Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Who Should Be The American League All-Star Starters?

Photo Credit: Frank Victores, USA Today Sports
There is always plenty of debate when it comes to the starters for each squad in the MLB All-Star Game. Fans get to vote for their favorite players and this can result in ballot stuffing by certain fan bases across the country.

For example, Chicago Cubs fans have been spending a lot of time voting and their team currently has five starters at the last voting update. Are these the best players in the National League at those positions? Maybe not but that's what happens when you leave the voting to the fans.

Since the Twins are in the American League, let's delve into that ballot before the official rosters are announced on Tuesday, July 5, at 7 p.m. Who are the starters going to be? Who should actually be the starters? There's plenty to discuss.

Catcher
Leading: Salvador Perez, Royals
My Pick: Salvador Perez, Royals
Catching is in a rough spot in the American League especially with Joe Mauer no longer being an option behind the plate. Salvador Perez, the reigning World Series MVP, leads the league in fWAR during the last 365 days. Blake Swihart and Matt Wieters are tied for a distant second place. Perez is hitting close to .300 and getting on-base 33% of the time. He hit a career high 21 home runs last season and he already has 12 long balls so far this season. He's never posted a slugging percentage over .475 in his career and he's sitting at a .520 OPS in 2016.

First Base
Leading: Eric Hosmer, Royals
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
There are plenty of candidates for this spot but it has become a two-man battle. The voting block in Kansas City has Eric Hosmer out to a 550,000 vote lead at the last check-in but he doesn't get my vote. Sometimes it's about putting a player in who is one of the best players in the generation. Cabrera's average has dipped a little this year from his normal standards but he is still hitting .295/.368/.529 with 17 home runs after only hitting 18 home runs last season. I'd put Chris Davis ahead of Hosmer on my ballot as well so the player likely to start wouldn't be in my top-2 for voting purposes.

Second Base
Leading: Jose Altuve, Astros
My Pick: Jose Altuve, Astros
There are some bigger names on the ballot like Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia but Jose Altuve is in the midst of a historic season. Altuve has a career OPS of just over .780 and this season he is closing in on a 1.000 OPS. By the way, he's leading the American League in batting too. If the Astros keep playing well, Altuve will be in the discussion for the AL MVP and this would be his fourth All-Star Game in the last five seasons. Cano and Pedroia might be the big names but everyone needs to get familiar with Altuve because he might be in this position for years to come.

Third Base
Leading: Manny Machado, Orioles
My Pick: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
This two man battle features the defending AL MVP in Josh Donaldson versus the up-and-coming Manny Machado. Both players have been very good over the last calendar year. In fact, each of these players has been one of the top five players in the game this season. Look at the chart below to see how close the battle is between them even with Machado sliding over to play shortstop in the absence of JJ Hardy.
Donaldson has been slightly better so I will give him the nod but they should both be playing in San Diego.

Shortstop
Leading: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
My Pick: Francisco Lindor, Indians
We might be living in the "Golden Age of Shortstops" in the American League. Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa are all young and dominating at one of the toughest defensive positions in the field. Lindor has dominated on both sides of the ball being an offensive threat while playing some of the best defense in the game at shortstop. His 8.2 fWAR over the last calendar year is 1.5 points higher than Bogaerts and 3.6 points higher than Correa. Lindor plays in Cleveland where he isn't getting much attention but he is showing that he is one of the top overall players in the game. 

Outfield
Leading: Mike Trout, Angels; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mookie Betts, Red Sox
My Picks: Mike Trout, Angels; Lorenzo Cain, Royals, Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Mike Trout is another easy pick as he has helped the AL win the last two All-Star Games on his way to earning back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs. Lorenzo Cain gets a big jump from his defensive numbers but he holds his own on the offensive side of the ball. He also helped the Royals to their first World Series Championship since the 1980s. The last spot is a toss up between Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. so I gave my vote to Betts. I like his ability to steal bases and that can be a handy addition to the roster of an All-Star squad. 

Designated Hitter
Leading: David Ortiz, Red Sox
My Pick: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Probably the easiest pick on the board. David Ortiz will retire at season's end and ride off into the sunset of what is likely a Hall-of-Fame career. It helps that Ortiz is also having a very strong season at the plate. This is nothing against Edwin Encarnacion and the season he is having but Ortiz is a legend. The 2016 All-Star Game might turn into an honoring for Ortiz much like the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota honored Derek Jeter. Ortiz will bow out and let other players take his place in the years to come. 

So there's my ballot with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would make your AL All-Star team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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