Picking the 2019 MLB All-Stars
With “The Primary” 2019 Google MLB All-Star Ballot ending in just 1 day, I wanted to express who I feel deserves to attend the festivities in Cleveland this year. Some of my opinions are based on history (ex. Mike Trout) while others are relative to breakout performers this year.
For context, I will be selecting both position players and pitchers (20 and 12 for each league, respectively); starters are listed first followed by the other choices. Additionally, one player from each squad (yes, even the Orioles) must be in Progressive Field for the game. Feel free to chime in below whether or not you agree or disagree!
1st Base: Luke Voit (Yankees), Jose Abreu (White Sox), Carlos Santana (Indians)
I’m sure that the choice of Voit as the All-Star Game starter may baffle some, but Voit has simply put the Yankees on his back this season despite the nimiety of injuries they have incurred. It’s hard to imagine how well they would be doing without having acquired Voit, one of the most under-the-radar moves that GM Brian Cashman made last August—largely because he has been able to avoid the injury bug.
Abreu is seemingly a perennial All-Star and is having another phenomenal year—in fact, he leads the American League in RBIs with 54. However, his .9 WAR is worse than Voit, Santana, and even C.J. Cron—who was a tough player to omit—yet ranks 7th with a .343 OBP. I also think that Santana should have the chance to play in his home ballpark considering that not many Indians will be able to showcase their skills to the hometown faithful on July 9th.
2nd Base: Tommy La Stella (Angels), DJ LeMahieu (Yankees)
It was a tough call choosing between La Stella and LeMahieu, but I think La Stella deserves the nod. After serving as largely a backup during his tenure in Chicago, he has flourished in Anaheim, posting a .295 average and 15 homers. To me, LeMahieu should be in the running for the AL MVP, as he, alongside Voit, has catalyzed the Bombers.
3rd Base: Alex Bregman, (Astros) Rafael Devers, (Red Sox), Hunter Dozier (Royals)
Another MVP candidate, Bregman paces all American League third basemen with 50 RBIs and a .394 OBP, not to mention a ridiculous 3.6 WAR. Despite the Red Sox not performing as well as their fans had hoped, Devers has stepped up and improved his play from last year, slashing .307/.360/.503 after hitting .240 in 2018. Dozier, another emerging player, has accrued a .314 AVG and a .398 OBP as well.
The Minnesota Twins have baseball's best record at 48-25, in large part thanks to shortstop Jorge Polanco. Polanco typically hits towards the top of Minnesota's power-heavy lineup, which is on pace to hit a record 310 homers.
Shortstop: Jorge Polanco (Twins), Xander Bogaerts, (Red Sox), Gleyber Torres (Yankees)
This is unquestionably the deepest position in the AL if not the entire ballot—so much so that I had to exclude stars Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa.
Polanco is having an unbelievable season, hitting .326 and serving as a linchpin of Minnesota’s squad. Bogaerts leads all AL SS in RBIs (49), walks (45), and OBP (.349). Torres is one of the brightest young stars in the league (though he won’t be playing shortstop regularly now that Didi Gregorius is back) and, in my opinion, deserves to make his second ASG in 2 years.
One could argue that Chicago’s Tim Anderson, because of his tremendous improvement—and uncontested swagger—should earn a nod, but the player limit of 20 (and ensuring that every team has at least 1 representative) restricts that.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Robinson Chirinos (Astros)
It’s Gary Sanchez and then everyone else in the American League. The fifth year backstop leads all catchers in home runs, RBIs, and slugging—not to mention that he has improved his once-porous defense as well. After switching allegiances and venturing from the Rangers to the Astros, Chirinos has filled in nicely and is leading Sanchez in WAR by .2. I was pondering adding James McCann, but he has a mere 21 RBIs in 50 games notwithstanding a .330 AVG.
