My 2017 American League All-Star Team

It’s been over a month since I posted, so you’re probably expecting my magnum opus in this post. Unfortunately I can’t offer you that, but I can offer you my picks for the 2017 All-Star game. This is going to come in two parts because I wrote out just the American League and figured nobody wanted to read a 6,000 word post, so take these 3,100 words for now and I’ll give you another 3,000 later this week for my National League picks. A few ground rules before I start:

  1. Each league must have a full starting lineup (plus a DH for the AL). The starting NL DH will be chosen by yours truly.
  2. All 30 MLB teams must be represented in one form or another.
  3. Each league must have 34 players. I’ll also try to keep the roster construction to a typical All-Star game. For example, teams generally take three catchers to the ASG, even though there are not always three worthy catchers in each league. Additionally, teams have between 19-24 hitters, which leaves about 10-15 pitchers of any form.

I’ll comment on each of my picks for the starting lineup, as well as some of the reserves I have selected, and if I don’t write a blurb, I’ll put up a few stats. I’m starting with the American League, and my National League picks will come out later this week. Without further ado, my picks for the 2017 All-Star Game, which will be hosted in Miami on July 11th.

American League


Starters


Catcher: Gary Sanchez, NYY
Despite playing in only 35 games to this point, Sanchez has outpaced all but five MLB catchers in fWAR, and sits second in the AL for fWAR among catchers. Sanchez has hit four HR over his past ten games to bring his season total to 10, and his career mark to 30 HR in 90 games. For those of you wondering, that’s a 54 HR pace over 162 games. Sanchez is an all-around stud, and should be representing the AL All-Stars for many years to come.
First Base: Justin Smoak, Tor
Smoak may come as a surprise entry to some, but he’s been flat out mashing this season. Smoak’s .295/.357/.599 triple-slash as of this writing represents a career best in each of the three categories, and he’s on pace to hit 47 HR (currently sits at 18 through 62 games). He leads all AL first basemen in HR and RBI, sits second in runs, and third in Isolated Power (ISO) behind Yonder Alonso and Jose Abreu. He needs just three more dingers for a career high in the category, and should easily be able to reach that before the All-Star break. 
Second Base: Jose Altuve, Hou
Altuve has started at the keystone for the AL in each of the past two seasons, and this year should be no different. Not only does Altuve lead all AL 2B in fWAR (by nearly half a win!), wRC+, OBP, and steals, he’s second in walks, hits, and AVG, and he’s fourth in SLG. He’s unquestionably the best 2B in the majors right now, but he also may retire with the most hits among 2B of all-time, considering that through 865 games, Altuve had 34 more hits than all-time hit leader Pete Rose
Third Base: Miguel Sano, Min
Sano, despite sporting the second-highest strikeout rate among AL 3B (trailing only Joey Gallo), has compiled the most fWAR of all third basemen on the Junior Circuit. He also leads that same demographic in SLG, wRC+, and hard hit percentage (he actually leads the entire major leagues in HH%) Sano is finally having the kind of season everyone was expecting: immense power and a high strikeout rate. Sano will likely start at third base for the AL because he’s been showing everyone his full potential that he established in Pelotero.
Shortstop: Carlos Correa, Hou
Correa leads all AL SS in walks, RBI, R, and fWAR (tied for first with Xander Bogaerts in R and fWAR) in addition to sitting second for HR just behind Francisco Lindor. Correa’s offense earned him AL Player of the Month honors for May, but his defense hasn’t been too shabby either; he’s played an above-average SS this year. Since May 1, Correa is triple-slashing a ridiculous .331/.404/.599, and he’ll continue to rake his way into the ASG starting lineup in July.
Left Field: J.D. Martinez, Det
This pick is probably the most out there in terms of my starting lineup, so I must defend myself. The MLB standard for qualified hitters is 3.1 PA per team game played. We’re roughly 60 games through the season, so this means that in order for a hitter to be qualified for the batting title, they must have racked up at least 186 PA. Martinez has only 113 PA because he missed a handful of time with a Lisfranc injury. It hasn’t slowed him down at all; since his return he has triple-slashed .305/.398/.705 with 10 HR. That SLG represents a league-best since his return (yes, even more than Judge), and his 10 HR over 113 PA would be a 53 HR pace over 600 PA, but since he’ll likely only get to about 500 PA, he’ll have to settle for 40 HR. He’s only compiled slightly under 1 fWAR so far because he plays such bad defense, but his bat makes up for it. J.D. hasn’t played a ton this year, but in the 28 games he has played, he’s really made it count.
