Way-Too-Early MLB All-Star Game 2021 Roster Picks

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2021

Way-Too-Early MLB All-Star Game 2021 Roster Picks

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    It's never too early to start predicting what the 2021 MLB All-Star Game rosters will look like.

    A little over a month into the season, we put together our way-too-early view on how the Midsummer Classic might take shape if the game were played today.

    Using the 32-player roster format that was implemented in 2018, we assembled our American League and National League teams based solely on 2021 performances. Voting trends and popularity did not factor in to these decisions. We simply picked the 32 players who are most deserving while sticking to the rule of including at least one player from every team.

    For consistency, each roster was made up of 20 position players and 12 pitchers, with at least one backup for each position.

    We also highlighted three notable snubs from each league, since the players who don't get selected are often a bigger story than the ones who do.

    Off we go!

American League Starting Lineup

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    1. CF Byron Buxton, MIN
    2. 3B Jose Ramirez, CLE
    3. RF Mike Trout, LAA
    4. DH J.D. Martinez, BOS
    5. 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR
    6. SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS
    7. 2B Nick Solak, TEX
    8. C Salvador Perez, KC
    9. LF Cedric Mullins, BAL
    SP John Means, BAL

          

    Mike Trout (.380/.496/.728, 16 XBH) and Byron Buxton (.370/.408/.772, 19 XBH) are the American League MVP front-runners, and they are no-brainer choices for spots in the starting lineup.

    They're joined by a third center fielder in Cedric Mullins, who is hitting .320/.378/.525 with 39 hits, 10 doubles and five home runs in a breakout season. That group would cover some ground defensively.

    Catcher Salvador Perez (125 OPS+, 7 HR), shortstop Xander Bogaerts (176 OPS+, 16 XBH) and third baseman Jose Ramirez (151 OPS+, 9 HR) are no strangers to the AL starting lineup, and they once again rank among the most productive players at their positions.

    Slugger J.D. Martinez struggled to a .213 average and 81 OPS+ last year, but he has bounced back in a big way. The 33-year-old has at least a share of the league lead in doubles (10), home runs (10), RBI (31), runs (28) and total bases (80).

    This could be the first of many All-Star nods for first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.330/.465/.592, 7 HR) and second baseman Nick Solak (131 OPS+, 7 HR). They have taken significant steps forward after showing flashes early in their careers.

    John Means would be the first Baltimore Orioles pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Steve Stone in 1980. After tossing a no-hitter his last time out, he leads AL starters in WHIP (0.67) and WAR (2.2) while ranking second in ERA (1.37).

American League Reserves (Position Players)

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    Alex Verdugo
    Alex VerdugoJeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    C Kyle Higashioka, NYY
    1B Matt Olson, OAK
    1B/OF Jared Walsh, LAA
    2B Luis Arraez, MIN
    3B Rafael Devers, BOS
    SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, TEX
    OF Michael Brantley, HOU
    OF Alex Verdugo, BOS
    DH Yermin Mercedes, CWS
    DH Giancarlo Stanton, NYY
    DH/SP Shohei Ohtani, LAA

         

    Four designated hitters on the AL roster?

    It's simply impossible to ignore the numbers Yermin Mercedes (.386 BA, 196 OPS+), Giancarlo Stanton (175 OPS+, 9 HR, 23 RBI) and Shohei Ohtani (165 OPS+, 10 HR) have put up, and a case can be made that Yordan Alvarez, Nelson Cruz and Franmil Reyes are also worthy of inclusion.

    Meanwhile, AL catchers have been weak enough that Kyle Higashioka earned the backup spot after playing only 16 games.

    He's one of a number of potential first-time selections who are slugging their way into the All-Star conversation, joining Matt Olson (160 OPS+, 7 HR, 20 RBI), Jared Walsh (171 OPS+, 6 HR, 22 RBI) and Alex Verdugo (147 OPS+, 12 XBH).

    Middle infielders Luis Arraez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are playing their way onto the roster for the first time in other ways. Arraez is posting an excellent .398 on-base percentage to go with his usual elite contact skills, while Kiner-Falefa has tallied 5 defensive runs saved already in his first year as an everyday shortstop to go with a 114 OPS+ at the plate.

