This year's All-Star Game will be the last for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Major League Baseball’s midsummer showcase, also known as the All-Star Game, is less than two months away, and many players have already made strong cases to make their respective league’s team.
But which players will be fortunate enough to try to secure home-field advantage throughout the World Series for either the American or National League?
Some players will be voted into the AL or NL squads via the fans, while the remainder of each team’s 34-man roster will be determined by the coaching staff.
This year’s teams will likely be made up of seasoned veterans as well as a handful of young players who are just starting to make their mark. Don’t be surprised when you see an abundance of first-timers on the rosters.
Let’s jump right into each team’s roster, determining who has done enough thus far to earn a spot in the 2013 All-Star Game.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are accurate as of Monday, May 20, 2013. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. Stats up to date through games on May 19, 2013.
There’s a very good chance that neither Mike Napoli nor Matt Wieters—the catchers for the AL last year—will make the team again in 2013. For one, Napoli no longer catches. Wieters hasn’t looked like the same player, as he’s currently hitting .230/.245/.474 with six home runs and 16 RBI.
Joe Mauer made the AL squad last season, but he was listed as a first baseman on the ballot. This year, Mauer is listed as a catcher and will likely make the sixth All-Star team of his career. He’s been one of Minnesota’s top offensive threats—as he usually is when healthy—and will probably be the Twins’ only representative.
Whether Mauer will be the starter, though, is up for the debate. Carlos Santana is Mauer’s biggest competition for the starting role, as he’s also having a great start to the season.
Mauer tops Santana in WAR—arguably in popularity, too—but the Indians have been one of baseball’s better teams, which is why Santana could get the call. Minnesota, on the other hand, hasn’t been very competitive through the first quarter of the season.
The AL’s starting catcher may be one of the closest battles.
The National League is home to the top catcher in baseball and one of the game’s best players in general, Buster Posey. Not only was Posey the starting catcher last season for the NL, but he also went on to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award later in the year.
Posey is off to another good start this season, which should lead to consecutive starts behind the plate at the All-Star Game. He has the highest WAR of any catcher in the NL and the second highest in baseball, just behind Joe Mauer.
The catcher backing up Posey for the NL is a bit of a debate. The race should be between A.J. Ellis of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals. While, in theory, both could make it, I think that the NL will likely just go with a pair of catchers instead of a trio.
And if the job can only go to either Ellis or Molina, I’d go with Molina. Molina has been considerably better offensively, and his team is also one of the best in the league. While Ellis has held his own at the plate and played well behind it defensively, Molina has the edge.
It won’t be easy for Prince Fielder to start at first base for the AL for the second consecutive season, but he’s certainly making a case for it. His average hasn’t been too impressive, but he’s still being productive with his power swing. He might get the most votes among his competition, but I don’t think he deserves it.
Baltimore's Chris Davis deserves to get the start in New York. Davis got off to a fantastic start to the season—driving in 16 runs in the first four games—and hasn’t let up since. His offensive numbers are much better than Fielder's, and there really shouldn’t be an argument over the matter.
There is another player in this conversation, but he is probably a non-factor, Edwin Encarnacion. He has played the majority of the season at first base, but he is listed on the ballot as a designated hitter. He has been playing very well this season but will likely be the AL’s starter who doesn’t end up playing the field.
This means that the main duel is between Fielder and Davis. Like I said, Fielder will likely get more votes from the fans, but Davis has played better. Ultimately, both will be on the AL roster. Who starts and who comes off the bench is up to you.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been one of the biggest stories in MLB this year. Paul Goldschmidt is one Diamondback who is starting to get the credit that he deserves. Goldschmidt has earned the opportunity to start for the NL at first base at the All-Star Game.
That might not be the popular decision, though, for some fans from Cincinnati. They’re going to try their hardest to get Joey Votto the starting nod. Votto has been just as good as, if not better than Goldschmidt.
Votto has played a more sound all-around game, but what Goldschmidt has been able to do for Arizona speaks for itself. He’s only in his second full season in the big leagues and is already establishing himself as a leader and someone for fans to look forward to watching for the foreseeable future.
