star appearance. He is seventh in the league in batting average at (.338) with seven dingers and eight stolen bags. He is also in the top ten in NL value-added stats.
McCutchen is also third in outfielder's range-factor.
Arizona is another one of those teams whose worthiness of having an All-Star is questionable. The only players close to being worthy are outfielders, and of them, two-time All-Star Justin Upton has been turning things around into a halfway decent season.
Upton is second in the NL in runs scored. He is also leading the D'Backs in homers with five.
Detroit Tigers' outfielder Austin Jackson is fourth in the AL in WAR, and fourth in batting average with .331. He is seventh in the league in OPS with .958.
In terms of fielding, Jackson is perfect on the season.
This would be the first All-Star appearance for the 25-year-old Jackson.
Josh Reddick has come out of nowhere to be the A's representative in Kansas City. He is seventh in the AL in homers with 11, and seventh in total bags with 89. He has 19 extra-base hits and five stolen bags, making him a strong five-tool candidate.
He is also leading the AL in right-field assists.
Blue Jays' DH and corner infielder Edwin Encarnacion is ninth in the AL in OPS with .910. He and David Ortiz are tied for most total bases by a non-outfielder. He is second in the AL in dingers with 14, and second in RBI with 37. He has also stolen six bases.
Note that there is no backup DH listed for the NL: they have an extra position player (in my opinion, either LaHair or Cabrera) who can be designated backup DH.
Two-time All-Star Matt Cain is the only decent pitcher remaining of what was a rock-solid Giants rotation.
Cain is one of two NL pitchers (Gio Gonzalez) who have both 60 strikeouts and a sub-1.00 WHIP. He also has a sold .241 OBP allowed.
The lefty Capuano, a one-time All-Star way back in 2006, has been the second-best arm on the league-leading Dodgers. He's one of five NL arms with six or more wins.
Despite only having 50 strikeouts, Capuano is still in the top ten of qualified NL pitchers in both ERA and WHIP.
The Reds reliever, recently converted to closer, has continued to throw for high heat, and has yet to allow a run in 24.1 innings of work. His WHIP is at 0.58, his OBP allowed is .165, and his Ks per nine is at 15.9. Chapman has six holds, four wins in relief and two saves while allowing just nine total bases.
Johnny Cueto is third among qualified pitchers in ERA and second among wins added. He is 5-1 in seven quality starts, doing this with just 38 strikeouts.
For the NL's right-handed middle reliever, we return to Steeltown.
Among relievers who have thrown at least 100 pitches, only Chapman has a better strikeouts per nine number than Grilli (30 Ks in 17 innings), and only barely. He is one of five players with double-digit holds, and the only one with a sub-2.40 ERA.
Two MLB pitchers have seven wins. One of them is two-time All-Star Cole Hamels.
Hamels is also second in the MLB in strikeouts, and has respectable numbers in ERA (2.17) and WHIP (1.01).
The defending NL Cy Young Award winner is again having a decent season. He is second in ERA among qualified pitchers, has a sub-0.90 WHIP and sub-.231 OBPA. He also has four victories, and is near the top in several value-added stats.
The other NL pitcher with seven victories is converted long reliever Lance Lynn.
Lynn also has 52 Ks and is in the top 20 in ERA among qualified pitchers.
In his first season as Astros' closer, Myers has become one of five players with 11 or more saves. Of them, Myers has the lowest WHIP, lowest OBPA, and second-lowest ERA of the five.
It is interesting that this will be the first All-Star appearance for a converted starter who has twice had 14 or more victories.
Texas' big offseason acquisition Yu Darvish was thought to be overpaid.
He has proven to be a decent pitcher, one of six with six victories. Of those six, Darvish has the most strikeouts per nine innings.
The closest thing to an answer to Aroldis Chapman the AL has is Angels' left-reliever Scott Downs. Downs has gone 13 innings without allowing a run, during which he has recorded 7 holds and 3 saves.
Besides not allowing a run, Downs has the best WHIP of lefty relievers with five or more holds.
Of course, Downs does not have the heat Chapman does.
