MLB All-Star Game: Predicting Both 34-Man Rosters
The 83rd Midsummer Classic is rapidly approaching for MLB players and fans. This year has seen an extraordinary amount of all-league worthy talent.
From Josh Hamilton's mind-boggling total of 20 home runs so far to Brandon Beachy's ridiculous start in Atlanta, 2012 has been chock full of impressive performances.
Unfortunately, that means there will be a large number of snubs. Naturally, things will change between now and July, but we can get a rough idea of the rosters.
Factoring in that every team must have one representative and that fans vote on names, not on actual numbers, here is my take at who will represent each league at the All-Star Game in Kansas City:
*Stats current as of 5/26/12*
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Starter: A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox)
Backup: Joe Mauer (Twins)
I'm not the biggest fan of Pierzynski (mostly because I perceive him to have a bad attitude), but there's no denying he's been the most productive catcher in the league so far this season. As of play on May 26, Pierzynski is hitting .309 with eight home runs and 31 RBI, good for first among AL catchers in all three categories.
Defensively, Pierzynski has only made one error and has thrown out a respectable 30 percent of base-runners.
Mauer is hitting .297 and is the only catcher in the league with an on-base percentage over .400. He mostly makes the squad for a lack of other candidates at this position, but he does have the name recognition.
AL 1st Baseman
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Starter: Prince Fielder (Tigers)
Backups: Paul Konerko (White Sox), Albert Pujols (Angels)
Snubs: Chris Davis (Orioles), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
Honestly, this starting spot should go to Konerko. He's hitting .381, by far the best in the American League. Konerko also has 10 homers and 27 RBI to go along with a .458 on-base percentage. Sadly, he will be the first of many to fall victim to the popularity contest of fan voting.
The fans will vote in Fielder, and they should. Despite not being at Konerko-esque levels, he's still hitting .295 with seven home runs and 27 RBI. It should be a tight race between Fielder and Pujols, the two former National Leaguers, enjoying very different inaugural seasons on the other side. They are both still fan favorites and will more than likely both suit up for the All-Star Game.
AL 2nd Baseman
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Starter: Robinson Cano (Yankees)
Backup: Ian Kinsler (Rangers)
Snubs: Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox), Jason Kipnis (Indians)
You could make a case for Dustin Pedroia in Boston, or even Jason Kipnis in Cleveland, but this position in this league has been surprisingly underwhelming in 2012. Because of the jersey he wears, his name and the fact that he leads his position in hitting, Cano is a runaway winner to start the All-Star Game at second for the AL.
Cano is only hitting .294 with six homers and 19 RBI, which are below-average numbers for him. But he's still the best all-around second baseman in baseball. Not to mention he'll get most of the fan votes. I figure Kinsler will slide in after him because he's more of a situational threat than Pedroia. And it doesn't hurt that Ron Washington, his manager, will be leading the AL dugout.
AL 3rd Baseman
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Starter: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
Backups: Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Mark Trumbo (Angels), Evan Longoria (Rays)
Snubs: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees), Mike Moustakas (Royals)
It's a dead heat between Cabrera and Beltre for the starting spot, as both have racked up high averages and good power totals. I think Cabrera will score the fan vote by a decent margin, and Beltre will be first off the bench. And before we get to fielding-with-his-face jokes, Cabrera has actually been pretty good at the hot corner this season.
Trumbo's .326/6/19 line has gone under the radar because everyone is focusing on the struggles of his more famous teammate. He should get the nod for another backup role. And with the wealth of talent in the AL, I foresee Longoria going in, but bowing out with this injury that's kept him sidelined. In his place, either Moustakas or A-Rod.
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Starter: Derek Jeter (Yankees)
Backup: Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians)
Snubs: Alcides Escobar (Royals), Elvis Andrus (Rangers)
At the tender age of 37, D.J. is hardly finished. He's one of the league leaders in hitting at .342 and has also hammered out five home runs and 18 RBI. Jeter is proving he's still one of the best in the game. As if he needed the good numbers to help him win the fan vote. Even if he was having an off season, Jeter would likely be voted in as the starting shortstop. This year, he's earned it.
