As we near the latter part of June, baseball is gearing up for its big summer event. The 2018 MLB All-Star Game is a little less than one month away. On July 17, the best players in the game will come together in Washington, D.C.. Fresh off celebrating a Stanley Cup victory, Washington fans are ready to welcome the Midsummer Classic to their city. First, we’ll take a look at the current vote leaders in the American and National league and then we’ll discuss who should be starting in the All-Star Game if the game were tomorrow.
— MLB (@MLB) June 19, 2018
C- Wilson Ramos (TB)
1B- Jose Abreu (CWS)
2B- Jose Altuve (HOU)
3B- Jose Ramirez (CLE)
SS- Manny Machado (BAL)
OF- Mike Trout (LAA)
OF- Mookie Betts (BOS)
OF- Aaron Judge (NYY)
DH- J.D. Martinez (BOS)
SP- Justin Verlander (HOU)
The American League has been dominated by the three favorites — Yankees, Red Sox, Astros– and the surprising Mariners. The All-Star team will be littered with players from those four teams, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean other players aren’t worthy of starting.
Let’s get this much out of the way: Gary Sanchez shouldn’t be on the All-Star team. That leaves only one viable candidate to start at catcher — Wilson Ramos. Playing for the downtrodden Rays, Ramos has stroked 9 HR in addition to his 35 RBI. Sporting a .286 BA, .332 OBP, .450 SLG, and .782 OPS, Ramos is the easy choice over the struggling Sanchez (.194/.294/.440/.734).
One player breaking into the starting lineup is Abreu – the White Sox’s powerful first baseman. Abreu boasts a .283 BA with 11 HR and 41 RBI. The slugger is first in SLG and OPS, and second in OBP. Abreu will be a popular name at the trade deadline, but if the White Sox decide to hold on to him, he could become a franchise cornerstone.
There is no question who the starting second baseman should be — Altuve. One of the best players in baseball, Altuve is off to another great start. Altuve leads MLB with a .342 BA and paces AL second basemen in OBP (.398), SLG (.470), and OPS (.867).
Another position that should be close to locked up is third base. Ramirez has been a force for the Indians all year. The Indians’ rise in the AL Central has coincided with Ramirez’s dominance — 21 HR, 47 RBI, the second best batting average (.289), best OBP (.385), SLG (.604), and OPS (.989) among his position. Joining Ramirez on the left side of the infield should be Machado. The strongest position in the AL is shortstop, and there is no shortage of worthy candidates to start in the All-Star Game. Jean Segura, Eduardo Escobar, Andrelton Simmons, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts will all take a back-seat to Machado this year. Playing for the abysmal Orioles, Machado is first in HR (18), RBI (53), and OPS (.945). His .310 BA is good for third, and is currently second in OBP (.377) and SLG (.567).
The two leading MVP candidates in the American League reside in the outfield. Trout and Betts are at the top of MLB in nearly every offensive category. In only 54 games, Betts is hitting .340 with 18 HR and 38 RBI — Mookie is also second in OBP (.419), first in SLG (.699), and second in OPS (1.118). As for Trout — hitting .332 with 23 HR, 46 RBI, 62 walks, first in OBP (.464), OPS (1.152), and second in SLG (.688). The third spot comes down to Judge and Eddie Rosario. Rosario has played extremely well for the Twins thus far, hitting .321 with 16 HR and 46 RBI. Judge is hitting at a .275 clip with 18 HR and 46 RBI. Judge ultimately gets the nod due to his superior OBP and OPS.
The DH spot is reserved for J.D. Martinez, and it shouldn’t be up for debate. In his first season with Boston, Martinez is currently hitting .315 with 22 HR and 55 RBI. Martinez ranks fifth in OBP (.388), and third in SLG (.635) and OPS (1.022). Rosario would be the other option for the DH role, but it should be Martinez.
The starting pitcher competition in the AL is fierce. Arguments can be made for Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, and Luis Severino, but there is only one man for the job.
The future Hall of Famer is 9-2 with a MLB-best 1.61 ERA. In 100.1 innings, Verlander has only allowed 56 hits and 18 earned runs while striking out 118. Batters are hitting a paltry .160 against the ace, resulting in a league leading 0.76 WHIP.
