B/R MLB Community: Shohei Ohtani vs. J.D. Martinez, All-Star Game Roster Takes

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2021

B/R MLB Community: Shohei Ohtani vs. J.D. Martinez, All-Star Game Roster Takes

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The MLB world turned its attention to the rapidly approaching All-Star Game earlier this week when the first wave of balloting updates was released.

    There is still a lot of time for voting trends to shift before this year's Midsummer Classic on July 13, but that does little to dampen reactions from fans.

    For this week's MLB community article, we asked readers to give their best All-Star Game takes, on everything from the starting lineup to potential snubs to under-the-radar players worthy of consideration.

    Thanks to all who participated!

    Now let's get to it.


    If you'd like to have your question or hot take included in a future mailbag, be on the lookout each Tuesday afternoon for the crowdsourcing thread on the MLB stream in the B/R app.  

Starting Lineup Questions and Hot Takes

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    Brandon Crawford
    Brandon CrawfordJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    "Should Brandon Crawford start for the NL?" (@zhunt05)

    It's tough to make a case for Crawford to start over Fernando Tatis Jr., both statistically and in terms of entertainment value in a game meant to be a fun exhibition.

    • Tatis: 178 OPS+, .273/.346/.647, 30 XBH (20 HR), 2.9 WAR
    • Crawford: 143 OPS+, .253/.339/.537, 24 XBH (15 HR), 2.1 WAR

    Both deserve a spot on the NL roster, as does Washington Nationals standout Trea Turner, so don't be surprised if the NL squad has three shortstops.


    "Tyler O'Neill will start for the NL." (@Harp10)

    With Ronald Acuna Jr. (834,287 votes) running away with a starting spot in the NL outfield, it looks like a three-way race for the final two spots between Nick Castellanos (568,758), Jesse Winker (462,692) and Mookie Betts (400,202), with a steep drop-off from there to Juan Soto (195,950) in fifth.

    O'Neill has been great, and he's worthy of a reserve spot, but he has a lot of ground to make up in the voting after checking in 12th with 120,447 votes in the first update.


    "Is Jose Ramirez a guaranteed starter?" (@AthletesOfChrist)

    Far from it. He wasn't even in the top three in voting among AL third basemen. Rafael Devers (451,052 votes), Yoan Moncada (215,295) and Alex Bregman (194,765) all checked in ahead of Ramirez (139,663) in the first balloting update.

    That said, I'd be shocked if he doesn't get a reserve nod.

Potential 1st-Time All-Stars

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    Jared Walsh
    Jared WalshAshley Landis/Associated Press

    "Jared Walsh has meant more to his team than Jose Abreu or Yuli Gurriel and deserves to be the second choice at first base in the AL behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr." (@slickpan7)

    It would seem you've forgotten that Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson exists. I also don't think Walsh is having a better season than Gurriel, and being an All-Star is more about individual production than importance to your team.

    • Walsh: 146 OPS+, .291/.358/.560, 32 XBH (15 HR), 1.7 WAR
    • Gurriel: 152 OPS+, .318/.386/.529, 27 XBH (10 HR), 2.0 WAR
    • Olson: 173 OPS+, .289/.373/.600, 34 XBH (18 HR), 2.3 WAR

    Walsh is having an All-Star-caliber season, but he's likely headed for a snub.


    "Cedric Mullins should easily get in and should now be considered a top CF in the league." (@Celticfanatic)

    With Mike Trout (calf) and Byron Buxton (hip) both on the injured list, you could make a case that Mullins is the best center fielder in baseball based solely on this year's performance. The 26-year-old leads the AL with 80 hits, and he's batting .321/.391/.522 with 29 extra-base hits and 12 steals.

    The fact that he was 10th among AL outfielders in the first voting update is a travesty.


    "Adam Frazier has been the best second baseman in the NL" (@nahttodaydeath)

    No argument here. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see him check in second among NL second basemen in the early voting returns. The 29-year-old is hitting .331/.393/.467 and leading the NL in hits (85) and doubles (23). He'll be in Colorado one way or another.

Some Notable Potential Snubs

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    Isiah Kiner-Falefa
    Isiah Kiner-FalefaBrandon Wade/Associated Press

    "Matt Olson is going to get snubbed, yet he's putting up MVP numbers as of late." (@airlilman07)

    It's ridiculous that Ji-Man Choi (61,969) had more votes than Olson (59,536) in the first update, but it's also a moot point. There's no argument to be made for anyone besides Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to start at first base, and he's well on his way to being the leading vote-getter overall.

    I'd be stunned if Olson isn't one of the reserves, though.


    "Isiah Kiner-Falefa from Texas will get snubbed." (@derekulloa)

    Unfortunately, you're probably right. Xander Bogaerts is on his way to earning the starting shortstop spot, and guys like Carlos Correa, Tim Anderson and Bo Bichette all carry more name recognition in pursuit of a reserve selection. It also doesn't help that the last-place Rangers will likely only receive one representative, and starter Kyle Gibson is the best bet to fill that spot.


