We’re now just under a month away from MLB’s All-Star Game, my personal favorite among the major American professional sports’ all-star events (Please, kill the Pro Bowl).
MLB’s ASG is a wonderful representation of the sport, and is the one all-star exhibition where the players can play as close to 100% effort as possible. It’s a great way to showcase all-time greats as well as up and coming stars.
It doesn’t really need to be said, but the fan vote for ASG starters is flawed. Nothing is ever going to be perfect or make everyone happy, but the fan vote usually leads to at least 1-2 bewildering choices (like a few years back when a majority of the NL starters were Cubs).
Personally, I think the ASG startering should really factor in a player’s track record & pedigree just as much as a half-season of stats. For me, if there’s a toss-up between a bonafide star with a long track record of elite performance and an upstart player with a really hot first-half, the star should start.
Here are my picks to start for the American League, check out my NL picks next week:
All stats as of 6/20/19, via Baseball Reference & MLB.com
Catcher – Gary Sanchez, NYY
This is one of the easier AL picks, as Sanchez has been carrying an offense that’s been decimated by injury. He’s leading AL backstops in OPS by over 50 points to the next closest and is among the league leaders at any position with 22 home runs.
The modern catcher has been characterized by a glaring lack of offense, but Sanchez brings premium offensive talent to the position. Plus he’s a Yankee so he’s definitely getting voted in regardless.
First Base – Carlos Santana, CLE
First base in the American League is really a sad affair, with few truly elite choices. Stars like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are well past their prime (Pujols has a lower OPS than Eric Sogard; Cabrera has fewer home runs than Adalberto Mondesi) and a few young guys haven’t really produced.
With apologies to Luke Voit & Jose Abreu, who have both had respectable seasons, Santana gets the nod. In his return to ASG host Cleveland he’s done what Carlos Santana does; take walks, hit a few home runs, produce offense. I love when a host has a player starting, so I’m even more inclined to include Santana.
Second Base – Whit Merrifield, KC
With apologies to Tommy La Stella, who has been awesome with his career resurgence with the Angels, Merrifield has been one of the more underrated players in baseball the last couple years.
Second base is thin, but Merrifield has already accounted for 2 WAR with 10 HRs & 11 SBs. He doesn’t solely play second base, as he’s seen time in the KC outfield as well, but he’s the most worthy choice for this starting nod.
Third Base – Matt Chapman, OAK
This is unfortunate, as the Cleveland ASG was lined up perfectly to have Indians players starting at both 3rd and SS. That was before Jose Ramirez’s production fell off the face of the Earth, and we had to scramble for a backup plan.
Chapman is an elite defender, one of the top in all of baseball, and has produced at the plate with 17 HRs. He’s currently 6th in the AL with 3.6 WAR and the best choice to start, although Alex Bregman has been excellent as well.
Shortstop – Francisco Lindor, CLE
Shortstop is tough. Marcus Semien has turned into an elite defender and is 5th in the AL in WAR. Gleyber Torres has 17 HRs, and Jorge Polanco has been arguably the best offensive SS in baseball.
However, the game is in Cleveland, and Lindor is one of the best young stars in baseball. He missed time earlier this year and was out of the gate slowly, but he’s a plus defender and has produced offensively. Give him the start in front of the home fans.
Outfield – Mike Trout, LAA
Outfield – Mookie Betts, BOS
Outfield – George Springer, HOU
Not much needs to be said about this trio. Trout is the best player in baseball and performing as such. Betts is last year’s MVP and is top-10 this year in WAR.
Springer has been on the shelf for a few weeks, but has been fantastic at the plate and in the field this year, and should be back with plenty of time to spare before the game. All three should easily start.
Starting Pitcher – Justin Verlander, HOU
With apologies to the one AL starter who statistically has been better than Verlander, Mike Minor, Verlander is a future first-ballot HOF who is somehow having one of his best season’s to date at age 36. As long as his rest times up with starting the game, it should be Verlander trotting out to the mound on game day.
By Kyle Bandujo