Who to vote into the 2022 MLB All-Star Game: AL, NL starters picks
With phase one of MLB All-Star voting closing Thursday, it's time for fans to submit their ballots.
Fans have a tendency to vote for their favorite players or their team's entire starting lineup. In America, they have that right. But if you want to vote for who you believe is most deserving and you haven't had a chance to crunch the numbers and compare players from other teams league-wide, you're in luck. I did most of the heavy lifting for you! I've spent hours preparing notes and comparing players. I also watch a great deal of baseball with my MLB.tv subscription and have a good pulse on what's going on around the league. In addition to offensive metrics, I'm also factoring in durability, number of games played and what I feel is most underrated in today's game: defense. Position players spend more time in the field than they do at the plate. Everyday position players are in the field for every play for nine innings of the game. They come up to bat in three or four innings, and the majority of the time, they don't get on base.
Last season, the Yankees barely managed to sneak into the playoffs as the American League's final wild card spot. The Bronx Bombers were the second-worst in Defensive Runs Saved (-41). This season, they're a league-best 53-20 and have the highest DRS (51) in all of baseball to show for it. As I penned in my piece about the Phillies three weeks ago, since the start of 2005, just two teams have finished in the bottom half of the league in DRS, totaled a negative DRS and won the World Series: the 2009 New York Yankees and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. Since 2012, every World Series champion has placed in the top half of the league in DRS with a positive DRS total. If the last decade has taught us anything it's that in baseball, defense still wins championships. Defense matters.
So after thinking far more about this than any normal person should, here are the selections I came up with.
AL Catcher: Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays
This is about as easy of a selection as it gets. The 23 year-old has been the best catcher in baseball this season, impacting the game both offensively (.321/.406/.919 slash line with 9 home runs and 28 RBI) and defensively (8 Defensive Runs Saved).
AL First Base: Ty France, Seattle Mariners
There are two options here, and you can't really go wrong with either of them. Luis Arráez is slashing .349/.427/.868, on pace for a batting title. He's also proved himself to be very valuable to the Twins, shuffling around and playing several infield positions, albeit with a negative DRS (-1).
France has played more games (70 to Arráez's 64), with a lower average and OBP (.316/.390/.866 slash), but has more home runs (10 to Arráez's 4) and RBI (45 to 25). It's France's elite defense that tips the scale for me here, but it's close.
Ty France: .316/.390/.866, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 3 DRS
Luis Arráez: .349/.427/.868, 4 HR, 25 RBI, -1 DRS
AL Second Base: Andrés Giménez, Cleveland Guardians
Prior to their current four-game losing streak, the Guardians were the American League's hottest team. At 36-32 and two games out of first place in the AL Central, the Guardians look like they'll be in it for the long haul, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the 2022 season. Cleveland is winning games the old school way. They have the highest contact rate (and with it, the lowest K%) and are second only to the Yankees in DRS (39). At a time when home run numbers are down league-wide, the Guardians are capitalizing off putting the ball in play and playing elite defense.
23 year-old Andrés Giménez has a lot to do with the team's impressive first half. Giménez is slashing .318/.359/.872 and playing Gold Glove defense (8 DRS). His power numbers are inferior to José Altuve's — our next-best option — but his RBI and DRS totals are superior. Altuve has actually rated as a minus-glove this year (-2 DRS).
So to recap, Gimenez: .318/.359/.872, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 8 DRS
Altuve: .275/.359/.895, 15 HR, 26 RBI, -2 DRS
AL Third Base: José Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians
José Ramirez has received more fanfare for his MVP-caliber first half than Devers, but Devers is right there with him. Their OBP, OPS and home run totals are eerily similar.
Ramirez: .303/.388/1.006, 16 HR, 63 RBI, -4 DRS
Devers: .334/.392/.998, 17 HR, 45 RBI, -1 DRS
This one is really close for me. I like the extra dimension that Ramirez adds on the base paths with his 12 stolen bases. I also like Devers' .334 batting average, 31 points higher than J-Ram's. Devers plays in a division full of hitters' parks, so in theory, he is aided by the parks he plays in most. Let's take a look at park-adjusted OPS+: Ramirez is 183, Devers is 173. Ballparks clearly play a role in output. Neither is a plus-glove, so I shouldn't penalize J-Ram for his -4 DRS. I'll lean J-Ram, but would accept either answer.
