Baseball slows down this week with the All-Star festivities in San Diego, giving us a good opportunity to reflect on what we saw during the first half before getting ready for the playoff push, both in real life and fantasy.
From a team perspective, the first half mostly followed the script. The Cubs, Nationals and Giants were all preseason favorites to win their divisions, and all three hold comfortable leads. The Rangers were viewed as co-favorites with the Astros in the AL West, while the only surprise with the Indians atop the AL Central is how wide of a gap they’ve put between themselves and the rest of the division. The only unlikely division leader is in the AL East, where the Orioles hold a two-game advantage over the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
There are plenty of surprises on the individual level. Mark Trumbo leads the majors in homers. Daniel Murphy has the best batting average in the league and is a legitimate NL MVP candidate. The top-five in ERA in the AL are, in order, Steven Wright, Danny Salazar, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and Jose Quintana. Baseball’s weirdness might not show up in the standings, but it is all over the statistics leaderboards.
With that in mind, let’s look back on the first three-plus months of the season and highlight the players who most surpassed our expectations. I present to you the Surprise All-Star Team, selected by a committee of one to avoid the shenanigans that got Addison Russell a starting nod over Corey Seager in the real thing.
One quick note before we get going. Even though this is a fantasy All-Star Team, we wanted it to resemble a team you could actually see on an MLB field. Therefore, players were only eligible for inclusion at the primary positions they’ve played this season. That means no Ian Desmond at shortstop, for example.
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