    "Honestly, I think Anthony Rizzo is going to get snubbed." (@jwilliams248)

    Max Muncy will probably win the starting vote, and deservedly so. However, it's a tough call on how things line up behind him among NL first basemen. Jesus Aguilar has an NL-leading 49 RBI, but he's cooled down as the season has progressed. Freddie Freeman has the name recognition and decent numbers. Pete Alonso and Rhys Hoskins are also in the mix.

    I still think Rizzo gets a reserve spot thanks to the Cubs' recent surge up the standings and the likelihood he does well in the player voting since he's one of the most well-liked players in baseball.

A Roster Dark Horse, the NL's Best Reliever and the Yankees

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    Alex Reyes
    Alex ReyesJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    "Hot Take: Max Stassi will have the lowest amount of votes by someone to make an All-Star team who wasn't a pitcher." (@striplingwarrior)

    Generally, it would be absurd to suggest a player who has tallied 73 plate appearances through his team's first 67 games could be an All-Star, but it's slim pickings among AL catchers beyond presumptive starter Salvador Perez.

    Yasmani Grandal (190 PA, 120 OPS+, 10 HR, 1.2 WAR) and Mike Zunino (154 PA, 118 OPS+, 12 HR, 1.1 WAR) are the best candidates for a reserve spot. However, Stassi is hitting .389/.463/.833 with four home runs in June, and if he can stay hot, he could play his way into the conversation. The 30-year-old is not even on the All-Star ballot, with Kurt Suzuki instead occupying the catcher spot for the Angels.


    "Is Alex Reyes the top bullpen arm for the NL?" (@ArkansasBoys)

    Nah, that would be Josh Hader.

    • Hader: 28 G, 17/17 SV, 0.65 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 15.6 K/9
    • Reyes: 31 G, 17/17 SV, 0.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 12.5 K/9

    Reyes is really good, though, and he should be included on the NL staff.


    "No Yankees should make the team except Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman. Yes, I'm a Yankees fan. It's been a rough year." (@okletsgo)

    Aaron Judge? He ranks among the AL leaders in OPS+ (151, eighth), on-base percentage (.381, ninth) and home runs (15, eighth), and there's a pretty strong case to be made that he deserves to start in the AL outfield, with Trout and Buxton both injured.

Utility Players and the All-Star Game

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    Kris Bryant
    Kris BryantGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    "The All-Star Game should have a utility spot. Look at Kris Bryant. Nobody knows what positions he plays." (@MrFoamHead)

    This year is certainly shining some additional light on the growing number of players around the league with positional flexibility.

    The term "utility player" is no longer reserved for light-hitting backups who fill a spot on the end of the bench.

    Kris Bryant is the leading vote-getter among NL third basemen, yet he has only played third base twice since April 20, splitting his time between left field (20 games), third base (17 games), right field (17 games), center field (11 games) and first base (10 games).

    Los Angeles Dodgers veteran Chris Taylor is another positionless player who's having an All-Star season, hitting .271/.387/.469 with 20 extra-base hits and 2.2 WAR while playing center field (37 games), second base (23 games), left field (nine games), shortstop (three games), third base (one game) and right field (one game).

    A more flexible ballot on which voters simply pick the eight players they think are most deserving of an All-Star spot regardless of position and starting lineups are sorted out once the voting concludes is one potential solution.

Metal Bats in the HR Derby

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    "The Home Run Derby should have metal bats." (@joshuag71)

    Metal bats. Corked bats. Juiced balls. Golf balls.

    I'm open to any and all ways to make the Home Run Derby an absolute carnival of shenanigans.

    Does anyone else remember the batting mini game in MVP Baseball 2005 when you could launch ground balls off ramps and there was a tractor roaming the warning track that you could hit for extra points?

    Let's do that too while we're at it.

    The beauty of the Home Run Derby is in its simplicity. It doesn't need gimmicks. It doesn't need a theme. It's just dudes hitting baseballs really far.

    However, I'm open to trying anything once as far as ways to potentially improve the viewer experience, including a more homer-friendly bat.

    As long as they don't bring back Chris Berman, sign me up.

Shohei Ohtani vs. J.D. Martinez

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    J.D. Martinez
    J.D. MartinezMatt Slocum/Associated Press

    "What are your thoughts on Shohei Ohtani being the leader for DH in the AL? I know it's mostly a popularity contest in the voting, but do you think he's really a better 'DH' than J.D. Martinez?" (@Kyrieisgone)

    The designated hitter spot is 100 percent about offensive production, so the easy answer is to simply compare their stats.

    • Ohtani: 250 PA, 154 OPS+, .267/.348/.606, 36 XBH (18 HR), 46 RBI
    • Martinez: 268 PA, 146 OPS+, .307/.369/.544, 30 XBH (13 HR), 41 RBI

    All-Star voting is absolutely a popularity contest, but in this case, Ohtani also deserves the starting DH spot on merit.

    His advantage in OPS+, extra-base hits, home runs and RBI despite hitting out of the No. 2 spot more than makes up for Martinez's edge in batting average and on-base percentage.

    There's not a more compelling player in baseball right now than Ohtani, and he deserves to be celebrated on a national stage. Here's hoping he gets a chance to pitch and hit against the best in the game.

    And don't worry, I'd be surprised if Martinez doesn't also find his way onto the AL roster.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.