Fan voting in the All-Star Game has been a largely controversial topic this season. Kansas City Royals fans have stuffed the ballot box for their players and their efforts will earn them as many as seven starters in Cincinnati. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have anything against Royals fans voting in their players. Why wouldn’t fans of the best team in the American League want their own players in a game that decides who hosts game seven of the World Series?
The system needs to be fixed if the goal is to get the best players in the All-Star Game. There is no perfect solution because player value is relative, even with the dawn of sabermetrics.
What should the American League roster look like on July 14? Let’s break it down by position.
13 different teams are represented with the White Sox and Astros missing the mark. The Astros not having a position player would be strange because they are leading the league in wins, but their best candidate is George Springer, who is among many all-star worthy outfielders. Carlos Correa deserves to be in the discussion, but hasn’t played enough games to warrant a selection yet. Both teams have a front-runner to start the game at pitcher in Chris Sale and Dallas Keuchel.
This is really a two-way race for starter between Stephen Vogt and Russell Martin. Vogt has the clear offensive advantage, but Martin has been the best defensive catcher in the league this season. Vogt leads AL catchers in home runs (13), wRC+ (156), RBI (53), average (.304), and on-base percentage (.394). This could go either way, but the edge goes to Vogt and his offense. I’ll save Martin as a solid reserve later in the game.
Starter: Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
Reserves: Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays; Brian McCann, New York Yankees
Who’s been one of the best hitters in the game for the past decade? Miguel Cabrera. He has separated himself from the rest of the American League with a ridiculous .454 on-base percentage and .350 average. After a ‘down’ year in 2014 due to nagging injuries, Cabrera has regained his MVP form with a WAR of 3.5, 15 home runs, and 53 RBI. An honorable mention here goes to Albert Pujols, who has clubbed 23 home runs with a 2.1 WAR for the Angels. Finally, Eric Hosmer gets the nod over Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira because he is more versatile offensively and has a better glove. Teixeira has 18 home runs this season, but boasts a .244 average.
Starter: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Reserves: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels; Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Another position with a clear starter and many options for reserve players. Jason Kipnis has been under-the-radar on a fourth place Cleveland Indians team. The 28-year-old is hitting .348 with a .424 on-base percentage. Both marks lead all AL second basemen. Kipnis also leads the position in WAR at 4.6 and is a threat on the base paths with 10 steals. Brian Dozier and Logan Forsythe have both had outstanding years and deserve a spot on the squad. Dozier leads second basemen in home runs (16) and RBI (40), while Forsythe provides positional flexibility in the late innings. He has spent some time at six different positions the last two seasons.
Starter: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
Reserves: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins; Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay Rays
Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts have separated themselves as the best shortstops in the AL this season. Iglesias is a wizard with his glove and has made highlight reel plays all season behind an inconsistent Tiger pitching staff. Offensively, he has hit .330 with nine steals. Bogaerts is having a good year in his own right with a .294 average and 33 RBI. This position would most likely belong to Carlos Correa had he been called up earlier, but he could end the uncertainty at shortstop for the next decade.
Starter: Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
Reserve: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
The starting spot at third clearly belonged to Josh Donaldson before Manny Machado‘s scorching month of June. Donaldson currently has the edge in WAR (4.3), home runs (18), runs (58), and RBI (49), but Machado leads marginally in average (.307) and on-base percentage (.364). Both have equally masterful gloves. There may not be an easier position to pick.
Starter: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Reserve: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Outfield is always wide open and has several snubs every year. The obvious starter is Angels’ phenom Mike Trout, who has clubbed 20 home runs with 43 RBI and 170 wRC+. Lorenzo Cain is the best two-way outfielder in the league and deserves a spot on the club with a 2.9 WAR. Brett Gardner has 15 steals and a .305 average with nine home runs and a 2.7 WAR. Yoenis Cespedes has a .300 average and has clubbed 10 home runs with 42 RBI in his first full season with the Tigers. The fifth spot goes to Jose Bautista, who has split time between DH and outfield for the Blue Jays this season, but has continued his consistent power production with 15 home runs and 50 RBI for one of the top offenses in baseball. The last spot is a toss-up among Kevin Kiermaier, George Springer, Adam Jones, Josh Reddick, J.D. Martinez, Alex Gordon and others. My personal favorite here is Martinez, who has backed up his breakout season with 20 home runs and has had an outstanding June. However, Gordon wins the spot as he is the better all-around player so far this year.
Starters: Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit Tigers; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels; Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Reserves: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals; Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals; Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
Despite not playing for over a year, Alex Rodriguez is a contender for American League Comeback Player of the Year with 15 home runs and 45 RBI. He also boasts a .389 on-base percentage and 151 wRC+. Prince Fielder and Nelson Cruz are also solid candidates for the position. Cruz has cooled from a hot start but still has 19 home runs, while Fielder is hitting .348 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI.
Adding three designated hitters to the roster is not ideal, but Cruz can play outfield if needed in the later innings.
Starter: Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
Reserves: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees; Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners