Predicting the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Starting Lineups
John Farrell and Mike Matheny have some difficult decisions looming.
Those are the skippers tasked with putting together the All-Star lineups for the American and the National Leagues once the final fan votes have been tallied.
The players who comprise the following batting orders are the current leaders on the All-Star ballot. AL vote front-runners are courtesy of the MLB Public Relations Twitter account. The top picks from the NL are provided by Joey Nowak of MLB.com.
The process of settling on the respective starting pitchers is more complicated. Those decisions are ultimately up to the All-Star managers. In these predictions, a crucial factor is the availability of the candidates. Some of the top arms are slated to pitch in the final game before the All-Star break, which knocks them out of contention.
The predictions begin with the AL before moving to the NL. Now, let's see how it all lines up.
1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout hasn't hit leadoff once for the Los Angeles Angels in 2014.
Still, the 22-year-old is an ideal fit for the job. With 10 steals, Trout offers plenty of speed at the top of the order. The center fielder has also been reaching base at one of the highest rates in the AL, as his .407 OBP is the second-best mark in the league.
2. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Robinson Cano's power has vanished ever since he joined the Seattle Mariners.
The second baseman has just five home runs for the M's in his first 78 games. Despite the power outage, Cano is still hitting for a high average. His .319 mark checks in as the fourth-highest average in the AL, which makes the 31-year-old a strong option to hit second.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Even with a pedestrian April, Miguel Cabrera has put together an impressive first half of the season and remains the most dynamic hitter in the AL.
The first baseman for the Detroit Tigers owns a .311 average and has been piling up extra-base hits. Cabrera's 28 doubles are tied for the most in MLB.
4. Nelson Cruz, DH, Baltimore Orioles
Nelson Cruz has been a monster for the Baltimore Orioles in the first half of the 2014 season.
The outfielder/designated hitter has a share of the MLB lead with 25 home runs. Cruz has also posted a .295 Isolated Power mark, which is fourth-best in baseball, per Fangraphs. That pop gives the 33-year-old the nod as the cleanup hitter on the AL All-Star squad.
For Cruz, earning a trip to Target Field in Minnesota could prove to be highly lucrative. The veteran slugger is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and the distinction of having been an All-Star starter would be a valuable negotiating chip when he seeks out his next job.
The way the right-handed hitter has been playing for the O's, he's also on his way to finishing in the top five for AL MVP Award voting. That would help Cruz net a multi-year deal next winter after he had to settle for a one-year, $8 million payout last offseason.
5. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista is a logical choice for a run-producing spot in the All-Star lineup.
The AL Home Run Derby captain has already gone yard 15 times for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. The right fielder is also one of the most dangerous all-around hitters in the league with a .956 OPS.
6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland Athletics
Yoenis Cespedes has opened up a narrow advantage over Melky Cabrera for the third and final outfield spot, via the MLB Public Relations Twitter account.
The Cuban left fielder, who has made some unbelievable throws from the outfield this season, also has 14 doubles and 21 home runs. The potential of earning an All-Star selection has served as a motivating force for Cespedes, as he explained via an interpreter to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I feel so happy. I've been working for that."
If Cespedes ends up holding on to win the fan vote, he would become Oakland's first position player All-Star since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003. Based on the way the ballot currently looks, Cespedes won't be Oakland's only player who ends up at the All-Star Game this July.
In the latest poll, Melky Cabrera is edging Yoenis Cespedes for third in outfield voting, which means he gets the call as the starting left fielder.
The switch-hitter doesn't provide the traditional level of power expected out of a corner outfield spot, but he has been racking up hits. The Toronto Blue Jays standout ranks second in baseball in that category.
Note: Video courtesy of MLB.com.
7. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Josh Donaldson is set to become a first-time All-Star in 2014, and it's a well-deserved honor.
The third baseman for the Oakland Athletics leads all players at that position with 18 home runs. Donaldson also has a knack for getting timely hits and driving in runs. The 28-year-old has collected 61 RBI, which is the fifth-most in baseball.
With Donaldson set to be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career this offseason, starting the All-Star Game would allow him to raise his price tag when he sits down to discuss a new deal with Oakland's brain trust. If he once again finishes near the top of the AL MVP Award ballot like he did a season ago, Donaldson's leverage will grow even more.
8. Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics
Matt Wieters is the leading vote-getter at catcher in the AL, but the Baltimore Oriole is also out for the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
That means who starts behind the plate will be at AL manager John Farrell's discretion, per Paul Hagen of MLB.com. Derek Norris of the Oakland Athletics, who is currently second on the ballot, is a leading contender to earn the start.
Norris owns a .304 average, a .915 OPS and has connected on eight home runs. Kurt Suzuki of the Minnesota Twins, who is batting .297, is also worth a mention.
9. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
Derek Jeter is a legend.
Based on 2014 statistics with the New York Yankees, though, he's nowhere near the rest of the players in this lineup. The 40-year-old has a respectable .275 average, but he has totaled just 11 extra-base hits on the season. On this team, Jeter hits ninth in the order to serve as a second leadoff man for the AL.
The Starting Pitcher
There's sure to be plenty of buzz about the idea of Masahiro Tanaka starting the All-Star Game. The problem is that's not going to happen—at least based on how the New York Yankees starting rotation is mapped out for now.
According to John Harper of the New York Daily News, the Japanese right-hander is scheduled to pitch in New York's final game before the All-Star break, which crosses him off the list of potential starters.
That should lead to Felix Hernandez getting the call. Admittedly, the Seattle Mariners ace is just as deserving of the start as Tanaka. As Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times notes, Hernadez is set to pitch July 10, which means there will be no questions about his availability for the July 15 exhibition.
