All-Star voting comes to an end this week, with the starters announced over the weekend. Voters are doing an excellent job in the American League, where Wilson Ramos, Jose Abreu, Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez are the leaders. They aren’t doing quite so well in the National League, but we should be happy about the near-perfect AL ballot (I’d take Francisco Lindor over Machado, but the Orioles star certainly is deserving).
With everyone getting in the All-Star Game spirit, we’ll kick off this week’s Table Setter with a look at the fantasy baseball All-Star Team. This is a fantasy league, so a player doesn’t need to actually play the position in real life to get the spot. He just needs to be eligible there in fantasy leagues. Also, average draft position was considered, but only as a tiebreaker. This is about production, first and foremost.
Catcher: Evan Gattis, Astros
Gattis has spent exactly four innings behind the plate this season, but he caught 47 games last year, giving him eligibility there in fantasy leagues. His batting average and OBP leave a bit to be desired, but the 17 homers and 56 RBI easily get him the nod behind the dish for the fantasy All-Stars.
First base: Freddie Freeman, Braves
There are good arguments for Paul Goldschmidt and Jesus Aguilar, but Freeman squeaked past the two of them. He’s the only first baseman with at least 50 runs and RBI, he has 16 homers, he’s slashing .315/.407/.546, and he has swiped six bags. He provides value in every category, and is a truly elite hitter.
Second base: Jose Ramirez, Indians
Ramirez was making this team whether it was at second or third base. The Indians’ superstar is in the AL MVP race for the second straight season, hitting .295/.399/.607 with 24 homers, 22 doubles, 55 RBI, 58 runs and 14 steals.
Third base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
We put Ramirez at second because we deemed Arenado more worthy of a spot than Jose Altuve, Javier Baez or Ozzie Albies, as great as all three of them have been. Arenado is headed to his fourth straight All-Star Game, and he has finished in the top-five in MVP voting the last two years, but he is on track for the best season of his career. He’s hitting .306/.391/.593 with 21 homers and 59 RBI.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Indians
With all due repsect to Baez, Alex Bregman and Manny Machado, this has to be Lindor. The 24-year-old is slashing .296/.372/.564 with 21 homers, 27 doubles, 48 RBI, 70 runs and 10 steals on the season.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Angels; Mookie Betts, Red Sox; Aaron Judge, Yankees
The trio sure to start in the outfield for the AL doubles as the fantasy baseball All-Star outfield. Here’s one fun stat for all three: Trout is on pace to lead the AL in OPS+ for the fourth straight year, Betts is playing to a 162-game pace of 50 homers and 37 steals, and Judge has a realistic shot at the first consecutive 50-homer seasons since Alex Rodriguez did it in 2001 and 2002.
Utility: J.D. Martinez, Red Sox
Martinez leads the majors with 25 homers and 67 RBI and is slashing .324/.391/.634. It will always be remarkable that the Diamondbacks let him go.
Starting pitcher: Max Scherzer, Nationals
You could stump for Chris Sale, Luis Severino, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander or Corey Kluber, and I wouldn’t argue with you too much. So why does Scherzer get the honor? Strikeouts are even more valuable in fantasy leagues than they are in real life, and Scherzer leads the majors with 165 punchouts and a 37.1% strikeout rate.
Relief pitcher: Josh Hader, Brewers
Hader has given his fantasy owners 41 2/3 innings of a 1.30 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with 81 strikeouts. His 52.9% strikeout rate has made him a must-own reliever in all formats even if he doesn’t save another game the rest of the year.
Hitters to Watch This Week
Max Muncy, OF, Dodgers
One month ago, Muncy was starting about two out of every three games for the Dodgers, hitting for some power but not doing much else. At the start of July, he has made himself into arguably the most important player on the team this season. He finished June hitting .289/.465/.711 with 10 homers and 16 RBI in the month. After faltering for the first two months of the year, the Dodgers are in the thick of the NL West race. They wouldn’t be there without Muncy.
Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Astros
Bregman just put the finishing touches on a monster June, during which he hit .306/.372/.713 with 11 homers, nine doubles and 30 RBI in 121 plate appearances. He started the month with a .262/.380/.419 slash line, and finished it hitting .277/.377/.519. It’s safe to say that every player in the majors would trade three points of OBP for 100 points of slugging. The Astros are terrifying.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers
Cain has been on the DL since last week with a groin injury, but he’s confident he’ll be able to return when first eligible on Wednesday. The Brewers have gone 3–4 without Cain, averaging just more than four runs per game. Seemingly every important player on the offense has spent some time on the DL, and when Cain returns it will be one of the few times all year that the Brewers’ lineup has been fully healthy. He’s hitting .291/.394/.438 with eight homers, 15 doubles and 16 steals on the year.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
Like Bregman, Carpenter was one of the hottest hitters in baseball in June, slashing .313/.404/.636 with eight homers, eight doubles and 15 RBI in the month. Carpenter was genuinely terrible the first six weeks of the season, but has finally reverted to expected form. Despite that dreadful start to the year, he’s hitting .256/.364/.502 with 15 homers for the season.
Jose Peraza, 2B/SS, Reds
One week ago, Peraza had 10 career homers in about two full seasons in the majors, spread out across four years. He now has 13 bombs, increasing his career homer total by 30% in five games. Peraza has gone 8-for-22 with the three homers in those five games, and brings a six-game hitting streak into play on Monday. It’s safe to say he didn’t suddenly become a power hitter, but if he can add even modest pop to his speed, he’ll be a much more useful player.
