This is the second of two parts because I wrote out just the American League and figured nobody wanted to read a 6,000 word post, so I published just the American League, and now it’s time for the Senior Circuit. A reminder of the ground rules before I start:
- Each league must have a full starting lineup (plus a DH for the AL). The starting NL DH will be chosen by yours truly.
- All 30 MLB teams must be represented in one form or another.
- 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 started with the American League, and now it’s time for the National League. Without further ado, my picks for the 2017 All-Star Game, which will be hosted in Miami on July 11th.
Catcher: Buster Posey, SF
Buster Posey is a monster, plain and simple. Among all qualified hitters (not just NL catchers), there is not a single one who can best each leg of his .354/.439/.539 triple-slash. He’s also drawing walks at a clip 3% better than he’s striking out (11.7% BB rate; 8.8% K rate), which is absolutely incredible in today’s game of high power and even higher strikeout rates.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Ari
Goldschmidt is in the conversation for best player in baseball behind Mike Trout. Since debuting in 2011, Goldschmidt has 155 HR, 112 SB (he’s stealing at a stellar 80.5% success rate), and is hitting .301. The only two players with more HR, SB, and a higher AVG are Mike Trout and Ryan Braun. Obviously 2017 All-Star voting doesn’t take 2011-2016 into account, so we can just acknowledge Goldschmidt’s stellar credentials: .322/.443/.588 triple-slash, 15 HR, 13 SB, and an NL-leading 59 runs. Plus, he’s walking nearly as much as he’s striking out (15.8% to 19.1%).
Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Wsh
Every time I check up on Daniel Murphy, it makes me sad. Not only because he left the Mets, but because he’s raking for their number one rival. Murphy’s production is pretty typical for him at this point in his career: .346/.397/.567 triple-slash, 11 HR, and a ridiculously low 9.7% strikeout rate. He leads all NL second basemen in HR, R, RBI, all three triple-slash categories, strikeout rate, and isolated power. At least us Mets fans can take some solace in the fact that he plays bad defense.
Third Base: Kris Bryant, ChC
This spot was really between Bryant and DBacks 3B Jake Lamb, though Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado made compelling cases to start as well. At the end of the day, the goal of each hitter is to not make an out, and Bryant has done that the best of the 3B in question.
Bryant has made the second-fewest outs despite having the second-most PA, and has the lowest out percentage of the four third basemen in contention for the starting spot. Ultimately, the goal of each hitter is to make as few outs as possible, and Bryant does that the best. And that doesn’t even take into account his 15 HR, .264/.396/.523 triple-slash, 16.3% walk rate and 140 wRC+, which leads all NL third basemen. Bryant’s a stud and should start at third on July 11th, but it very well could be Lamb, Rendon, or Arenado taking the spot.
Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Cin
Cozart is having a breakout season on offense. He’s always been a good defender, compiling 9.6 bWAR on defense alone over his seven MLB seasons, but something just clicked on offense this year as evidenced by Cozart’s .320/.404/.562 triple-slash line. Each of his triple-slash categories leads all NL shortstops, as does his 9 bombs this season. According to Fangraphs’ defensive runs above average statistic (DEF), Cozart has also been the most valuable NL shorstop in the field. Cozart’s having a great overall season and I see no reason why he shouldn’t represent the Senior Circuit in July.
Left Field: Michael Conforto, NYM
Conforto is third among NL OF in wRC+ with 152 (Harper and Thames are the only ones ahead of him). He’s triple-slashing .284/.402/.567 with 14 HR and a 14.8% walk-rate (third among NL outfielders). Conforto flashed his potential in April of last season, but this year he has continued his greatness through the middle of June. In all likelihood he won’t start for the NL because he technically isn’t on the ballot, and it’s nearly impossible to get a starting gig as a write-in, but he’s been a top-3 NL outfielder this season, so here’s to hoping.
Center Field: Charlie Blackmon, Col
Take your pick of an offensive category, and I guarantee you Blackmon has been good at it this year. Okay, maybe not walks, but everything else. He’s triple-slashing .330/.380/.618 with 15 HR, 58 runs (2nd in NL, best among NL outfielders), 54 RBI (third among all NL players, tops among NL outfielders), and he’s added 5 swipes, though not at a terribly effective rate (4 caught stealing). He also leads the NL in hits. Yes, he plays in Coors Field, but production is production, regardless of elevation.
Right Field: Bryce Harper, Wsh
Remember when Harper was playing injured last year and only posted a 3.5-WAR season? He’s nearly equaled that total this season, and he’s reminding everyone why he was MVP in 2015. Harper’s triple-slashing .317/.421/.609 and walking 15.0% of the time, not to mention his 17 HR, 54 runs, or 51 RBI. Harper is a bona fide stud, and what he’s doing is even more incredible when you consider that he’s only 24 years old, younger than Michael Conforto, Aaron Judge, and Kris Bryant, among other young stars.
Designated Hitter: Joey Votto, Cin
Joey Votto has just been doing Joey Votto things this season. He’s walking a lot more than he’s striking out (15.3% of his PAs result in a walk, versus 11.6% that end in a strikeout), he’s launched 19 taters, and he’s triple-slashing .309/.418/.609 . He’s quietly having one of the best all-around seasons in the majors, and I’m sure he’d be getting more attention if he didn’t play for the 29-38 Reds.
Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer, Wsh
Max Scherzer has been the best pitcher in baseball this season. WAR is a good baseline stat, and according to WAR, only Chris Sale of the Red Sox has been a more valuable pitcher this season, but Scherzer is leading the league in a few of pitching categories this year, and is near the top of the leaderboard in the categories he isn’t. Here are Scherzer’s ranks among all qualified MLB pitchers this season:
That’s a lot of yellow.
Yasmani Grandal, C, LAD
Grandal is really only on this team because each team typically carries three catchers. I don’t actually think that the Dodgers’ backstop will end up on the final National League roster because he’s triple-slashing .257/.313/.417, which is not terrible, but not great. Aside from Realmuto and Posey, there haven’t been any All-Star caliber catchers in the NL this year, but Grandal is the next-closest thing considering that he isn’t horrible on offense and is one of the elite defenders at the position in all of the big leagues.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Mia
Realmuto is posting arguably the best season of his career so far this year, but what he’s doing this year is not too far off from what he did last year. He’s only blasted six long ones, two of which came in the first three games of the season, but he’s triple-slashing .285/.349/.444, which is the best triple-slash among qualified catchers not named Buster Posey. He’s also improved his walk and strikeout rates from last season; Realmuto is walking in three percent more of his plate appearances and striking out nearly two percent less.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, ChC
Any player who can walk more than they strikeout in today’s game is worthy of All-Star consideration, and Rizzo is no stranger to the Midsummer Classic. Rizzo is walking 14.3% of the time, which is fantastic, especially when you consider that he’s striking out even less frequently than he is walking: 11.6% of the time. He doesn’t have a stellar triple-slash (.256/.392/.492), but he does have 15 HR and 5 SB, and his .245 BABIP means that his batting average should come up between now and the All-Star game. Even if it doesn’t, though, I think Rizzo should be on the roster.
Eric Thames, 1B/OF, Mil
I don’t know what they fed him during his three seasons in Korea, but maybe more players should be on that diet. After hitting .250 with 21 career HR through 684 MLB plate appearances from 2011-2012, Thames went to the KBO for three seasons, where he triple-slashed .349/.451/.721, hit 124 HR, and even went 40/40 in one season (he hit 47 HR and stole 40 bases in the KBO in 2015, when he took home league MVP). After posting video game numbers in the KBO, the Brewers decided to take a shot with Thames, signing him to a three-year, $16MM contract, and it has paid off in spades. Thames is triple-slashing .269/.402/.616, a far cry from his pre-KBO MLB numbers, and he’s also hit 20 HR while walking 16.7% of the time. Both of those numbers lead the NL. There is not a single player in all of baseball who can best each leg of his triple-slash. Thames is here to stay, and his contract is one of the biggest bargains in baseball right now.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Wsh
Zimmerman is going through an offensive renaissance of sorts. He’s posted by far the best triple-slash of his career (.353/.397/.681), and he’s hit 19 HR this season. At age 32 (I know you thought he was older, but he isn’t) he’s on pace to set career-highs in AVG, HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, and a plethora of other offensive categories. The full-time move to first base should help to keep him healthy, but given Zimmerman’s injury history, he could hit the shelf at any time. As long as he’s healthy, though, he will be one of the elite offensive producers for the NL, but staying healthy is not a given for Zimmerman.