The journeyman Lowe, now 38, has not made an All-Star squad since 2002. This looks like the year he makes it back, since he has six victories and is leading the AL in ERA among qualified pitchers. He is also fourth in pitcher's WAR.
Two-time All-Star and 2007 Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy is third in the AL in ERA among qualified pitchers with 2.39, and third in WHIP with 0.91. He also has five victories, and is eighth in strikeouts with 55.
This will be the second straight All-Star Game for Chris Perez. Perez is second in saves in MLB, with 15 saves in 16 tries. He also is averaging about a strikeout per inning, and has a sub-3.00 ERA.
Perez's setup man gets the call as the right-handed setup man for the AL. Pestano leads the AL in holds with 12, and is averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He has a ERA of 2.29.
He is also in the top 10 in win-probability-added.
Fernando Rodney has the best ERA of any AL closer, at only 0.40. He is third in saves with 14, and is averaging a strikeout per appearance and a on-base percentage of just .209.
Tampa Bay's James Shields makes the squad for the second-straight time. Shields is one of AL two pitchers (Darvish is the other) who have both six wins and 60 strikeouts.
Shields is third in strikeouts in the AL, and eighth in strikeouts per nine among qualified pitchers. He is also strong in putouts and pickoffs by pitchers.
Early in the season, Jered Weaver went 5-0 and hurled a no-no. While his ERA has taken a hit, he is still first in WHIP and second in ERA of the six AL pitchers with six victories. Weaver is also seventh in the AL in strikeouts, and fourth among pitchers in WAR.
This would be Weaver's third-straight All-Star appearance. He started last year's game.
Two seasons, two All-Star appearances for Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is again leading the NL in saves with 13 while averaging 14 strikeouts per nine.
Orioles' closer Jim Johnson leads the AL in saves and win-probability-added. His WHIP and ERA are also both below 1.00.
Only one man in the NL has 40 RBI. That man is two-time All-Star Andre Ethier.
Ethier has nine homers (seventh in the NL) and has a .963 OPS (ninth) and a .321 average (12th), along with 51 hits (11th) and 93 total bases (second). Ethier's average balloons to .405 with runners in scoring position.
David Ortiz is looking to make his eighth All-Star appearance in the last nine years. Big Papi is fifth in the AL in batting average, fourth in slugging percentage, and third in OPS. He is leading the AL in extra base hits.
Ortiz is also in the AL top 10 in runs scored (30, fifth), hits (53, seventh), total bags (98, third), doubles (15, second), home runs (10, eighth), and RBI (30, seventh).
Carlos Ruiz is not only the best catcher in the NL, he is one of the best players. Ruiz is in the NL top ten in both offensive and defensive WAR. He is third in the NL in batting average and sixth in OPS. His also in the top ten in RBI.
Ruiz leads all NL catchers in runs, hits, RBI, homers, batting average, OPS, total bases, and fielding percentage.
Eleven-year veteran A.J. Pierzynski has made the All-Star squad from time to time. This year is the time to make it again.
Pierzynski is leading all AL catchers in batting average (he is the only catcher over .300), OPS, RBI, and total bases. He has also only had a single error all season.
With Pujols, Fielder and Howard out of the NL this year, the mantle of starting NL first baseman falls to two-time All-Star and 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto. Votto is sixth in the league in OPS (with it hovering right around 1.000), and is leading the NL in doubles and walks. Votto is also sixth in the NL in WAR and third in OBP.
Votto is leading all NL first basemen in OBP and total bases.
Paul Konerko is hitting better than anyone else in the AL: the five-time All-Star (but never a starter) has a league-leading .381 batting average and .462 OBP. Konerko is second in OPS with 1.094 and second in WAR as well.
Konerko's leading all NL first baseman in average, OBP, OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, extra bases hits, and total bases.
Apparently, Konerko's also leading the league in shiners.
Omar Infante should make his second All-Star appearance as the only Marlin on the roster. He is batting .331 (8th in the NL) with a .937 OPS (12th in the NL). Both are tops among NL second basemen, as is his slugging percentage, homers, and total bases.
In terms of fielding, Infante is leading NL second basemen in total-zone runs and range-factor.
The 2008 AL MVP is my pick to return to his fourth All-Star Game in five years. Pedroia is leading all second basemen in total bases and all AL second basemen hits (the latter good enough for fifth in the AL). He is also second among AL second basemen in doubles and third in RBI.
The right choice at third is the Mets' David Wright, who would be making his six appearance in seven years. At present, Wright is the only player in baseball hitting above .400, and is also leading the NL in OBP. He is second in the NL in OPS and third in hits.
Wright leads all NL third basemen in average, OBP, OPS, slugging, runs, hits, doubles, total bases, and extra base hits.
The former first baseman, reigning AL batting champ and six-time All-Star ought to be making his seventh appearance, and first as a starting third baseman. Cabrera is seventh in the AL in hits and third in RBI, both of which are good enough to lead all AL third basemen. He is also one of three AL third basemen to be batting .300, and one of four to be OPSing .800.
A two-time All-Star with Atlanta and the Dodgers, Rafael Furcal is again having an All-Star season. He is second in the NL in runs and third in hits. He is leading NL shortstops with a .339 batting average and .848 OPS. He also has 11 doubles and eight stolen bags.
This year, Derek Jeter has actually earned the vote-stuffing he will get from Yankee Nation. He is third in the AL (first among shortstops) in batting average, eighth in OBP, seventh in total bases and first in singles.
In case you were keeping track, if Jeter is voted in and plays, it will be the eighth All-Star Game he has started.
With the numbers he has been putting up, Carlos Beltran, playing for his third team in a year-and-a-half, should earn a trip to Kansas City. Beltran is second in the NL in offensive WAR, fourth in OPS (and north of 1.000 in that category), third in slugging, and eighth in OBP.
He has scored 29 times, half of them due to a league-leading 14 dingers. Beltran is second in the NL in RBI behind Ethier, and is also hitting over .300.
The reigning NL MVP is one of six NL players with an OPS of 1.000 or better, and is the only NL player with 100 total bags. He is also in the top ten in the NL in WAR (third), home runs (second), batting average (tenth), slugging (second), hits (eighth), and RBI (sixth).
He has made more putouts in left than anyone else has, and also has nine stolen bags and a brace of triples.
When Braun is selected, it will be his fifth-straight All-Star appearance.
Matt Kemp has not had much of a May: a hitting slump followed by a trip to the DL.
But his awesome April alone propels him into the starting lineup: .417 batting average, 1.383 OPS, 12 homers, 75 total bags, 25 RBI and 24 runs. Even after the slump, Kemp is still the majors' leader in OPS and is second in homers and fourth in batting average.
Yankee's outfielder Curtis Granderson is one of the better power hitters in baseball. He is tied for second in the AL in homers with 14, is 11th in OPS, eighth in slugging, seventh in runs scored, and sixth in total bases.
Plus, since he is a Yankee, he will automatically get voted in.
Josh Hamilton is far-and-away the best player in baseball right now, certainly putting together a good enough season for a fifth-consecutive All-Star start.
Hamilton is leading all of baseball in homers (18), RBI (49), slugging (.758), OPS (1.187), and total bases (122). He is second in the AL in batting average and runs scored, but is first in many of the value-added statistics.
The O's' Adam Jones is second to Hamilton in total bases (110) and homers (14). He is fourth in the AL in OPS at .958, and seventh in batting average at .311.
If selected, this would be Jones' first All-Star appearance since 2009.
The Nationals acquired Gio Gonzalez in the offseason, and he has been responsible for adding more value to a team than any other pitcher in the NL. He is leading the NL in strikeouts and starters in strikeouts per nine, and is also the only pitcher with 60 strikeouts, 6 wins and a sub-2.00 ERA.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner and AL MVP is again the best pitcher in the AL. Verlander, who has made every All-Star Game but one since 2007, is leading all AL pitchers in strikeouts, WHIP and WAR, he is also second in ERA.