Bleacher Report's Complete 2018 AL, NL All-Star Team Predictions

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 21, 2018

Bleacher Report's Complete 2018 AL, NL All-Star Team Predictions

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    Yes, Mike Trout will be there.
    Yes, Mike Trout will be there.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Who knows what the rosters for the 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game will look like?

    As of now, nobody. But that doesn't mean we can't guess.

    Ahead are predictions for who'll be on the American League and National League squads for the Midsummer Classic on July 17. Each team must have 32 players comprised of 20 position players and 12 pitchers. There must also be at least one representative from all 30 MLB teams.

    With apologies to Shohei Ohtani and others, we'll also be overlooking stars who will be too hurt to take the field at Nationals Park.

    Otherwise, the best we can do is make guesses based on the latest voting totals for the AL and NL starters, as well as on which players deserve to be there according to their numbers, star power and/or service time.

American League Starting 9

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    J.D. Martinez (L) and Mookie Betts (R) will be there.
    J.D. Martinez (L) and Mookie Betts (R) will be there.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The starting nine for the American League will probably look like this:

    • C: Gary Sanchez, NYY
    • 1B: Jose Abreu, CHW
    • 2B: Jose Altuve, HOU
    • 3B: Jose Ramirez, CLE
    • SS: Manny Machado, BAL
    • OF: Mookie Betts, BOS
    • OF: Mike Trout, LAA
    • OF: Aaron Judge, NYY
    • DH: J.D. Martinez, BOS

    Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez don't have to worry. Each is sitting pretty in the voting, and all six have the numbers to keep the votes coming.

    Where things get interesting is at first base, shortstop and catcher.

    Jose Abreu is only 164,421 votes ahead of Mitch Moreland, who has legions of Boston Red Sox fans in his corner. But since Moreland is cooling down following a hot stretch, Abreu should ride his name recognition and solid .829 OPS to his first All-Star berth since 2014.

    It's more likely that Carlos Correa will close a 212,766-vote gap between him and Manny Machado, who's also cooling down. However, Machado is the more established star of the two. And despite his recent slump, his .929 OPS and 18 home runs still impress.

    This leaves catcher, where Tampa Bay Rays backstop Wilson Ramos is threatening to pull off an upset over New York Yankees star Gary Sanchez.

    And yet, the idea of Ramos holding on strains believability. He only leads Sanchez by 59,520 votes. Despite his .197 batting average, Sanchez should have enough clout with voters to overcome that.

American League Bench

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    It wouldn't be an All-Star party without Francisco Lindor.
    It wouldn't be an All-Star party without Francisco Lindor.Associated Press

    AL manager A.J. Hinch should have a bench that looks like this:

    • C: Salvador Perez, KCR
    • 1B: Mitch Moreland, BOS
    • 2B: Jed Lowrie, OAK
    • 3B: Eduardo Escobar, MIN
    • SS: Carlos Correa, HOU
    • SS: Francisco Lindor, CLE
    • SS: Andrelton Simmons, LAA
    • OF: Nicholas Castellanos, DET
    • OF: Mitch Haniger, SEA
    • OF: Eddie Rosario, MIN
    • DH: Shin-Soo Choo, TEX

    The hard part here is figuring out which American League shortstops will go to Washington.

    Outside of Machado and Correa, Francisco Lindor, Didi Gregorius and Xander Bogaerts are three players with name recognition and quality numbers. Andrelton Simmons and Jean Segura are lesser stars, but the two of them are having All-Star-caliber seasons as well.

    Correa and Lindor should get in via their respective star wattage. It's a toss-up after them, but the time is right for Simmons to make his first All-Star appearance. He's been famous for his defense since 2012, and he's turned himself into an elite hitter who simply doesn't strike out.

    Moreland, Shin-Soo Choo and Jed Lowrie are also positioned to be first-time All-Stars. The latter two are also the best healthy representatives for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, respectively. Likewise, Nicholas Castellanos (.832 OPS) is the best for the Detroit Tigers.

    The Minnesota Twins, meanwhile, deserve to send both Eduardo Escobar (MLB-high 46 extra-base hits) and Eddie Rosario (.938 OPS, 16 homers) to Washington. 

    Last but not least, Salvador Perez pretty much has a lifetime membership to the AL All-Star squad at this point. He should draw backup duty for Sanchez.

