Predicting the 2016 MLB All-Star Game Starting Lineups
The 2016 MLB All-Star Game is rapidly approaching, and this year's ballot closes Thursday, with the league announcing the full rosters next Tuesday.
Major League Baseball released a final voting update Monday afternoon, which is available courtesy of CBS Sports' Mike Axisa.
In the latest update, the Chicago Cubs continued to lead the way with five players on pace to start for the National League, while the Boston Red Sox paced the American League with four projected starters.
Most of the races appear to be wrapped up at this point. But there are still a few spots up for grabs, most notably NL catcher, where the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina holds a slim 5,130-vote lead over the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey.
Now that MLB has released the final update, here's a look at our full predictions for who will win each starting nod for July 12's exhibition at San Diego's Petco Park, as well as a projected lineup for each team.
Also included is a look at each predicted starter's stats this season and where he ranks among the other players at his position in his respective league.
American League: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
|AL C Rank||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st|
Salvador Perez has started behind the plate for the AL side the past two seasons, and he's a lock to make it three in a row, as he is the leading vote-getter overall with 3,754,594 votes. That puts him more than two million votes ahead of Baltimore Orioles veteran Matt Wieters, who is in second.
He's enjoying a breakout season offensively with a career-best .850 OPS and remains one of the game's elite defenders, as he's thrown out 21-of-39 would-be base stealers.
National League: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
|NL C Rank||4th||3rd||3rd||4th||1st||4th||2nd||1st||1st|
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina held a 75,413-vote edge over Buster Posey when MLB updated the voting results a week ago, but that lead closed to just 5,130 in the final update as Giants fans are making a late push to get their star into the starting lineup.
Posey is not having his best offensive season, but even in a down year, he's still one of the league's most productive backstops. He's also been terrific behind the plate, where he's tossed out 17-of-29 would-be base stealers and ranks as the league's best pitch framer, per StatCorner.
American League: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
|AL 1B Rank||1st||2nd||2nd||1st||1st||4th||3rd||3rd||3rd|
Eric Hosmer has emerged as a leader on and off the field for the Royals during their recent run of success, and he'll be rewarded this season with a start in his first All-Star Game appearance. He's 549,102 votes ahead of the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera among AL first basemen.
After posting an .822 OPS with 18 home runs and 93 RBI last season, he's been even better this year. His .869 OPS ranks 18th in the AL, and he's been even more important with Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon both missing significant time.
National League: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
|NL 1B Rank||4th||2nd||1st||5th||2nd||2nd||1st||2nd||2nd|
Anthony Rizzo has more than twice as many votes (2,630,049) as San Francisco's Brandon Belt (1,233,499) as the leading vote-getter on the National League side.
The 26-year-old is a two-time All-Star, but the fans have yet to vote him a starter. However, he was in the starting lineup last year after manager Bruce Bochy chose him to serve as the designated hitter for the NL side.
There's a good chance we'll see the Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt in the starting lineup as well, despite the fact that he sits third in the voting among first basemen. He's probably the best choice to serve as DH.
American League: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
|AL 2B Rank||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||4th||3rd||2nd||1st|
There's no shortage of star power at second base in the AL with the Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano and Boston's Dustin Pedroia both having strong seasons. But Jose Altuve is in line to be a deserving starter once again with a 910,939-vote advantage over Cano.
His .348 average is tops in the AL, and he's increased his power game.
His OPS has spiked from .812 in 2015 to .984, and his 13 home runs are just two short of his career high. The 26-year-old is also showing improved patience at the plate, with his walk rate climbing from 4.8 to 10.8 percent.
National League: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
|NL 2B Rank||4th||1st||4th||4th||5th||3rd||2nd||1st||2nd|
Despite the fact that Ben Zobrist is in his age-35 season, the Cubs were quick to give him a four-year, $56 million deal during the offseason to add his veteran presence, versatility and on-base skills.
He's never started the All-Star Game before, making two previous appearances as a reserve, but that is set to change. His lead over Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals shrunk in the latest update, but he's still up by 306,934 with just days left in the balloting.
American League: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
|AL 3B Rank||1st||2nd||1st||1st||1st||2nd||5th||2nd||1st|
Despite playing more games at shortstop (45) than third base (28), Manny Machado is in line to make his first career All-Star Game start at the hot corner, where he appears on the ballot this year. He's 606,549 votes up on the Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson in the latest update.