Outfield: Mike Trout (Angels), George Springer (Astros), Joey Gallo (Rangers), Michael Brantley (Astros), Max Kepler (Twins)
Trout is still the best player in baseball; despite his team’s decent 38-37 record, he is tied for the American League in homers (22) and is tops at RBIs (56). Before his hamstring strain, Springer was having an outstanding season and simply galvanizes the Houston lineup.
Joey Gallo has no longer become an “absolute outcome” hitter, as he has significantly bolstered his average, on base percentage, and OPS. Brantley leads all AL outfielders with a .321 average and is a hitting machine. It was tough to choose between Kepler and his teammate Eddie Rosario, but I’ll give the tip of the cap to the former due to his superior 2.8 WAR and 145 OPS+. It’s difficult not to pick Tampa Bay's Austin Meadows, but a 5-man outfield should be sufficient.
Designated Hitter: Daniel Vogelbach (Mariners), J.D. Martinez (Red Sox)
Martinez is the actual leader in DH votes by a wide margin, but don’t sleep on Vogelbach. This positioning might be jarring to Red Sox fans, but a) a Mariners player must be on the roster (their pitching is relatively atrocious and Vogelbach is one of their few good hitters) and b) Vogelbach has 17 home runs and 40 RBIs after posting only 4 dingers and 13 RBIs in 37 games a year ago. Martinez is having a worse year than his out-of-this-world 2018 but is still a premier DH.
Pitchers: Justin Verlander (Astros), Mike Minor (Rangers), Lucas Giolito (White Sox), Jake Odorizzi (Twins), Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Charlie Morton (Rays), Brad Hand (Indians), Shane Greene (Tigers), Liam Hendriks (A’s), Aroldis Chapman (Yankees), Adam Ottavino (Yankees), John Means (Orioles)
The AL Cy Young race should come down to Verlander, Minor and Giolito, the last of whom is quietly having a phenomenal season and has already posted 10 victories. Odorizzi’s 2.24 ERA is the best in the American League and 3rd in the majors; Stroman, a likely trade candidate, is having another solid year. Out of all Rays starters, I think Morton surpasses Tyler Glasnow due to Glasnow being sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a forearm strain.
In terms of relievers, I was astounded at the sub-1 ERAs posted by Hand and Greene. Hendriks ranks 11th among AL bullpen arms with 44 Ks; Chapman is in the same echelon of closers as Hand and Greene. And yes, rookie John Means—and his 2.69 ERA—is ultimately the man who I believe should represent the Orioles.
After hitting 12 home runs and 62 RBIs a year ago, Josh Bell has been a silver lining for the last place-Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, Bell has 2 home runs that have left PNC Park and splashed down into the Allegheny River.
1st Base: Josh Bell (Pirates), Pete Alonso (Mets), Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Much like the AL shortstop position, the National League 1B slot is truly loaded. I think Bell deserves to start due to the fact that he leads all of baseball in RBIs and is in the top 5 in slugging and OPS. Alonso should be a lock for NL Rookie of the Year and is second in the majors with 24 home runs; by far, he’s the Mets’ best position player this year.
I considered pegging Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs instead of Freeman, but Freeman’s WAR, batting average, OBP and more transcend Rizzo’s.
2nd Base: Ketel Marte (Diamondbacks), Mike Moustakas (Brewers), Ozzie Albies (Braves)
Marte’s 3.1 WAR is the best among this contingent; his 50 RBIs lead NL second basemen. Moustakas is quietly having another solid season for Milwaukee and has hit 29 home runs for the Brewers since he was acquired from the Royals on July 27th, 2018. Albies’ OBP has risen more than 40 points relative to last year and has played in all of Atlanta’s contests so far.
3rd Base: Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Anthony Rendon (Nationals), Kris Bryant (Cubs)
Arenado is having another disgusting year with 60 RBIs and a .330 average (not to mention his other ludicrous metrics). Fresh off his massive contract extension, he is almost single-handedly keeping Colorado afloat and is the best at the “Hot Corner” in the league.
