Bleacher Report's Complete 2019 AL, NL All-Star Teams Predictions
It's nearly time for the 2019 Major League Baseball season to take a break for the All-Star Game, but who'll be headed to Progressive Field is still anyone's guess.
We've made predictions for which players will be suiting up for the American League and National League All-Star squads on July 9. Each team had to have 32 players, with 20 position players and 12 pitchers per side. Plus, each of MLB's 30 teams needed to have at least one representative.
Otherwise, we had to settle for making educated guesses.
For starters, this meant reckoning with a new fan voting system—for which the "Primary Round" of selecting finalists at each position ends on Friday—that's more complicated than the old one. For reserves, it meant weighing which players might get the approval of their peers and of the commissioner's office.
Note: All stats are current through Sunday, June 16.
American League Starting 9
If the latest voting update is any indication, the American League's starting could look like this:
- C: Gary Sanchez, NYY
- 1B: Luke Voit, NYY
- 2B: Jose Altuve, HOU
- 3B: Alex Bregman, HOU
- SS: Jorge Polanco, MIN
- OF: Mike Trout, LAA
- OF: George Springer, HOU
- OF: Mookie Betts, BOS
- DH: J.D. Martinez, BOS
Although the votes they've gotten in the "Primary Round" won't carry over to the "Starters Election" round, Gary Sanchez, Alex Bregman, Mike Trout, George Springer and J.D. Martinez are looking like significant fan favorites. To boot, each is enjoying an All-Star-caliber season.
Of course, Springer is currently on the injured list with a strained hamstring. According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, however, the 29-year-old is nearing his return to the Houston Astros.
Ditto for Jose Altuve, who's also been out with a hamstring strain. Once the 2017 AL MVP is back on the field, his sheer star power could elevate him in a tight race at second base.
Reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts faces a more difficult battle for the final outfield spot, but he'll probably rally in the next round of the voting. Thanks to his impressive numbers (i.e., an .888 OPS and 17 home runs) and high visibility in New York, Luke Voit should hang on at first base.
The hardest call here is at shortstop, where Jorge Polanco has a seemingly tenuous lead over a laundry list of luminaries. But since Polanco's numbers—he trails only Trout in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference—set him apart, he gets our vote.
American League Bench
As for which players AL manager Alex Cora will have on his bench, here's our best guess:
- C: Robinson Chirinos, HOU
- 1B: Daniel Vogelbach, SEA
- 2B: Tommy La Stella, LAA
- 3B: Hunter Dozier, KCR
- SS: Xander Bogaerts, BOS
- SS: Francisco Lindor, CLE
- OF: Michael Brantley, HOU
- OF: Trey Mancini, BAL
- OF: Joey Gallo, TEX
- OF: Austin Meadows, TBR
- DH: Edwin Encarnacion, NYY
Now that AL home run leader Edwin Encarnacion is a New York Yankee, Daniel Vogelbach's .929 OPS and 17 homers make him the obvious choice to represent the Seattle Mariners.
For that matter, Trey Mancini (.936 OPS, 16 homers) is the easy pick for the Baltimore Orioles. As he nears his return from a chest injury, Hunter Dozier (.987 OPS, 11 homers) is likewise the best for the Kansas City Royals.
Elsewhere, Joey Gallo (health permitting), Xander Bogaerts and Austin Meadows figure to get in on the strength of their outstanding all-around production. Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley have had better years, but both are well-respected veterans worthy of selection this season.
More than one catcher might get the nod to back up Sanchez, but Robinson Chirinos is the best choice. He had some good years with the Texas Rangers, and he's now gracing the Astros with a career-best .887 OPS.
It would be ideal if both Tommy La Stella and Brandon Lowe made the club as backup infielders. But since La Stella has comparable offensive numbers and more service time than Lowe, he may have the inside track to Cleveland.
National League Starting 9
Based on the latest voting, the National League's starting nine could look like this:
- C: Willson Contreras, CHC
- 1B: Josh Bell, PIT
- 2B: Mike Moustakas, MIL
- 3B: Nolan Arenado, COL
- SS: Javier Baez, CHC
- OF: Cody Bellinger, LAD
- OF: Christian Yelich, MIL
- OF: Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
- DH: Pete Alonso, NYM
At least to this point, it looks like fans really want to see Willson Contreras, Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich in the NL's starting lineup.
Given the kind of star power they're working with, we're thinking that won't change in the Starters Election round. It's especially safe to say that about Bellinger and Yelich, who have wasted no time in turning the NL MVP race into a two-horse affair.
At first base, Josh Bell is in position for an underdog victory over Anthony Rizzo and Freddie Freeman. Bell may indeed finish it off if he keeps up a breakout season that's produced a 1.041 OPS and an MLB-high 49 extra-base hits.
Ozzie Albies (second base) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (outfield) will need Atlanta Braves fans to come out in force if they want to hold on to their current voting advantages. Albies will be in trouble opposite Mike Moustakas in the next round of voting, however, as Moustakas has significantly better numbers.
The last item on the checklist is handpicking a designated hitter for the National League. There's no better choice than Pete Alonso, who's hit plenty of rockets en route to a .951 OPS and 23 homers.
National League Bench
National League manager Dave Roberts' bench, meanwhile, could look like this:
- C: Jorge Alfaro, MIA
- C: Yasmani Grandal, MIL
- 1B: Freddie Freeman, ATL
- 1B: Anthony Rizzo, CHC
- 3B: Anthony Rendon, WAS
- SS: Paul DeJong, STL
- INF: Howie Kendrick, WAS
- INF/OF: Kris Bryant, CHC
- INF/OF: Ketel Marte, ARI
- OF: Charlie Blackmon, COL
- OF: Bryan Reynolds, PIT
Only Jorge Alfaro and Paul DeJong are here as representatives of otherwise All-Star-less clubs. And it's debatable whether they're even the best picks for the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.