    Veteran left fielder Michael Brantley (139 OPS+, 14 XBH) and rising star Rafael Devers (157 OPS+, 7 HR, 24 RBI) rounded out the reserves.

American League Reserves (Pitchers)

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    Tyler Glasnow
    Tyler GlasnowPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    SP Shane Bieber, CLE
    SP Matthew Boyd, DET
    SP Gerrit Cole, NYY
    SP Danny Duffy, KC
    SP Tyler Glasnow, TB
    SP Carlos Rodon, CWS
    RP Aroldis Chapman, NYY
    RP Emmanuel Clase, CLE
    RP Kendall Graveman, SEA
    RP James Karinchak, CLE
    RP Ian Kennedy, TEX

         

    With elite strikeout numbers and general dominance, the trio of Gerrit Cole (1.61 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 66 K, 44.2 IP), Shane Bieber (2.98 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 77 K, 48.1 IP) and Tyler Glasnow (2.06 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 64 K, 43.2 IP) were All-Stars as expected.

    Far less expected has been the performance of a trio of veteran southpaws in the AL Central.

    Danny Duffy (1.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 40 K, 35.2 IP) is showing out in a contract year, Matthew Boyd (2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 24 K, 35.2 IP) is pitching to contact more than he has in the past and finding newfound success, and Carlos Rodon (0.72 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 36 K, 25 IP) has made the most of his second chance with the Chicago White Sox after they non-tendered him in the offseason.

    Narrowing down the field of deserving relievers was extremely difficult.

    Aroldis Chapman has struck out 26 of the 38 batters he's faced while nailing down seven saves, James Karinchak has been similarly overpowering with just three hits allowed and 30 strikeouts in 15 innings, and Ian Kennedy has converted all nine of his save chances with a career-high 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Those three were no-brainers.

    Kendall Graveman was the lone representative for the Seattle Mariners but a deserving one with just three hits allowed in 13.1 scoreless innings with three saves and three holds.

    The final spot went to flame-thrower Emmanuel Clase who has yet to allow an earned run in 14.1 innings while tallying six saves as Cleveland's new closer.

3 Biggest AL Snubs

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    Nelson Cruz
    Nelson CruzCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    RP Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

    With seven saves in seven chances and a staggering 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings, Barnes has been one of baseball's elite bullpen arms this year. The 30-year-old is in his first full season as Boston's closer after serving mostly as a setup man in years past, and he was simply the victim of a numbers crunch in the AL bullpen.

         

    DH Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins

    The number of designated hitters worthy of a spot on the AL roster has been staggering. While others like Giancarlo Stanton (outfield), Yermin Mercedes (catcher) and Shohei Ohtani (pitcher) can be utilized at other positions, Cruz is a DH only at this point in his career. His .300/.354/.580 line and eight home runs are All-Star worthy, but there just wasn't a spot for him on the roster.

         

    OF Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics

    One of baseball's true five-tool players, Laureano ranks among the best defensive center fielders and sports a 144 OPS+ with seven home runs and eight stolen bases. The 26-year-old is going to be an All-Star in the near future, and he still has plenty of time to play his way onto the roster this year.

American League Team-by-Team Breakdown

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    Giancarlo Stanton
    Giancarlo StantonFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    BAL (2): CF Cedric Mullins, SP John Means

    BOS (4): 3B Rafael Devers, SS Xander Bogaerts, OF Alex Verdugo, DH J.D. Martinez

    CWS (2): DH Yermin Mercedes, SP Carlos Rodon

    CLE (4): 3B Jose Ramirez, SP Shane Bieber, RP Emmanuel Clase, RP James Karinchak

    DET (1): SP Matthew Boyd

    HOU (1): OF Michael Brantley

    KC (2): C Salvador Perez, SP Danny Duffy

    LAA (3): 1B/OF Jared Walsh, OF Mike Trout, DH/SP Shohei Ohtani

    MIN (2): 2B Luis Arraez, OF Byron Buxton

    NYY (4): C Kyle Higashioka, DH Giancarlo Stanton, SP Gerrit Cole, RP Aroldis Chapman