Pitchers to Watch This Week
Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox
Sale made two starts last week, taking the ball against the Mariners and Yankees, two teams that already seem near-locks for the postseason. Sale first dominated the Mariners, striking out 13 in seven shutout innings. He then went on to nearly repeat the exact same fate at Yankee Stadium, keeping one of the best offenses in baseball scoreless for seven innings while fanning 11. Sale’s next start is scheduled for Friday against the Royals.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants
Bumgarner has been excellent in his last two outings, tossing 15 total scoreless innings while striking out 16 batters and allowing just seven baserunners. He beat the Padres for his first win of the season, and then took a tough no-decision against the Rockies. Bumgarner had a little rust to shake off after spending the first two months of the season on the DL, but he now sports a 2.51 ERA, 3.61 FIP and 1.02 WHIP with 25 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. He’ll make two starts this week, facing the Rockies on Monday and Cardinals on Saturday.
Matt Harvey, SP, Reds
Harvey has dealt with a high degree of difficulty in his last three starts, facing the Cubs, Braves and Brewers in succession. Not only are all three in postseason position, but they also rank first, fifth and 12th, respectively, in the majors in hitter fWAR. Harvey generally had his way with all three, allowing three runs on 13 hits in 18 1/3 innings, striking out 14 and walking just two. This is the first measure of real consistency from Harvey that we’ve seen in at least a few years, and is reason for genuine encouragement. He’s slated for just one start this week, facing the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Shane Bieber, SP, Indians
Bieber has made two straight quality starts, shutting down the Tigers and Cardinals. First, he tossed seven shutout innings against the Tigers, allowing four hits while fanning nine batters. He then surrendered one run on six hits in six innings against the Cardinals, striking out five and walking one. Bieber has brought some stability to the backend of Cleveland’s rotation, and the team will get Carlos Carrasco back from the DL this week. Bieber’s lone start of the week is scheduled for Tuesday in Kansas City.
Charlie Morton, SP, Astros
Chris Sale isn’t the only pitcher in the majors to strike out 13 and 11 batters in his last two starts. Morton has hit those same numbers, achieving the feat against the Blue Jays and Rays, respectively. Morton is likely headed to the first All-Star Game of his career, though the fact that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are locks, coupled with the requirement that every team get representation, could give him the week off. Still, it’ll be hard to ignore a pitcher with a 2.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10 wins and 133 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings. Morton will take the ball once this week, opposing the White Sox on Saturday.
Matchups to Watch This Week
Braves at Brewers, Thursday through Sunday
The Braves and Brewers open this week as the leaders in the NL East and Central, respectively, owners of the two best records in the senior circuit. Back at the start of the season, that would’ve seemed unlikely for the first full week of May, let alone the first full week of July. Assuming the teams stay on schedule, the Braves will send Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz, Anibal Sanchez and Sean Newcomb to the mound. The Brewers will counter with Jhoulys Chacin, Freddy Peralta, Brent Suter and Junior Guerra.
A’s at Indians, Friday through Sunday
The AL East race, the continued brilliance of the Astros, and the emergence of the Mariners have helped push the A’s almost entirely off the national radar. They may need some help to make a true run at the postseason, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that they’ve had a promising season to date. The A’s enter this week at 46–39, the sixth-best record in the AL and 10th best in the majors, but are 8.5 games out of a wild card spot. They’d probably love to trade spots with the Indians, who are just a half-game ahead of them, but hold a nine-game lead in the AL Central, the league’s worst division. This series will be a great test for the A’s mighty lineup, with the Indians trotting out Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber. The A’s, meanwhile, will send Paul Blackburn, Edwin Jackson and Frankie Montas to the mound.
Max Scherzer vs. Red Sox, Monday
There’s no better way to start this holiday week than by tuning in to watch arguably the best pitcher in the majors facing arguably the best offense. Scherzer made five starts in June, allowing nine runs with 45 strikeouts in 35 innings, which would be the best month of the season for something like 80% of pitchers in the majors. For Scherzer, it raised his ERA to 2.04 from 1.95. Seeing him take the mound against Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and the rest of the Red Sox’ loaded offense will be a treat.
Robbie Ray vs. Carlos Martinez, Monday
Ray returned to the mound last week after spending two months on the DL, and it’s safe to say the Diamondbacks loved what they saw. He threw six scoreless innings against the Marlins, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out six. Sure, it was as soft a landing spot as a pitcher could hope for after missing two months, but it was still encouraging to see him thoroughly dominate a lineup he should control. Martinez, meanwhile, has struggled since returning from a month-long stint on the DL in early June, pitching to a 6.75 ERA and 2.21 WHIP in 22 2/3 innings. He did have his best start since returning in his last trip to the mound, though, allowing two runs while striking out eight in six innings in a win over the Indians.
Blake Snell vs. Jacob deGrom, Friday
Two guaranteed All-Stars take the mound at Citi Field on Friday, with Snell and deGrom facing off in the best pitching matchup of the week. Snell is realizing his potential this season, his third year in the league, amassing a 2.24 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.01 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings. Poor deGrom has had to watch as his teammates waste excellent start after excellent start. The 30-year-old has a MLB-leading 1.84 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings, and yet the Mets are 6–11 in his 17 starts.