We're back with the latest edition of the still-too-early All-Star selections for the upcoming 2023 MLB All-Star Game.
This time we're selecting entire rosters following the All-Star roster rules: 32 players, including 20 position players (at least two at every position, including designated hitter) and 12 pitchers (four relievers). Players will be considered only at the positions they are listed at on the official All-Star ballot, and each team must have a representative. Yes, you can make your A's joke here.
Let's get right into it and break down who you might see July 11 in Seattle.
American League starters
I suspect this will be the first of many All-Star appearances for Rutschman and likely the first of many All-Star starts. He doesn't have elite exit velocity, so he might never be a big power guy, but he's going to produce on-base percentages around .400 for the next decade. Most career starts for All-Star catchers: Ivan Rodriguez (12), Yogi Berra (11), Johnny Bench (10), Mike Piazza (10).
It will be interesting to see whom the fans vote in as Diaz and Anthony Rizzo are the best of a weak group, while Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who started the past two contests, continues to chase too many pitches to approach his monster numbers of 2021. Diaz, meanwhile, is hitting a lot like Guerrero did in 2021: high average, power, excellent walk-to-strikeout rate. Indeed, Diaz's OPS+ is 175, a bit higher than Guerrero's 167 that season.
Semien should be headed for his second All-Star start; really, there's no other competition given Jose Altuve spent most of the first two months on the injured list and Andres Gimenez, last year's starter, hasn't hit much. Semien is once again a rock of durability, having played every game, and leads the AL in runs scored while hitting for the highest average of his career.
Chapman had a 1.182 OPS in April, and everybody wrote about his new approach. He followed that up with a .585 OPS in May, and now nobody's talking about his approach. He has still been the best overall at his position, as Jose Ramirez has played below his usual level and Rafael Devers is flirting with a sub-.300 on-base percentage.
SS: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
He leads the AL in Baseball-Reference WAR (bWAR), although this is hardly a slam dunk, as Bo Bichette is close behind him. Franco has hit around .308 and swiped 21 bases, while defensive metrics place him at the top of the charts among shortstops. Oh, yeah, he's still just 22 and has racked up 3.6 bWAR in less than half a season. Best seasons by 22-year-old shortstops since integration: Alex Rodriguez, 1998 (8.5 WAR); Cal Ripken, 1983 (8.2); Jim Fregosi, 1964 (7.9); Troy Tulowitzki, 2007 (6.8); Carlos Correa, 2017 (6.7).
Judge had a 12-game homerless stretch from April 20 to May 12 sandwiched around a stint on the IL because of a hip injury, but he has been crushing it since his return and now has 19 home runs in 49 games ... a pace of 63 over 162 games. The missed time probably means 60 is out of the question, but 50-something appears possible. He's also back in the discussion for MVP, leading the AL in home runs, slugging and OPS -- and times crashing through the Dodger Stadium right-field gate.
His OPS and slugging percentage are at career lows, and he's still not walking as much as he once did, so you can't help but wonder if Trout's finally showing the first signs of decline at age 31. I wouldn't want to bet on it, though.
Alvarez has started more games at DH but is listed on the ballot as an outfielder, so we're including him here -- and he's a no-brainer as our third selection. Based on the past two seasons, Judge is the best hitter in the game, but Alvarez would rank No. 2.
DH: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
There are few sights in the game more magnificent than an Ohtani home run -- such as the recent 459-foot blast off Lance Lynn or the 456-foot blast in Baltimore that flew off the fence protecting Eutaw Street in right-center and had Orioles announcer Kevin Brown saying, "You just don't see anyone hit it out there."
P: Framber Valdez, Houston Astros
Who is the best pitcher in the AL? It's a wide-open argument. The past three Cy Young winners were Shane Bieber, who has seen his strikeout rate deteriorate this season; Robbie Ray, who is out for the season after Tommy John surgery; and Justin Verlander, who is now in the NL.
It's so wide open that I considered 12 different pitchers for this slot. To sort through them all, I ranked them in eight different categories (through Saturday's games), and the lowest average score actually belonged to Seattle's Luis Castillo, with Valdez and the Rangers' Nathan Eovaldi tied for second. It's close, but Valdez was the best of the three last season and also had a dominant postseason with a 1.44 ERA in four starts, so I'm giving him the nod.
(Eovaldi tossed six scoreless innings on Sunday to make his case stronger as he improved to 8-2 with a 2.24 ERA while now leading the AL in innings pitched.)
American League reserves
Jonah Heim of the Rangers draws the short straw here, as the Royals need a representative. At least the seven-time All-Star is a deserving rep. Perez's career arc is pretty fascinating: Prior to his season-long elbow injury in 2019, he had a career OPS+ of 98. Since 2020, it's hovering around 125. He still swings at everything but has simply learned to hit the ball harder more often (at the expense of more strikeouts).
1B: Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees
Rizzo is a three-time All-Star, but the most recent of those appearances came back in 2016, when he started for the NL. If Rizzo does make it, I suspect seven years between All-Star appearances might be a record of sorts, at least for a position player. His average is way up, but it's hardly because of the new shift rules -- he has just 10 ground ball hits all season.
2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Nobody else has stepped up to earn this position, so let's go with a guy who is one of the game's biggest stars, even if he didn't make his season debut until May 19.
3B: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians
His power numbers are down from his career norms, but he has been fine overall. His flyball rate is actually up a bit, and his strikeouts are down, so the home runs should start coming. Also, Ramirez will be the only Cleveland rep on the team.
3B: Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
As I filled out my roster, it turns out the two open slots among my 20 position players came down to two Red Sox players (Devers and Masataka Yoshida) and two Rangers (Josh Jung and Adolis Garcia). Two third basemen and two outfielders. One of the two had to be a Boston player because the Sox still needed a rep. By bWAR:
I took Devers over Yoshida since he's the more established star and does rank third in the AL in RBIs and Garcia over Jung for similar reasons. Plus, we already have three third basemen if we select Devers.
SS: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
An All-Star in 2021, Bichette scuffled in the first half of 2022 but tore it up in the second half, especially in September, when he hit .406. He found his stroke from the get-go this year and leads the AL in batting average and hits, putting him in line to lead in the latter for the third straight season.
OF: Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays
After his breakout 2020 postseason, Arozarena's first two full seasons were solid, but he has improved his walk and strikeout rates this year. That has led to more hard contact (his hard-hit rate percentile is up in the low 90s from 56) and some of the best numbers of his career as part of the explosive 2023 Tampa Bay offense.
OF: Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox
Robert earns this on merit, although he is also our only White Sox player. His defense has been Gold Glover-caliber and, most importantly, he has stayed off the IL.
Look, this spot could go to, say, Josh Lowe, who is having an All-Star worthy campaign for the Rays even as a platoon player. Or Cedric Mullins of the Orioles if he hadn't landed on the IL. Or Yoshida or Alex Verdugo of the Red Sox, which would allow us to replace Devers with Jung. But are we having an All-Star Game in Seattle without Julio? No, we are not.
OF: Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
Sometimes you have to be a little bit lucky as an organization. The Rangers purchased Garcia from the Cardinals after the 2019 season. That was smart. In 2021, he was also designated for assignment. Any team could have had him. Nobody wanted him, so he stayed with the Rangers. That was lucky. Now, he could be headed for his second All-Star appearance.
Rooker hit .353 with nine home runs in April when he posted an OPS over 1.200. The strikeouts have returned in May, but he has been the second-best DH in a weak group and we need somebody to represent the A's.
American League pitchers
Notes on starting pitchers: I ranked the starters by the formula I mentioned above (stats are, once again, through Saturday's games), with Ohtani's dual role as DH allowing us to add an extra pitcher.
P: Luis Castillo, Seattle Mariners
Castillo deserves better than his 4-3 record. All four of his wins came when he allowed no runs -- and he had another no-decision with no runs.
P: Nathan Eovaldi, Texas Rangers
Yes, the Rangers signed a free agent who might end up starting the All-Star Game: Eovaldi, not Jacob deGrom.
Gray is third in ERA and just allowed his first home run, but he hasn't dominated in some other categories (12th in WHIP and 10th in innings and batting average allowed).
P: Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays
McClanahan started last year's All-Star Game and will hope to avoid a similar second-half fade.
P: Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays
Gausman leads in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR).