AL Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
At first glance, this is a pretty cluttered field. Tim Anderson, Carlos Correa, rookie Jeremy Peña and Bogaerts are all worthy of consideration. In a tight field such as this one, I'm going to need to factor in plate appearances and games played. Anderson's batting .339, but doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. He's played just 45 games, has contributed to his team's defensive woes at the game's most important defensive position, and as a married man, he even made the cardinal sin of knocking up his side-chick. Not the greatest first half for TA.
Correa has also missed too much time to qualify. Pena's been an A+ replacement at Correa's position in Houston. His performance both offensively and defensively has been instrumental to the Astros' success this year, but like Correa and Anderson, he doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify. If Bogaerts were to have missed the same amount of time, this would be a much tougher position to fill, but it actually weeds itself out quite easily. Bogaerts is having an incredible year and has even been a plus-glove (2 DRS) this year. He's earned it.
Bogaerts: .330/.399/.874, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 2 DRS
AL Outfield: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox
By declining the Yankees' 7-year, $213.5 million extension earlier this spring, Judge made a decision to bet on himself and he's looking to emerge a big winner. He's the AL MVP at this point: the league's best player on the league's best team. Mike Trout is a guy you can pretty much pencil into the All-Star Game every year, as long as he's healthy. He actually isn't too far behind Judge, numbers-wise. The last spot is a bit tougher. Angels' outfielder Taylor Ward was on track to be #3 prior to his injury. He's now missed too much time to qualify for the batting title. Orioles' Austin Hays, White Sox's Luis Robert and Astros' Kyle Tucker are all having very good years. Robert's numbers through his first 180 career games actually look Trout-like. Don't be surprised if these three become staples of the All-Star Game for years to come. But there's someone I like for this spot even more.
Despite playing more games in the outfield (34) than at DH (14), Vaugh is on the ballot as a DH. I think Major League Baseball got this wrong, so I'm writing him in as an outfielder. Despite being a below-average fielder, Vaughn's been the Sox's best and most consistent hitter this season. His offensive output has more than made up for his defensive limitations. At a time when the club has been nagged by injuries and underachieved offensively, Vaughn has helped keep the Sox in the AL Central race.
For me, it's Vaughn or Robert, and Vaughn has been more valuable to the Sox thus far this year. He also leads qualified outfielders in batting average, and is third behind Judge and Trout in OBP and OPS. In the words of Chris Farley, that Andrew Vaughn is one piece of ace! (or something like that).
Aaron Judge: .294/.370/1.013, 28 HR, 56 RBI
Mike Trout: .291/.396/1.054, 22 HR, 45 RBI
Andrew Vaughn: .316/.367/.843, 7 HR, 32 RBI
AL Designated Hitter: Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
Alvarez is a slam dunk here. It's worth noting that J.D. Martinez is once again putting together another great season, living up nicely to his $110 million deal, but Alvarez shouldn't be too far behind Judge, Trout, Ramirez and Devers in the AL MVP watch. Actually, I'd accept either answer here.
Yordan Alvareaz: .312/.404/1.053, 22 HR, 54 RBI
J.D. Martinez: .329/.400/.924, 8 HR, 32 RBI
NL Catcher: Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
Willson Contreras was the runaway favorite for this spot for most of the season, but as Contreras has cooled off a touch, Smith has heated up. Their offensive output is close enough, that I'm going with the superior defensive player, at a critical defensive position. They'll both get to Dodger Stadium for the All-Star Game, it's just a matter of who starts.
There are only two other NL catchers qualified for AVG/OBP/OPS, and neither measure up to these two. If I needed to pick a third catcher, I'd take Contreras' younger brother, William, who's having a very nice year for the Atlanta Braves.
Will Smith: .262/.347/.810, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 3 DRS
Willson Contreras: .268/.383/.877, 12 HR, 31 RBI, -6 DRS
William Contreras: .259/.344/.904, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 1 DRS
NL First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
First base is without a doubt, the deepest position in the National League. Freddie Freeman, Josh Bell, C.J. Cron, Eric Hosmer, Pete Alonso and Marlins' Garrett Cooper have all had All-Star caliber first halves, but it's the NL MVP frontrunner Goldschmidt that takes the cake.