The rest of this is list is plenty debatable in its own right, but it seems safe to print tickets to Cleveland for Yasmani Grandal, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon.
Generally, each fits comfortably under the "established veteran" and "great season" umbrellas. To wit, all six boast an OPS of at least .930, and they've hit 100 home runs between them.
For their part, neither Ketel Marte nor Bryan Reynolds has anything even close to an All-Star track record. Yet Marte's breakout year includes a .906 OPS and 20 homers. Albeit over only 51 games, Reynolds' breakout includes a .361 average and .978 OPS.
This just leaves Howie Kendrick, whose first and only All-Star appearance happened all the way back in 2011. But with a .986 OPS and 12 homers, the 35-year-old veteran is certainly earning a second.
American League Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
When it's time to choose a starter for the Midsummer Classic, Alex Cora might favor Mike Minor, Charlie Morton, Lucas Giolito or Jake Odorizzi.
Or, he could make the easy choice and give the start to Justin Verlander.
The 36-year-old right-hander has the credentials for it. He's been pitching in the major leagues since 2005, and his resume includes seven All-Star nods, a Cy Young Award and an MVP.
But more to the point, Verlander has never been better than he is right now. Through 15 starts, he boasts a 2.41 ERA with 125 strikeouts and only 19 walks over 100.2 innings. Notably, he's allowed an AL-low .152 batting average.
In light of all this, Verlander's second career All-Star start would be well-deserved.
American League Pitchers
The rest of the AL's pitching staff could be comprised of:
- LHP: Aroldis Chapman, NYY
- RHP: Gerrit Cole, HOU
- RHP: Lucas Giolito, CHW
- RHP: Shane Greene, DET
- LHP: Brad Hand, CLE
- LHP: Mike Minor, TEX
- RHP: Frankie Montas, OAK
- RHP: Charlie Morton, TBR
- RHP: Jake Odorizzi, MIN
- RHP: Ryan Pressly, HOU
- RHP: Marcus Stroman, TOR
Even if he doesn't beat out Justin Verlander for starting honors, Lucas Giolito will at least make the team as the Chicago White Sox's sole representative. He's earned it (and then some) with his AL-best 2.22 ERA.
Frankie Montas and Marcus Stroman are fellow starters who also deserve to be their club's sole All-Star representative. Matthew Boyd or Spencer Turnbull should arguably get that honor for the Detroit Tigers, but Shane Greene has an AL-high-tying 20 saves and a 0.96 ERA to support his case.
Brad Hand also has 20 saves, and both he and Ryan Pressly are with Greene in the sub-1.00 ERA club. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, is doing his usual thing in posting 18 saves, a 1.35 ERA and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
This pitching roster otherwise reads like a who's who of the Junior Circuit's top starters in 2019.
Jake Odorizzi (2.24), Charlie Morton (2.37) and Mike Minor (2.64) are among the American League's early ERA standouts. Gerrit Cole is lagging behind at 3.67, but his 13.9 strikeouts-per-nine rate is on track to set a new single-season record.
National League Starting Pitcher: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sure, Dave Roberts could choose somebody other than Hyun-Jin Ryu to start the All-Star Game for the National League.
But why would he?
Out of all the great pitchers in the Senior Circuit right now, Ryu is the only one with an ERA as low as 1.26. He's also done the seemingly impossible by striking out 80 more batters than he's walked in only 93 innings.
One thing the 32-year-old left-hander can't do is light up the radar gun, as he sits at only 90.5 mph with his fastball. But anyone who watches him closely will see a legit five-pitch pitcher who's a master at toying with hitters.
This would also be a chance for an international splash, as Ryu would be the first Korean-born pitcher to ever start in the MLB All-Star Game.
National League Pitchers
Here's who else Roberts may be able to call to the mound:
- RHP: Luis Castillo, CIN
- RHP: Zach Eflin, PHI
- RHP: Zack Greinke, ARI
- LHP: Josh Hader, MIL
- LHP: Cole Hamels, CHC
- RHP: Greg Holland, ARI
- RHP: Max Scherzer, WAS
- LHP: Will Smith, SFG
- RHP: Mike Soroka, ATL
- LHP: Felipe Vazquez, PIT
- RHP: Kirby Yates, SDP
Luis Castillo has a 2.20 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 81.2 innings, so he'd be a cinch for the NL All-Star squad even if he wasn't the best choice to represent the Cincinnati Reds.
Likewise, Will Smith is the best pick for the San Francisco Giants on account of his 2.20 ERA and 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine rate. It feels like the Philadelphia Phillies should have more than one All-Star, but Zach Eflin (2.81 ERA) is the only Phillie who's having a truly outstanding season.
Speaking of outstanding seasons, 2019 has been more of the same from Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Josh Hader and Felipe Vazquez. It's also been a return to form for Greg Holland. He only has 10 saves, yet he's dominated with a 1.99 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Yates, meanwhile, has established himself as the NL's top reliever for 2019. He's saved an NL-high 24 games, and he's done so with a 1.20 ERA and a whopping 15.3 strikeouts per nine.
Given his somewhat small sample size and lack of eye-popping peripherals, Mike Soroka may ultimately be snubbed. Alternatively, his 1.92 ERA will pave his way to Cleveland.