P: Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins
Ryan has remade his repertoire with a new sweeper and is racking up K's while allowing fewer home runs.
P: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
Cole, a perennial Cy Young contender, started off great but is once again experiencing issues with home runs.
P: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
My heart wanted to start Ohtani on the mound as well, and he does lead in strikeout percentage and lowest batting average, but he ranked 12th among my 12 candidates in ERA and home run rate and 11th in both bWAR and fWAR.
RP: Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles
RP: Yennier Cano, Baltimore Orioles
Bautista and Cano are pretty easy selections as the dominant duo at the back end of the Baltimore bullpen. They're a combined 4-1 with 19 saves and 87 strikeouts in 59 innings with just 32 hits allowed. Cleveland's Emmanuel Clase has arguably been the game's best reliever over the past two seasons and closed out the 3-2 AL victory in last year's All-Star Game with three strikeouts, but he has been more hittable in 2023 and has five blown saves and four losses.
RP: Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners
We'll give the final two spots to Lange, who had a 0.90 ERA until serving up a grand slam on Sunday and fills our need for a Tigers player, and Sewald, who has been a reliable late-inning option for the third straight season and would complete his journey from rags-to-All-Star after the Mets let him go back in 2020.
National League starters
Best offseason move? Yeah, best offseason move. I suspect if the MVP vote were held today that teammate Ronald Acuña Jr. would win, but Murphy might finish second.
In an era when hitting .300 is more difficult than ever, Freeman is headed for his eighth .300 season and leads the NL in doubles and ranks second in hits and OPS. At 33, his Hall of Fame case is now all but secure given how well he is aging< and now we'll see how high he can climb on the list of best first basemen of all time.
A 5-for-5 game on Saturday raised his average 16 points to .390; then he had two more hits on Sunday and three on Monday. He's now at an incredible .399, which means ... don't say it ... OK, say it ... we can start talking .400 again. Arraez versus Nolan Gorman is a fascinating contrast in style. Gorman has 13 more home runs, six more walks and has grounded into nine fewer double plays in a similar total of plate appearances. It takes a lot of singles to make up for that, but so far Arraez does have the higher wRC+.
3B: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
Third base in the NL appeared loaded as Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Austin Riley finished second, third and sixth in the MVP last year, but Machado has been awful, Arenado had a miserable April and Riley has been good but not great. Muncy gets the nod despite a low batting average as he leads all NL third basemen in home runs, runs, RBIs, walks and wRC+. After a strong May, I suspect Arenado might still end up winning the fan vote.
All-Star starters are usually selected on the strength of their hitting, and Swanson has posted the best OBP among NL shortstops, but his defense puts him over the top.
OF: Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves
He has certainly been the most electrifying player so far with his speed-power combo. It's not difficult to figure out -- aside from his knee being healthy -- why he has taken his game to a new level. His career strikeout rate entering 2023 was 25%; this season, it's a shade under 14%, an incredible drop from his previous norms.
OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best utility player in the game.
Will we ever again see the player who hit .322/.471/.572 across the 2020-21 seasons at ages 21 and 22? He's still young enough that we can't dismiss that hitter is still somewhere inside him, but even if we don't, a .420-plus OBP is still enormously valuable.
DH: J.D. Martinez, Los Angeles Dodgers
I had a feeling Martinez to the Dodgers would end up being one of the best low-level moves of the offseason, but I certainly didn't expect him to be leading the NL in slugging percentage in early June. He hit 16 home runs last season and is already at 13.
Similar to the AL, the NL's best pitcher is wide open.
Max Scherzer hasn't pitched enough to warrant consideration. Verlander was injured and hasn't been especially effective. Corbin Burnes has seen his strikeout rate drop from 12.6 per nine in 2021 to 8.5 (while his ERA has risen). Julio Urias gave up a ton of home runs and then got hurt. Jacob deGrom is in the AL (and injured anyway). Sandy Alcantara, last year's Cy Young winner, is 2-5 with a 4.93 ERA.
Gallen finished fifth in last year's vote and has been outstanding once again -- he had a stretch of four straight scoreless outings in April -- for a surprising Diamondbacks squad. Marcus Stroman would be under strong consideration here as well, with 11 quality starts out of 13 outings.
