In his final bow at the Midsummer Classic, Derek Jeter may have the spotlight forcefully ripped from him.
The passing of the guard in MLB is no better personified than what is about to occur at Jeter's 14th foray at the MLB All-Star Game. While the majority of the attention—and especially the broadcasts, to be sure—will be on his journey, a sleeping giant rests just under the surface.
That giant is the new wave of talent inheriting the league from the likes of Jeter, and the list is quite long. There are, in fact, 25 first-timers participating in the event, including should-have-been-here-much-earlier stars like Johnny Cueto and the face of the new class, Yasiel Puig.
Following the full roster, let's take a closer look at those fresh faces who will use the spotlight to reassure us that baseball is in great hands.
|American League||National League|
|Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals*||Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals*|
|Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers*||Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks*|
|Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners*||Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies*|
|Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees*||Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies*|
|Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics*||Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers*|
|Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels*||Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates*|
|Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays*||Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers*|
|Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles*||Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers*|
|Nelson Cruz, DH, Baltimore Orioles*||Giancarlo Stanton, DH, Miami Marlins*|
|AL Reserves||NL Reserves|
|Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics||Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers|
|Kurt Suzuki, C, Minnesota Twins||Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds|
|Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox||Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves|
|Victor Martinez, 1B, Detroit Tigers||Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays||Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets|
|Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics||Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs|
|Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros||Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds|
|Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox||Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals|
|Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers||Josh Harrison, IF/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics||Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies|
|Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals||Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants|
|Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians|
|AL Pitchers||NL Pitchers|
|Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers||Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds|
|Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers||Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners||Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees||Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants|
|Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox||Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals|
|David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays||Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres|
|Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics||Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Washington Nationals|
|Mark Buehrle, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays||Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves|
|Sean Doolittle, LHP, Oakland Athletics||Craig Kimbrel, RHP Atlanta Braves|
|Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals||Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds|
|Glen Perkins, LHP, Minnesota Twins||Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers|
Source: MLB.com. *Denotes starter.
Debutants to Watch
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
While Puig gets the majority of the attention, Yoenis Cespedes has finally slipped into the consciousness of the general public, stealing his first appearance in the contest.
Deservedly so, although Cespedes is no stranger to All-Star weekend, having won the Home Run Derby last year. His eyes are set on being the first to repeat as champ since, well, a rather famous player accomplished the feat, as SportsCenter reveals:
Yoenis Cespedes will try to repeat as Home Run Derby champ. Last man to pull it off? Ken Griffey, Jr., 15 years ago. pic.twitter.com/yitdAAxiNC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 8, 2014
Oakland manager Bob Melvin has no issue with the weekend overall for his players, although he hopes none of the festivities result in injuries, as captured by CSN Bay Area:
It was so entertaining last year, and whenever you get an opportunity to do that as a player, I certainly understand that. you can’t help but be a little nervous about (the chance of an injury), and I think that’s the case with any organization that has a player in it. But at the end of the day, that is a very entertaining event, and the fact that he won it last year gives us a little more exposure, and that’s probably not a bad thing. You just hope nobody gets hurt.
For Cespedes, the game itself is a chance to show off his entire arsenal, both in the field and in the batter's box. In 88 games this season, he has gone yard 14 times, driven in 56 RBI and has a smooth .252/.306/.452 line.
As one of the major stars sure to help usher in a new era, expect nothing but a show from the talented 28-year-old.
Sean Doolittle, P, Oakland Athletics
Enthusiasm for the event from a newcomer is always an added bonus, so Sean Doolittle checks out in more ways than one this weekend:
Sorry if I didn't respond to your text or tweet, I was jumping up and down on the bed, blasting "All Star" by Smash Mouth— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) July 7, 2014
Music tastes aside, it is hard to find a more deserving name than Doolittle at this juncture when one ponders that his role as closer in Oakland has the Athletics in first place in the AL West.
The owner of 13 saves in 16 attempts and a ridiculous 61 strikeouts to two free passes, Doolittle has certainly found his niche at the pro level and shows no signs of slowing down.
While it took a manager vote to get him to the event, he needs just a shot on the mound to awaken the eyes of the casual MLB faithful who helped to omit him in the first place. Even against the best of the best, Doolittle has the arm and talent to steal the show.
Johnny Cueto, P, Cincinnati Reds
Given this year is his seventh in the league and fourth straight of sheer dominance, fans can be forgiven for thinking Cueto has made the All-Star Game in the past.
He hasn't, but this year the folks in charge have finally stopped ignoring one of the sport's best.
Cueto's numbers the past four seasons speak for themselves:
That 2.03 ERA is third-best in the league, plus he has pitched more innings and struck out more batters than the two names above him in the ERA category—Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright.
Making his feats in recent years all the more impressive is the fact that Cueto tosses his games at Great American Ball Park, ESPN's No. 1 park for home runs.
Like his quiet demeanor on the mound, Cueto won't draw much attention to himself this weekend. At least, until he starts running roughshod on some of the best hitters in the game.
Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
If Michael Brantley can continue on his epic current clip, the 2014 iteration of the Midsummer Classic will be his first in a long line of appearances.
This is especially the case once the 27-year-old slugger steps into the batter's box. The left-hander is hitting a ridiculous .327/.387/.519 with 14 home runs and 62 RBI, plus has been rather difficult to strike out this season, as a recent tweet by Cleveland illustrated:
Michael Brantley is the 3rd hardest batter in American League to strikeout. How hard? His last strikeout was June 22 (59 plate appearances)— Cleveland Indians (@tribeinsider) July 9, 2014
As Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out, the Indians got a heck of a bargain last offseason:
The Indians got an absolute bargain when they signed Michael Brantley to a four-year, $25 million extension this spring. What a season.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 9, 2014
It took the player's vote to get Brantley his first appearance at the contest, but one can rather safely assume that won't be necessary in the coming years.
Just hitting his prime, Brantley is here to stay. Enjoy the show, especially armed with the knowledge that the Indians' slugger is very much, albeit quietly, one of the leaders of the new era.