Center Field: Mookie Betts, Bos
This is another controversial pick, since Avisail Garcia (who I currently have a reserve) is probably equally as deserving of this spot as Betts. I was discussing this article with a friend, and he brought up the fact that Garcia has more RBI, HR (by one), and a higher average by about 60 points. Garcia has certainly been better on offense (his triple-slash bests Betts in every category and Garcia boasts a 145 wRC+ to Betts’ 119), but Betts has easily been the best defender in the entire AL this season. Voters generally do not take defense into account when deciding who should win what awards, but the gap between Betts’ Ultimate Zone Rating (8.6) and Guillermo Heredia’s UZR (5.8; Heredia’s UZR is the next-best among AL OFs) is equal to the gap between Heredia’s and Aaron Hicks’ UZR. Hicks is 16th in UZR. Betts also leads AL OF in defensive runs saved, so his UZR is not a fluke. It may also be worth noting that Betts has a higher fWAR than Garcia due to his defense. Betts has been a defensive stud his entire career, and his defensive contributions, in tandem with his offensive stats (9 HR, 11 SB, .276/.360/.477 triple-slash, and a league-leading 22 doubles) make him my pick for the starting AL CF spot.
*Betts is a RF by trade, but of the three OF I selected for starting spots, all of whom are RF, I figured Betts would fit best in CF. 
Right Field: Aaron Judge, NYY
Aaron Judge is a tank. His numbers this year look like something directly out of a video game: 4.0 fWAR through 59 games (that puts him on pace for 11 fWAR; 11 fWAR in a season has only been accomplished 22 times since 1920), 22 HR (60 HR pace), 57 runs (leads the majors), .347/.453/.728 triple-slash (all lead the MLB), 49 RBI (second in the AL only to Nelson Cruz). He also crushes the ball whenever he makes contact: he has 10 of the top 20 hardest hit balls this season according to Statcast (for reference, no other player who has one of the top 20 hardest-hit balls of the season has more than one entry in the top 20), and has also hit the longest HR of the season at a ridiculous 495 feet (video here, definitely worth a watch.) He has the second-highest hard-hit percentage in all of baseball (Sano has him beat by a tenth of a percentage point), and he leads the league in barrels (36, second place Khris Davis only has 31). Judge is a monster, and everyone needs to just sit back and enjoy the incredible season he is putting together. He will win AL ROY, and he could also win AL MVP. Maybe we’ll see a triple crown too. All Rise.
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Sea
Cruz is one of only three real contenders for this position, with the other two being Matt Holliday of the Yankees and Corey Dickerson of the Rays. Dickerson is hitting .328/.367/.592, which is very respectable, but he rarely ever walks (13 walks in 268 PA, good for 4.9%), and he strikes out more than Cruz. Though the two have an equal number of HR, Dickerson has 13 more runs and Cruz has 19 more RBI, but I’m attributing that to the fact that Dickerson hits first or second for the Rays and Cruz hits fourth for the Mariners, behind Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Robbie Cano. Cruz has also bested Holliday in HR, K%, and each leg of his triple-slash. My pick here is Cruz, but it honestly could go to Dickerson, too. 
Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale, Bos
I had originally given this spot to Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros, but Dallas will have to come out of the bullpen, because the more research I did, the more I felt that that Sale deserved this spot. Sale leads all qualified AL starters in K/9 (12.5), FIP (1.82, not a typo), and innings pitched per start (7). He’s also second among AL starters in K/BB (7.41; Josh Tomlin is first with an 11.00). His 2.97 ERA is only 6th-best among AL starters, but that can be attributed to the fact that he plays in the minuscule Fenway Park, and isn’t helped by the fact that he has to face the Yankees, Orioles, and Blue Jays multiple times. Additionally the gap in fWAR from Sale to the next-highest player (Chris Archer, 2.7) is equal to the gap between Archer’s fWAR and that of the 12th-highest AL starter: Jordan Montgomery. Sale is a bona fide ace, and in addition to likely representing the AL on the bump to start the Midsummer Classic, he has a very good shot at winning the AL.