— MLB (@MLB) June 18, 2018
C- Buster Posey (SF)
1B- Freddie Freeman (ATL)
2B- Scooter Gennett (CIN)
3B- Nolan Arenado (COL)
SS- Brandon Crawford (SF)
OF- Matt Kemp (LAD)
OF- Christian Yelich (MIL)
OF- Nick Markakis (ATL)
DH- Brandon Belt (SF)
SP- Max Scherzer (WSH)
The National League has been full of surprises thus far. The presumed favorites — Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals– were middling teams for the better part of the first two months before coming on over the past few weeks. Philadelphia and Atlanta, teams seemingly at least two years away from contending, have been near the top of the NL all season long. Former All-Stars have rediscovered their powers, while some of the biggest names have struggled.
In one of the closer positional battles, Posey beats out Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Contreras to start at catcher. Grandal started the year on fire and has since reverted back to his norm. Contreras has the potential to be a perennial All-Star, but hasn’t reached his peak as of yet. Posey holds a slightly higher batting average, and has struck out far less than Contreras, but ultimately gets the edge over the Cubs’ backstop due to his defense. Posey has thrown out more runners, allowed fewer passed balls and prevented more wild pitches. Posey remains one of the best game callers in baseball.
One of the main reasons behind Atlanta’s surprising start to the year is the play of Freeman. Freeman is the current front-runner to win the NL MVP, and an easy choice to start at first in the All-Star Game. Freeman is second in the NL in WAR amongst position players, second in batting average, second in OBP, and first in SLG and OPS.
Playing for one of the worst teams in baseball, Gennett has been a dynamo in Cincinnati. Gennett leads NL second basemen in nearly every major offensive category, and ranks third overall with a .336 BA. Gennett is a lock to start at second.
Look for the Giants’ Crawford to get the nod at shortstop over Trevor Story. Crawford paces all NL shortstops with a .315 BA, .370 OBP, and is second in SLG and OPS. On defense, Crawford has been a part of 52 double plays – the most in the NL.
One of the best defensive players in baseball, Arenado is a sure bet to start at third. Arenado has 151 defensive assists, while only committing four errors. Arenado is a major threat with the bat as well, leading third basemen with a .305 BA and .395 OBP. The Colorado stalwart is second in home runs, SLG, OPS, and leads the group with 39 walks.
The NL outfield should feature two more surprise players, although Bryce Harper will likely get the nod due to his popularity among fans and the fact that the game is being played in Washington.
Surprise No. 1 is Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. Seen as an eventual roster cut, Kemp has shocked many with his play this season. He is first in the NL with a .338 BA and has added 12 HR and 43 RBI. Kemp also leads all NL outfielders in SLG and OPS — keeping the Dodgers in the division race.
Surprise No. 2 is Nick Markakis from the Braves. The Atlanta corner outfielder holds a .327 AVG, ranks first with a .389 OBP, second with a .876 OPS, and third with a .488 SLG.
The last spot in the outfield goes to Yelich. In his first season with the Brewers, Yelich has become a stabilizing force. He has provided decent pop — 9 HR and 10 doubles — and has been getting on base at the third highest clip out of all outfielders. Third in OPS, fifth in OBP, sixth in SLG, and great defense leads to a Yelich start in the Midsummer Classic.
Three candidates for the DH spot — Brandon Belt, Ozzie Albies, Javier Baez — have a solid case. Belt has been the best first basemen behind Freeman. Albies has mashed in Atlanta. Baez has put up numbers in line with Albies, but has been slightly worse on defense. At the moment, Belt holds a slight edge over the other two, giving the Giants three potential starters.
The starting pitcher role comes down to Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. The Mets ace has a 1.51 ERA and has struck out 120 in 95.1 innings pitched. Scherzer’s ERA is slightly higher — 2.06, which is still incredible — but has won five more games. Ultimately, Scherzer’s edge in strikeouts (152), AVG against (.171), and WHIP (0.84), give him the edge over deGrom.
Sources: MLB/Twitter, Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports