Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2021 MLB All-Star Roster
So, let's look at some key takeaways via a good ol' fashioned game of "winners and losers."
We've chosen four of each, and they cover a variety of storylines. Validation for players and teams? Yup. Surprising selections? You betcha. Notable snubs? Not to be ignored.
And so on. We'll start with takes on the starters and end with takes for the reserves.
Winner: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays
When MLB revealed which players fans had chosen to start for the American and National League squads at Coors Field on July 13, only one team had as many as three representatives: the Toronto Blue Jays.
First on the list is the club's ascendant first baseman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. At 22, he became the youngest player ever to lead the majors in All-Star votes. And it's no wonder, as he has both name recognition and stellar numbers that include league-leading marks in OBP (.440) and OPS (1.113).
Also voted in as starters were second baseman Marcus Semien and right fielder Teoscar Hernandez. The former easily leads all players at his position with 4.3 rWAR, while the latter has recently reclaimed the form of his breakout 2020 season with a .315/.358/.512 line since May 5.
Though Hernandez edged out arguably more deserving outfielders like Michael Brantley and Cedric Mullins, they should be more annoyed that Mike Trout was elected as a starter even though a calf injury has held him out of action since May 18.
Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers
And yet they netted not a single All-Star starter.
This isn't because they lacked good candidates. Right fielder Mookie Betts is a name-brand superstar in the middle of yet another strong season. First baseman Max Muncy leads the NL with a .416 OBP. They were both named to the NL reserve squad on Sunday, as was utility man Chris Taylor.
As for how to explain the Dodgers' goose egg in the All-Star starters column, a simple shrug is probably the most accurate answer anyone can give. But it's obviously not an issue pertaining to the club's market size and national appeal, so perhaps Dodgers fans simply dropped the ball on backing their guys.
Winner: Adam Frazier
After the first phase of All-Star voting, Atlanta's Ozzie Albies looked like the favorite to nab the starting second base job for the National League.
Instead, the gig went to...Adam Frazier?
The surprise there wasn't rooted in Frazier's performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates thus far in 2021. He's indeed been all sorts of fantastic in racking up a .324/.392/.462 batting line and 24 doubles, thereby establishing himself as a major bright spot in what's otherwise been a rough year for the last-place Pirates.
Rather, it was surprising that an upstart like Frazier was able to edge Albies, who's already been an All-Star and now has an .851 OPS and 15 homers in his own right. Even Frazier, who isn't much for the spotlight, had to hand it to Pittsburgh's public relations and social media teams for doing all they could to steer votes his way.
Loser: Houston Astros
On numbers alone, the Houston Astros absolutely should have had at least one All-Star starter.
Collectively, they're leading the AL West with a 52-33 record and all of MLB with a total of 29.2 rWAR. They're also the only team with five hitters who've produced at least a 139 OPS+ individually, and all five have recognizable names: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel.
But like the Dodgers, the Astros didn't net a single All-Star starter. Unlike the Dodgers, however, there would seem to be an obvious explanation for why Houston came up empty until Altuve, Correa, Brantley and closer Ryan Pressly were tabbed as reserves on Sunday.
It's only been about a year-and-a-half since the team got whacked for cheating its way to a World Series title in 2017. Even though the Astros have mostly carried on as an elite force since then, that doesn't mean fans are under any obligation to forgive or forget what they did.
Winner: Shohei Ohtani
Even before Sunday, 2021 had already been the year of Shohei Ohtani in many ways. Now here's the latest: He's the first player in MLB history to make an All-Star team as both a hitter and a pitcher.
There was never much question that the Los Angeles Angels star's bat was worthy of All-Star honors. He was the first player to commit to the Home Run Derby in June, and he entered Sunday leading the majors with 30 home runs and a .700 slugging percentage. As if on cue, he launched No. 31 Sunday afternoon.
There is more room for argument with regard to Ohtani's pitching, which is marked by a good-not-great 3.60 ERA through 12 starts. But not many can rack up strikeouts like he can, as his rate of 12.5 punchouts per nine innings ranks fifth among AL starters.
In short, baseball's best two-way player since Bullet Rogan has gotten exactly what he deserves.
Loser: Justin Turner
Between the starters and the reserves for the American and National League squads, the voters and the players mostly got it right.
Save, perhaps, for one notable snub on the position-player side of the spectrum: Justin Turner.
Even at 36 years old, the Dodgers third baseman is still swinging a strong stick to the tune of a .295/.387/.484 batting line and 13 home runs. Per his 143 OPS+, he's the fourth-best offensive infielder in the National League this season.
He thus has a gripe that he's not an All-Star and quite a few guys below him on that list—including fellow third baseman Nolan Arenado—will be in Denver next week. He can likewise cast a sideways glance at sometimes-third baseman Kris Bryant, who made the NL All-Star squad in spite of a weeks-long slump.
Winner: Carlos Rodon
On numbers alone, it's not surprising that Carlos Rodon is an All-Star. Indeed, he's perhaps the most deserving All-Star of the seven starters who made the cut for the AL team.
Out of all the players who are set to descend upon Denver on July 12, the Chicago White Sox left-hander might also be the happiest one to be there.
It has, after all, been a hard road for Rodon. He was a high draft pick in 2014 and a top prospect when he debuted in 2015, but his career was initially derailed by shoulder surgery in 2017 and then put in further jeopardy by Tommy John surgery in 2019. Come last December, the White Sox even non-tendered him.
Eventually, the White Sox re-signed Rodon in February, and he promptly overhauled his delivery with help from pitching coach Ethan Katz. He went on to pitch a no-hitter in his second start of 2021, and he now has a 2.37 ERA and an AL-best rate of 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Loser: Freddy Peralta
The Milwaukee Brewers have mostly been carried by their pitching this season, so it's appropriate that they're sending three hurlers to Denver: starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff and closer Josh Hader.
But what about Freddy Peralta?
Even though he's somehow managed to stay off the national radar, his numbers are worthy of the NL Cy Young Award race, much less the All-Star squad. Through 16 appearances that span 87 innings, he's rocking a 2.17 ERA and a .132 opponents' batting average that ranks second to only Jacob deGrom.
To be sure, Peralta almost certainly will end up on the NL All-Star squad by way of an injury or some other withdrawal. It's nonetheless baffling that he's not already ticketed for Coors Field.