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The Flyby: All-Star Fever

Well, this one didn’t go as well as I had planned.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox
Is Mookie Betts on my all-star team?
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

I had hoped with the All-Star game nearing, that we would have plenty of opinions over who should be an All-Star. It turns out only one person did. It was a well-thought out opinion, but it was still only one, which means I’m going to do double time this week.

After two weeks, the dust has cleared, and the best FanPost, and the only one, was by gosawks.

Going down the list, he has the AL starters as the following (statistical excellence and fun level in parenthesis respectively - out of 10):

Catcher - Salvador Perez (9, 7)

1st Base - Yonder Alonso (9, 5)

2nd Base - Jose Altuve (10, 10)

3rd Base - Miguel Sano (9, 10)

Shortstop - Carlos Correa (10, 10)

Outfield - Aaron Judge (10, 10), George Springer (8, 8), Mookie Betts (7, 9). Mike Trout would be on the list, but he was injured.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Miami Marlins
This guy won’t be playing because baseball is awful and players get injured.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Designated Hitter - Albert Pujols (2, 6)

I’m going to rate this roster (and the NL one later), with three factors: statistical excellence, fun-level, and how diverse they are (having players from a single team dominate the game sucks).

In terms of statistical excellence, this is a very strong lineup, with very few weak links. Perez is one of the three or four best catchers in the AL. Yonder Alonso has had a breakout season of sorts in his second season in the better league. He might not be exciting to watch (personally speaking), but he’s been a fun story to keep an eye on. Altuve might be -spoiler alert, he is- the single best second baseman in all of baseball, so it’s a no-brainer to pick him here. Sano’s flashy power has finally lived up to the hype, and he’s looking like a bonafide star right now. Some might disagree with Correa over Xander, but it’s hard to argue with a more well-rounded player. Xander is an amazing talent, love him to death, but he doesn’t hit for power right now, and that’s the main difference. The outfield is absolutely loaded, with a rookie MVP candidate leading the way. The only real weakness in the outfield is arguably Boston’s own Mookie Betts, who would not be starting if Trout didn’t get hurt. It sounds weird, but if you argue purely based on fWAR, you have a legitimate case to leave Mookie entirely off even the reserve roster (although I don’t think there’s a chance that happens). Pujols is the only player on this team that is truly out of his league, however, as in this scenario, he wins based on popularity and past glory. Statistically the worst overall DH in the AL by fWAR (among players with 150 PA), there’s not a chance I would give this one a pass.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v New York Yankees
Pujols has been a joy to watch over his 17 year career, and he’s a 10-time all-star. But he does not appear to be deserving of an 11th chance.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

With regards to the fun factor, the only players I can’t say I’m jacked to see are Yonder Alonso and Albert Pujols, and that’s fine. One is an aging superstar that had a no-doubt Hall of Fame career, and is getting by entirely on past glory, and the other is a rising player, who might finally become the player the Reds hoped he would be when they drafted him in 2008. It’s hard to complain about the team, all told, and with a good set of reserves, I like their chances to win the mid-summer classic, provided they do the right thing and let Chris Sale start the game.

I give the American League a score of 8 (stats), 7 (fun factor), and 7 (team diversity). With only 15 teams in each league, it’s hard to have 60% of them represented in the starting lineup. With 33% of the lineup being the Houston Astros though, I can’t say I’m too fond of the diversity. They may be the best team in baseball, but surely, it is possible to give another team some excitement (most players are only in for a single at bat, except the starters). The easiest fix seems to be replacing George Springer with Corey Dickerson, of the Rays. I know, that doesn’t sound very fun, and truthfully, it might have knocked the scores down a bit, but I like equal representation. Springer would still be on the roster, he’d just be getting one chance instead of two.

Overall team grade - 7.5 (Acceptable!)

How would the National League fare?

Catcher - Buster Posey (10, 10)

1st Base - Paul Goldschmidt (10, 10)

2nd Base - Daniel Murphy (10, 9)

3rd Base - Nolan Arenado (8, 9)

Shortstop - Trea Turner (6, 8)

Outfield - Charlie Blackmon (10, 8), Marcell Ozuna (10, 9), Bryce Harper (10, 10)

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals
Did someone say Bryce Harper?
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This team is stacked. You have what is likely the best player at every position with the exception of third base and shortstop. Buster Posey isn’t in the same universe as any other catcher in baseball, let alone the National League. Paul Goldschmidt’s unique “do literally everything” style makes him an obvious choice as well. Daniel Murphy has shown that he wasn’t a one year, or even a two year fluke. Nolan Arenado may not be the best player at his position, but he’s very close, as only Justin Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Kris Bryant can make a case for being better. The outfield is just impossible to top. The National League cannot have a better statistical outfield. The biggest weakness is at shortstop, where Trea Turner is ahead of both Corey Seager and and Zack Cozart, who have (at least, from my view) objectively been better players on the whole. Turner doesn’t walk at all, and is offensively below average, believe it or not. His speed makes him valuable, but it’s hard to envision him getting on base enough to utilize it in a game of stars.