The Chicago Cubs are once again far from contention, but they will still need at least one player representing them in New York. That player must be Anthony Rizzo, who is somewhat similar to Goldschmidt. He’s a young player who's surging at the right time. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rizzo makes the NL squad.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but Robinson Cano will be starting at second base for the AL for the fourth straight season. For those who are shocked, I’m not sure what you’ve been watching this season. Cano is easily the best second baseman in the AL and arguably the best in baseball.
Cano is off to a fantastic start and could hit more than 40 home runs for the first time in his career if he continues at his current pace. It’s nearly certain he’ll top his career high of 33 long balls in a season.
The other second baseman on the bench for the AL is a tough decision. In my eyes, there are three great candidates: Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve. Right off the bat, Altuve is on the team. He’s had a great year thus far, and the Houston Astros need a representative. It must be him.
So the third spot is between Kinsler and Pedroia. Kinsler has been a good power hitter, but Pedroia has been better overall. Both are very talented players who would be on the team if the AL were taking four second basemen—which I don’t think is likely. In the end, I think Pedroia gets the spot.
If during the offseason you had Matt Carpenter as the top second baseman in the NL through the first quarter-plus of the season, you win. Carpenter had only 121 games of big league experience entering 2013 and has really played well thus far. But as great as Carpenter has been, I doubt he ends up starting.
Instead, Marco Scutaro will likely be the guy for the NL in the first inning, while Carpenter will start the All-Star Game on the bench. Scutaro has been his usual self this season, which is great for a guy who’s been vastly underrated throughout the bulk of his career. He’s hitting well over .300 and continues to play well defensively.
Chase Utley, in my opinion, is the odd man out. Utley is finally looking like the Utley of old—the MVP contender—instead of the more recent Utley who has continually been on the disabled list. Even still, I think Utley’s time as an All-Star has come to an end.
So between Carpenter and Scutaro, who should be the NL starter? I think that Carpenter has definitely earned the opportunity to be in the starting lineup, but Scutaro will actually be the guy in there. St. Louis fans will have to vote nonstop to top the number of votes Scutaro will likely get.
Now seems like a perfect time to talk about what’s flawed about MLB’s current All-Star Game voting system. Derek Jeter is on the ballot and will likely be voted on to his 14th All-Star team. Jeter hasn’t played one game this season and will not play until after the All-Star break.
But because teams aren’t allowed to swap players from the ballot despite the fact that they haven’t played and will not play until after the game, Jeter gets a spot that someone might not. So, instead of voting for Jeter, please vote for another player who has worked hard this season and has been successful.
Jhonny Peralta is the first player who should come to mind. Peralta, who is a career .266 hitter and hit .239 last season, is batting .320. He’s been one of the Detroit Tigers’ top offensive weapons even though he’s primarily known for playing great defensively. He’s been the AL’s best shortstop this year.
The AL’s other shortstop spot is between Elvis Andrus and J.J. Hardy, in my opinion. Andrus has been a consistent hitter, while Hardy is more of a power threat. Andrus has also played much better defensively, which is most likely why his WAR is much higher. Even still, I’m going with Hardy. He does need to start improve his average, though.
The NL shortstop race is just fantastic to talk about. It features a veteran who has been about as good as can be when healthy and a rookie who has shot down any doubters. We’re talking about Troy Tulowitzki and Jean Segura.
They will be the two shortstops for the NL, but who will be the starter and who will come off the bench?
Segura was the main piece in the trade that sent Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels. A top prospect at the time, Segura didn’t play that well in his first 45 games of his career. He’s quickly forgotten about last season, though, and he's off to a phenomenal start.
But as good as Segura has been, Tulowitzki has been right there with him. Tulowitzki is a two-time All-Star, starting at shortstop back in 2011. He only played in 47 games last season due to injury, but he has bounced back very nicely. He’s helped the Colorado Rockies to an impressive start to the year.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Segura has been the better player this season, but I think that Tulowitzki will be the starter for the NL. But if Milwaukee can get the votes together for Segura, I have no issues with that whatsoever. Both will be valuable for the NL.
Third base is arguably the AL’s deepest position. The AL should carry four third basemen at the All-Star Game, simply because there are so many great candidates who just shouldn't get snubbed from the roster.