Reserves


Alex Avila, C/1B, Det
I don’t know where this Alex Avila came from, but his fWAR is nearly double that of the next-best AL catchers (Gary Sanchez, Brian McCann, Salvador Perez tied), and he’s triple slashing .322/.439/.635, which is pretty obscene for a thirty-year-old catcher who is nearing the twilight of his career. He’s contributed almost nothing on defense, but when your bat is as hot as his, it doesn’t matter.
Salvador Perez, C, KC
Perez leads all AL catchers in HR, and sits tied with Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez for second among AL catchers in fWAR (1.2, Alex Avila is first with 2.0). While he does have 13 HR, most of his value comes from defense; he grades out roughly in the top-5 for defensive catchers in the AL.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, Oak
Alonso has already hit a career high in HR this season, by seven (he has 16, previous career-high was 9). He’s made visible changes in his swing, and it has paid off in spades; Alonso leads all AL 1B in WAR as of this writing. His .310/.401/.655 is a career-best in each category for a full season. Alonso is mashing this year, and I have no doubt that he’ll make the All-Star team, it’s just a question of whether he’ll be starting or coming off the bench.
Starlin Castro, 2B, NYY
Leads AL 2B in HR (12), R (46), RBI (41), AVG (.328), and SLG (.530). Trails only Altuve in wRC+ (139).
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Tor
Donaldson is in that category of guys with Sanchez and J.D. Martinez; they haven’t played the full season, but have been extremely productive when they’ve been in the lineup. Donaldson has only played 23 games, but has compiled more fWAR than all but five AL 3B (Sano, Ramirez, Gallo, Moustakas, Longoria). If he qualified for the batting title, his wRC+ would be the highest among AL 3B and each leg of his .317/.417/.683 triple-slash would lead all AL players at the position.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Bos
Bogaerts isn’t exactly stuffing the stat sheet (he’s hit a paltry two HR this season), but he’s hitting .318 and has a .370 OBP, both of which are top-three among AL SS. His 40 runs and 2.1 fWAR are also tops at the position (Correa is tied for both).
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cle
It was between picking Lindor and Didi Gregorius for this spot, and I honestly think it could go either way. Gregorius missed nearly the entire first month of the season with a shoulder injury he suffered in the World Baseball Classic, but has not missed a beat since returning, slashing  .344/.367/.513 since rejoining the Yankees on April 28th. Lindor, on the other hand, has been raking since opening day; he leads all MLB SS in HR (12), and is tied for the MLB lead among SS with 17 doubles (Corey Seager; Lindor leads AL SS). He also sports a career-low BA this season, but considering that his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is over 60 points below his career mark, you can expect some positive regression in the category. Gregorius and Lindor have produced a nearly identical WAR to this point, despite Gregorius playing about 20 games fewer than Lindor, and my guess is that the race for this spot will continue to be very close until the ASG in July.
Corey Dickerson, LF/DH, TB
I talked a lot about Dickerson in Cruz’s blurb, so I’ll just leave you with his .328/.367/.592 triple-slash, 14 HR, and 156 wRC+, and AL-leading 36 XBH.
Avisail Garcia, CF, CWS
I also discussed Garcia a bunch above. He very well could be starting come July thanks to his .333/.371/.550 triple-slash and 27 XBH, which is third-best among AL OF.
Marwin Gonzalez, LF/1B/3B/2B/SS/RF, Hou
Gonzalez is not only on this team for his 176 wRC+, which is fourth-best among all AL players, not just OF, but also because he has the versatility of a swiss army knife. Gonzalez has appeared at six defensive positions this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him deployed as a centerfielder in a pinch at some point this year. He’s a versatile defender, and more than capable at handling the wood, which is evidenced by his .311/.410/.609 triple-slash.
Aaron Hicks, OF, NYY
Hicks has always graded out as a plus defender, but is finally coming into his own as a hitter. He sports a .313/.424/.578 triple-slash, 10 HR, 7 SB, and identical K and BB rates (16.2%, nothing to sneeze at in either instance).
Cameron Maybin, OF, LAA
Maybin is only on this list because he’s going to end up replacing Trout as a reserve for the ASG. The Angels are flat-out terrible and Trout would normally be their representative, but he’s injured, so Maybin, who has compiled a measly 1.0 WAR and triple-slashed .260/.381/.391 gets the call. At least he leads the AL in steals with 19.
George Springer, RF, Hou
Here is a list of AL outfielders who have more HR than George Springer: Aaron Judge. That’s it. Springer is only hitting .274, but he’s got a lot of power. His baserunning leaves something to be desired (he’s 9/22 since the start of 2016 on stolen base attempts), but at least he’s a plus defender in CF and can hit well.