The fun factor is through the roof too. The only plausible drags on the fun are going to be based on bias, rather than actual baseball ability. Charlie Blackmon is amazing, but he just doesn’t do it for me. He probably does it for most others though. Some people will be totally against Harper, and for whatever reason. That’s fine too. The great thing is we can all have a different opinion. It’s a very exciting team that has a lot of potential.

The National League team grades out as having a 9 (stats), 9 (fun), and 8 (diversity). It’s really hard to have a totally diverse team, but I give this one a major pass because it’s hard to argue with putting Murphy and Harper (two of the three Nationals on this list) on the list together, as both are probably the best players at their respective positions. You technically could swap out Murphy for Josh Harrison of the Pirates, and you have a totally diverse lineup, but I don’t think that makes for as fun a team. I can’t give a pass for Trea Turner though, as I don’t think it’s at all right to ignore Corey Seager or Zack Cozart. The reason you This team is loaded, and probably wins the game.

Overall team grade - 8.7 (would probably be a 9.5 if Seager was in over Turner).

It is worth noting that the FanPost was published on June 19th, and the poster’s current opinions have changed.
Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals
Trea Turner burst onto the scene last year, and was incredible. This season, he has been alright, but there are two incredible shortstops that appear to be better.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

But wait OOLF, you can’t just give your opinion on someone else’s team and leave! You have to make a stand for your own “perfect” team.

Well I’m going to try. Here are some rules I’m going to follow:

  1. There are 34 players on each roster.
  2. Each team MUST be represented at least once (and I’m going to try making sure they get two if it’s feasible).
  3. Roughly 16 (give or take one) pitchers, the rest are position players.
  4. Of the position players, I need to roster at least 2 catchers, at least 4 corner infielders, at least 4 middle infielders, and at least 5 outfielders. If I have 18 position players, then that leaves exactly 2 flex players that I can add that play any position.
  5. Regarding starters, I’m not going to consider their probable dates. That’s too much work, even for me.
  6. Starters will be in bold.

OOLF’s American League All-Stars

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox
Spoiler alert, I choose Chris Sale to be in the game.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Catcher (3) - Alex Avila, Gary Sanchez, Martin Maldonado

1st Base (2) - Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso

2nd Base (2) - Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie

3rd Base (3) - Miguel Sano, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado

Shortstop (2) - Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa

Outfield (5) - Aaron Judge, Corey Dickerson, Lorenzo Cain, Avisail Garcia, George Springer

Designated Hitter (2) - Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre

Pitchers (15) - Chris Sale, Lance McCullers, Yu Darvish, Chris Archer, Michael Fulmer, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, Luis Severino, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller (Indians), Blake Parker, Roberto Osuna, Tommy Kahnle, Mike Minor, Aroldis Chapman

So the team composition is as follows:

Red Sox - 3, Yankees - 4, Blue Jays - 3, Orioles - 1, Rays - 2.

Twins - 1, White Sox - 2, Royals - 2, Indians - 3, Tigers - 2.

Angels - 2, Astros - 4, Athletics - 2, Mariners - 1, Rangers - 2.

Catcher - With this position, it felt pretty obvious to choose the player who had earned it the most. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also become a very interesting story. Once accused of being the product of nepotism, Alex Avila has slugged his way to this all-star berth, which would be his second career appearance. I felt that Gary Sanchez deserved some honors as well. While not quite as impressive as his outburst late last year, his bat has still been incredile. His power has been less than Ruthian, but been enough to be 2nd among AL Catchers with at least 40 games played in isolated power. I also give a nod to Martin Maldonado who is having a relatively underrated year. He’s already tied his career high in home-runs, and has also been a good defensive catcher. He doesn’t get enough praise among non-fans of the Angels (and possibly Angels fans themselves). He’s riding a huge BABIP wave, but a strong first half is definitely worthy of all-star consideration. Plus, with Trout injured someone from the Angels has to step up.

Detroit Tigers v San Diego Padres
Alex Avila has come out of relative nowhere to become one of the best catchers in the AL in 2017.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

1st Base - This was the hardest position for me to choose, as you could reasonably name five or six different guys who could start at first base. But there can only be one starter, and at least three or four of the possible starters will miss the team entirely because of roster limits. My starter is going to be Justin Smoak, because what a story he’s had this year. For the past seven years, he’s bounced from being a replacement level player, to being even worse than that, to being a Quad-A bust, and everything in between. In his third season in Toronto, he’s found something that’s eluded him for much of his professional career: his power stroke. Already at 20 big flies, with half a season to go, Smoak has tied his career high and looks ready to smash his personal best to pieces. I also need a backup, but with how first base in the American League has been I’ve opted for only one of them. Instead of Logan Morrison, I’ve chosen to roll with Yonder Alonso, as I just believe in his bat a little more. Alonso has been an exciting player, just not enough to get my personal nod as a starter. Give it a year, and it’s possible that could change.