National League Starting 9

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    Freddie Freeman (L) and Ozzie Albies (R) will be there.
    Freddie Freeman (L) and Ozzie Albies (R) will be there.Michael Perez/Associated Press

    The National League All-Stars will probably line up like so:

    • C: Buster Posey, SFG
    • 1B: Freddie Freeman, ATL
    • 2B: Ozzie Albies, ATL
    • 3B: Nolan Arenado, COL
    • SS: Brandon Crawford, SFG
    • OF: Nick Markakis, ATL
    • OF: Bryce Harper, WAS
    • OF: Matt Kemp, LAD
    • DH: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI

    The locks here are Freddie Freeman, Brandon Crawford, Nolan Arenado, Nick Markakis, Bryce Harper and Matt Kemp. Only Kemp has pulled in fewer than a million votes, yet he's still comfortably ahead of Charlie Blackmon in the outfield race. Los Angeles Dodgers fans are sure to keep it that way.

    The most interesting race should be the one at catcher, where Buster Posey is only 90,142 votes ahead of Willson Contreras. But given Posey's recent history of earning the starting nod for the NL All-Star squad, that race is likely coming to an anticlimactic end.

    There's a better chance of Javier Baez overtaking Ozzie Albies at second base, as the latter is yet another guy whose numbers are trending down.

    Still, it doesn't seem like the best idea to underestimate the voting habits of Atlanta Braves fans. Having already gotten Freeman, Markakis and Albies this far, they're surely prepared to take them further.

    All that's left is a designated hitter, which will be up to the discretion of NL manager Dave Roberts. If he keeps hitting the way he's been hitting, Paul Goldschmidt will be an all-too-easy pick.

National League Bench

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    Christian Yelich (L) and Lorenzo Cain (R) should be there.
    Christian Yelich (L) and Lorenzo Cain (R) should be there.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    On his bench, Roberts should have:

    • C: Francisco Cervelli, PIT
    • C: J.T. Realmuto, MIA
    • 1B: Brandon Belt, SFG
    • 1B: Joey Votto, CIN
    • 2B: Scooter Gennett, CIN
    • 3B: Travis Shaw, MIL
    • 3B: Eugenio Suarez, CIN
    • SS: Trevor Story, COL
    • OF: Lorenzo Cain, MIL
    • OF: Brandon Nimmo, NYM
    • OF: Christian Yelich, MIL

    The NL brought only one reserve catcher to the 2017 All-Star Game. Two is always better than one, however, and it happens that J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli are the best representatives for the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively.

    The Cincinnati Reds should send the majority of their infield to the Midsummer Classic. Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez boast a collective .311/.395/.518 batting line.

    The Milwaukee Brewers also deserve to have three players on the NL's bench. Lorenzo Cain leads all NL position players with 3.7 WAR. Travis Shaw is showing last year's breakout was no fluke. Christian Yelich is past due for an All-Star selection, and his .836 OPS and solid all-around play should clinch one this year.

    From the NL West should come Brandon Belt, who's having a career year, and Trevor Story, who leads all NL shortstops with 16 long balls.

    Last but not least, there's Brandon Nimmo. It feels like he's flown under the radar, but a .997 OPS can only be kept secret for so long. He should get his just desserts.

American League Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber

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    Corey Kluber has more than earned an All-Star start.
    Corey Kluber has more than earned an All-Star start.Jason Miller/Getty Images

    If Hinch wants to have one of his own guys toeing the slab for the American League on July 17, he could choose either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole. The former leads the AL with a 1.60 ERA. The latter is striking out 12.3 batters per nine innings.

    If Hinch simply prefers to lead with the best pitcher the American League has, however, he'll go with Corey Kluber.

    The Cleveland Indians right-hander was a surprise success story when he won his first Cy Young Award in 2014. His dominance then became routine, and it seemed to hit a pinnacle when he won his second Cy Young with a 2.25 ERA over 203.2 innings in 2017.

    Maybe not, as it turns out. 

    All Kluber has done this season is put up a 2.10 ERA over 111.2 innings. He's struck out 113 and walked only 12. He even had a stretch where he went 46.1 innings without a walk.

    "I guess he proved he's human," Indians manager Terry Francona said after that streak snapped. "He doesn't look like it very often."

    Per his 30.7 WAR, Kluber has been by far the AL's best pitcher since his fateful 2014 season. Giving him the nod for this year's All-Star Game is an honor he very much deserves.