    OAK (1): 1B Matt Olson

    SEA (1): RP Kendall Graveman

    TB (1): SP Tyler Glasnow

    TEX (3): 2B Nick Solak, SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, RP Ian Kennedy

    TOR (1): 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

National League Starting Lineup

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    Ronald Acuna Jr.
    Ronald Acuna Jr.John Bazemore/Associated Press

    1. SS Trea Turner, WAS
    2. CF Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
    3. 3B Kris Bryant, CHC
    4. RF Bryce Harper, PHI
    5. DH Nick Castellanos, CIN
    6. LF Jesse Winker, CIN
    7. C Buster Posey, SF
    8. 1B Max Muncy, LAD
    9. 2B Jazz Chisholm, MIA
    SP Jacob deGrom, NYM

        

    There is simply no argument to exclude Ronald Acuna Jr. (.324/.419/.685, 10 HR), Jesse Winker (.359/.422/.641, 13 XBH) and Trea Turner (142 OPS+, 7 HR, 7 SB) from the starting lineup.

    With an NL-leading .446 on-base percentage, Bryce Harper (189 OPS+, 6 HR) is approaching no-brainer territory as well, and the same goes for Kris Bryant (194 OPS+, 21 XBH, 1.7 WAR), who leads the NL in doubles (12) and OPS+.

    The job that Buster Posey has done handling one of the best pitching staffs in baseball is worthy of recognition, and it doesn't hurt that he's hitting .394/.449/.732 with seven home runs in 20 games. He got the nod in a stacked NL catcher battle.

    At first base, Max Muncy has a .422 on-base percentage and 141 OPS+ thanks to an NL-leading 29 walks, and that helped separate him from Jesus Aguilar, Pete Alonso and some of the other sluggers at the position. The DH spot went to Nick Castellanos (158 OPS+, 9 HR, 20 RBI), in part to help declutter a crowded outfield.

    The toughest decision was at second base, where there is no standout. Kolten Wong could be the guy eventually, but he missed enough time early on to be overlooked this time around. Instead, rookie Jazz Chisholm Jr. (154 OPS+, 4 HR, 7 SB) was the pick, though he's on the injured list.

    Was there any question Jacob deGrom (0.51 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 59 K, 35 IP) would be the starting pitcher?

National League Reserves (Position Players)

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    Justin Turner
    Justin TurnerMorry Gash/Associated Press

    C Carson Kelly, ARI
    C Omar Narvaez, MIL
    1B Jesus Aguilar, MIA
    1B Pete Alonso, NYM
    2B Tommy Edman, STL
    3B Evan Longoria, SF
    3B Justin Turner, LAD
    SS Trevor Story, COL
    OF Trent Grisham, SD
    OF Brandon Nimmo, NYM
    OF Bryan Reynolds, PIT

         

    NL catchers are a loaded group, and Carson Kelly (.323/.477/.645, 6 HR) and Omar Narvaez (.368/.443/.529, 3 HR) are putting up numbers good enough to earn All-Star Game starts in most years.

    Sluggers Jesus Aguilar (140 OPS+, 6 HR, 24 RBI) and Pete Alonso (145 OPS+, 5 HR) would be All-Stars for the second time at one infield corner, while Evan Longoria (156 OPS+, 10 XBH) and Justin Turner (181 OPS+, 7 HR, 22 RBI) have a combined four All-Star appearances at the hot corner.

    It's shaping up to be a long season for the Colorado Rockies, but shortstop Trevor Story (134 OPS+, 15 XBH) has at least been a bright spot.

    The versatile Tommy Edman leads the NL with 39 hits and has done a terrific job stepping into the leadoff spot in the St. Louis Cardinals lineup after taking over for Kolten Wong at second base.

    In the outfield, Trent Grisham (158 OPS+, 9 XBH, 6 SB) and Brandon Nimmo (.430 OBP, 6 XBH) were easy picks for reserve spots, while Bryan Reynolds (134 OPS+, 11 2B) is quietly having a nice bounce-back season with the Pittsburgh Pirates following a disappointing 2020.

National League Reserves (Pitchers)

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    Corbin Burnes
    Corbin BurnesGregory Bull/Associated Press

    SP Trevor Bauer, LAD
    SP Corbin Burnes, MIL
    SP Yu Darvish, SD
    SP Anthony DeSclafani, SF
    SP Kevin Gausman, SF
    SP Joe Musgrove, SD
    SP Trevor Rogers, MIA
    SP Brandon Woodruff, MIL
    RP Josh Hader, MIL
    RP Mark Melancon, SD
    RP Richard Rodriguez, PIT

         

    Trevor Bauer (2.44 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 58 K, 44.1 IP) and Yu Darvish (2.27 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 57 K, 43.2 IP) have picked up right where they left off after finishing first and second in NL Cy Young Award voting last year, while Corbin Burnes (1.53 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 49 K, 29.1 IP) has been even better than he was a year ago when he checked in sixth in the balloting.

    Right-hander Brandon Woodruff (1.73 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 51 K, 41.2 IP) is the best No. 2 starter in baseball, and Joe Musgrove (2.38 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 47 K, 34 IP) is actually the No. 3 for the San Diego Padres, but they have pitched well enough to be deserving of spots on the NL staff.

    The biggest surprises this season have been Miami Marlins rookie Trevor Rogers (1.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 44 K, 33 IP) and the one-two punch of Kevin Gausman (2.04 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 40 K, 39.2 IP) and Anthony DeSclafani (2.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 33 K, 36 IP) for the San Francisco Giants rotation, which lead the majors with a 2.78 ERA.

    That leaves just three spots for bullpen arms.

    Mark Melancon (11/11 SV, 0.60 ERA, 0.47 WHIP) leads the majors in saves, Josh Hader (7/7 SV, 0.84 ERA, 16.0 K/9) has been his usual dominant self, and Richard Rodriguez (5/5 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.16 WHIP) has allowed just one hit and one walk while facing 39 batters.

3 Biggest National League Snubs

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    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    C J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies

    Realmuto is having the best offensive season of his career, hitting .291/.392/.477 for a 142 OPS+ in the first season of a five-year, $115.5 million deal. He would be an easy choice to start at catcher for the AL, but he instead shares a league with Carson Kelly, Omar Narvaez and Buster Posey, who are off to phenomenal starts.

         

    SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

    After a down year in 2020, Scherzer is back to elite form with a 2.54 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 39 innings. The 36-year-old already has seven All-Star appearances under his belt, and there are a number of potential first-timers off to better starts, so for now he's on the outside looking in.

         

    SP Huascar Ynoa, Atlanta Braves

    Injuries opened up a spot for Ynoa in the rotation, and he has responded by going 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 34.1 innings. The 22-year-old is also 5-for-13 with one double and two home runs at the plate, so he could be the NL squad's answer to Shohei Ohtani.

National League Team-by-Team Breakdown

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    Yu Darvish
    Yu DarvishGregory Bull/Associated Press

    ARI (1): C Carson Kelly

    ATL (1): OF Ronald Acuna Jr.

    CHC (1): 3B Kris Bryant

    CIN (2): OF Nick Castellanos, OF Jesse Winker

    COL (1): SS Trevor Story

    LAD (3): 1B Max Muncy, 3B Justin Turner, SP Trevor Bauer

    MIA (3): 1B Jesus Aguilar, 2B Jazz Chisholm, SP Trevor Rogers

    MIL (4): C Omar Narvaez, SP Corbin Burnes, SP Brandon Woodruff, RP Josh Hader

    NYM (3): 1B Pete Alonso, OF Brandon Nimmo, SP Jacob deGrom

    PHI (1): OF Bryce Harper

    PIT (2): OF Bryan Reynolds, RP Richard Rodriguez

    SD (4): OF Trent Grisham, SP Yu Darvish, SP Joe Musgrove, RP Mark Melancon

    SF (4): C Buster Posey, 3B Evan Longoria, SP Anthony DeSclafani, SP Kevin Gausman

    STL (1): 2B Tommy Edman

    WAS (1): SS Trea Turner

       

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs and accurate through Thursday's games.

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