The MLB All-Star game has been subject to both praise and scrutiny as it’s more polarizing than ever with the league moving the game from Atlanta to Denver due to the new voting laws passed in Georgia. Yet, the game looks to be more stacked than ever with talent. Among All-Star game starters, Kevin Cash and Dave Roberts will order a number of first timers in the lineup such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Adam Frazier and Marcus Semien. Others are perennial performers in the storied past of the All-Star game such as Buster Posey, Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman. The starters are as followed:
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals.
1st Base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Blue Jays.
2nd Base: Marcus Semien, Blue Jays.
SS: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox.
3rd Base: Rafael Devers, Red Sox.
Outfield: Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays; Mike Trout, Angels; Aaon Judge, Yankees.
DH: Shohei Ohtani, Angels.
Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants.
1st Base: Freddie Freeman, Braves.
2nd Base: Adam Frazier, Pirates.
SS: Fernando Tatis. Jr., Padres.
3rd Base: Nolan Arenado, Cardinals.
Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves; Nick Castellanos, Reds; Jesse Winker, Reds.
On July 4th, the league announced the initial reserves for the game. The story is that of Shohei Ohtani, who will be the first player elected in All-Star history as both a hitter and player. Voted in as a DH by the fans, Ohtani is slashing a gaudy .278/.367/.700 heading into today, and hit his league-leading 31st homerun today. As a pitcher, he has a 3.60 ERA in 60 innings of work on the mound. Angels’ manager Joe Maddon noted that he would love to see Ohtani hit and pitch in the mid-summer classic.
Among other American League pitchers is Indians’ Shane Bieber, the reigning Cy Young recipient who will not be active for the game. Players such as Bieber (as well as Mike Trout and Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber) will be replaced at a later date due to their IL stints. These rosters are not official. Bieber, who won All-Star Game MVP in 2019, has a 3.28 ERA on the season in 90 1/3rd innings of work. Among first time starters in the American League, Kyle Gibson leads the pack. Gibson is one of three selections from the Texas Rangers and the early Cy Young favorite in the American League. Gibson, likely to be dealt by the end of the month, has an AL-best 1.98 ERA to coincide with his stellar 4.4 WAR and incredible 226 ERA+. Another first time selection is Carlos Rodon of the White Sox, who capped a crazy breakout first half with a no-hitter against the Indians. The 28 year old has a 2.37 ERA so far in the 2021 campaign. His teammate, Lance Lynn, is an All-Star for the first time since 2012. Lynn, who has a 211 ERA+ and 2.02 ERA, is also in the conversation for AL Cy Young so far. Among first timers is the sole Seattle Mariner, Yusei Kikuchi, whose 3.18 ERA ranks eighth in the American League. Nathan Eovaldi of the Red Sox also made his first ever All-Star team.
Other selections for American League pitching include Gerrit Cole (Yankees), Liam Hendriks (White Sox) and Ryan Pressly (Astros). Perhaps the most alarming All-Star selection is that of Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman, who after today’s implosion is up to a 4.71 ERA on the season and has been one of the worst relievers in baseball. This will be Chapman’s seventh All-Star game dating back to his time with the Cincinnati Reds, proving that it’s known star power over production value. Rounding out the selection for the relief corps is Gregory Soto. Soto is the only Tiger so far to be invited to the game. Despite the surprise nod, Soto has warranted it with a 2.18 ERA in 35 appearances. 31 year old Red Sox righty Matt Barnes also made his first All-Star game.
In the position player pool, the American League is deep. Former AL MVP Jose Altuve as well as double play teammate Carlos Correa were once again chosen to be AL All-Stars. First base is well represented, with Jared Walsh and Matt Olson being chosen as first time selectees, respectively. Walsh, who walked off Aroldis Chapman just a few nights ago with a grand slam, was drafted in the 39th round of the 2015 draft. A great story, Walsh has hit to a .909 OPS with extended playing time in 2021 for the Angels. Surprisingly never an All-Star previously, Matt Olson of the A’s is a sabermetric darling, with a 159 OPS+ and 2.8 WAR. Olson, perhaps, would be the favorite for MVP if Ohtani wasn’t on an entirely different planet. The backup designated hitter is Nelson Cruz, the Twins only representative. This is the fourth different club that Cruz has been an All-Star with. Cruz has slashed .306/.381/.571 this season with 18 homeruns in his age 40 campaign.