Hernandez, who is 10-2, is tied with Tanaka for the lowest ERA in the AL with a 2.10 mark. The right-hander's 127 strikeouts are the second-most in the league. For Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, having Hernandez take the mound is a no-brainer, as he stated via Condotta.
"If they want to win, thy should start him."
Predicted Lineup for the AL All-Star Team
- Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
- Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
- Nelson Cruz, DH, Baltimore Orioles
- Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
- Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
- Melky Cabrera, LF, Toronto Blue Jays
- Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics
- Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
- Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
At first, Andrew McCutchen appears to be an unorthodox selection as the leadoff hitter for the NL, but the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder actually provides a textbook skill set for a table-setter.
McCutchen has reached base at a clip of .418, which is the second-best OBP in the NL. Plus, the 27-year-old is an impeccable baserunner with 12 steals in as many attempts.
Ken Griffey Jr. recently offered some high praise for McCutchen, via Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"McCutchen is the modern-day Rickey Henderson. He's a complete hitter."
It's still early in McCutchen's career to be comparing him to one of the greatest players of all time. Then again, an All-Star selection this July would be his fourth consecutive honor.
Plus, after earning the NL MVP Award a season ago, McCutchen is once again right in the middle of the conversation for that trophy in 2014. Regardless of whether he ever lives up to Griffey's vaunted comparison, McCutchen is undeniably one of the most gifted all-around players on the planet.
2. Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasiel Puig is one of the most electric athletes in baseball. The right fielder is also rapidly becoming one of the best players in MLB.
Puig has drastically improved his approach at the plate in his second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After drawing 36 walks in 104 games a season ago, the 23-year-old has already collected 39 free passes in the first half of 2014. That plate discipline, along with his .923 OPS, earn Puig the second spot in the order.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Troy Tulowitzki claims the No. 3 spot in the lineup because he's been the most fearsome hitter in the NL in 2014.
The shortstop for the Colorado Rockies leads all of baseball in batting average (.353), OBP (.445) and OPS (1.062). While those numbers are remarkable, it does have to be noted that Tulowitzki has benefited considerably from playing his home games at Coors Field. In Denver, the right-handed hitter owns a .447 average, but on the road, he bats .264.
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH, Miami Marlins
Giancarlo Stanton is currently fourth in votes among NL outfielders, which makes him a top candidate to fill the DH role.
It's difficult to think of a player who has built a better case than the Miami Marlins right fielder. Stanton has posted a .999 OPS and has been an extra-base-hitting machine with 21 doubles and 21 home runs.
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Paul Goldschmidt supplies all sorts of pop, which is exactly why the first baseman occupies the No. 5 spot in the order.
For the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, Goldschmidt has driven in 53 runs, which is the third-most in the NL. The 26-year-old also has a share of the MLB lead with 28 doubles and has totaled 15 home runs.
6. Carlos Gomez, LF, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gomez has received the third-most votes of all NL outfielders, and he lines up as the left fielder on this squad.
It's a major luxury to have such a talented player hitting sixth in the lineup. In 2014, the 28-year-old has hit for average (.310) and power (13 home runs) and has been a menace on the basepaths (13 steals).
7. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
Chase Utley is the only left-handed hitter who's on track to earning a starting spot in the NL All-Star lineup.
After an incredible start to the season, the 35-year-old has slowed down in June. Still, the Philadelphia Phillies veteran is hitting .293 and has 24 doubles, which is the most of any second baseman in the NL.
8. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
There is an array of players looking to earn a spot as a catcher on the 2014 NL All-Star squad.
Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers, Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves and Devin Mesoraco of the Cincinnati Reds are just a few of the names on the list.
With 16 home runs, the most of any catcher in baseball, Gattis has a particularly strong resume. Gattis' teammate Andrelton Simmons is clearly a fan of the 27-year-old, as he explained via David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Man, he's somebody I would pay to watch hit."
Ultimately, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals is on his way to winning the starting role.The backstop, who is hitting .280 with seven home runs, doesn't have the best numbers. He does, however, have the most votes.
9. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
Aramis Ramirez last landed in the All-Star Game in 2008. He's set to return this July, as he holds a slight advantage over David Wright of the New York Mets in the voting.
The 36-year-old has been a key contributor for the Milwaukee Brewers with 11 home runs and a .495 slugging percentage. However, in a lineup loaded with the best players in the league, Ramirez ends up hitting ninth.
While Ramirez and Wright battle for the top spot, one third baseman who could be on his way to getting snubbed is Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds. As of the most recent count, the 28-year-old isn't even in the top five for third baseman. As C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, "by just about any other measure, he's the best."
Rosecrans is absolutely correct. Frazier has the most home runs (18), highest OPS (.860) and best slugging percentage (.508) of any third baseman in the NL. Leaving the right-handed hitter out of the All-Star Game would be a downright crime.
The Starting Pitcher
In 2014, Johnny Cueto has been dismantling the NL.
The right-hander for the Cincinnati Reds has a 1.88 ERA, which is the lowest mark in MLB. He's also limited opposing batters to a .171 average. Despite those ridiculous numbers, Cueto likely won't take the mound for the NL All-Star squad. The 28-year-old is scheduled to pitch July 13, which is just two days before the All-Star Game, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
In his place, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals gets the start. The righty should be available for the July 15 All-Star Game, as he's set to make his last start July 11, assuming he pitches every fifth day between now and then. Wainwright has posted some impressive numbers, as well. The starter has a 10-4 record with a 2.01 ERA and three complete games.
Predicted Lineup for the NL All-Star Team
- Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH, Miami Marlins
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Carlos Gomez, LF, Milwaukee Brewers
- Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
- Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
- Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
- Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.