National League reserves
C: Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
He's having his best season, and if he hadn't missed 13 games because of an injury, he might be right up there in the early MVP discussion. His strikeout rate has dropped from an already-low 16.6% last season to under 10% this season (one of just five players).
Yes, we needed a Rockies rep, but Diaz has been outstanding and is by no means a token representative in recent Rockies tradition. Considering he hit .228 last year, we'll see whether he can keep hitting .300 all season.
The batting average is low, although mostly due to a ridiculously low average on balls in play rather than anything else, but he does lead the NL in home runs and RBIs and has delivered some key late-game home runs for the Mets.
In my initial run through the roster, I debated between Alonso and Goldschmidt as the backup first baseman before finally deciding I'd just take both. Goldschmidt isn't having the same MVP season he did in 2022, but he has still been one of the best hitters in the league as he flirts with a .300/.400/.500 line.
2B: Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals
He's having a breakout season and given his prospect pedigree, I'm buying it -- and I expect a 30-homer season. Statcast doesn't like his defense at second, but his raw range factor (4.52 plays per nine innings) is basically identical to teammates Brendan Donovan (4.50) and Tommy Edman (4.67), and Gorman was actually higher than both last season.
We needed a Nationals player, and Candelario actually leads NL third basemen in fWAR, so this isn't a bad reach. I suspect he'll be playing for a new team soon after the All-Star Game. (In fact, given the Mariners' struggles at DH, maybe he can just remain in Seattle once the game's over.)
SS: Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
The batting average and OBP are way too low, but he does lead NL shortstops in runs and RBIs and his defense has been outstanding. Still, he gets this mostly by default, as Trea Turner hasn't been good and Xander Bogaerts hasn't exactly torn it up in San Diego.
OF: Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks
What an exciting young player. He has been good enough to make a strong case as the third outfield starter behind Acuna and Betts. Besides the game-changing speed and potential to hit 25 home runs, I love the rapid improvement in his approach. He had 24 K's and eight walks in April and improved to 18 strikeouts and 15 walks in May. He's going to be a regular at the Midsummer Classic.
OF: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks
Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy were supposed to join Carroll in the Arizona outfield with Gurriel as more of a DH option, but as the two sophomores struggled at the plate, Gurriel has been terrific, rediscovering the power that left him last year in Toronto.
Here's how bad things are in Philadelphia: I actually forgot to put a Phillies player on my initial run through the roster and had to go back to add Castellanos. The Phillies' entire roster is built around its star power, and none of those stars are having All-Star seasons. Pretty incredible. Or maybe a good reason to expect a Phillies surge in the second half.
DH: Jorge Soler, Miami Marlins
I could have applied the same argument I used for Altuve to put Bryce Harper here, but unlike the situation at AL second base, Soler is having a good season and is a worthy selection.
National League pitchers
P: Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs
Stroman has held batters to a .186 average, no doubt benefiting from the excellent up-the-middle defense of Swanson and Nico Hoerner.
P: Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves
Strider has been touched up in a couple outings of late, but his strikeout rate of 40.6% (14.6 K's per nine) would rank as the best ever over a full season.
P: Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves
Elder began the season in the minors and while there's nothing in his numbers that suggest he can keep this going, a 1.97 ERA is a 1.97 ERA.
Webb is headed for a third straight outstanding season, although he has been plagued by poor run support as the Giants have scored zero or one run in five of his 12 starts.
Keller is maybe the most improved pitcher in the majors, going from a 2.30 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season to 5.47 as he has added a new cutter and improved his fastball command.
P: Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
The underrated Kelly is holding batters to a .194 average.
P: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes, I'll take another All-Star appearance from a legend.
Whew. We still needed reps from the Reds and Brewers, but luckily Diaz and Williams are absolutely worthy All-Stars, with Diaz racking up strikeouts like his brother did a year ago and Williams allowing just one run so far (Thairo Estrada hit a home run off him).
RP: David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates
RP: Josh Hader, San Diego Padres
The other two are also locks. Bednar would make his second straight All-Star appearance if he makes it (he has one walk all season, and that was intentional), while Hader would be making his fifth straight appearance (there was no All-Star Game in 2020). Don't look for much offense from the AL against this group in the late innings.