The All-Star game is almost upon us and with that comes my annual two-post series revealing my picks, because I know you were all having trouble sleeping in anticipation. Well, fret no more. Voting ends at 11:59 PM ET on Thursday, but my votes are already in. Are yours?
Votes are all subjective, of course, but the following is how I came to choosing: Some comparisons and choices are easy. Some are not. In the case where good arguments can be made for more than one player, I lean towards the player with the more established career. This is the All-Star game, not the All-Good-For-Three-Months game. After that, I lean towards the player whose offensive contributions are greater. This is not how I would choose my roster for a real team, but as the saying goes, “Chicks dig the long ball,” and so do most casual fans, and this game is merely a fun exhibition. So let’s score some runs.
As I run through each position, I’ll highlight my top three candidates, and the first name listed is my choice for starter. In the end, I’ll have rounded out a 34-man roster with eight starters and thirteen each of reserves and pitchers, keeping in mind that every team has to be represented. It’ll make for a fun debate. So here are my choices for the American League:
Catcher – Derek Norris, Salvador Perez, Kurt Suzuki. This one was somewhat easy. Norris has been fairly convincingly the best offensive catcher in league, and is a decent receiver to boot. Salvador is a defensive whiz and can handle the stick. Suzuki falls in a cluster of deserving third-string backups, so I’ll give him the hometown nod because he’s a good enough hitter to justify the selection. Yan Gomes is a great defensive backstop but doesn’t quite have the offensive numbers to warrant a selection over Salvador or Suzuki.
First Base – Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu. This is where I get a bit irritable that the ballots are released so early. Encarnacion is listed as a DH, but has only started at DH sixteen times as of this writing. He’s a first baseman and I’m listing him here. Defense isn’t a factor because all three (and most AL first baseman) are butchers. Brandon Moss also got consideration, but he butchers several positions equally and can’t be defined as a first baseman.
Second Base – Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Jose Altuve. I thought about starting Kinsler because he’s been the all-around best second baseman in the league this season, and Altuve’s been the best hitter in the bunch, but Cano is one of the better players in the league and has the “superstar” pedigree. Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick have had nice seasons, but not nice enough.
Shortstop – Alcides Escobar, Erick Aybar, Derek Jeter. Jeter’s been a smidge north of abysmal this season, but he’s an all-time player and it’s his last season. That tends to resonate with the baseball community, so I’ll let him go. He’ll probably be voted in to start, but I have standards. Alcides has been hands down the best offensive shortstop this season and Aybar is in the next batch while playing superior defense. That next batch also includes Alexei Ramirez, who falls victim to Jeter’s farewell tour. Xander Bogaerts has had a mediocre-at-best season on first glance, but strangely enough, he’s hitting .296/.389/.427 as a shortstop, easily enough to earn the starting nod, but .143/.186/.264 as a third baseman. Signing Stephen Drew has weakened two positions in Boston.
Third Base – Adrian Beltre, Lonnie Chisenhall, Kyle Seager. Who should start was close. While Chisenhall has some stupid gaudy numbers, Beltre has been a top third baseman for years, so he earns the start. On June 1st, Josh Donaldson would be starting, but since then he’s hit .168/.213/.277 and allowed Seager to sneak in there. Big ups to Conor Gillaspie, who’s just a victim of bad timing. He’s having a real nice season, but has no power to speak of, and chicks dig the aforementioned longball.
Outfield – Jose Bautista, Mike Trout, Alex Gordon (left to right), Adam Jones, Yoenis Cespedes, Nelson Cruz. Quick note on Trout: If you extrapolate his 2014 season thus far, his 162-game average is .314/.407/.610 with 39 home runs, 45 doubles, 11 triples, and 22 stolen bases (hasn’t been caught yet). He plays a different game than the rest of them. I digress. This is actually the easiest position to call because the three starters are easily the three best outfielders this season, and they just happen to play each of the three positions. Works out well. Cruz would sub in right field for my All Star team so Cespedes can play left. Better defender earns his actual position. Jones is a solid center fielder. If Lorenzo Cain hadn’t missed some time, he’d get heavy consideration, but while his numbers are good, and he’s a defensive whiz, the full-timers get the benefit of the doubt. Michael Brantley was snubbed in favor of Cruz. Brantley has an edge in most facets of the game, but Cruz’s power advantage is significant. The knock on Cruz is his defense, and it’s miserable, but so is Brantley’s. If I were managing, Cruz would be my starting DH.
Pitchers are always the biggest source of debate, but I’m very comfortable with this staff. Price could be questioned because his ERA is a little high, but I’d counter that by pointing out his peripherals are much better than his ERA suggests and he’s the lone Rays representative. You can debate Evan Longoria for third base and thus adding another pitcher instead of Price, and I’d listen, but in the end I don’t think Longo is more deserving than the three third basemen I chose and I really am confident in Price’s peripherals.
Hughes is another debate, on my team instead of Mark Buehrle, but Hughes has pitched much better when you look at the peripherals, is a hometown guy, and I really like his story this season. So far, he’s got to be the front runner for comeback player of the year. I tried to find a second set-up man instead of just sending Betances, but I couldn’t justify leaving off a starting pitcher for a middle reliever. Wade Davis is that snub, admittedly, and I guess I could have left Hughes off for him, but Hughes is a great story and I was a little uncomfortable sending two players from the same bullpen (Holland). Maybe you wouldn’t be.
35th Man candidates – Michael Brantley, Conor Gillaspie, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Brandon Moss.
Those are my votes. Who’d you vote for?