Even though it seems as if the season just started, we’ve already passed the quarter pole and the annual All-Star game is less than 2 months away. We have enough info in to start making smart selections about which players are deserving of votes, and I filled out my first ballot. MLB allows you to vote up to 35 times. I think that’s a bit excessive.
Unlike past years, there are no retiring superstar players who are well past their prime but deserving of election for sentimental reasons. There are no Jeter’s, no Big Papi’s, no A-Rod’s. What there is, is a crop of excellent players that makes selecting the most deserving ones a difficult choice.
So, my apologies to Marcus Thames of the Brewers, whose return from Korea was marked by an explosion of home runs. Paul Goldscmitt of the Diamondbacks has had a terrific start to his year, but he plays a position (first base) dominated by all-star caliber players. Ditto For Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, whose resurgence has been jaw dropping. Nolan Arenado of the Rockies and Kris Bryant of the Cubs, don’t feel slighted – it’s just that Jake Lamb is producing a season for the ages.
Most of you will probably be surprised that I’m not naming anyone from last year’s World Champion’s on my ballot. It isn’t that they don’t have deserving players throughout their roster. It’s just that other players are having even more deserving campaigns.
My love of the Yankees is well known, but it isn’t because I’m a homer that I’ve selected three Bronx Bombers to my AL squad. It’s pretty hard to argue with selecting baseball’s latest human highlight reel (and MLB homer run leader) in Aaron Judge. Brett Gardner is leading all ML left fielders in OBP, OPS and leads the majors in runs scored. As for Starlin Castro, his .335 batting average leads all AL second basemen, and his 7 homers and 27 RBI each only one behind the league leader, Robinson Cano of the Mariners.
There are a couple of other players who’s seasons deserve merit, but didn’t quite make the cut. Logan Morrison of Tampa Bay is having a stellar year and it was tough picking him or Yonder Alonso. Freddie Freeman was on pace to set all types of records before he got hurt. And there are so many great shortstops in the game now, selecting only two seems like a crime. This isn’t a knock on guys like Xander Bogarts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Chris Owings, Corey Seager and Brandon Crawford (or my personal favorite, Didi Gregorius).
What my ballot does have is a ton of under 30 talent. In fact, the oldest player on my ballot is Joey Votto (33 years old). There is one rookie, three second-year players and three third-year players. Of the 17 players I chose, 8 would make their first all-star game appearance. That’s a lot of youth. And that’s a good thing for baseball.
So, here are my selections:
C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals. The model of being both durable and prolific, the 4 time All-Star leads AL catchers with an .871 OPS. His 11 homers leads his team.
1B: Yonder Alonso, Oakland A’s. Finally released from baseball purgatory in San Diego, the former can’t-miss prospect is finally showing his form, with 12 homers and a .991 OPS for a not-so-good team.
2B: Starlin Castro, New York Yankees. A former All-Star with the Cubs, the free swinger has stopped swinging so freely. That .335 average comes from leading the league in hits.
3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins. Joey Gallo has gotten the press for his prodigous blasts, but the younger Sano is belting them more often and in bigger spots. After a horrendous rookie campaign, it looks like the big guy has figured it out with a .319 average, 11 homers and 37 RBI.
SS: Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners. The Mariners traded for him hoping to improve their shortstop play. I don’t think they were expecting a .336 average and 26 runs scored. But they won’t complain.
LF: Brett Gardner, New York Yankees. Maybe he’s amped by the “Baby Bombers.” Whatever it is, after a terrible first two weeks, he’s now hitting .281 with 9 homers and 32 runs for the league’s highest scoring offense.
CF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. He’s the best player in the game, and all he’s doing this year is hitting .343 with 14 homers and 43 RBI. Oh, and an other-worldly 1.205 OPS.
RF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. Everyone knew he was going to be good, but the rookie has been much more than that. Witness his .315 average and 15 homers. Opposing pitchers are tired of “being Judged.”
DH: Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays. His .345 average and 12 homers from the lead-off spot is pretty much all his team could ask for, even if opposing pitchers wish he’d leave them alone.
C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants. I know he was hurt for a while. But he still leads all NL catchers with a .362 average, 7 homers and an OPS of 1.008.
1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds. His 12 homers, 38 RBI and 1.005 OPS made him the best of a terrific crop of NL first basemen.
2B: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals. Remember when the Mets said he was just a singles hitter? Turns out he’s just a hitter. His .327 average leads NL second sackers, and the 9 home runs and 33 RBI each lead all MLB second basemen.
3B: Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks. Maybe the best hitter you haven’t heard of, Lamb is proving an excellent rookie campaign was just an opening act. He’s slashing .298/11/36 so far this year.
SS: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. Long known as a reliable defender, he’s turned it up a notch this year with the bat. Maybe two notches, what with a .348 average.
LF: Michael Conforto, New York Mets. Where would the Mets be without him? When the season began, nobody knew when he would play. But with a .320/13/34 slash, the real question is who dares sit him?
CF: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies. Before you start yelling about Coors Field, recognize that Blackmon has more HR on the road (7) than at home (4). And a .322 average is nothing to sneeze at.
RF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Harper might be tired of being told he’s the second best player in the game. He might be taking his wrath out on NL pitching. But there’s a lot of talent fueling that .349/13/37 slash.