Rendon is certainly a candidate to be dealt if the Nationals opt for a rebuild, especially considerning that he will be a free agent at season’s end. Both he and Bryant have proven over the last few years that they are among the elite National League third basemen.
Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar almost cracked this lineup with 17 homers and 58 RBIs (20 more than Bryant) but he is a good example of statistics not always aligning with All-Star-worthy players.
Shortstop: Javy Baez (Cubs), Trevor Story (Rockies)
Much like his crosstown counterpart and aforementioned Tim Anderson, Baez brings a nonchalant excellence to the game that is to be admired. In fact, the intangibles that Javy possesses may be what scarcely earns him the staring nod in my book, as he and Trevor Story are having nearly identical seasons:
Baez: .283/.321/.534, 17 HR, 46 RBIs, 2.8 WAR
Story: .294/.360/.547, 17 HR, 48 RBIs, 3.3 WAR
Story is one of the most underrated players in the majors, but some of his outstanding numbers could be due to playing in the pantheon of hitters’ parks: Coors Field.
Catcher: Willson Contreras (Cubs), Yasmani Grandal (Brewers), J.T. Realmuto (Phillies)
Contreras isn’t dominating catchers as much as Gary Sanchez is, but he still deserves to start based on his NL-best average, OBP, slugging, and OPS among backstops. Grandal is having a surprising season with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs; I thought that the Phillies would become a superteam once they acquired former Marlins catcher Realmuto, but he’s still having a nice year with 2.5 WAR.
Outfield: Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), Christian Yelich (Brewers), Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves), Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Bryce Harper (Phillies)
Bellinger is having a ridiculous season: he’s leading baseball in position players’ WAR, defensive WAR and batting average along with a plethora of other stats. The only man to top Bellinger in offensive categories, including SLG and OBP + SLG, is reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich. Acuna Jr. is analogous to Gleyber Torres in that both are young superstars who will likely be perennial All-Stars.
In my view, Blackmon should be ranked higher than Ozuna due to the former’s .339 average and 1.013 OPS yet Ozuna is having a solid campaign with 18 HR and 56 RBIs. Harper barely squeaks in despite his subpar 0.5 WAR and .243 batting average, but he is still undoubtedly one of the best players in baseball.
Los Angeles' Hyun-Jin Ryu has put the Dodgers on his back in 2019. After posting a 3.77 ERA in 2017, his same 2019 metric has dwindled all the way to below 1.5--making him a likely shoo-in to the All-Star Game.
Pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers), Max Scherzer (Nationals), Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks), Luis Castillo (Reds), Mike Soroka (Braves), Sandy Alcantara (Marlins), Kirby Yates (Padres), Will Smith (Giants), Josh Hader (Brewers), Felipe Vazquez (Pirates), Amir Garrett (Reds), John Gant (Cardinals)
Ryu has been otherworldly for Los Angeles, posting an MLB-best 1.26 ERA and a 2nd-best 0.82 WHIP. Scherzer is still a contender for the title of the best pitcher in baseball, but, much like his stellar teammate Rendon, he may be traded before July 31st. Despite his age augmenting, Greinke has continued to excel and is 3rd in the NL with 102 IP. Castillo (3rd year) and Soroka (rookie) are stud pitchers who have luminous futures, as Soroka’s 2.12 ERA is behind only Ryu, and Castillo has accumulated 3.2 WAR thus far. Alcantara is not, per se, an elite pitcher yet is probably the best arm on Miami’s staff (excluding 2-start phenom Jordan Yamamoto).
Yates has been untouchable in 2019; he has converted 100% of his saves and averages 15.9 strikeouts/9 innings. Smith has been surprisingly unheralded despite his stellar numbers since 2016. Hader rounds out the “Elite” tier of NL relievers and has improved his outstanding 2018 WHIP. Vazquez has a great 2.31 ERA since pitching in Pittsburgh; Garrett and Gant have both significantly bettered their lackluster 2018 numbers.
All-Stars By Team
Red Sox: 3
White Sox: 2
Blue Jays: 1