Whether you like it or not, the MLB All-Star Game counts for something. That means lineup construction is crucial.
The fans were responsible for voting in the starters for both the American and National League, but it's up to each manager's discretion to create a dynamic, balanced order for the top stars of the Midsummer Classic.
That can be hard when there are egos to balance and quality hitters to find room for. Managers John Farrell (AL) and Mike Matheny (NL) certainly have a tough task ahead of them.
If both managers pencil in their lineups correctly, this is what they should look like.
|Projected AL Lineup|
Putting together an AL lineup was difficult. Somebody has to hit ninth, after all.
The top third in the order was relatively easy to figure out. Mike Trout is perhaps the most dynamic player in all of baseball, making him a lock to hit No. 1 in the order. While his power might be better suited for the middle of the order, there are more powerful bats in this lineup.
After all, remember how Trout fared in the 2013 All-Star Game at the top of the order? He took care of the first pitch he saw:
The No. 2 hitter has to be Robinson Cano. If he were hitting for more power this year, he might have a case to hit No. 5, but his .384 on-base percentage this year is on pace to break his career high. His ability to hit the ball the other way makes him a smart candidate to hit behind Trout.
Miguel Cabrera is the favorite to hit third. He's the best hitter in the lineup and can knock the ball out of the yard. The top three of this order is actually identical to last year's top three.
Nos. 4 and 5 could easily flip-flop depending on Farrell's preference. It's really hard to go wrong with either Jose Bautista or Nelson Cruz in the cleanup spot, and whichever runs aren't knocked in by the No. 4 hitter will be taken care of by No. 5.
Following Cruz should be his Baltimore Orioles teammate, Adam Jones. Josh Donaldson could also hit sixth, but the fact that he's up seventh speaks to the depth of this lineup.
Coming in at No. 8 is Derek Jeter. Jeter should not hit second. This is his final All-Star Game, but that doesn't mean the AL should sacrifice a possible winning formula at the top of the order. Jeter isn't a better hitter than Cano. He really doesn't even deserve to be the starter at shortstop when looking at the stat lines. Alexei Ramirez easily has better numbers.
Regardless, Jeter is the starter. SportsCenter's Twitter account pointed out that this start for Jeter will be historic:
Rounding out the order is Salvador Perez. Perez is hitting .284/.329/.444 this season, and his ability to keep at-bats alive and put the ball in play make him a good fit to turn the lineup over to Trout.
|Projected NL Lineup|
The NL has some speed at the top of the order, as Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen are both candidates to run when they get on base. Of course, speed isn't the only part of their games. Traditionally middle-of-the-order bats, both Gomez and McCutchen are simply the best options to hit at the top of this lineup.
The No. 3 hitter needs to be Paul Goldschmidt. He is the best overall bat in this lineup. He's deserving of the starter's job at first base, and Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall agrees, via Steve Gilbert of MLB.com: "The numbers he continues to put up on a daily basis are impressive and worthy of such recognition."
Some serious power follows Goldschmidt, as Giancarlo Stanton will be the designated hitter and should hit fourth.
As the NL leader in home runs and RBI, Stanton is the ideal candidate to take care of bringing runners home for the NL. He has the most powerful swing of all NL hitters, though he could be a little tired after participating in the Home Run Derby the night before. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the game.
Troy Tulowitzki has been one of the top hitters in baseball this year, as evidenced by his line of .350/.441/.616. All three of those marks lead the league. If Stanton fails to get the job done, Tulo will have his back.
Following Yasiel Puig at No. 6, there's a clear drop off for the NL. Chase Utley probably shouldn't be an All-Star starter—Dee Gordon or Anthony Rendon would have been better choices.
Aramis Ramirez really doesn't deserve to start either. Todd Frazier has been fantastic, and he already has 17 home runs. Frazier would have added significant depth to this lineup. Instead, he'll come off the bench.
In between Utley and Ramirez should be Jonathan Lucroy. While Yadier Molina won the fan vote, the fact that that he'll miss at least two months with a thumb injury, reports Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, leaves an opening at the position. Lucroy is the best option available for Matheny.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR