The Deserving MLB All Star Game Starters

Today, we will be finished with phase one of the MLB All-Star voting; the final three finalists will be announced. With the official starters being announced in one week, now would seem to be a great time to take a look at the deserving starters at each position in both the American and National League, using production as the only means of evaluation with popularity not a factor. So, why should start in the All Star game at each position? Let’s discuss.

Catcher

American League: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Currently, Sanchez leads the AL with a 146 weighted runs created plus (wrc+), a 2.0 WAR, and a .390 weighted on-base average (wOBA). This is certainly legitimate production; he ranks in the 98th percentile in exit velocity (93.4 MPH), the 97th percentile with in expected wOBA (xwOBA, .422), and in the 98th percentile with an expected slugging (xSLG) of .644. He also has been fine defensively; he’s in the 90th percentile in pop time. Currently, there are no clear challengers to his stance as the starting AL catcher.

National League: Yasmani Grandal, Milwaukee Brewers

This is a tight race between Grandal, JT Realmuto, and Wilson Contreras that likely will ultimately won by Contreras. Still, Grandal is certainly the best catcher in the NL with a 133 wrc+, a 14.2% walk rate, and a 2.7 WAR. His exit velocity and hard hit rate both are in 79th percentile or better, and his .285 BABIP suggests that he’s had a lot less luck than Contreras (.354 BABIP). Additionally, unlike Contreras, Grandal is an excellent defender with a 5.4 framing runs above average (FRM). He’s an all-around catcher that is arguably the best in baseball and should be in line for a massive payday next free agency.

First Base

American League: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

Santana is currently walking (17.1%) more than he’s striking out (16.2%) and leads AL first basemen with a 147 wrc+ and a 2.8 WAR. He’s also hitting the ball with authority to the tune of a 92.7 MPH average exit velocity, which ranks in the 96th percentile. He’s likely to fall to Luke Voit, who has the advantage of playing for the Yankees, but Santana is definitely deserving of starting in front of his home crowd as the best AL first baseman.

National League: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

For the longest time, this spot seemed like a lock for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell. However, Freeman now looks like the better option with a 157 wrc+, 2.8 WAR, an absurd .427 xWOBA. Furthermore, his xSLG (.614), xWOBA, xBA (.311), and hard-hit rate (48.7%) all rank in 91st percentile or better. Plus, with 3 drs early into the season, he’s also continued to defend his position well. If not for Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, Freeman would without a doubt be an MVP front-runner.

Second Base

American League: Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels

When La Stella was acquired by the Angels in the offseason from the Cubs, no one batted an eye. Now, he leads AL second baseman with a 135 wrc+ and also owns a 2.1 WAR. Notably, his strikeout rate (8.4%) is way down, his launch angle (13.8) is up, and his defense (1 UZR) has been alright at second baseman. Brandon Lowe and DL LeMahieu are also great candidates, but LaStella’s BABIP (.284) is by far the lowest of those three, making his production the most legitimate.

National League: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

Another breakout star, Marte has been a gem for the Diamondbacks this season. He owns a 3.5 WAR, 136 wrc+, and a .577 slugging percentage. He’s improved his launch angle (11.6), hitting the ball significantly harder (90.5 MPH), and has been a solid defender at second base (1 drs) and a superb defender in center field (7 drs, 7.5 UZR). There’s no doubt that he, and not Ozzie Albies, is the most well-rounded second baseman in the NL as an above average offensive and defensive producer.

Third Base

American League: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

Bregman leads AL third baseman with a 3.4 WAR and 153 wrc+, while his walk rate (17.3%) is much higher than his strikeout rate (13.3%). Additionally, with just a .240 BABIP despite an improved 40.9% hard contact, his offensive numbers should improve throughout the season. Meanwhile, his defense (5 drs, 2 UZR) has bounced back tremendously, making him the best all-around third baseman, even ahead of Matt Chapman.

National League: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

Nolan Arenado will almost certainly win this spot, and with a 3.2 WAR, he is deserving. Still, Rendon has the same WAR in 13 less games, while his .341 isolated power (ISO) and 166 wrc+ are massively better than Arenado’s. His 55.5% hard hit  and .341 xBA rank in the 100th percentile (yes, you read that right), while his .461 xWOBA and .680 xSLG rank in the 99th percentile. Yet, he didn’t even make the top three in voting that was needed for him to reach the second stage of voting. That’s a disappointment, but at least Rendon can look forward to a huge payday next winter when he reaches free agency.

Shortstop

American League: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts leads all shortstops with a 3.5 WAR and 13.7% walk rate, and also has a 141 wrc+ and .375 xwOBA. Though his -9 drs are a concern, he also has a 2 UZR and a 5.3 defensive value; he’s in a way becoming a complete shortstop. Jorge Polanco is an appealing option and should start now that Bogaerts failed to make the top three, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bogaerts is having the best overall season among all shortstops in baseball.

