We know who will take the field to start the 91st MLB All-Star Game in Denver. Now comes the hard part: filling out the rest of the roster.
The fans did a pretty good job of selecting 17 worthy starters this year, though of course there were still deserving players that were snubbed in the two-part voting process. The task now falls to the players’s ballot and the Commissioner's Office to select the reserves and pitchers.
Considering the positional constraints and requirement that each club have a representative on the two teams, roster space can fill up pretty quickly. To illustrate the challenge, here’s my crack at completing full All-Star teams for each league, using the same rules set by MLB. There are 32 spots for each All-Star team—20 position players and 12 pitchers. Replacements for injured players and pitchers ineligible to throw in the game will come later, though I’ll grant an extra spot to the American League since we already know Mike Trout won’t be playing this year.
Who got snubbed? And whose name appears below that doesn’t deserve a spot? Let the campaigning begin.
Catchers (2): Salvador Perez, Royals (starter); Mike Zunino, Rays
The battle for the backup catching spot probably drives old-school baseball fans up a wall. There’s nary a batting average above .220 among the leading candidates, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t All-Star caliber players. Zunino gets the edge over Yasmani Grandal and Sean Murphy, as he leads all AL catchers in fWAR (2.2) and is second in home runs (18).
First basemen (3): Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays (starter); Yuli Gurriel, Astros; Matt Olson, A’s
It’s a crowded field among AL first basemen, though it’s hard to make a case for anyone other than Gurriel and Olson as the two reserves. Jared Walsh has been a savior for the Angels and can play some outfield, but he’s primarily a first baseman, and having four on the roster felt like a bit of a stretch.
Second basemen (2): Marcus Semien, Blue Jays (starter); José Altuve, Astros
Semien narrowly beat out Altuve for the starting nod, but there’s no questioning the 2017 MVP has earned a spot on the team. Altuve is back to his old ways, putting a miserable 2020 season behind him. He had a 141 wRC+ from 2014-19 and is back up to 144 in 2021. The league’s stolen base leader Whit Merrifield is plenty worthy of making the team as well.
Third basemen (2): Rafael Devers, Red Sox (starter); José Ramírez, Cleveland
Ramírez is simply too good to leave off, though there are other deserving players that just missed the cut. Tampa Bay’s Joey Wendle and Chicago’s Yoán Moncada could very well become first-time All-Stars.
Shortstops (3): Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox (starter); Bo Bichette, Blue Jays; Carlos Correa, Astros
Were Bichette and Correa not having such outstanding years, the third shortstop spot could go to Seattle’s J.P. Crawford. Last year’s Gold Glove winner has enjoyed his best season at the plate, batting .286/.348/.405 while playing his typically superb defense.
Outfielders (7): Mike Trout, Angels (starter); Teoscar Hernández, Blue Jays (starter); Aaron Judge, Yankees (starter); Michael Brantley, Astros; Joey Gallo, Rangers; Ramón Laureano, A’s; Cedric Mullins, Orioles
Mullins will likely get the starting spot in place of Trout, as he’s been perhaps the biggest breakout star in the game. Brantley’s relative lack of power is more than made up for by his high-contact, line-drive approach that has him in pole position for the AL batting title. Oakland’s Mark Canha likely would have claimed one of these spots had he not gone on the injured list. Instead, teammate Laureano will take his place as the reserve center fielder, while Gallo’s strong offensive season earns him his first selection.
Designated hitters (2): Shohei Ohtani, Angels (starter); Nelson Cruz, Twins
May we be so lucky as to see Ohtani do more than just be the DH in his first All-Star Game. Choosing the two-way sensation’s backup was not easy, but it’s the ageless Cruz that owns a slight edge over J.D. Martinez and Yordan Álvarez. Since 2019, Cruz has hit .309/.391/.614 with 75 home runs in 243 games.
