The 2016 MLB All-Star game is fast approaching and the rosters for it will be finalized soon. Here are my rosters and a few thoughts on how I put them together.
I kept within the rules MLB presents for roster construction. Every team had to be represented, there are twelve reserve pitchers on each squad and two backup catchers. That only leaves an additional ten reserve players to max out the roster at thirty-four. This is why inevitably some deserving players get left off. I’m also omitting players who are currently on the disabled list. Stephen Strasburg, Rich Hill, and Dexter Fowler are all deserving but will not make this team.
I view the All-Star game as a showcase. I try to get the most deserving players in but I also think about star power, in particular young stars that MLB should be highlighting in a game like this.
This year I also favored up the middle players over traditional sluggers at first base and DH. This is where the game is going anyway, I think the All-Star roster should reflect this.
Here’s my roster:
This is not a stellar year for catchers especially those playing in the American League. Perez rises above the pack here, he was really the only option to start.
Shortstop was a tough decision in the A.L. this year as was third base. Bogaerts and Lindor have produced similar value in terms of WAR but I went with Xander mainly because of his bat. He bests Lindor in wRC+ 135 to 123. Carlos Correa was not in the mix for a starting assignment here but I wanted to get him on the roster as well, that meant leaving off a slugger like Nelson Cruz. I’m okay with that.
Third base was really a toss-up as both Donaldson and Machado are having MVP caliber seasons. They have produced similar WAR values and are both about 60% above league average at the plate. I went with Machado because I see him as the better overall player, though not by much. There are many third basemen having All-Star caliber seasons this year. I was able to get Longoria on the roster as well but had to cut Adrian Beltre and Kyle Seager, they just got lost in the roster numbers game.
Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball, his starting spot is not a surprise but the two outfielders I chose to join him are not the household names you might expect. Ian Desmond and Jackie Bradley Jr. both rank among the top 20 position players in fWAR and bWAR. I expect some regression from them both in the second half but they have each earned their starting spots next to Trout in San Diego.
I chose Sale to start but that easily could be Kluber as well. The depth of the American League pitching staff is not on par with the National League’s but their bullpen is very strong. I had to get someone from the Twins on the roster, they don’t really have any players who are statistically deserving but I had to choose someone, I went with their best reliever Fernando Abad. Abad is left-handed and currently has an ERA+ of 204, that’s exceptional but seeing him on this roster over Beltre or Beltran does make my stomach churn a bit.
Beltre and Seager are the two best positions players (by bWAR) not on the A.L. squad. They are both having a better season than Longoria but Tampa needed someone on the roster. I also had to leave off some big time bats in Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Carlos Beltran, and Eric Hosmer.
The starting lineup for the National League had some difficult choices too. Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo are both two of the better players in the league and they each have a compelling case to start. I went with Goldschmidt mainly because he leads the N.L. in on-base percentage, which I like. I have Wil Myers backing these two up on the roster. Carrying Myers unfortunately meant I had to leave Brandon Belt off the team.
Second base came down to Murphy vs Zobrist. Murphy is leading the National League in batting average but Zobrist actually has a higher OBP. Murphy has more power though and tops Zobrist in wRC+ 160-138. I like that he’s left-handed too so I chose him. Matt Carpenter is on the roster and has played a lot at second as well but he has played more games at third this year which is why I didn’t consider him for the starting role.
Third base in the National League also has two MVP candidates leading the way as both Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant find themselves in the top five in bWAR. Deciding between the two was tough but Arenado is such and elite defender I chose him to start. I hedged though and selected Bryant as the N.L.’s starting DH.
After winning the MVP last year and dominating April this year Bryce Harper has actually been slumping for the past two months. Statistically he probably doesn’t deserve to start but he’s still one of the faces of the game and belongs center stage. I added Cespedes too because I like his power and Marte because he’s a complete player who also leads all N.L. outfielders in bWAR. This is a weird year for National League outfielders as both Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton have scuffled throughout the season. They are both stars but neither has the numbers to justify an appearance in San Diego.
The N.L.’s pitching staff is loaded. Kershaw is in the midst of another historic season, he obviously gets the start but being able to follow him with Jose Fernandez, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner and Jakie Arrierta is a luxury to say the least. I hope they’re all healthy and available for the real game, that would be fun to watch.
The National League is deep this year, I just couldn’t make room for everyone. I had to leave off deserving players like Trevor Story, Aledmys Diaz, Brandon Belt, Christian Yelich, and Ryan Braun.
The All-Star game will be played on July 12th in San Diego.
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