American League Pitchers

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    Justin Verlander should make his first All-Star Game since 2013.
    Justin Verlander should make his first All-Star Game since 2013.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Other pitchers Hinch will be able to call on should include:

    • RHP: Trevor Bauer, CLE
    • LHP: Aroldis Chapman, NYY
    • RHP: Gerrit Cole, HOU
    • RHP: Edwin Diaz, SEA
    • LHP: J.A. Happ, TOR
    • RHP: Craig Kimbrel, BOS
    • RHP: Charlie Morton, HOU
    • LHP: Chris Sale, BOS
    • RHP: Luis Severino, NYY
    • LHP: Blake Snell, TBR
    • RHP: Justin Verlander, HOU

    Verlander and Cole are all but certain to be there. The same can also be said of Chris Sale and Luis Severino, each of whom is turning in a second straight season of absolute dominance.

    Also from the AL East should come J.A. Happ and Blake Snell to represent the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. Each would be a first-time All-Star alongside Trevor Bauer and Charlie Morton, who boast sub-3.00 ERAs and elite K/9 rates.

    This leaves precious little room for actual relief pitchers in the AL's bullpen, and the picture just got thrown for a loop when Kelvin Herrera was traded over to the National League on Monday.

    Still, Aroldis Chapman and Edwin Diaz should be locks. The former for his microscopic 1.10 ERA and monstrous 15.7 K/9. The latter for his MLB-high 27 saves.

    For the final spot, A's closer Blake Treinen is probably the most deserving candidate. But it's hard to imagine him getting in over Craig Kimbrel, who's adding yet another excellent season to his legacy.

National League Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer

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    Max Scherzer, obviously.
    Max Scherzer, obviously.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Based on the numbers, the National League's starting pitcher should be Jacob deGrom. He leads MLB with a 1.51 ERA, and he has a sparkling 0.90 ERA over his last 11 starts, to boot.

    But, come on. There's simply no way that Max Scherzer isn't getting the nod. 

    If nothing else, he's a hometown hero. Scherzer joined the Washington Nationals on seven-year, $210 million contract in 2015, yet he still managed to look underpaid through his first three seasons with the team. He compiled a 2.76 ERA, struck out 828 batters and won two NL Cy Young Awards.

    Even next to all that, however, the 33-year-old righty looks better than ever in 2018.

    Through 15 starts, Scherzer has a 2.06 ERA and just 23 walks to go with an MLB-high 152 strikeouts. He's on track to rack up 300 more strikeouts than walks. Since 1901, that's something that only Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson have done.

    If he's not worthy of an All-Star start, nobody is.

National League Pitchers

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    Jacob deGrom's All-Star support should be higher than his run support.
    Jacob deGrom's All-Star support should be higher than his run support.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    After Scherzer, Roberts should be able to go to:

    • LHP: Patrick Corbin, ARI
    • RHP: Jacob deGrom, NYM 
    • LHP: Sean Doolittle, WAS
    • LHP: Josh Hader, MIL
    • LHP: Brad Hand, SDP
    • RHP: Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
    • LHP: Jon Lester, CHC
    • RHP: Miles Mikolas, STL
    • RHP: Brandon Morrow, CHC
    • RHP: Aaron Nola, PHI
    • RHP: Adam Ottavino, COL

    Indeed, the NL's bullpen should have more actual relievers in it than the AL's bullpen.

    Josh Hader should ride his historic 17.9 K/9 to his first All-Star Game. Brewers teammate Jeremy Jeffress should also make his first appearance on account of his 0.76 ERA. Adam Ottavino has a heck of an ERA in his own right at 0.83.

    Elsewhere, Brad Hand's NL-high 21 saves will probably be worth a ticket to Washington. And while neither Sean Doolittle nor Brandon Morrow boasts a truly outstanding number in any category, both are due to be rewarded for two straight seasons of excellence—health permitting, in Morrow's case.

    Before the game gets to these guys, deGrom should get the second All-Star closeup of his career. Patrick Corbin is also due for his second by way of his 117 strikeouts and solid 3.48 ERA. With a 2.28 ERA of his own, Jon Lester is in line for his fifth All-Star Game.

    In line for their first appearances, meanwhile, are Aaron Nola and Miles Mikolas. The former is breaking out with a 2.55 ERA. The latter has returned from a stint in Japan with a 2.69 ERA and an NL-low rate of one walk per nine innings.

            

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.