The starting third baseman doesn’t need much of an introduction: It’s easily Miguel Cabrera. He’s the best hitter in baseball and could end up winning back-to-back Triple Crowns. Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only other players to do it twice, and neither did in consecutive seasons.
Evan Longoria wasn’t very healthy last season (he only played in 74 games) but he should make his fourth trip to the All-Star Game this summer. He’s off to a great start, hitting well over .300 with nearly 10 home runs in just over 40 games. But it’d be tough to argue that he deserves to start over Cabrera.
Baltimore's youngster Manny Machado, who has really emerged as a star this season, is also a worthy candidate. Machado hit .262/.294/.445 with seven home runs and 26 RBI last season in 51 games, his first taste in the big leagues. Now, he’s hitting with consistency and power, while playing a fantastic third base.
My last choice may be a bit of head-scratcher for some. But those paying attention this year know what Josh Donaldson has done. He hasn’t seen much playing time the last two seasons but is finally getting his chance and making the most of it. He’s quickly becoming one of the better players on the Oakland Athletics.
Being that the All-Star Game will be at Citi Field in New York this year, there’s a pretty good chance that David Wright is the starting third baseman for the NL. But I wouldn’t just give Wright the nod for the NL if he didn’t deserve it. He has earned the opportunity to start, and the fans will make sure he does.
Wright currently has the fourth-highest WAR among third basemen in baseball, but the three ahead of him are in the AL. Wright has been strong for the Mets through their ups and downs, something that not many players can say for themselves. He’ll probably be named to his seventh All-Star Game and fifth as a starter.
Pablo Sandoval was great last postseason for the San Francisco Giants, and he’s brought his hot bat with him to the 2013 season. Sandoval has hit well this season, batting just over .300 with a handful of home runs. He’s one of the big reasons the Giants have been so successful the last few seasons.
One of the more interesting parts of the All-Star Game is that each team needs a representative, as I’ve touched on already. But here we are again, in a situation where the San Diego Padres need someone in New York. Not that Chase Headley hasn’t earned the spot, but other third basemen have played well too, if not better. Because of the rule, though, Headley gets a spot on the team.
You may not have guessed this, but the closest AL outfielder in terms of WAR to Mike Trout this season has been Alex Gordon. Gordon has been one of the Kansas City Royals’ best players the last few years, but he has never been selected to an All-Star Game. This year has to be the year it finally happens.
He would easily be a five-tool player if he used his speed more, but he only has one stolen base on the season. Everything else, though, has been great. He’s an offensive threat who’s hitting close to .350, has solid power and is a great fielder. The Kansas City outfield is starting to become one of the best in the league, and he’s a big reason why.
The Los Angeles Angels’ outfield isn’t half-bad either, and it’s not all because of Trout. Mark Trumbo has been very good this season, while many of his teammates have been big underachievers (I’m looking at you, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton).
Trumbo has played first base for the bulk of the season, but he’s listed on the All-Star Game ballot as a designated hitter. He’s only played the outfield 14 games this year, and just six of them have been spent in left. Even still, he’d be a valuable player to have on the team since he can play a variety of positions and hit for power.
The left side of the outfield is very stacked for the NL and is arguably the league’s most dangerous position. The guy that I think should be the starter isn’t the WAR leader among his competition or even the outfielder with the second-highest total. Even so, I believe Bryce Harper deserves to start in the All-Star Game.
Harper was sensational last season for the Washington Nationals and has been even better this year. He should get a lot of votes, but it may not be enough to top Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Braun has been to the All-Star Game the last five seasons, and a great start to 2013 should land him a spot on the team again this year.
The Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t played that well to start the season, but one player who has really turned some heads has been Carl Crawford. He was a disaster with the Boston Red Sox before getting traded to Los Angeles. He’s been their best offensive player so far and doesn’t look to be cooling off anytime soon.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Starling Marte makes the NL team. Marte entered 2013 with just 47 games of big league experience, but he has had a ton of success already this season. He currently has the sixth-highest WAR among NL outfielders, and he has the least experience of anyone ahead of him.