Paul Goldschmidt: .337/.421/1.043, 18 HR, 62 RBI, -2 DRS
NL Second Base: Jeff McNeil, New York Mets
McNeil, perhaps baseball's most underrated player, has been a large part of the Mets' early success this season. Nobody is close to him.
Jeff McNeil: .327/.386/.851, 4 HR, 33 RBI, -1 DRS
NL Third Base: Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
Machado is right up there with Goldschmidt for NL MVP. Nolan Arenado is churning out another All-Star caliber year, but Machado is the easy choice here.
Manny Machado: .328/.400/.945, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 3 DRS
NL Shortstop: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
There are three guys I like for this spot. Tommy Edman leads NL position players in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Trea Turner has the highest batting average among qualified shortstops, and Dansby Swanson is putting it all together offensively and defensively, fully looking like the player the Diamondbacks selected with the no. 1 overall pick of the 2015 Draft.
I don't think you can go wrong with any of the three, but I give a slight edge to Swanson. I think he's the most well-rounded option. If you're looking for a fourth, Cubs' Nico Hoerner has been very good too.
Trea Turner: .317/.365/.861, 10 HR, 53 RBI, 0 DRS
Dansby Swanson: .304/.367/.871, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 3 DRS
Tommy Edman: .269/.342/.742, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 13 DRS (4 DRS at short, 9 at second)
NL Outfield: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers; Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants; Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves
This is easily the thinnest position to choose from. There are only four qualified outfielders in the National League this season with an OPS above .800: Mookie, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Juan Soto. Among the four, Mookie is the only shoe-in for the All-Star Game. Schwarber and Soto both have averages below .220. Happ's .279/.376/.835 is good, not great. Happ and Schwarber are also poor defensive players, so I'm actually going to go a little further down the list and pay less attention to games played.
Despite not having enough plate appearances to "qualify", Joc Pederson has 17 home runs, an OPS of .924 and a respectable .273 average. He's doing so playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks. Pederson's story is a bit similar to Swanson's. He burst onto the scene as a can't-miss prospect who was leading the league in homers early in his rookie season. He's finally putting it all together and playing like a true star. His park-adjusted 154 OPS+ is the best of the candidates we're looking at here.
For my final spot, I'm going with Acuña. He had to miss the first 20 games or so, but has made his presence known quickly in his return to the Braves. After being eased back into the action, spending his first few weeks back playing both right field and DH, he fully returned to the outfield on June 3, and hasn't moved since. Prior to Acuña's full-return, the Braves were 25-27, 9.5 games back of the Mets in the NL East. Since Acuña reclaimed his spot in right field, the Braves are 17-5, and just 5 games back. There's a direct correlation between Acuña's return and the Braves becoming the Braves again.
Unless he falls off a cliff offensively, Happ will get in, and should as a reserve. Other names to consider are Mets' outfielders Starling Marte and Brandon Nimmo.
Mookie Betts: .273/.349/.884, 17 HR, 40 RBI
Joc Pederson: .273/.346/.924, 17 HR, 39 RBI
Ronald Acuna Jr.: .281/.372/.828, 7 HR, 18 RBI
Ian Happ: .279/.376/.835, 8 HR, 36 RBI
Starling Marte: .276/.326/.762, 7 HR, 36 RBI
Brandon Nimmo: .278/.366/.797, 5 HR, 24 RBI
NL Designated Hitter: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
Harper's a slam dunk. He was running away with it prior to being hit by a pitch and fracturing his thumb over the weekend. Harper could miss the rest of the year. We won't see him in the All-Star Game.
In Harper's place, I'd pick Marlins' first baseman and DH Garrett Cooper. William Contreras is once again, another good option. Harper should get the nod, and then be replaced with the best All-Star reserve. It doesn't need to be an exclusive or primary DH.
Bryce Harper: .318/.385/.984, 15 HR, 48 RBI
Garrett Cooper: .307/.372/.824, 5 HR, 35 RBI
William Contreras: .259/.344/.904, 9 HR, 18 RBI
Make sure you get your votes in before Thursday's deadline, and check out this week's episode of the Jack Vita Show, talking All-Star selections!
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