Even though some noteworthy players were left out of the MLB All-Star Game's final elections, the fans chose commendable starting lineups. It's now up to the players and league to follow their lead.
ESPN will unveil the Midsummer Classic's full rosters Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET. The American and National League squads will each comprise 20 hitters and 12 pitchers. Rather than giving managers a chance to reward their guys, the players and the Commissioner's Office will determine the reserve position players.
While this process remains mostly unchanged, MLB eliminated the Final Vote. Those who don't make the cut—particularly pitchers filling in for unavailable peers—could still break through as injury replacements.
Given the All-Star Game's limited invites, deserving candidates are bound to end the weekend disappointed.
American League Starters
C: Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees)
1B: Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians)
2B: DJ LeMahieu (New York Yankees)
3B: Alex Bregman (Houston Astros)
SS: Jorge Polanco (Minnesota Twins)
OF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
OF: George Springer (Houston Astros)
OF: Michael Brantley (Houston Astros)
DH: Hunter Pence (Texas Rangers)
National League Starters
C: Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs)
1B: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
2B: Ketel Marte (Arizona Diamondbacks)
3B: Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
SS: Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
OF: Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers)
OF: Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles Dodgers)
OF: Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves)
How much do the players and league office value defense and plate discipline? Does a full body of work outweigh excellence in a smaller sample size? These questions will determine which AL shortstops join Jorge Polanco in Cleveland, Ohio.
One of them has to be Xander Bogaerts. His absence from the final ballot proved the fans' biggest error, as the 26-year-old's 3.7 WAR places second behind Mike Trout among all AL position players.
There may only be one more spot left for one of Tim Anderson, Adalberto Mondesi, Francisco Lindor, Gleyber Torres, Marcus Semien and Elvis Andrus.
Semien leads that group in WAR, but that's fueled by his glove and durability. With help from the Oakland Athletics' head start to 2019 in Tokyo, he leads the majors with 85 games played. The electorate, however, may not notice (or care) about his 12.5 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).
The other candidates are either injured (Mondesi and Anderson) or have recovered from missed time earlier this season (Lindor and Andrus). Torres, meanwhile, is playing second base for the New York Yankees.
Although he has drawn seven walks in 70 games, Anderson was still batting .317 with 11 homers and 15 steals before going on the injured list with an ankle sprain. An extraordinary April also puts the anchoring bias in his favor, so don't be surprised if he's selected and replaced with Lindor, Torres, Andrus or a rehabbing Mondesi.
NL 1st Basemen
Teams typically don't roster more than two reserves at any one infield position. That guarantees a handful of notable snubbed NL first basemen.
While Freddie Freeman earned his spot as a starter by slashing .310/.396/.590, nobody would have batted an eye if Josh Bell instead won the final election. He has compiled an MLB-high 70 RBI in a middling Pittsburgh Pirates lineup while brandishing the second-best weighted runs created plus (153 wRC+) of any infielder.
Despite cooling down in June, Bell is likely to make the squad and is a front-runner to start as the designated hitter. That distinction would also befit Pete Alonso, who has tied Mark McGwire for most home runs hit by a rookie (28) before July 1. He's the infielder ahead of Bell in wRC+ (160) and ranks fifth among qualified hitters in slugging percentage (.629).
It would be a shame if he got left out, but at least he's poised to take hacks in the Home Run Derby. On Friday, per Yahoo Sports' Mike Mazzeo, Alonso confirmed his participation:
Bell and Alonso making the NL squad leave no room for Rhys Hoskins and Anthony Rizzo, who boast a wRC+ of 142 and 134, respectively. It also puts Max Muncy's spot in peril.
Left off the roster amid last year's surprising breakout, the burgeoning slugger is slashing .281/.383/.550 with 20 homers and 3.2 WAR for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Having also spent considerable time at second and third base this year, the 28-year-old could (and should) sneak in at another spot.
AL Relief Pitchers
Each side typically has room for just five or six relief pitchers. That inevitably shuns a handful of dominant bullpen aces from recognition.
A particularly crowded application process is brewing in the AL. Perched atop the Junior Circuit's save leaderboard with stellar stats to match, Aroldis Chapman, Brad Hand and Shane Greene are all likely to join the festivities in Cleveland. Somebody needs to represent the Toronto Blue Jays, so a 1.29 ERA should grant Ken Giles entry despite missing two weeks with elbow inflammation.
The final call could create some contention within the Houston Astros' locker room. Possessing a 2.18 ERA and 17 saves, Roberto Osuna has a high likelihood of making the team. His inclusion, however, could come at the cost of the 2017 champion's best reliever.
One of last summer's greatest trade finds, Ryan Pressly has posted a 1.27 ERA and 0.74 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and four walks in 35.1 innings. Only Josh Hader owns a lower weighted on-base average (wOBA) than his .208, per Baseball Savant.
And that's after a rough patch, at least for his standards. Pressly hadn't relinquished a run or walk all season until May 24.
Perhaps Pressly and Osuna both join at least three elected Astros teammates—and likely two more in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole—on the roster. There's also the chance Chicago White Sox closer Alex Colome receives a nod despite a 4.12 fielding independent pitching (FIP) underlying his 2.25 ERA. That leaves no space for two unheralded gems playing a pivotal part in two small-market contenders' success.
Although just recently inserted into the closer's role, Liam Hendriks has posted a sparkling 1.42 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. Registering a 1.17 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays, Emilio Pagan also has a strong case that likely won't win.
All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise stated.