Last week, we kicked off the Table Setter by naming our fantasy baseball All-Star Team. Now that the actual teams have been announced, we’ll pull from the players left out of next week’s festivities in D.C., giving some recognition to the deserving players who missed out on an invite, for one reason or another. It’s the SI.com Table Setter Somehow Not a Real-Life All-Star but Still a Fantasy All-Star Team.
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli, Pirates
Catcher is the one spot where it’s hard to get worked up about any of the players left off either team. Cervelli, who’s hitting .258/.392/.489 with nine homers and 36 RBI gets the nod here.
First base: Jesus Aguilar, Brewers
First base is crowded in the National League with Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, but Aguilar needs to be in Washington. He has emerged as a key player on the first-place Brewers, hitting .306/.368/.633 with 22 homers and 63 RBI.
Second base: Jed Lowrie, A’s
Lowrie is enjoying a breakout season, which isn’t something typically said about a 34-year-old in his 11th year in the league. He’s hitting .290/.357/.507 with 16 homers, which already ties a career high, and 62 RBI.
Third base: Max Muncy, Dodgers
Muncy has to be in here somewhere, and this is our best spot for him. The unlikely Dodgers savior is hitting .270/.407/.610 with 20 homers and 38 RBI in 248 plate appearances. Assuming about 600 trips to the plate in a full season, that puts him on a 162-game pace for 48 homers and 92 RBI.
Shortstop: Jean Segura, Mariners
There is no shortage of options here, and this should not be seen as a further slight to Andrelton Simmons, Trea Turner or Eduardo Escobar. Segura, however, beats them out thanks to a .330/.358/.470 slash line, with seven homers, 24 doubles, 47 RBI, 61 runs and 14 steals. Had Simmons not spent time on the DL, this spot likely would have been his.
Outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox; Eddie Rosario, Twins; Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
The outfield in the American League is loaded, and the Red Sox didn’t need any help getting players to the All-Star Game, but how is Benintendi not on this team? All he has done this season is hit .293/.379/.515 with 14 homers, 22 doubles, 55 RBI, 65 runs and 16 steals. Rosario, meanwhile, is slashing .301/.342/.536 with 18 jacks and 53 RBI. As for Schwarber, he may be hitting just .249, but he has a .376 OBP, .498 slugging percentage, and 17 homers, all while turning himself into a strong defender in left field. His eight outfield assists are tied for first in the majors.
Starting pitcher: Blake Snell, Rays
How? How did Snell not make the All-Star Team? His 2.09 ERA leads the AL. He’s 12–4, amassing a gaudy record on a middling Rays team. He has a 1.03 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 116 innings. Snell is the single greatest snub from this year’s All-Star Game. Hopefully, his spot on the SI.com Table Setter Somehow Not a Real-Life All-Star but Still a Fantasy All-Star Team provides a tiny measure of solace.
Hitters to Watch This Week
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers
Aguilar belted his 21st and 22nd homers of the season on Sunday, heading into the final week of the first half on a hot streak. We already covered his full exploits in the intro to the column, so there’s no reason to repeat them here. Aguilar is one of the five players up for the final All-Star vote in the NL, joining Brandon Belt, Matt Carpenter, Max Muncy and Trea Turner. All five of them are deserving, but the Table Setter committee would vote for Aguilar.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
Judge is back in the All-Star Game and has seemingly been celebrating of late. He’s hitting .318/.434/.727 with six homers in his last 11 games, raising his season-long slash line to .280/.399/.572. With 25 homers going into the final week of the first half, a second straight 50-homer campaign is within his reach. It has been nearly 20 years since the last consecutive 50-homer seasons, pulled off by fellow Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Cubs
Baez will start at second base in his first career All-Star Game, which is great news for everyone involved—possibly excepting Ozzie Albies and Scooter Gennett. Baez represents exactly what the All-Star Game should be about, and it will be great for the league to have his brand of baseball on full display under the lights in Washington. He’s also among the hottest hitters in the league, going 22-for-48 with three homers, seven doubles and 14 RBI in his last 11 games.
Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Reds
Another rightful first-time All-Star, as well as a favorite of the Table Setter, Suarez is coming off a weekend set with the Cubs during which he went 5-for-10 with two homers, two walks and five RBI. He’s riding an 11-game hitting streak which has seen him raise his slash line to .315/.405/.590. Suarez has been trending in this direction over the last few years, and is now a full-fledged star. Perhaps he’ll finally get the renown he deserves.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, Nationals
Reynolds went 5-for-5 with two homers and 10 RBI in the Nationals’ 18–4 thumping of the Marlins on Saturday. He became the third player in the last two seasons to drive in at least 10 runs in a game, joining Scooter Gennett and teammate Anthony Rendon. In that one game, he raised his batting average 35 points, his OBP 28 points, and his slugging percentage 89 points. The Nationals are going to need Reynolds to be a consistent force in the middle of their lineup if they have any hope of salvaging their season and chasing down the Phillies and Braves.