Center field shouldn’t and likely won’t be much of discussion for the AL. Mike Trout is by far the most talented outfielder in the game and will get enough votes to be in the starting lineup at the 2013 All-Star Game. He’s the AL WAR leader among all outfielders and is on track to have another fantastic season.
The other center fielders make this decision a bit tougher. Roughly four center fielders who have played well to this point, but I’m only going to be taking two for the AL. The two that I think deserve the All-Star selection the most are Lorenzo Cain and Adam Jones.
Cain is an underrated outfielder who is having a breakout season. He hits for average, runs very well and is great defensively. He isn’t going to hit a ton of home runs, but he can certainly be valuable to Jim Leyland’s team should the AL need a pinch runner late in the game.
Jones is past the breakout stage; now he’s a star. He’s one of the few five-tool players in the game and deserves some recognition for it. He was selected to his second All-Star team last season, and this year should end up being his third—and certainly not his last.
Center field for the NL could be draped in controversy. There are three candidates who are worthy of starting. The best candidate might not get the most votes, though, because his team hasn’t played very well yet, and the other candidates—who are on winning teams—are a bit more popular, in my opinion.
Carlos Gomez has been the best outfielder in baseball to this point in 2013—at least in terms of WAR. Gomez is finally coming through in all aspects of the game, and he really has earned the starting job for the NL at the All-Star Game.
But Andrew McCutchen and his fans are definitely going to give Gomez a run for his money. McCutchen has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season, but he is starting to get hot at the right time, hoping to improve Pittsburgh’s spot in the NL Central standings.
Hoping to negate both of those attempts is Shin-Soo Choo, the new center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds. Choo has been one of the best acquisitions of the offseason, and Reds fans will likely be able to get him enough votes to be the starter. Does he deserve to be? Somewhat, but Gomez does more.
Jose Bautista is clearly one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball, and for the third straight season he should be starting in right field for the AL All-Stars. Bautista has been his usual self through the first chunk of the regular season and, if he keeps this up, will be a lock for his fourth All-Star selection.
Bautista has never been much of a consistent hitter, but he has shown tons of power the last few years. He’s hitting .250 through 36 games this season, which is a bit higher than last season (.241), but considerably lower than two years ago when he hit .302 in 149 games. His power, however, gets him the starting nod.
Joining Bautista in right field will likely be Alex Rios, one of the more underrated players in baseball this season. Rios currently has the third-highest WAR among AL outfielders, even ahead of Bautista. But it will be tough for him to get enough votes to surpass what Toronto is capable of with Joey Bats.
The Chicago White Sox haven’t played well this season and are currently a couple of games below .500. Even still, they’re one of the dwellers that will get more than one All-Star. Rios has just been much too impressive to be left off the AL team. If he is somehow, he’ll be one of the biggest snubs for sure.
The Arizona Diamondbacks own right field for the NL. But I’m not really taking two right fielders from Arizona. Gerardo Parra is the first choice, as he’s currently the right fielder. Justin Upton, who played right for the Diamondbacks last season, is the other, but he was traded over the winter to the Atlanta Braves.
Although Upton now plays left field, he can get voted onto the NL squad as just an outfielder, since outfielders aren’t classified by left, center or right on the ballot. There’s also no reason why Upton can’t play right field considering that’s the only position he ever played in the big leagues before getting traded.
Upton started the season hotter than any other player in the game. He’s cooled off since, but he's still one tough cookie to retire for any opposing pitcher. He’s helped get the Braves off to a great start that could lead to a postseason berth later in the year.
Parra has been just as incredible, which is a little surprising since he’s never made a major impact in the past. He currently has the second-highest WAR among NL outfielders, just behind Carlos Gomez. I don’t think he’ll get enough votes to be the starter, though. That selection will probably go to Upton.
There have been a ton of great pitching performances this season, and some starters have been talented and lucky enough to have more than one. Selecting which starters will be on the AL team is not an easy task, and Jim Leyland will soon know what I’m talking about.