Pitchers (12): Kyle Gibson, Rangers (starter); Chris Bassitt, A’s; Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox; Yusei Kikuchi, Mariners; Lance Lynn, White Sox; Sean Manaea, A’s; Casey Mize, Tigers; Carlos Rodón, White Sox; Matt Barnes, Red Sox; Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland; Liam Hendriks, White Sox
There’s always a chance MLB bends the traditional DH rules a bit, which would allow AL manager Kevin Cash to start Ohtani on the hill if he chooses. If not, Gibson is a good pick, as the would-be first-time All-Star leads the AL in ERA. Houston’s Zack Greinke and Minnesota’s José Berríos are among the most notable just-missed-the-cut starters, while relief pitchers James Karinchak and Jonathan Loaisiga have also had outstanding seasons.
Catchers (3): Buster Posey, Giants (starter); Omar Narvaez, Brewers; Will Smith, Dodgers
The Giants have been proactive with resting the 34-year-old Posey to keep his legs fresh, so I’m going with three catchers to help ease the burden. Smith and Narvaez have both had strong seasons at the plate to earn what would be their first All-Star nods. Willson Contreras and J.T. Realmuto were also considered for reserve spots.
First basemen (2): Freddie Freeman, Braves (starter); Max Muncy, Dodgers
Muncy has been the clear-cut top performer among NL first baseman, so this position became fairly easy to decide once Freeman won the fan vote. Muncy leads the league in walks and on-base percentage, and has put up more than double the fWAR of any other NL first baseman.
Second basemen (4): Adam Frazier, Pirates (starter); Ozzie Albies, Braves; Jake Cronenworth, Padres; Josh Rojas, Diamondbacks
Cronenworth has followed up his stellar rookie season with an outstanding sophomore campaign, while Albies is on pace to set multiple career highs. Rojas gets the nod as the lone representative from the Diamondbacks, and would serve as more of a utilityman than strictly a second baseman.
Third basemen (2): Nolan Arenado, Cardinals (starter); Justin Turner, Dodgers
It’s pretty remarkable that this would be just the second All-Star appearance for Turner. The 36-year-old has hit .297/.380/.501 and never had a wRC+ under 123. He’s been arguably the best third basemen in the NL so far. Manny Machado is just barely on the outside looking in, while Eduardo Escobar could very well get tabbed as Arizona’s representative.
Shortstops (3): Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (starter); Trea Turner, Nationals; Brandon Crawford, Giants
Assuming Turner’s finger injury is nothing serious, the 28-year-old should make his All-Star Game debut in Denver. Crawford’s resurgent season should net him his third career All-Star bid. Trevor Story hasn’t been quite good enough to crack this group, but Rockies fans will at least get to watch him in the Home Run Derby.
Outfielders (6): Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves (starter); Nick Castellanos, Reds (starter); Jesse Winker, Reds (starter); Kris Bryant, Cubs; Bryan Reynolds, Pirates; Kyle Schwarber, Nationals
Schwarber’s assault on NL pitching has him plenty worthy of an All-Star nod, though his status for the game is up in the air after he left Friday’s game with a leg injury. The Dodgers’s Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor could get consideration here if Schwarber is unable to play. The same can be said for Miami’s Starling Marte, who’s been excellent when on the field but has played in just 45 games.
Pitchers (12): Jacob deGrom, Mets (starter); Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Yu Darvish, Padres; Kevin Gausman, Giants; Germán Márquez, Rockies; Trevor Rogers, Marlins; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Zack Wheeler, Phillies; Brandon Woodruff, Brewers; Josh Hader, Brewers; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Craig Kimbrel, Cubs
Is there a bigger no-brainer than deGrom starting this game? The two-time Cy Young winner has no statistical peers and is a legitimate threat to pull off the rare pitcher’s feat of winning the MVP award this season. There are almost too many worthy NL starting pitchers to honorably mention, but the group includes: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Sandy Alcantara, Joe Musgrove, Anthony DeSclafani, Freddy Peralta, Pablo López, Adam Wainwright and Taijuan Walker. Among the relief pitchers who were considered but didn’t quite make it are Mets closer Edwin Diaz and Pittsburgh’s Richard Rodríguez.
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