Rounding out the infield, Bo Bichette of the Blue Jays has his first selection, while Indians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez has his third. The backup catcher is also a first time selectee and the only selectee thus far for the defending American League Champions. Mike Zunino, despite his seemingly awful batting average, has been excellent for the Rays. He leads all AL catchers in fWAR and has 18 homeruns on the season to go along with a rather shocking 134 OPS+.
With Mike Trout’s injury, it opens an extra starting spot for the American League outfield. Two first time selectees look to prove why they should start: Cedric Mullins (Orioles) and Adolis Garcia (Rangers). Garcia, the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year, has raked 20 homeruns and posted an .833 OPS. Mullins, on the other hand, leads the AL in hits, has a .916 OPS and a 3.7 bWAR. Other outfield selections include established All-Stars such as Michael Brantley (Astros), JD Martinez (Red Sox) and Joey Gallo (Rangers).
For the most part, the American League seemed rather cut and dry. Chris Bassitt and Lou Trevino of the Athletics are the major snubs, yet the odds are likely that multiple pitchers will be added to the team in the coming weeks. For one, Shane Bieber already has to be replaced, yet so does any player that pitches on the Sunday prior to the game. On the position player side, it seems as though Mitch Haniger of the Mariners and Austin Meadows of the Rays were both making noise for their second selection. With Trout on the IL through the All-Star break, there will be a roster replacement in that area as well.
Over in the National League, the story is Jacob deGrom. With a 4.9 WAR and a magnificent 0.95 ERA thus far, deGrom will likely be tabbed as the starting pitcher for the game during this marvelous campaign. The two-time Cy Young award winner is shockingly the only All-Star from the Mets. Another potential starter is Brandon Woodruff of the Milwaukee Brewers, who has a 4.2 WAR and 1.87 ERA over a more substantial amount of innings (101 to 85).
The American League has 17 first time All-Stars, yet so does the National League. From a pitching standpoint, Corbin Burnes of the Brewers, Zack Wheeler of the Phillies, hometown Rockies ace German Marquez, Marlins Trevor Rogers and Giants Kevin Gausman will be first time All-Stars. Gausman, on his fourth club, is finally making noise in Cy Young consideration. He has a 1.68 ERA and 4.3 WAR in 101 1/3rd innings of work for the first place San Francisco club. Yu Darvish is the final starting pitcher for the NL, as the Padres righty is going to the game for the fifth time in his career. It’s Yu’s first selection since his days with the Rangers, despite being on his third club since the trade to Los Angeles.
Rounding out the pitching staff so far is Cubs’ closer Craig Kimbrel, a 12 year MLB veteran who has seen time with the Braves, Padres and Red Sox. Kimbrel is an All-Star for the eighth time, with five of them representing a National League team. Kimbrel at 33 has seen a resurgence, posting a 0.59 ERA, 20 saves and 664 ERA+ as he tries to put a bow on a potential Hall of Fame career. Padres’ Mark Melancon, who has also closed for the Braves, is heading back for fourth time in his career. Melancon’s 25 saves are the most in the American League. Josh Hader of the Brewers has been given the nod for the third consecutive occasion while Cardinals’ Alex Reyes has made the team for the very first time.
The talent on the National League bench is insane. 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts has his first All-Star selection as a Dodger (fifth overall) while Nationals’ 22-year-old phenom Juan Soto has his first selection. Soto isn’t the only first time Nats’ outfielder, no. Kyle Schwarber, after one of the most incredible months in MLB history, has been selected. Schwarber likely will not play due to injury, thus warranting a replacement. 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant has played primarily outfield this year, garnering his fourth selection posting an .866 OPS. It is noted that he was selected as a third baseman. The final outfield spot went to first-time Pirate Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds has a .936 OPS this season and 3.7 WAR, two wins higher than that of Kris Bryant.
