AL All-Star Team: What the American League Starting Lineup Should Look Like
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Have you gotten your MLB All-Star voting out of the way yet?
Good, because we have much to discuss.
You don't need me to tell you that the All-Star voting is a popularity contest more than anything else. The players who make the cut are usually the most popular players in a given league, not the best players in a given league.
We can do better. Instead of voting for our favorite players, what we should be doing is voting for players who actually deserve to go to the All-Star Game.
The trouble is that the big picture changes every week. I offered a projection of what the American League's starting lineup should look like last week, but a lot has changed over the last seven days.
Here's an updated look at what the American League's starting lineup should look like come July 10th.
Note: head on over to MLB.com to cast your votes.
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox
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Last Week: Matt Wieters
Matt Wieters was hanging on by a thread when I last checked in with him, but there's really no defending him anymore. He's having a solid season, but his bat is as cold as can be.
Wieters was hitting an even .300 back on May 8. Since then, he's five for his last 47, a .106 average.
Meanwhile, A.J. Pierzynski is having an excellent first half. He's hitting .301/.340/.500 with seven home runs and 29 RBI. His .840 OPS leads all qualified American League catchers.
Pierzynski is also having a pretty good year behind the dish. His caught-stealing percentage is currently at a career-high 35.3 percent.
According to FanGraphs, Pierzynski has a WAR of 1.5. Only Joe Mauer has a WAR that high among AL catchers, and he's spent a lot of time at first base and at DH.
Next In Line: Matt Wieters
First Base: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
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Last Week: Paul Konerko
There's not a whole lot of competition here. Paul Konerko is hitting .384/.462/.649 on the season with 10 home runs and 27 RBI, and he leads American League first basemen in a lot of categories.
What kind of categories, you ask?
In no particular order: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and WAR.
It's not even close when it comes to WAR. Konerko's WAR, according to FanGraphs, is 2.6. The next-closest first baseman is at 1.5 (Mauer once again).
So please, for the love Hawk Harrelson bears you, vote for Paulie.
Next In Line: Prince Fielder
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
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Last Week: Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia had a strong case to be the AL's starting second baseman last week, but he's slipped into something of a funk. He's hitting a mere .192 over the last seven days.
Robinson Cano, on the other hand, is chugging right along. He's hitting .297/.354/.477 with five home runs and 18 RBI, and he's been one of the best defensive second basemen in the AL so far this year.
At the moment, Cano has a comfortable lead over his fellow AL second basemen in terms of WAR. Per FanGraphs, Cano's WAR is 2.1. Pedroia is next in line at 1.5.
For now, Cano is the better player between the two of them, but that's probably not going to last. Pedroia has been known to get hot, and he hasn't really gotten on track defensively yet this year. Keep an eye on him.
Next In Line: Dustin Pedroia
Third Base: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
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Last Week: Mike Moustakas
It's a tough call to make when it comes to American League third basemen, but the point of this exercise is to focus on the best all-around players.
Mike Moustakas wins as far as AL hot-corner-manners are concerned.
Moustakas has solid offensive numbers. He's hitting .279/.333/.497 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. His .830 OPS ranks third among AL third basemen behind Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre.
What gives Moustakas an edge over them is his defense. He currently has a UZR of 6.0 and seven defensive runs saved. The only third baseman in the AL having a better year than Moustakas defensively is Brett Lawrie.
According to FanGraphs, Moustakas' WAR is 1.8. That's tops among AL third baseman by a comfortable margin.
Next In Line: Miguel Cabrera
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
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Last Week: Asdrubal Cabrera
I'm going to get this out there up front: the shortstop race in the American League is incredibly tight.
Last week, I gave the nod to Asdrubal Cabrera, and he's still high in the running. But this week, Elvis Andrus has the slight edge.
Andrus is hitting over .300 with a .381 OBP and a .411 slugging percentage. Those last two numbers may look modest, but they give Andrus an OPS of .792 that actually ranks third among AL shortstops behind Cabrera and Derek Jeter.
What gives Andrus the advantage over both of them is -- you guessed it -- his defense. He's not having as good a year defensively as he did back in his rookie season in 2009, but he has a solid 2.8 UZR and six defensive runs saved.
All told, Andrus has the best WAR of any shortstop in the American League, according to FanGraphs. He's the best the AL has to offer right now.
Next In Line: Asdrubal Cabrera
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
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Last Week: Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton is in a major rut. He hasn't homered since May 12, and in 11 games since then he's batting a mere .308.
Hamilton has fallen behind Paul Konerko in the AL batting race. What a slacker.
Well, maybe not. Despite his recent slump, Hamilton is still leading the American League in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS.
He also leads all AL outfielders with a WAR of 3.4, according to FanGraphs.
This is an open and shut case.
Next In Line: Josh Willingham
Outfield: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
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Last Week: Adam Jones
Just like with Hamilton, there's not a whole lot of debate here. Adam Jones has done more than enough so far this season to deserve an All-Star nod.
Jones is currently hitting .311/.357/.601 with 14 home runs, 29 RBI and six stolen bases. He may be benefiting from an absurd HR/FB rate, but hey, it is what it is.
My only issue with Jones is that he can be inconsistent in the outfield, but I'd still take him over most center fielders (including Curtis Granderson, who is an awful fielder).
Only Hamilton has a higher WAR than Jones' 2.8 among AL outfielders.
Next In Line: Matt Joyce
Outfield: Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
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Last Week: Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson still has the numbers deserving of All-Star votes, but I'm a little worried about his injury status. The Tigers have placed him on the DL with an abdominal strain, and the vibe I got from a report from The Detroit News is that Jackson may be out a while.
While he's out, we may as well give Josh Reddick some love. He's earned it.
Reddick is getting regular playing time with the Oakland A's, and it's paying off. He's hitting .272/.337/.527 with 11 home runs, 24 RBI and five stolen bases.
In the field, Reddick hasn't fared well at all in center field, but he's done a very good job in right field where he's more comfortable. He's got a UZR of 2.5 and four defensive runs saved in over 300 innings in right.
You may be surprised to hear it, but the only outfielders in the AL with better WARs than Reddick are Hamilton, Jones and Jackson.
Next In Line: Alejando De Aza
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
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Last Week: David Ortiz
No surprise here, right? When it comes to the DH position, Big Papi is king.
Granted, Papi hasn't been as hot in May as he was in April, but he still has solid numbers across the board. He's hitting .315/.383/.533 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. His .966 OPS ranks third in the American League.
Before you ask, I'm well aware that Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Dunn are both having great seasons. The issue is that both of them have spent plenty of time in the field as well, and Dunn has actually hit better when he's had to play first than when he's DH'd.
Both of them will make the team, but Papi deserves to start.
Next In Line: Edwin Encarnacion