2nd Base - This was a slam dunk no-brainer. You go with Jose Altuve. It’s not even a question. With Trout injured, he probably has the best chance of unseating Aaron Judge as the MVP of the American League. The only question here is who backs him up. I wanted to put Jonathan Schoop here, but needed a certain player at another position, that offered more versatility. Instead, I’m going to go with former Red Sox Jed Lowrie. He’s playing like it’s 2010, and he might be the best player on the Athletics this season. He’s a potential trade target for several teams, so this could be a last hurrah for the fans of the Athletics.

Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals
Jose Altuve, the last chance to stop Aaron Judge?
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

3rd Base - Miguel Sano has had an interesting past few years but the one constant with Sano has been the power output. While he isn’t the best slugger at the hot corner (Joey Gallo says hello), he is the most consistent slugger by far there. I was debating between him and Jose Ramirez, for the starting position, but with Sano being the sole All-Star for the Twins in this scenario I think that pushes him ever so slightly above Ramirez. If I could start both, I probably would, and starting Sano at DH was a position I considered. But that would have forced a player I really want to see get a shot out. So Ramirez is the second best backup in the American League. Also on the roster is Manny Machado, who has enough versatility that he can sub in at other positions if needed, or in case of an unfortunate injury. I’ll be honest, if I were managing Machado would be the most likely offensive player to see no action, simply for emergency contingents. It’s nothing personal, for real.

Shortstop - I really do believe Carlos Correa is the most deserving player in the AL who gets shafted in my scenario. He makes the team, but I give the nod to Xander Bogaerts in the name of greater team diversity. There’s a temptation to have an Altuve/Correa DP combination, but I still have this feeling that Xander is ignored way too much, and this gives the Astros (who own a tie for the most players in the game) a bench player to look forward to later in the game. I fully expect both to get 2 plate appearances, but I just felt like Carlos Correa should get his later in the game. Again, this is not me saying Xander Bogaerts is better than Correa. This is me splitting the Astros more evenly in the game.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Outfield - How could I not have the MVP front-runner in this game of all-stars? Aaron Judge feels like a more complete, legitimate ballplayer than Gary Sanchez did when he burst onto the scene. He’s only hit a million home-runs. He’s only going to hit a million more. The Yankees have a great talent here, and it’s going to make things interesting in the AL East. Joining him will be Corey Dickerson and Lorenzo Cain. Dickerson has actually played more games at DH, and was going to be my starter at that position until Mike Trout got hurt. And yes, Mike Trout was obviously starting (over Cain) before the injury. I didn’t forget about him. Once Trout got hurt, I moved Dickerson to the outfield, it shifted Avisail Garcia out of the starting lineup. He’s been a surprising player, and one of the most exciting things about the White Sox right now, but it’s the name of the game. I also put George Springer in as a backup. I probably should have had a sixth outfielder, which would have been Mookie Betts, but I honestly just didn’t feel like Mookie has earned an all-star nomination this season. He’s been a great player, but he hasn’t really been great enough.

Designated Hitter - I’m just going to say Nelson Cruz, and more or less leave it at that. It was going to be Dickerson before the Trout injury, but everyone got bumped up a slot. This will probably be Cruz’s last chance to play in the game, and he’s the Mariners lone representative in this game, so he should get enough action to satisfy their fans. His backup will be another player who might be about to enjoy his last chance at the game, Adrian Beltre. I struggled with choosing him (and admittedly chose Joey Gallo before I thought about Beltre some more). Beltre has played in 23 games, and is 38 years old. He’s at the tail end of his career, and Joey Gallo will have a chance next year. Beltre probably won’t unless he can continue defying father time.

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers
Adrian Beltre will never stop being amazing in all things.
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Pitchers - Chris Sale needs to be the starter. End of discussion. He’s the best pitcher in the American League, and I’m not going to be convinced otherwise. This is his time. After pitching two innings, I go to the following pitchers, hopefully in order, Lance McCullers, Yu Darvish, Chris Archer, Andrew Miller, Roberto Osuna, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrel. I understand Osuna is dealing with anxiety issues, and I can’t pretend to know exactly what he’s going through. But if he is capable of pitching in the game, I feel it would be a momentous occasion worthy of excitement. If he has to back out, he will be replaced in the game with Tommy Kahnle or Marcus Stroman. The remaining pitchers are there for contingency purposes, with Michael Fulmer being the first one out of the pen in a potential emergency or extra innings scenario (do they even have extra innings anymore?). While they would not pitch, I believe Carlos Carrasco, Luis Severino, Blake Parker, and Mike Minor to be worthy of the final slots on the team and recognition.