The 2016 version of MLB’s All-Star game will be held at Petco Park in San Diego and as usual will feature events such as the Celebrity Softball Game and the Home Run Derby (which, as a Giants fan, I hope will include slugging pitcher Madison Bumgarner), all leading up to the most important All-Star Game in American sports, as the winning League will gain home field advantage in the World Series, meaning the starting lineups are crucial to the World Series representatives gaining the upper hand come October. As always, fan voting is used to select the starting line ups, with All-Star managers selecting the bench players and pitchers, meaning many players will gain a starting nod due to the strength of their fan base rather than their form in the first half of the season.
While there may be some first time starters, locked in veterans or young shining stars in these line ups, as always there will be some snubs to players who have had phenomenal starts to the year. These are my predictions for the 2016 NL and AL All-Star Teams, based mainly on: batting average, RBI, ERA, wins, fielding percentage and impact on their teams success.
39 American League
38 Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale
Runner up: Cole Hamels
While a closer call than I expected, as Hamels is leading his Texas Rangers to the best record in the AL with a more than solid first half recording an 8-1 start, there is no denying the dominance that is Chris Sale, as he leads the MLB in wins and remains in the top 5 in the AL with ERA, Strikeouts and innings pitched.
36 Catcher: Salvador Perez
Runner Up: Brian McCann
As always, the heart and soul of the Kansas City Royals has been an ironman behind the plate in 2016, but has upped his hitting from last year to this year, upping the average from .260 to .301 while mashing 12 Home Runs and 35 RBI, which puts him on pace to top his complete season totals of 21 and 70 from a year ago. Constantly catching 140+ games a year, Perez has been the driving force, along with other home grown talents like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the Championship power house that the Royals have become, becoming quite possibly the most irreplaceable player in the American League, if not all of baseball. Despite great hitting numbers from Brian McCann for the Yankees, this solid all around play, along with clutch hitting should give Salvador yet another All-Star nod, as his Royals look to go to their third straight World Series.
34 First Base: Miguel Cabrera
Runner up: Jose Abreu
The constant professional, and most recent Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera again has been tearing the cover off the baseball in Detroit, albeit under the radar compared to previous years, due to the lack of team success that the Detroit Tigers are experiencing, with other teams in the division such as Cleveland and Kansas City well ahead of them. While Cuban sensation Abreu continues to get better with more experience for the division rival White Sox, Cabrera continues to prove that he belongs in the elite class of MLB players, as his .296 average 16 HR and 44 RBI proves that he is still one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. While the Tigers may not have a realistic chance at winning the World Series, Cabrera should again look to start at first for the All-Star game, which will help the AL on their way to another All-Star game victory.
32 Second Base: Robinson Cano
Runner up: Jose Altuve
The smoothest and most relaxed player in baseball may not be experiencing the level of team success that he had envisioned when he made the move to the Mariners from the Yankees, but his bat and glove have been just as special in the more spacious Safeco Field in Seattle. His .297 average prove he is just as dominant as he once was in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, and his 19 HR & 53 RBI lead the position in the AL, and while up and coming talents like Rougned Odor and Jose Altuve are making a solid claim to be considered in the role, no one really in all of base ball fits the ‘All-Star’ bill like Robinson Cano does. While Seattle may be falling off in the standings as of late, Cano continues to be an All-Star on and off the field with amazing consistency, and his level of play will no doubt continue into the near future.
30 Third Base: Manny Machado
Runner up: Josh Donaldson
Without a doubt the hardest decision to make when selecting these All-Star line ups, both men are exceedingly impressive both in the field and with their glove, and unfortunately it is the reigning AL MVP who misses out on the starting lineup due to the brilliance of an ever maturing Orioles third basemen, Manny Machado. While he has been struck with a major injury and up and down performance, this year has been the coming out party for the fully fledged talent of Machado, and while Donaldson is having just as good a year as last, Manny, another young up and coming star just beats him out with his fantastic performances. His .325 average with 18 HR and 44 RBI may not seem all that eye popping, but when added into a phenomenal Orioles lineup, he becomes one of the most impactful players in the league, and if he is not already a superstar, Machado is well on his way, and a start in the All-Star game is perfect to solidify him as the future of the Orioles.
28 Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
Runner up: Carlos Correa
Along with fellow rookie sensations Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts has exploded onto the scene to coincide with the Red Sox finally gaining the talent they need to contend, and the improved performance of these three young guns has made Boston one of the most formidable lineups in recent memory. Leading the American League at SS with a .343 batting average and 50 RBI, the explosive and defensive wizard Bogaerts has also added 9 bombs and 10 stolen bases, proving he is a huge threat in all departments of the game is a stand out at the position, but despite competition from Astros stud Carlos Correa, one of the men keeping Boston and its short handed pitching staff in the AL East race definitely deserves this starting position, but one would think the battle between these two for SS supremacy will not be over in 2016.