Josh Harrison, 2B/3B/LF, Pit
Pittsburgh needs a representative, too, and Harrison has been great for them this year. He’s triple-slashing .302/.371/.464 with 8 HR and 6 SB. He hasn’t been a world-beater this year, but he’s been able to play at multiple spots on the diamond, and he’s 25th among qualified hitters with a 123 wRC+. Plus, he’s tied with Daniel Murphy for WAR among 2B.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Col
Arenado has the second-most RBI among NL third basemen (51), but that’s mostly a product of the fact that he hits in the middle of a stacked lineup, and that he plays in Coors Field. His Coors-assisted .290/.344/.547 is pretty good, as are his 14 HR, but above anything else he’s on the team because he’s managed to combine good offensive production with spectacular defense. He has provided almost double the defensive value of any other 3B in the National League.
Jake Lamb, 3B, Ari
Lamb has also been stellar this year, though he plays his games in Chase Field, or, as I like to call it, Coors Lite. With that said, Lamb has the highest RBI total in the majors (59) in addition to his 16 HR and 135 wRC+ which is third among NL third basemen.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Wsh
Due to Bryant’s recent slump, Rendon could easily unseat Bryant for the starting 3B job. He’s already compiled .3 more fWAR than Bryant to this point (negligible considering the sample size), and his .291/.390/.524 triple-slash nearly bests Bryant in ever category (Bryant’s AVG and SLG are lower, but his OBP is .006 higher). Rendon has also had great plate discipline this season, posting a 13.9% walk rate and a 15.0 % strikeout rate. He’s also only swinging and missing 5.2% of the time, and he’s made contact with 91.7% of pitches he’s swung at inside the strike zone. When Rendon swings, he doesn’t often miss, and this year, the results have shown.
Corey Seager, SS, LAD
I am a huge Corey Seager fan, mostly because of this feature article ESPN published about him in the preseason. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do so, but if you don’t want to read all about why Seager is such a likable person, I’ll just tell you that he’s a great ballplayer, too: 2.6 fWAR (7th in the National League), 9 HR, 14.8% walk rate, 49 runs, and a .286/.395/.469 triple-slash. He’s also been the 14th-most valuable player on defense in the National League.
Cody Bellinger, LF/1B, LAD
Bellinger’s been pretty good this season (to say the least), but let me do a quick comparison between him and the player I was debating putting on the roster in his place:
Player B has made a fantastic case as well to be on the All-Star team but Bellinger, despite having over 70 fewer plate appearances, has simply outproduced Player B. Bellinger has set the world on fire since being called up, and though he hasn’t even qualified for the batting title, he’s second in the National League in HR. Oh, and Player B is Giancarlo Stanton.
Matt Kemp, RF, Atl
Kemp gets the call for the Braves, and deservedly so. He’s triple-slashing .326/.363/.555, so you can see that he’s not walking a ton, but even still, he’s 5th in wRC+ among NL OF, and he has 11 HR. Definitely All-Star worthy, especially considering that the Braves now need a representative with Freddie Freeman sidelined.
Marcell Ozuna, LF, Mia
Ozuna would probably be starting if the OF in the National League wasn’t already so crowded. He’s 9th among all National League players in offensive production with a 150 wRC+, and that’s backed by a .324/.389/.574 triple-slash and 17 dongers.