The 23-year-old took a huge step forward offensively last season with an .861 OPS that included 30 doubles and 35 home runs, and his batting average has climbed this year from .286 to .325 as he continues his emergence as one of the game's best all-around players.
National League: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
|NL 3B Rank||6th||3rd||3rd||3rd||2nd||1st||2nd||1st||2nd|
Kris Bryant made an immediate impact in the middle of the Cubs' lineup as a rookie last season, posting an .858 OPS with 26 home runs and 99 RBI to win NL Rookie of the Year and earn a spot as a reserve on the NL All-Star team.
He's posting similar numbers this season, with the one big change being a marked improvement in his strikeout rate. After whiffing an NL-high 199 times last year, he's improved from 30.6 percent to 22.6 percent this season.
Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado might be the more deserving starter, but Bryant holds a 351,201-vote advantage. Both players figure to make the team regardless.
American League: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
|AL SS Rank||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||6th||1st||1st||2nd|
Xander Bogaerts has come a long way since turning in a relatively disappointing rookie season in 2014.
He raised his batting average from .240 in his debut to .320 last year. And he's been even better in 2016, as he leads the AL in hits (109) and is a close second to Jose Altuve in batting average (.348 to .343).
He'll be a first-time All-Star this season, and he's a lock for the starting lineup with a 1,346,380-vote edge over last year's starter, Alcides Escobar of the Royals.
Expect this to be the first of many starts for Bogaerts.
National League: Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
|NL SS Rank||10th||7th||9th||12th||9th||7th||3rd||9th||7th|
Cubs fans have been out in force when it comes to this year's All-Star voting, as they have five players on pace to start the game.
While a decent argument can be made that four of those players are deserving, it's hard to make a case for Addison Russell over the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager, St. Louis' Aledmys Diaz, Colorado's Trevor Story, San Francisco's Brandon Crawford and a handful of others.
Russell, 22, is a terrific defender and is still well ahead of the developmental curve as the second-youngest everyday player in the National League (behind Seager). He has the tools to be a fixture at the All-Star Game, but he's not deserving of the honor just yet.
However, with a 317,635-vote lead over Story, he'll be headed to San Diego as a starter.
No. 1 Outfielders
American League: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
|AL OF Rank||2nd||1st||1st||3rd||6th||4th||3rd||3rd||1st|
The Los Angeles Angels are a mess as a non-contender with a bloated payroll and a paper-thin farm system, but they still have the best player in baseball to give fans a reason to watch.
Mike Trout is once again leading all AL position players with a 4.5 WAR, and he's continued to put up terrific offensive numbers despite receiving nothing in the way of consistent lineup protection.
This will be the 24-year-old's fourth consecutive All-Star Game start, and barring injury, that streak should continue for years to come.
National League: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs
|NL OF Rank||10th||3rd||11th||18th||6th||26th||24th||11th||4th|
Dexter Fowler benefited greatly from the fact that All-Star voting begins so early in the season.
A .347/.474/.613 line over the first month put him in the spotlight early on, and he's managed to ride that hot start to leading-vote-getter status among NL outfielders.
He's hitting a more reasonable .264/.360/.423 since the start of May and is sidelined on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring, but he looks like a lock to make his first All-Star team as a starter.
No. 2 Outfielders
American League: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox
|AL OF Rank||4th||2nd||3rd||11th||5th||10th||7th||10th||3rd|
There's nothing like a 29-game hitting streak to put a player on the national stage and gain him plenty of support when it comes to All-Star voting.
That's not to say Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn't put together an All-Star-caliber season, but there's no question the exposure the streak brought has helped.
After batting just .213/.290/.349 in 785 plate appearances over his first three MLB seasons, Bradley has emerged as one of the key pieces of the Red Sox's high-powered offense, and he's a budding star at 26.
National League: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
|NL OF Rank||22nd||1st||12th||24th||30th||7th||7th||6th||11th|
It's been an odd season for Bryce Harper.
The reigning NL MVP posted a 1.121 OPS with nine home runs and 24 RBI in April. But he's struggled to find anything to hit over the past few months. He's hitting just .240/.399/.371 since the beginning of May, and the big difference has been the quality of contact.