The backup first base choice was clear: Max Muncy. Muncy, who likely should’ve been given the start, paces baseball with a .416 on base clip. It’s his second All-Star appearance. Muncy’s teammate Chris Taylor (Dodgers) has grinded his way to an All-Star selection for the very first time. Taylor has a career-high 134 OPS+, despite having no set lineup position day-to-day. In the middle infield, Braves superstar Ozzie Albies is now a two-time All-Star. Albies has a 121 OPS+, 2.3 WAR by BBRef measurements and 59 RBI. Jake Cronenworth of the Padres, who plays all infield positions, is a first-time All-Star. Cronenworth has a 3.1 WAR so far into the 2021 season, his second year in the Majors. Eduardo Escobar is the lone Arizona Diamondback at the hot corner. Escobar is making his first All-Star game, despite having played over a decade in the Major Leagues. Escobar has a .769 OPS, clearly a candidate thanks in part to the token rule that each team must have an All-Star. At shortstop, there are two backups: Giants’ Brandon Crawfords and Nationals’ Trea Turner. The third first-time National, Trea Turner just recently hit for his third career cycle, tying Adrian Beltre’s MLB record. Turner had a 148 OPS+ and .318/.367/.513 slashline heading into Sunday’s game against the Dodgers. Crawford, on the other hand, is on his way to his third trip. Crawford has 17 homeruns already this season, only four shy of his career high (21) set back in 2015. The final spot is catcher JT Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The biggest casualties of a loaded National League are seemingly Max Scherzer, Taijuan Walker and Justin Turner. JT, despite leading Kris Bryant in every statistical category, did not make the All-Star team most likely due to there already being three third basemen on the roster. Kris Bryant was most likely voted in by the players before the huge slump that tanked his numbers, while Nolan Arenado was voted in by the fans. The third spot went to Eduardo Escobar since each team must have an All-Star, leaving no room for Turner in the process. Turner’s .870 OPS, 2.4 WAR and 143 OPS+ lead all three of the third baseman that made it over him. Turner has perhaps been the biggest piece for the Dodgers this year, despite Taylor and Betts making the roster. The oversight on Turner is egregious, to say the least.
Scherzer and Walker will most likely make the team due to pitchers starting on Sunday and needing to be replaced. Scherzer is a bit startling, as he’s one of the game’s top superstars and is having yet another epic season. Scherzer has a scintillating 2.10 ERA. Walker, a member of the Mets, has posting a 2.44 ERA in the first half. Other noticeable pitching snubs include Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Freddy Peralta (Brewers), Wade Miley (Reds) and Ian Anderson (Braves).
With Kyle Schwarber needing a replacement, there are a number of suitable candidates in the outfield. Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill is the most significant outfield snub, having posted an .895 OPS. 6x All-Star and 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper (Phillies) is having yet another great campaign should the league want more star power. Maybe one could add Justin Turner to the roster and move Bryant to the outfield, where he’s primarily played this year.
Rosters (so far):
Pitchers: Lance Lynn, Yusei Kikuchi, Ryan Pressly, Shohei Ohtani, Shane Beiber, Gerrit Cole, Aroldis Chapman, Liam Hendriks, Carlos Rodon, Matt Barnes, Gregory Soto, Nate Eovaldi, Kyle Gibson.
C: Salvador Perez, Mike Zunino.
1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jared Walsh, Matt Olson.
2B: Marcus Semien, Jose Altuve.
SS: Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette, Carlos Correa.
3B: Rafael Devers, Jose Ramirez.
Outfield: Teoscar Hernandez, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Adolis Garcia, JD Martinez, Cedric Mullins, Joey Gallo, Michael Brantley.
DH: Shohei Ohtani, Nelson Cruz.
Pitchers: Yu Darvish, Kevin Gausman, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Hader, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Trevor Rogers, German Marquez, Alex Reyes, Mark Melancon.
C: Buster Posey, JT Realmuto.
1B: Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy.
2B: Adam Frazier, Ozzie Albies.
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr., Trea Turner, Brandon Crawford.
3B: Nolan Arenado, Eduardo Escobar, Kris Bryant.
Outfield: Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, Kyle Schwarber, Bryan Reynolds, Mookie Betts.
Utility players: Jake Cronenworth, Chris Taylor.
Do you agree with the All-Star selections? Who are you excited to see play? Who are the biggest snubs?
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