Skip to main content

MLB Roundtable: Making the All-Star Case for Players Not Getting Their Deserved Recognition

These unheralded players deserve to earn a spot on their league's All-Star teams.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

At at time when baseball is ripe with talent, it can be easy to overlook some of the game's best players when naming the All-Star team rosters. 

Look no further than the three Juniors (Vladimir Guerrero, Ronald Acuña and Fernando Tatis) to see the obvious greats the game has to offer. But, there are also plenty of unheralded stars deserving of recognition at this year's All-Star Game at Coors Field.

The Sports Illustrated MLB staff made the case for one player to be selected for their league's All-Star team. Here's what they had to say:

Jun 18, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins (31) waves to the crowd after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cedric Mullins

Tom Verducci

Cedric Mullins of Baltimore should not only go to the All-Star game, he should start it. He leads the AL in hits (94), and among AL outfielders leads in OPS (.920) and total bases (168), is second in stolen bases (14) and third in OBP (.383). He is also a great story. Mullins is a 5-foot-8, 13th-round pick from 2015 who was a switch-hitter and batted .197 in his first 67 games in the majors over two years. After hitting .147 from the right side, he gave up switch-hitting this year. As a lefthanded-only hitter, he has flourished. Mullins is on his way to a 20/20 season (home runs and stolen bases) while hitting .300. That’s been done by only one player in franchise history, Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns a century ago (1921, 22).

Stephanie Apstein

Shohei Ohtani will make the All-Star team, so I will not make the case for his inclusion. I will make the case for his inclusion as the two-way player who has so impressed us. Technically, if Ohtani pitches and hits for himself, the AL should lose the DH. I have seen some people suggest MLB scrap that rule for the day. That would be fine. Also fine: Keep it! It's the All-Star Game! AL manager Kevin Cash should just pinch hit with his bench guys after Ohtani leaves the game. Fans would rather see Ohtani pitch and hit than see Kyle Gibson throw an extra inning. (No offense to Kyle Gibson, who is having an excellent season.) The result doesn't matter now that home field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the better record instead of being decided by the ASG winner, so let's put on a show.

Emma Baccellieri

Cedric Mullins will almost certainly be an All-Star—the one-representative-per-team rule requires that there be someone from the Orioles and, well, that's obviously him. But I think he has a clear case to be not just a member of the team, but a starter, and it would be a shame to see him overlooked. He finished seventh among outfielders in the first round of voting for the American League—but his play this season has been decidedly worthy of the top three. He leads the position in WAR from both FanGraphs (3.7) and Baseball-Reference (3.4). His defense is a joy to watch. He boasts a 152 OPS+. He's first in the AL in hits and first among AL outfielders in steals. And he was responsible for this completely delightful pop-up triple back in May. What more can you ask for? That's an All-Star starter.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

Jun 26, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner (7) scores a run in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot Park.

Trea Turner

Will Laws

The fans got it wrong by voting in Javy Báez over Trea Turner as a National League finalist at shortstop. San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. is the deserved surefire starter, but Turner—who was drafted in the first round by San Diego before being dealt in the three-team Wil Myers trade—has a claim to being the best all-around option. He's been the NL's second-most valuable shortstop both on offense (behind Tatis) and on defense (behind Pittsburgh's Kevin Newman) by fWAR, and with 16 stolen bases is tied with Tatis and Ronald Acuña Jr. for the second-most among all players (behind only Kansas City's Whit Merrifield). He's also one of just 12 qualified hitters batting .300, and with 13 homers could end up as the first Nationals player since Alfonso Soriano (2006) to complete a 30/30 season. Turner kept Washington's offense afloat while Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber were either injured or struggling early on, and is still regarded by fWAR as the team's most valuable by more than a full win despite Schwarber's recent homer binge. The North Carolina State product is more than deserving of his first All-Star bid.

Matt Martell

Maybe this is cheating, but I posed this roundtable prompt so I make the rules: Kris Bryant should make the NL All-Star team as an outfielder instead of as a third baseman. He's going to be on the team, and deservedly so, despite his June skid. The thing is, he's played more than twice as many innings this season as an outfielder than he has at third. This positional eligibility fudging is about more than just Bryant. Nine or so outfielders will make the All-Star team, compared to the three third basemen. Manny Machado, though certainly deserving of an All-Star selection, looks like the odd man out with Bryant at third, with Nolan Arenado and Justin Turner as the other two third basemen likely to earn a spot.

Machado isn't having his best season at the dish (.260, 13 HR, .792 OPS), but that's because he got off to a rough start. Since returning to the Padres' lineup after consecutive days off on May 28, Machado is slashing .311/.353/.554 with six homers and 21 RBIs. Meanwhile, he's played superb defense all season (five defensive runs saved) and leads all NL third basemen in bWAR (2.7) and ranks third at the position in fWAR (2.1).

Nick Selbe

In a lineup with Shohei Ohtani and (at least for the first six weeks) Mike Trout, it's easy to overlook first baseman Jared Walsh. The 27-year-old former 39th-round pick was never regarded as a high-impact prospect during his five minor league seasons, but he made the most of his first crack at extended playing time during the shortened 2020 season. Through three months this year, his success at the plate has continued. Walsh ranks fourth among AL first basemen in fWAR (2.0), third in home runs (18), fourth in wRC+ (143) and tied for second in RBIs (53). He's third in win probability added behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Matt Olson, and has teamed with Ohtani to give the Angels some much-needed thump from the left side of the plate. Cracking the AL roster as a first baseman is a tall task this year given the outstanding seasons from Guerrero, Olson and Yuli Gurriel, so ultimately the field might be too crowded for Walsh. But his play has made him worthy of inclusion, and his emergence as a star has provided the Angels with a potential franchise cornerstone for the foreseeable future.

May 31, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) watches after hitting a home run against the Kansas City Royals during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium.

Bryan Reynolds

Michael Shapiro

The every-team-represented gimmick in the All-Star Game often leads to some maddening omissions, but I have no problem with Bryan Reynolds snagging a National League outfield spot. Pittsburgh’s switch-hitting star is having quite the impressive season in relative obscurity, bouncing back from an ugly 2020 with a .925 OPS in his first 75 games. Only three NL hitters sport a better on-base percentage. Reynolds ranks third in the NL in WAR, and he’s added 13 dingers to boot. Reynolds and defensive dynamo Ke’Bryan Hayes represent the future in Pittsburgh, with an improving minor league system ideally leading to winning baseball by 2025. For now, let’s hope to see Reynolds at Coors Field in a few weeks.

More MLB Coverage:
Germán Márquez Loses No-Hit Bid in 9th But Achieves Something Better

• Kyle Schwarber Isn't Paying Attention to the Numbers
Sticky Stuff Enforcement Is Already Making Baseball a Better, Fairer Game
'A Game of Speech'—But Also, For Baseball Interpreters, So Much More