His hard contact rate is down from 40.9 in 2015 to 32.3 percent, and his soft contact rate has shot up from 11.9 to 24.2 percent. Whether it's pitchers being more careful or Harper expanding the zone, he hasn't been the force he was a year ago.
No. 3 Outfielders
American League: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
|AL OF Rank||7th||13th||16th||7th||15th||20th||12th||13th||7th|
The narrowest of margins separated Boston's Mookie Betts (1,915,637), the Royals' Lorenzo Cain (1,821,746) and Baltimore's Mark Trumbo (1,801,969) in the final voting update, so we're banking on a late push by the Royals faithful to get Cain the starting nod.
Can was fifth among AL outfielders a week ago and trailing Betts by 31,601. So while he managed to leapfrog Trumbo, he fell further back from the third starting spot.
The 30-year-old Cain got off to a rocky start this season with a .220/.297/.293 line in April, but he's hitting .320/.354/.470 since and looks the part of an All-Star once again.
National League: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
|NL OF Rank||11th||12th||5th||14th||22nd||2nd||6th||12th||12th|
While the final AL outfield spot is a tight three-player race, Yoenis Cespedes has his position in the starting lineup on lockdown with a 763,810-vote edge over Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs for the final spot.
Cespedes has been on the All-Star team just once back in 2014, and this will be his first time starting in the Midsummer Classic. Of course, he's made his mark on All-Star Weekend in the past by winning back-to-back Home Run Derby titles in 2013 and 2014.
American League: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
|AL DH Rank||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||3rd||2nd||4th||1st|
There's a good chance fans would've given David Ortiz the sentimental vote here even if his numbers didn't warrant another All-Star Game start, as he's set to retire at the end of the season.
However, he's more than deserving of his place in the AL's starting lineup as one of the most productive hitters in all of baseball.
The 40-year-old leads the majors in slugging (.677), OPS (1.108) and doubles (30), and he's well on his way to yet another 30-homer, 100-RBI season.
His 3,400,200 votes are second only to Salvador Perez among all players and good for a 2,268,373-vote advantage over Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion.
Note: The National League manager selects his league's starting DH.
Here's where things get a bit trickier.
While fans vote on the starting position players, the starting pitcher decision is up to the manager.
Making things even harder to predict is the fact that not all pitchers will have enough rest to take the mound during the All-Star Game and each team handles that situation differently.
Some will rework the starting rotation leading up to the break to give their guy a chance to pitch in the exhibition, while others stick to the set rotation and leave their aces ineligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
We're picking the two most deserving pitchers and assuming they'll be available when July 12 rolls around.
American League: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
|AL SP Rank||1st||1st||3rd||1st||2nd||1st||4th||2nd|
Chris Sale is not the AL leader in ERA (Steven Wright, 2.18), strikeouts (David Price, 110), opponent's batting average (Marco Estrada, .168) or WAR (Danny Salazar, 3.6)
However, in terms of his all-around body of work, he's having the best season of any AL starter.
Sale has earned a spot on the AL All-Star team each of the past four seasons, but this would be his first start if manager Ned Yost gives him the nod.
National League: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
|NL SP Rank||2nd||1st||1st||1st||1st||1st||3rd||1st|
Clayton Kershaw has been an All-Star each of the past five seasons, but he's never earned the starting nod.
Chicago's Jake Arrieta, the Miami Marlins' Jose Fernandez, San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and the New York Mets' Noah Syndergaard are having terrific seasons. But there's no question Kershaw is having the best season of any NL hurler, and he deserves the start.
American League Lineup
1. LF Mike Trout, LAA
2. 2B Jose Altuve, HOU
3. SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS
4. DH David Ortiz, BOS
5. 3B Manny Machado, BAL
6. RF Lorenzo Cain, KC
7. 1B Eric Hosmer, KC
8. C Salvador Perez, KC
9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS
SP Chris Sale, CWS
National League Lineup
1. CF Dexter Fowler, CHC
2. RF Bryce Harper, WAS
3. LF Yoenis Cespedes, NYM
4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, CHC
5. DH Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
6. 3B Kris Bryant, CHC
7. C Buster Posey, SF
8. 2B Ben Zobrist, CHC
9. SS Addison Russell, CHC
SP Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless noted otherwise. Positional rankings are based on players with at least 200 plate appearances and players are only considered for the position that they appear under on the ballot.