Fans can decipher most of the 2016 MLB All-Star Game starting selections before Tuesday night's lineup reveal.
Based on the final update that MLB Communications provided last Monday, most of the voting leads are too sizable to erase. Tight battles are brewing in the American League's outfield and behind the National League's plate, but voters have flocked to the deserving candidates in recent weeks.
Overall, the starting lineups will look the way All-Star lineups should. There should be no easy outs on account of bad decisions from the voting populous.
It's nice when the All-Star teams are actually full of stars.
With the starters seemingly settled, let's go a step further and project each squad's All-Star Game batting order.
|AL Starting Lineup Predictions|
|1||Xander Bogaerts||SS||Red Sox|
|4||David Ortiz||DH||Red Sox|
|7||Jackie Bradley Jr.||CF||Red Sox|
|9||Mookie Betts||RF||Red Sox|
Not even Ned Yost—the manager who won a World Series despite batting Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot—can mess up this lineup.
The fans are making the Kansas City Royals skipper's job easy by selecting a group of deserving, well-rounded hitters. Catcher Salvador Perez has the lowest batting average (.281) in a lineup with five guys batting .325 or better.
Yost will love receiving a lineup full of elite contact hitters with power and speed. Then there's designated hitter David Ortiz, who is an easy choice to bat cleanup in his final All-Star Game. He deserves it, given his 1.108 OPS, more than 100 points ahead of anyone else.
When everyone is this good, the order doesn't matter much anyway.
Yost can appreciate the benefit of gaining home-field advantage in the World Series after enjoying it in each of the past two years. Per the Kansas City Star's Pete Grathoff, he understands the importance of winning this exhibition contest:
If you’ve ever been to a playoff game in Kansas City, you know that’s a home-field advantage. It’s big. It’s big for everybody, especially when you get down to the end of the season and you’re playing a big series, you want that home-field advantage. You want your fans behind you. You want to sleep in your own bed. It’s important.
Last year, Yost slotted Jose Altuve second in the No. 8 role. The Houston Astros second baseman entered the game hitting .293/.335/.412, justifying his bid afterward with a .337/.372/.512 second-half slash line.
The 26-year-old has ascended to MVP territory, hitting .355/.428/.575 with more walks (39) than strikeouts (33). Midway into 2016, he's one home run away from matching last season's career high of 15.
Last week, MLB statistician Ryan Spaeder monitored Altuve's incredible performance days before he earned his fourth four-hit game of the year:
He'll bat either No. 1 or 2, depending on whether Yost wants Trout No. 2 or 3. After Yost has spent so much time slotting a shortstop with a career .262 average in the leadoff role, Xander Bogaerts' .334 average may prove too tantalizing to resist.
A healthy Clayton Kershaw may have coerced the manager into protecting lefty Eric Hosmer, but he'll want to reward his first baseman for a strong first half at the plate. (His poor defensive metrics are an issue for another day.) Yost will also save Perez from the No. 9 spot to inject one of the Boston Red Sox's athletic outfielders at the bottom.
|NL Starting Lineup Predictions|
Despite his postseason power tear, the New York Mets made little effort to bring back Daniel Murphy. This almost certainly wasn't manager Terry Collins' call.
Management chose not to pay an erratic fielder with limited plate discipline, but the Mets skipper always featured him prominently in the batting order. Per ESPN.com's Adam Rubin last month, Collins has continued to speak fondly of Murphy, who is now wreaking havoc on the Mets with the Washington Nationals:
I'm not shocked. I've always thought Dan Murphy can win a batting title. If he took bases on balls, as we said many years ago, I think this guy was 10 walks short [instead of outs] of winning a battle title three years ago. It's in him to do that. I'm excited that he's doing well. We think the world of Dan and what he did here.
Murphy is one of several infielders who are lagging behind a Chicago Cub in the voting tally. Ben Zobrist will block second base, but Collins can reward the man who tormented the Cubs last October and sent New York to the World Series with four homers in as many games.
Choosing Murphy as the designated hitter wouldn't just be a biased token of gratitude from an old boss. Murphy sports an NL-best .346 batting average while maintaining last year's power spark, already replicating last year's career-high 14 home runs. Altuve and Ortiz are the only other hitters with more extra-base hits than strikeouts.
With Curtis Granderson serving as his leadoff man, Collins seems to understand the importance of setting the table with a patient hitter. While Zobrist isn't the flashiest All-Star, he leads all NL starters with a .406 on-base percentage. (That would change if Matt Carpenter or Paul Goldschmidt filled the DH spot.)
He'll likely want to reward Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for his 20 dingers and .571 slugging percentage, so he joins Cubs corner infielders Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo for a powerful punch. Collins might, however, rearrange the order to alternate his lefties and righties.
Yadier Molina led the latest official update, but Buster Posey soared ahead before the voting closed late Thursday night, according to MLB.com's Chris Haft. The San Francisco Giants catcher is a household name who is having a far superior season to Molina, so expect him to stay ahead in the tightest race.
After spending his rookie campaign batting No. 9 behind the pitcher, Addison Russell won't get his feelings hurt by batting at the bottom again. As the one guy in either lineup without All-Star credentials, he's lucky just to be here.