26 Outfield: Mookie Betts
Runner up: Adam Jones
Along with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts, Mookie Betts’ coming out party in 2016 has been crucial to leading Boston to the position they find themselves in, battling for AL East supremacy, but neither of the aforementioned duo have had the sheer explosive impact that Betts has had for his team, doing it in every possible phase of the game. Betts can do just about anything asked of him on the field, and his development has been vital in the Sox getting back to where they are today, in a competitive position in the AL East, he, along with the Bradley and Bogaerts represent the future of Boston, and if that is the case, the future is here, and the future looks brighter than ever. To earn this spot, Betts has played amazing defense, combined with hitting .289, 16 HR and 54 RBI with 12 stolen bases to his credit.
24 Outfield: Mike Trout
Runner up: Carlos Beltran
As usual, Mike Trout continues to improve with age, which is staggering to the fans as he has been considered the best player in all of baseball ever since his debut several years ago, and maturity has helped him up his game and his numbers year by year, with 2016 being no exception. As fans have become accustomed too, Trout is playing incredible defense yet again, and with more pressure placed on him by the fans and opposing pitchers, he continues to put up fantastic numbers, with a .319 average, 17 HR and 53 RBI, which is staggering that these are consistent numbers for someone as young as Trout. The back-to-back All-Star Game MVP will be looking for his third consecutive MVP award, and with a starting role solidified he will get a chance to replicate his success in this showcase game, and if anyone can achieve that feat, it’s young Angels sensation Mike Trout.
22 Outfield: Ian Desmond
Runner up: Jackie Bradley Jr.
The leading contender for Comeback Player of the Year, Ian Desmond has played more than a major role in leading the Texas Rangers to the Number 1 seed in the American League 70+ games into the year, shining with glove, legs and most importantly his bat. A former shortstop playing his first year in center field, Desmond has been a revelation for the Rangers who expected to be a World Series contender in 2016, adding to the depth and intimidation of the Rangers lineup, to combine with their phenomenal starting pitching when healthy. He has a line of .321 BA, 14 HR and 51 RBI, and also adds valuable speed with 13 stolen bases, and if Desmond can keep up anything close to this solid hitting, no team in all of the American League is more well rounded, and will find it tough keeping the Rangers from making it back to the World Series for the first time since 2011.
20 Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
Runner up: Edwin Encarnacion
After announcing his seasons-end retirement before the 2016 season began, fans would have been excused for voting Big Papi in to the starting DH role out of respect alone, but as he has always done, Ortiz has pieced together another monstrous year, again proving why he is quite possibly the greatest pure DH to ever play the game of baseball. While he may be trailing Toronto’s Encarnacion in RBI and HR, he leads by an astounding 70 batting average points, and with this being his final year and still getting it done in a big way at the plate, there is no better player to represent the American League as starting DH than the departing Big Papi. As of writing this article, Ortiz’ stats read .335 BA, 18 HR and a whopping 60 RBI, which most players in their mid 20’s would be more than proud of, yet it still proves what a professional David is as he winds down his career, putting up such fantastic, consistent numbers as he nears his 40’s, and there is no doubt the crowd in San Diego will show him nothing but love.
18 National League
17 Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
Runner up: Jake Arrieta
The ‘best pitcher in baseball’ debate in 2016 no doubt begins with these two men, but in a very close call Kershaw gets the nod for one statistic, his record breaking, eye popping K-BB ratio, which is by far the best in baseball history, recording 141 strike outs to just a measly 7 walks, as of this writing. Long has Kershaw been at the top of the NL, with 3 Cy Young Awards to his name, and this year has been no different, as he has felt an extra layer of pressure with the off season loss of Zack Greinke and several pitching injuries in 2016, making his success even more crucial and impressive. He leads the NL in ERA and innings pitched, and with the impressive strike out/walk numbers, he is more than deserving of the starting pitching gig, and should be given the chance, even though this position is chosen by the manager, rather than the fans.
15 Catcher: Wilson Ramos
Runner up: Buster Posey
As an avid Giants fan, even I could not justify putting Buster Posey, or any catcher ahead of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, as he has been by far the hottest catcher in all of baseball, swinging the bat better than most all position players in the NL, while catching a phenomenal pitching staff which has the Nats positioned in first place as of writing. Only 3 position players in the MLB have a better batting average than Ramos’ astounding .341, and with a 12 HR & 41 RBI line, he has been instrumental in leading the Nationals to their first place position in the NL East, as it has added a much needed offensive depth to the brilliant of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, which makes this a scary team going forward. Along with his solid glove behind the plate, Ramos should be one of two players representing the Nationals in the NL starting lineup, which could assist the team as they look to achieve their lofty goals of Worl Series success.
13 First Base: Anthony Rizzo
Runner up: Paul Goldschmidt
With fan voting the deciding factor in starting lineups, expect many more Cubs to find themselves in starting positions, and while this may not exactly be a problem, in my opinion, slugging First basemen Anthony Rizzo is the only one who definitely wins their position battle, though a close one competing with stand out players such as Paul Goldschmidt, Wil Myers and Brandon Belt. Though struggling over the past week, the Cubs have been the stand out team in the NL all year, and while the great pitching has helped them get this far, the offense, led by second year phenom Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, has elevated them to elite level status within the MLB. His 18 HR and 55 RBI along with his always brilliant defense have anchored the Cubs order behind Bryant, and come San Diego the fans should see all of his star power and physical power on display as the starting first basemen.