Wil Myers/Yangervis Solarte/Hunter Renfroe, SD
We need a Padres representative, so take your pick. None of the above guys would be on the team if they didn’t play for one of the worst teams to take the field since the turn of the century (the 2017 Padres sit at a combined 1.2 fWAR, 8th-worst of any team since 2000). Myers has been slightly above-average on offense this year (113 wRC+), Renfroe is third among MLB rookies with 15 HR, and Solarte has 39 RBI and a .346 OBP. Not a single Padres player this season has over 1 WAR, and that includes pitchers. This team is simply not good, so it follows logically that whomever represents them in the ASG this summer will not be very good either. Certainly not All-Star worthy.
Zack Greinke, Ari
Not much needs to be said about the former Cy Young winner. He has a 3.00 ERA, 1.033 WHIP, 29.1% strikeout rate (10.4 K/9), and eight quality starts through 90.0 innings pitched over 14 starts.
Greg Holland, Col
Holland has bounced back incredibly well from Tommy John Surgery. Nobody really wanted him, as he’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off an injury, but the Rockies decided to roll the dice and their investment has paid off incredibly well. Holland has racked up an MLB-best 24 saves, and while saves are not really a great stat to judge relievers by, ERA, WHIP, and K% are, and he’s got some good ones: 1.69, 1.013, and 34.0%, respectively.
Kenley Jansen, LAD
It’s actually stupid how good Kenley Jansen is at baseball. He’s fanned 46.2% of the hitters to step the plate against him, and he sports a 0.94 ERA and 0.59 WHIP. His FIP is 0.35 (yeah, really). His K/9 is 15.07. He has walked zero batters. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Kershaw leads all qualified NL starters in ERA (2.23). He also has a 0.92 WHIP, 28.1% strikeout rate, and 6.56 K:BB. He’s also pitched 97.0 innings in 14 starts, which is an average of 7 innings per start. What else is new?
Carlos Martinez, StL
When I first put together this list last weekend, Martinez wasn’t on it. Instead, his teammate Mike Leake was tasked with representing the Cardinals at the Midsummer Classic. Then Martinez went out and pitched a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts and only 4 hits allowed. I promptly made the switch. Martinez has a 2.86 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season in addition to a 3.08 FIP and a 10.2 K/9. Not too bad for the 25-year-old, who also happens to be a five-year veteran.
Pat Neshek, Phi
Neshek is here because the Phillies are bad and I needed another pitcher for the bullpen. Feasibly, I could have made the case for Aaron Altherr (OF) to get on the team, but Neshek has probably been the best Phillies player this season. The 36-year-old has a 0.69 ERA, 0.808 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9.
Robbie Ray, Ari
Ray has always had great swing-and-miss stuff, but he’s never been able to put it all together until this year. Ray’s 32.4% strikeout rate is second to only Max Scherzer among qualified NL starters, and his 2.62 ERA is third behind Kershaw and Scherzer. The Diamondbacks should be able to stay in the playoff hunt down the stretch with a one-two punch of Greinke and Ray leading their rotation.
Stephen Strasburg, Wsh
Last season, Strasburg inked a 7-year, $175MM contract extension with the Nationals, and this year he’s showing the Nationals that he was worth it. Not that he hasn’t lived up to his #1 overall pick pedigree (career 3.18 ERA and 10.5 K/9), but he’s just been doing the same thing as always this year, and that means he’ll get a spot on the All-Star roster. This year, he has a 3.28 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 10.32 K/9, and 4.16 K:BB ratio.
Alex Wood, LAD
If you go to the Fangraphs 2017 pitching leaderboard for the National League, you won’t find Alex Wood on there anywhere, because he hasn’t qualified for the ERA crown. However, if you set the IP threshold to 50 minimum innings pitched (Wood is at 61.2, you’ll see Wood at the top of the list for ERA (1.90), third in WHIP (0.92), third in K% (29.8), and 6th in K:BB (4.80).
Note: As of publishing, all statistics are correct.
(Image Credit: Around The Foghorn)