Pitchers to Watch This Week
Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox
Sale kept things rolling this week, allowing one run and striking out 12 in six innings in a win over the Royals. Sale has fanned at least 11 batters in four consecutive starts and hasn’t lost a game in more than a month. He surrendered one run and struck out 10 in eight innings in that game, though, so it wasn’t really his fault. Sale will take the ball once this week, facing the Rangers on Wednesday.
Blake Snell, SP, Rays
The top All-Star snub will be out for a tiny measure of personal revenge when he takes the mound against the Twins on Thursday. As we discussed in the intro, there’s no justification for Snell having been left off the All-Star Team. He may eventually get in as an alternate or injury replacement, but he should have been there from the very beginning. He has been on fire of late, going at least seven innings while allowing one run or fewer in all of his last four starts.
Freddy Peralta, SP, Brewers
Starting pitching is the lone question mark in Milwaukee, and Peralta is doing what he can to provide the team with an answer. He has made six starts this season, pitching to a 2.14 ERA, 2.11 FIP and 0.89 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. He should be in the rotation for good, and is coming off an outing in which he held the mighty Braves to one run on three hits and three walks in six innings, striking out six while picking up his fourth win of the season. He’s scheduled for one start this week, facing the Marlins on Wednesday.
Lance McCullers, SP, Astros
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton have made it easy to overlook the fact that McCullers has also thrown the ball well this season, amassing a 3.41 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 1.11 WHIP and 118 strikeouts in 108 1/3 innings. It’s a challenge to pick out the one defining strength of this Houston team, but when McCullers is your No. 4, it’s hard to say it’s anything other than the rotation. McCullers will take the ball once in the final week of the first half, drawing a matchup with the A’s on Wednesday.
Aaron Nola, Phillies
The Phillies enter the final week before the All-Star break tied with the Braves for first place in the NL East. They’ll send Nola to the mound twice this week, starting on Monday night against the Mets in New York. Nola has taken off this season, earning his first All-Star nod by posting a 2,41 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 1.03 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 116 innings. He’ll wrap up his first half with a start against the Marlins on Saturday.
Matchups to Watch This Week
Yankees at Indians, Thursday through Sunday
The Yankees and Indians enter this week both comfortably in playoff position, and it’s impossible to craft a realistic scenario in which either of the two isn’t playing meaningful baseball in October. Even if we weren’t getting a great pitching matchup in any of the four games this would be one of the best series of the week, but we are getting one of the best possible matchups in the league. Corey Kluber and Luis Severino will face off in the opener in a matchup between two Cy Young candidates. After Kluber takes the ball Thursday, the Indians will send Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer to the mound. The Yankees counter with Domingo German, CC Sabathia and possibly Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s ready to return from the DL.
A’s at Astros, Monday through Thursday
Did you know the A’s are 10 games over .500, giving them the ninth-best record in the majors, tied with the Indians and ahead of the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Nationals? It’s true. It’s a shame that the second-place teams in the AL East and West are running away with the wild card spots, because a high-level three-team race for a postseason berth would be one of the best things to watch in the second half of the season. As it stands, the A’s trail the Mariners by 6.5 games for the second wild card spot, a huge gap to make up in about 70 games. They’ll have to face the Astros’ ridiculous foursome at the top of the rotation, with Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton scheduled to start in this series. The A’s will oppose them with Franki Montas, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt and Trevor Cahill.
Diamondbacks at Braves, Friday through Sunday
The Diamondbacks and Braves both start this week in first place, but could be out of the top spot by time they get together for their weekend series on Friday. The Diamondbacks hold a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West, while the Braves are tied atop the NL East with the Phillies. The scheduled matchups for the three-gamer are Robbie Ray against Anibal Sanchez on Friday, Zack Greinke against Sean Newcomb on Saturday, and Patrick Corbin against Julio Teheran on Sunday.
Luis Severino vs. Corey Kluber, Thursday
I know we already touched on this one in the Yankees-Indians capsule, but Severino-Kluber deserves its own little section. Kluber is 12–4 with a 2.49 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 126 1/3 innings, and is not having the best statistical season between the two starters in this game. That’s because Severino brings into his last start of the first half a 14–2 record, 2.12 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 0.97 WHIP and 143 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings. They’re two of the pitchers helping make the AL Cy Young chase one of the best award races in recent memory.
Andrew Heaney vs. Clayton Kershaw, Saturday
This should be a pleasing aesthetic matchup with a couple of tall lefties with unconventional deliveries squaring off in the second game of a three-game series between the Angels and Dodgers. Heaney is starting to realize his potential, sporting a 3.94 ERA, 3.78 FIP and 1.17 WHIP with 96 strikeouts in 96 innings this season. Kershaw, meanwhile, has made three starts since returning from his second DL stint of the season, allowing five runs on 13 hits with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings in those outings. He hasn’t thrown more than 74 pitches in any of the starts, and it’s safe to assume the Dodgers will keep a close watch on his pitch count again in this one. With the All-Star break looming, though, they should be taking off the kid gloves in the near-future.