11 Second Base: Daniel Murphy
Runner up: Neil Walker
While many felt the 2015 post-season explosion from Mets 2B Daniel Murphy was just a case of a player getting hot (and hot he was, homering in a historical, record breaking 7 straight post season games), but has proved doubters wrong for the division rival Nationals, where he has become a premiere second basemen, sporting an average over .350, and slotting right into the middle of a powerful Washington lineup. Looking to impress his new team mates, and solidify the middle of the Nationals order, Murphy has crafted a .352 batting average with 12 HR’s and 48 RBI, all three categories which lead NL second basemen by a fair way, making him the only logical choice to start the game for the National League, who are looking to finally secure home field advantage for the Fall Classic.
9 Third Base: Nolan Arenado
Runner up: Kris Bryant
While Cub fans see their team dominating on the way to the tied best win total in the National League and will no doubt attempt to vote in Kris Bryant (he leads the votes for 3B while having a great year in his own right), but he pales in comparison to Rockies phenomenon Nolan Arenado who continues to slug away while remaining arguably the best third basemen in all of the MLB (though Manny Machado may have something to say about that). In a pitcher friendly Coors Park in Colorado, Arenado has consistently hit for power and average in 2016, proving he is a true 5-tool talent, he has an average of .295, while slugging his way to a monstrous 21 big flies and 65 RBI and despite the lack of talent on the Rockies pitching staff, Arenado has spearheaded a frightening offense which also includes Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez, which should lead him to the All-Star squad.
7 Shortstop: Corey Seager
Runner up: Trevor Story
Much hype was made about the debut of Dodgers home grown talents Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Corey Seager, and for the most part, early in their careers they seem to fit the bill, but Seager stands out by far of the 3, giving the Dodgers line up the pop it needs in the middle of the order to help them compete with the Giants in the NL West. The rookie sensation has blasted 16 Home runs along with 38 RBI, and is quickly becoming one of the more feared power hitters in the National League, which is giving the Dodgers a massive boost in their attempt to stay with the NL wins leading Giants, even with their injury riddled pitching staff. While early on in his career, Seager should join fellow Dodger Clayton Kershaw in the starting line up in a game which he will no doubt see plenty of in the future, as he looks to be a breakout star in a league with players bursting at the seams to be breakout stars.
5 Outfield: Marcell Ozuna
Runner up: Jay Bruce
Perhaps the least known name on this list, due to the lack of success the Marlins have achieved in recent years, but Ozuna has been excelling for the past number of years with both his glove and power bat in a pitcher friendly Marlins park, providing excellent protection in a lineup featuring one of the more feared hitters in the NL, Gioncarlo Stanton. Despite phenomenal numbers from the talented lefty Bruce, he plays in a notoriously small, hitters ball park in Cincinnati, and a lack of team success hampers his chances at a starting role, Ozuna has heavily impacted a Marlins lineup that surprisingly find themselves in the playoff hunt almost half way through the year. While the Marlins fan base may not have the voting power of a Chicago or Kansas City, there is no doubting that an impressive .320 batting average along with 16 bombs and 44 RBI, Ozuna should wrap up one starting spot in the National League outfield, as he has consistently been one of the more under rated players for the past few years.
3 Outfield: Yoenis Cespedes
Runner up: Matt Holliday
Of all the Cuban players in the MLB today, none exude swagger, confidence and success more than Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who has been as consistent a hitter as there is in baseball since his arrival for Oakland several years ago, and though his uniform has changed 3 times, his confident approach remains unchanged, even with increasing levels of team pressure and success in the Big Apple. His high .200’s average combined with 18 big flies and 45 RBI have helped the Mets to a close second place behind the division rival Nationals, and a big part of that has been Cespedes hitting clutch in the middle of their lineup, which was not a strength for the team until he arrived, and arguably no player is more suited to play in a game for superstars due to his undeniable attraction to fans and star power.
1 Outfield: Bryce Harper
Runner up: Matt Kemp
After being voted ‘most over rated player in the MLB’ by his peers a couple of years ago, Harper responded with a vengeance, going on to win MVP in 2015 by a landslide, and while he couldn’t propel his Nationals to World Series success, he has become the cornerstone of the organization they were hoping he could, and with veteran manager Dusty Baker now at the helm, Washington look to be in prime position to finally achieve substantial post season success. While the average may be lower than Bryce would like at .254, due to teams putting more emphasis on how they pitch Harper, his all around hustle and enthusiasm for the game impact his team beyond this lowly average, and his 15 HR combined with 44 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a whopping 62 walks, at least double the next Right Fielder in the NL make him worthy of a starting spot, as he is the most valuable player on the Nats team and possibly the NL again.
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