Cabrera is having himself a pretty solid season in Cleveland too. He established himself as a rising star in 2011, putting up big numbers for a surprise team. He's at it again in 2012, with a line of .301/5/20. Both Cabrera and Jeter have each only made three errors on the defensive side of the ball as well.
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Starters: Josh Hamilton (Rangers), Curtis Granderson (Yankees), Adam Jones (Orioles)
Backups: Josh Reddick (A's), Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Josh Willingham (Twins), Mike Trout (Angels)*
Snubs: Austin Jackson (Tigers), Matt Joyce (Rays)
Was there really any question that Josh Hamilton would be starting on the AL All-Star team this year? The guy is on pace for over 70 home runs and is playing highlight-reel defense. If the season were to end today, Hamilton would take MVP honors unanimously with his .376/20/53/.431 line so far.
Granderson and Jones have both been fantastic, though I think Jones deserves the starting spot a bit more. Granderson has put up big power numbers, but will get the starting gig based on the strength of fan voting. Jones has played his way in with a .309 average, 14 home runs and 31 RBI.
Reddick will be the lone representative of the offensively-challenged A's. His 13 homers are good for top five among AL outfielders. Bautista should make it based on his popularity and double-digit home run totals, and Willingham will represent the Twins due to his scalding hot start to the season.
*I think Trout is the Final Man in, the 34th player added to the American League roster. My official prediction for the Final Five candidates are: Trout, Austin Jackson, Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler and Jason Hammel.*
AL Designated Hitter
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Starter: David Ortiz (Red Sox)
Backups: Adam Dunn (White Sox), Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays)
Big Papi is the obvious choice here. He is the best DH in baseball and has been for quite a while. Ortiz continues to prove naysayers wrong about his age and that he's over the hill. All he's done in 2012 is hit .309 with 10 homers and 30 RBI so far. He's on pace for another 30-plus home run season.
Dunn has enjoyed a renaissance after last year's disastrous debut with the White Sox. He's mashed 15 homers this year from the DH position. And while Encarnacion has mostly played DH for the Jays this year, his 15 homers merit him a spot on the roster. He can also play the corner infield positions.
AL Starting Pitchers
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Starter: Justin Verlander (Tigers)
Others: Yu Darvish (Rangers), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Jered Weaver (Angels), Jake Peavy (White Sox), Brandon Morrow (Blue Jays), Jon Lester (Red Sox), David Price (Rays)
Snubs: Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays), James Shields (Rays), CJ Wilson (Angels), Chris Sale (White Sox), Derek Lowe (Indians), CC Sabathia (Yankees), Jason Hammel (Orioles)
This was certainly the toughest call of them all; not necessarily picking the starter, but deciding on the rest of the staff. Verlander is the reigning Cy Young and MVP winner and leads the AL with a 2.15 ERA. Naturally, he's racking up strikeouts too and was the obvious choice to start this game.
Darvish is going to ride his popularity to a spot. He's having a good season, but might bump out a more deserving candidate. Hernandez will be the only representative for the M's, and Weaver has the no-hitter on his resume.
Peavy has enjoyed a great rebound season, and Morrow has been the Jays' most consistent starter. Lester and Price are seasoned veterans and throw left-handed, something that would otherwise be missing from this staff.
Unfortunately for the snubs below, they won't be making the trip to Kansas City unless they replace someone who is injured. Sabathia would be a great guy to have on the team with home field advantage on the line, but his numbers aren't quite as legendary as usual. Wilson, Sale, Lowe and Hammel are just straight-up snubs; there is no room for them.
AL Relief Pitchers
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Closer: Chris Perez (Indians)
Others: Jonathan Broxton (Royals), Jim Johnson (Orioles)
Snubs: Fernando Rodney (Rays), Joe Nathan (Rangers), Ryan Cook (A's)
There are too many quality relievers for so few spots on the AL roster this season. I wouldn't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington take Nathan from his own team to fill out the back end. If I was managing, I'd be most comfortable with my guy in the ninth also. But out of the three I think will make it, Perez is the guy I'm most confident in to secure that win.
Broxton has revived himself after a mental breakdown in Los Angeles to become a dominant closer again in Joakim Soria's absence. He would be comfortable closing a game of that magnitude at Kauffman Stadium, his home park. Not to mention, he saved the 2010 All-Star Game for the National League. And Johnson has just been untouchable for the Orioles this year.
Rodney and Cook are by far the biggest snubs in the American League. Rodney is 15-of-16 in save opportunities and has a microscopic ERA. Cook's ERA is invisible; literally, he hasn't allowed a run in 22 and 1/3 innings this season, though he's largely anonymous playing in Oakland.
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Starter: Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
Backups: Buster Posey (Giants), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
Snubs: A.J. Ellis (Dodgers), Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers)
It's a tight race at NL catcher in 2012, as all five guys listed on this slide have a legitimate case to be an All-Star. Molina is the best all-around catcher of the bunch, posting big offensive numbers (.316/6/24) and is a four-time defending Gold Glove champion at his position.
Posey is going to get a huge fan vote and has been tearing it up offensively this season. He can also step in and play a decent first base in a pinch. And Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz is enjoying by far the best offensive year of his career and has pretty much been the meat of the Phillies' offense. Ellis and Lucroy are both having monster years offensively, but are too unknown to beat out the competition this season.
Ellis might be first in line to step in for an injured player because his on-base percentage is a ridiculous .444.
NL 1st Baseman
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Starter: Joey Votto (Reds)
Backups: Freddie Freeman (Braves), Yonder Alonso (Padres), Bryan LaHair (Cubs)
Snubs: Carlos Lee (Astros), Adam LaRoche (Nationals)
Votto is far and away the best all-around first baseman in the NL now that Pujols and Fielder have made their exodus over to the American League side. He's hitting a standard .314 with seven homers and 28 RBI. Chances are, he'll finish the season near the top of all three Triple Crown categories, as he's a career .313 hitter and averages over 30/100.
Freeman is having another awesome year after busting out in his rookie season in 2011. Currently, he's the Braves' most dangerous hitter, even though his average is only .247. He's got pretty good power numbers and has played a flawless first base thus far. Alonso will be the Padres' only selection, LaHair the Cubs' only all-star. Both are hitting at or above .300, though LaHair's 10 homers stand out.
NL 2nd Baseman
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Starter: Jose Altuve (Astros)
Backup: Omar Infante (Marlins)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The Houston Astros are going to have a player starting the All-Star Game! And Altuve is certainly deserving. The 5'7" 22-year-old spark plug for the Astros is having a heck of a season, currently hitting .316. He's second in that category only to Infante's .338. The Marlins' second baseman is actually the owner of better numbers, but I think Altuve will win the popular fan vote.
Infante does have six homers and 20 RBI, compared to Altuve's three and 15. Infante has seven stolen bases, two less than Altuve, but they are similar players. Both have great speed, a sturdy glove and deceiving power. No matter who starts, they will split the game in half and probably have equal impact.
NL 3rd Baseman
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Starter: David Wright (Mets)
Backups: Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), Chipper Jones (Braves), David Freese (Cardinals)*
Snubs: Chris Johnson (Astros)
David Wright is smoking everyone else in this category. As the last man standing hitting over .400 (until recently), he's been one of the best all-around players in baseball this season. Currently, he's hitting .390 with five homers and 28 RBI, plus he plays a dazzling hot corner.
Ramirez has made the transition from shortstop to third base smoothly. Would you believe he's only made one error to this point in the season at his new position? He can hit a little bit too, if you didn't know. Chipper is going to get his pity farewell All-Star bid, even if his numbers don't exactly make him deserving.
*I think Cardinal fans will vote Freese in for the Final Man vote, over James McDonald, Corey Hart, Chris Capuano and Jay Bruce.*
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Starter: Rafael Furcal (Cardinals)
Backup: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)
Snubs: Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jed Lowrie (Astros), Starlin Castro (Cubs)
Furcal has been an absolute beast at the top of the National League's most dynamic offense. He's sporting a shiny .339 average and has a knack for starting first-inning rallies. The Cardinals have done a lot of their damage early, and Furcal is setting the table for that.
Tulo started slow, but has come on strong. Even if he was still hitting poorly, he'd make the team based on his name and reputation alone. He could change the game with one swing, something that's very nice to have in a game determining home field advantage in the World Series.
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Starters: Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
Backups: Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Ryan Braun (Brewers)
Snubs: Corey Hart (Brewers), Jay Bruce (Reds), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hunter Pence (Phillies), Angel Pagan (Giants), Emilio Bonifacio (Marlins), Michael Bourn (Braves)
How do you go wrong with this group of outfielders in the National League? All of them are having ridiculous seasons and ultimately deserve to end up in Kansas City. Kemp is the league MVP up to this point, even after spending the last two weeks injured. His .359 average and .446 on-base percentage still lead all NL center fielders.
Ethier is the league's leader in RBI, continuing to drive runs in like nobody's business with Kemp on the DL. Stanton is a threat to hit one about 500 feet at any given time and has been absolutely on fire in May.
I hardly need to explain the presence of CarGo, McCutchen (Pittsburgh's only representative) or Braun as reserves. Harper I believe will be selected mostly because of hype. Still, he might be able to make a positive impact late in the game with his hustle.
NL Designated Hitter
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Starter: Carlos Beltran (Cardinals)
Backup: Melky Cabrera (Giants)
I bet some of you freaked out not seeing Beltran on the outfield slide. Well fear not, friends. Carlos and his ridiculous 2012 season are indeed starters on the NL squad. Just in a position that allows him to not chase down fly balls with his oft-injured legs. Beltran will bring his .292/14/38 line to Kansas City.
And Cabrera has been a steal for the Giants, who acquired him from the Royals in the offseason. Melky is currently hitting .356 in the middle of that order and would provide a good bat from both sides off the bench for the National League.
NL Starting Pitchers
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Starter: Brandon Beachy (Braves)
Others: Cole Hamels (Phillies), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Wade Miley (Diamondbacks), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), Gio Gonzalez (Nationals), Zack Greinke (Brewers), Johnny Cueto (Reds)
Snubs: Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Chris Capuano (Dodgers), Ted Lilly (Dodgers), Lance Lynn (Cardinals), Mark Buerhle (Marlins), Matt Cain (Giants), Wandy Rodriguez (Astros), Mat Latos (Reds), Anthony Bass (Padres), James McDonald (Pirates)
As you can see by the insanely long list of snubs, the National League is stocked full of incredibly good pitching this season. Beachy is leading the pack with a 1.77 ERA and a nice 5-2 record for Atlanta. If anyone had told me before this season that Beachy would be the starter of the All-Star Game, I'd have called them all sorts of bad names.
Following Beachy is a pretty fool-proof lineup of established starters. Kershaw and Gonzalez both have sub-2.00 ERAs as southpaws, and we all know what Hamels and Strasburg are capable of. Greinke got knocked around in his start today, but has still put up one of the better seasons in the NL. D'Backs rookie Miley is their only All-Star, and he has earned it with a 6-1 record and 2.28 ERA.
Cueto has finally put everything together to put up some solid numbers this year. Dempster is the biggest snub, having an ERA of 2.14 despite an 0-3 record. He and Rodriguez are in the top five ERA's in the league, but won't be making the trip out. The list of snubs could go on and on for the NL.
NL Relief Pitchers
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Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies)
Others: Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Craig Kimbrel (Braves)
Snubs: Jason Motte (Cardinals), Santiago Casilla (Giants), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates), Brett Myers (Astros)
You've got to love this trio of closers if you're the NL manager, Tony LaRussa. You can play match ups with the flame-throwing lefty in Chapman and get a crucial strikeout with either him or Kimbrel. Out of these three, you'll want the veteran Papelbon closing things out.
Motte, Casilla, Hanrahan and Myers have all been very good this year, but there just isn't room for them. I could see LaRussa keeping his boy Motte on the roster to come in late, but if all is right in the world of baseball, these will be the three guys in Kansas City.
|National League||American League|
|1. Rafael Furcal, SS||1. Derek Jeter, SS|
|2. Carlos Beltran, DH||2. Robinson Cano, 2B|
|3. Matt Kemp, CF||3. Josh Hamilton, CF|
|4. Andre Ethier, RF||4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B|
|5. Giancarlo Stanton, LF||5. Prince Fielder, 1B|
|6. Joey Votto, 1B||6. David Ortiz, DH|
|7. David Wright, 3B||7. Adam Jones RF|
|8. Yadier Molina, C||8. Curtis Granderson, LF|
|9. Jose Altuve, 2B||9. A.J. Pierzynski, C|
|SP - Brandon Beachy||SP - Justin Verlander|