But I’ve narrowed it down to eight starting pitchers who have been from good to outstanding this season and all deserve spots in the game. I don’t, however, think that any of them will be on the mound first for the AL. I’ll get into that a little bit later, though, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
First off, Matt Moore and Yu Darvish look to be the early front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award. Clay Buchholz isn’t far off either. Chris Sale and Derek Holland are the two left-handers I think are worthy of making the team, both with solid WAR totals and low walk rates.
It might be inevitable that Leyland takes two of his own, as Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez have both been very good this season, each accumulating high strikeout rates. Felix Hernandez is an easy choice, as he’s pitched well for the Seattle Mariners as well and isn’t far off from the top of the WAR leaderboard.
The starting pitching in the NL this season has been as exciting as anyone could’ve scripted. What’s somewhat surprising is that it’s primarily been the younger pitchers—and in some instances, rookies—who have been firing strike after strike in 2013. In fact, there are only two veterans that I think will be options for Bruce Bochy.
I talked about how, with David Wright being a hometown guy, he’d likely be a starter—even though he deserves to start. The same can be said for his teammate, Matt Harvey. Harvey hasn’t been the best pitcher in the NL, but he’s certainly been impressive. He could get the nod just because he’s on the Mets.
If the All-Star Game was elsewhere, it’d be tough to argue against Clayton Kershaw starting. Kershaw currently has the lowest ERA of any other starting pitcher in the NL. Also from the NL West should be Patrick Corbin, who’s perfect to this point in the season.
Joining Harvey from the NL East should be Cliff Lee, who’s been the Philadelphia Phillies’ top pitcher; Jordan Zimmermann, who’s been the Washington Nationals’ go-to guy; and Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins youngster who has done everything in his power to make his team somewhat relevant this season.
Then there’s the pair of starters from the St. Louis Cardinals who could take home the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards. Adam Wainwright has been unstoppable, and the same could be said for young right-hander Shelby Miller. Those two could carry the Cardinals deep into the postseason.
Mariano Rivera is probably the best pitcher of my lifetime, and I’m all for sending him out in style this summer. Bill Chuck of Billy-Ball.com started #StartMo to try to catch the attention of Jim Leyland to start Rivera instead of using him in relief at the All-Star Game. My response: yes. B/R’s Joe Giglio agrees, saying it would be the perfect send-off.
Sure, the game counts and Leyland shouldn’t be messing around, but this is the exception. It’s unlikely that this decision would come back to bite Leyland or the AL.
Rivera is as dominant as it gets. Just do it, Jim.
In my opinion, the AL should be all set with four other relievers on hand. Jim Johnson hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was a year ago, but I still think he’s worthy of a spot in the bullpen. Casey Janssen has been vastly underrated, since the Toronto Blue Jays have been very disappointing.
The other two spots go to a pair of closers in the AL West, Tom Wilhelmsen and Joe Nathan. Wilhelmsen has been a great surprise for the Seattle Mariners and has been nearly perfect. Nathan has been reliable for a long, long time and should be on the AL’s roster for the sixth time in his career.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been good to start the season—just like last season—and Jason Grilli has been incredible late in games. He leads all NL relievers in WAR, mainly because he’s saved 17 games and is striking out nearly 1.5 batters per inning. He has been as tough as it gets for opponents in the ninth. He will be on the NL team.
Joining Grilli on the team will likely be a couple of other strikeout fiends. Craig Kimbrel is one of the top relievers in baseball and has also struck out more than 14 batters per nine innings. The same could be said for Aroldis Chapman, who throws the ball about as hard as anyone you’ll find.
I would expect Bruce Bochy to take his closer, Sergio Romo, with him to New York too. Romo has been a great closer since taking over for the once-formidable Brian Wilson. Romo was unhittable in the playoffs and really helped the San Francisco Giants win their second World Series in three seasons.
With one spot remaining in the bullpen and on the team, I’m going with Rafael Soriano. He was great for the New York Yankees last season and has been good so far with his new team, the Washington Nationals. Bochy could also decide to go with some non-closers, such as someone like James Russell from the Chicago Cubs.
Below is a projected starting lineup for the American League squad. Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland will determine the order of the players—voted by the fans—and who the starting pitcher will be.
Below is a projected starting lineup for the National League squad. San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will determine the order of the players—voted by the fans—and who the starting pitcher will be.