AL, NL All-Star Game rosters feature likely suspects, few surprises
America, meet your 2015 All-Stars. On Monday night, Major League Baseball announced the reserves, pitchers and Final Vote candidates for this year's American and National League rosters, rounding out the field of men who will be taking part in the Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati. And while a few big names are notably absent from the teams for the 86th edition of the All-Star Game (Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m. ET on Fox), for the most part, there aren't many huge surprises or snubs to be found in either league.
Let's start with the AL. Given how many Royals made this year's All-Star squad—Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera (as well as potentially Mike Moustakas, who is on the Final Vote ballot) will join Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon—it's strange to see Eric Hosmer not make the cut. In the span of just a month, Hosmer went from starter to spectator, falling out of the lead in voting at first base and getting left off the team in place of Albert Pujols (who will start for the injured Miguel Cabrera) and Mark Teixeira. It's hard to argue against that, however, as Pujols (152 OPS+, 2.8 WAR) and Teixeira (143 OPS+, 2.6 WAR) have Hosmer (118 OPS+, 1.7 WAR) beat in the season stats.
The most unexpected name on the AL roster, meanwhile, is utility infielder Brock Holt. The 27-year-old has risen out of obscurity to become a super-sub for the Red Sox, hitting .295/.383/.424 with a 125 OPS+ and 3.1 WAR while playing every position but catcher and pitcher. He'll give manager Ned Yost some flexibility in the later innings. The presence of Adam Jones over Yoenis Cespedes and Brett Gardner is a bit unexpected, but his inclusion isn't a grievous error.
On the pitching staff, Yost will take seven relievers with him to Cincinnati. That may seem like overkill, but given that each starting pitcher is good for no more than two innings, it makes sense that he would grab as many relievers as he could, even including a matchup righty in Darren O'Day. That crowded bullpen left room for only six starters, however: Chris Sale, Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Felix Hernandez, David Price and Chris Archer. All six deserve to be there, though Gray won't take part in the festivities as he's scheduled to pitch on Sunday. Missing from that list: defending Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who is tied with Archer and Hernandez for the league lead in strikeouts but trails both in ERA+ and WAR.
The NL roster doesn't have many surprises either. Yadier Molina making the team despite his down season (95 OPS+, 1.4 WAR) is a testament to just how far veteran presence and past results can get you, but it would have been more surprising to see him left off the roster. The same is true of Madison Bumgarner, who has quietly had a down year by his standards (106 ERA+ in 113 1/3 innings) but nonetheless will make the trip to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, as far as unexpected names go, if you had put down money this off-season on either of DJ LeMahieu or A.J. Burnett making an All-Star team in 2015, you're either psychic or insane. Regardless, both are deserving candidates, with Burnett as one of the game's feel-good stories: The 17-year veteran made his first All-Star team in what's likely his final season.
While there wasn't much surprise about which players were included on each roster, those left off should elicit some mild shock. Kluber is the biggest-name pitcher missing from the AL squad, while Gardner, Cespedes and Brian Dozier were all pushed to the Final Vote ballot despite strong seasons. Gardner in particular had as good a case as anyone else: He's 10th in the AL in WAR (3.1), and among all qualified AL outfielders, he's fifth in OPS+ at 136. He shouldn't have been left once more at the mercy of the fans, particularly against Moustakas and the legion of Royals supporters ready to rally behind him.
Over in the NL, the depth and strength of the pitching staff meant that, amazingly enough, all three of Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto were left off the roster. Kershaw and Cueto made the Final Vote ballot, but Hamels got no such condolence despite his 3.5 WAR, which is fourth among all NL pitchers. Given the need for injury and ineligibility replacements, however, he's probably one of the first starters who'll be named an alternate. Jake Arrieta is another snubbed starter who shouldn't make any travel plans for next week, just in case. As for position players, Justin Turner has every right to be miffed at not getting a spot: His 3.2 WAR is 10th in the NL, ahead of the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Kris Bryant and Justin Upton, all of whom made the team.
Of course, the biggest name not to be found on an All-Star roster is perhaps this season's most controversial: Alex Rodriguez. Amid a comeback year that's seen him set records and reemerge as a top-flight offensive player, Rodriguez got no love from the fans, finishing fifth in the All-Star voting at designated hitter, then was bypassed completely by Yost and the players. Despite his strong overall numbers—.284/.390/.513 with 16 homers, a 149 OPS+ and 2.2 WAR—A-Rod didn't even get a spot on the Final Vote ballot. His exclusion is a total and unnecessary shame. His season has been a legitimately great one—among all qualified AL hitters, he's eighth in OPS+—and his turnaround on and off the field would have been a welcome addition to the All-Star celebration.