National League: Paul DeJong, St.Louis Cardinals

This starting spot is without a doubt going to Javier Baez, who’ve I’ve already shared my thoughts about (Javier Baez Has Become The Most Overrated Player in The MLB) on numerous occasions. However, he’s not even the best shortstop in his own division; Paul DeJong leads NL shortstops with a 3.2 WAR. His 126 wrc+ and 44% hard contact rate demonstrate the offensive contributor he’s become, but he’s also a gold glove defender with 8 drs and a 5.7 UZR already this season. With Trevor Story going down with a thumb injury, DeJong should have been the starting NL shortstop, though he too did not make the top three in the voting.

Left Field

American League: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

Despite only playing in 50 games, Gallo owns a 3.2 WAR as a result of his all-around breakout. His walk rate (19.6%) has skyrocketed, as has his wrc+ (169), while his 57.9% hard contact rate is unworldly. His exit velocity (96.3 MPH), barrel rate (28.4%), and hard hit rate all rank in the 100th percentile, and his .442 xWOBA is incredible. Plus, he’s a great outfield defender with 6 drs and a 5.4 UZR despite the limited amount of games he’s played in.

National League: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

After winning NL MVP last year, the general consensus was that Yelich would regress this season. Instead, he’s found a way to get better with a 193 wrc+, improved plate discipline (13.7% walk rate, 16.9% strikeout rate), and a .403 ISO. His .655 xSLG and .442 xWOBA are also top-notch, while his defense (4 drs, 0.6 UZR) is also solid. He very well could end up winning back to back MVP awards.

Center Field

American League: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

What else is there to say about Trout, who likely will go down as the greatest baseball player of all time? His 20.4% walk rate is outstanding, he’s striking out less, his 192 wrc+ is great, and his .464 on-base percentage is marvelous. He’s also coasting to a 5.2 WAR and is performing well defensively (2 drs) for the second straight season. He’s the easy AL MVP front-runner and will 100% be starting in center field at the All Star game.

National League: Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves

Acuna, my NL MVP pick before the season, has managed to build off of his terrific NL Rookie of the Year campaign, with a 2.8 WAR and 128 wrc+. His .398 xWOBA, .561 xSLG, 46.8% hard-hit rate, and 14.7% barrel rate all rank near the very top, and his defense (6 drs, 4.5 UZR) has improved tremendously from last year. The third outfield spot in the NL is up for grabs, but as of now, he’s the best candidate to fill that role.

Right Field

American League: Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins

Before the season, I saw Max Kepler as a potential All Star. He had just a 97 wrc+ in 2018, but he’s always had excellent plate discipline, while his .236 BABIP was bound to improve. Well, now he’s up to a 137 wrc+ and 2.8 WAR, while his ISO (.288) has nearly doubled. His 43.8% hard contact rate and .362 xWOBA combined with a subtle .263 BABIP legitimizes his production, and he’s also an amazing defender (6 drs, 7.7 UZR) in right field. With George Springer hurt and Austin Meadows struggling, it would be great to see Kepler get the recognition he deserves.

National League: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

Bellinger already has a 5.3 WAR and also possesses a 194 wrc+. Meanwhile, his xBA (.376), xWOBA (.489), and xSLG (.712) all are in the 100th percentile. That’s a result of his 53.5% hard contact rate and 34.4% line drive rate, as well as his incredible plate discipline transformation (15.1% walk rate, 14.8% strikeout rate). Oh, and he also has 19 drs and a 9.8 UZR, and will likely win a platinum glove this season. He remains the clear NL MVP front runner and like Trout, will 100% be starting in the All Star game.

Designated Hitter

American League: Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners

In what has been a really tough season for Mariner fans, there is certainly one bright spot: Daniel Vogelbach. His 152 wrc+, 18.4% walk rate, and .396 xWOBA are outstanding, while he’s doubled his launch angle (20.1). He also rarely chases pitches (21.6%) and has a BABIP of just .269. There’s no question he is currently he has been best-designated hitter so far.

National League: Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

This could easily be rookie Peter Alonso, but Bell’s overall profile is slightly more intriguing. He has a 159 wrc+, .333 ISO, 94 MPH average exit velocity, .397 xwOA, and a 52.1% hard-hit rate. His breakout after hitting just 12 home runs has been fun to watch, and though he’s lost his grip as the best first baseman in the NL, he still should be the designated hitter in the mid-summer classic.

Starting Pitcher

American League: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Sale was awful in April with a 5.27 FIP, but has a 1.67 FIP since then. His 2.80 FIP leads AL pitchers, while his 12.95 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, and .286 xWOBA are all fantastic. It seemed impossible after his horrible start to the season, but yet here we are in late June, and Sale has regained the throne has the best starting pitcher in the AL.

National League: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

Despite the Nationals’ struggles and him coming up in trade rumors, Scherzer has been the best pitcher in baseball this season with a 2.19 FIP and 6.64 K-BB ratio. His .258 xWOBA and 41.8% ground ball rate are also great, and though he’s allowing more hard contact than usual, his .332 BABIP isn’t fair given the fact that his hard contact allowed rate of 38.6% isn’t awful. This is a dominant pitcher still going strong at age 34; despite Hyun-Jin Ryu’s excellence, Scherzer remains the deserving NL starting pitcher.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s