Bullpen


Chris Archer, TB
Archer is second among AL pichers in fWAR (2.7) and K/9 (11.11), and though his 3.80 ERA leaves a little to be desired, he’s pitched extremely well for the third-place Rays. Very few of the AL East starters have stellar ERAs because of the packed division, and Archer has done a great job of keeping his ERA relatively low while racking up the strikeouts.
Dellin Betances, NYY
Betances has been an All-Star in each of the past three seasons and I see no reason for that to change this year. Betances has a 0.45 ERA to go along with a 1.000 WHIP, 17.1 (!!!!!!) K/9, and a 47.5% strikeout percentage. He also has racked up 6 saves while Chapman has been on the shelf. Not too shabby from the Bronx native.
Brad Brach, Bal
Brach will head to Miami as the lone representative from the Baltimore Orioles. Their starting pitching has left a lot to be desired (Bundy is really the only viable ASG candidate), and while Trumbo has been good this season, there are many other AL players at his position(s) that have been better. That leaves Brach, his 2.89 ERA, 0.893 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and 11 saves (not that saves matter, anyway), to represent Charm City in the Midsummer Classic. 
Yu Darvish, Tex
Darvish is doing vintage Darvish this year: 3.03 ERA, 1.090 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, and a .193 AVG against. Hopefully he can stay away from the injury bug this year.
Dallas Keuchel, Hou
As I mentioned above, I strongly considered giving Keuchel the starting nod. His MLB-leading 1.67 ERA and 67.4% ground ball rate (both league-leading) are pretty incredible, and while he’s been stellar, Sale has just been better. Keuchel has regained his Cy Young form from 2015 after a down year in 2016, and will definitely challenge Sale down the stretch for the coveted award. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be dressing for the ASG, provided he doesn’t pitch the Sunday before. 
Craig Kimbrel, Bos
17.6 K/9, 54.9% strikeout rate, 0.94 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 18 saves. Just another year at the office for Mr. Kimbrel.
Lance McCullers, Hou
I’m glad to see McCullers finally coming into his own as a pitcher, and I’m very not glad to see him go on the DL today. Hopefully he’ll be back soon, because he has a filthy repertoire (seriously, look at this power curve) and he’s a joy to watch. Plus, he has a great Twitter account. Oh, and he’s also compiled a 2.58 ERA and 10.45 K/9, both fourth among qualified AL starters. 
Andrew Miller, Cle
Another one of those relievers who is having a spectacular season as expected: 0.29 ERA (yes, really), 9.40 K/BB, 0.606 WHIP, and a 40.2 K%. No saves though; thankfully Terry Francona knows how to manage his bullpen. 
James Paxton, Sea
Paxton has always been one of those guys who we knew would put it all together if he could stay healthy. He hasn’t stayed as healthy as I had hoped he would, but he’s thrown 52.0 spectacular innings this year, compiling 1.8 fWAR, a 2.25 ERA, 10.04 K/9, and 1.13 WHIP. Felix Hernandez has struggled this season when he has been on the mound, but perhaps the Mariners have found their new staff ace. 
Ervin Santana, Min
I don’t know where this Ervin Santana has come from, but the thirty-four-year-old has put together quite the run of dominance: 2.20 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and three complete game shutouts (nobody else has more than one). His peripherals point to some negative regression, but he’s never been a power pitcher, so that makes sense. Santana should finesse his way onto his second career All-Star team.
Luis Severino, NYY
At the beginning of the season, I said that I didn’t think the Yankees could make a playoff run because their pitching wasn’t deep enough. I don’t think I could have been more wrong, and Severino is a prime example of that. He sits in the top-5 among AL starters in ERA, WHIP, K%, and K/BB. He’s also inducing ground balls at a 54.7% clip, which I’m sure is contributing in no small part to his breakout year.

(This edit is being inserted Wednesday, June 14th at about 8:30 AM due to recent news about Trout.)

Mike Trout indicated yesterday that he believes he can return to action before the All-Star Game on July 11th, and that he hopes to play in the Midsummer Classic. His original injury recovery time would put him back just after the break, so he could theoretically make it back in time for the game, but I doubt the Angels would want him playing fresh off an injury. With that said, if Trout is able to play, he will likely replace J.D. Martinez in the starting lineup. Martinez would head to the bench, Maybin would lose his spot on the team, and the starting OF would go Judge-Trout-Betts from left to right.

Note: As of first publishing, all stats are accurate.

Click here to read my National League All-Star Picks.

(Image Credit: Associated Press via Yes Network)

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