With the all-star voting for position players coming to a close, I thought I should give my picks for the upcoming MLB All-Star game on July 11th. Pitchers are much harder to predict depending on whether they’re healthy or lined up to pitch on that Tuesday, so I will stick to choosing the starting 9 for each team.
I’m of the school of thought that the players that have had the best 2017 seasons should be voted in over the players with a better overall track record but less 2017 production. The superstars of the 2017 season have given us the great storylines and moments; they should be rewarded with a spot on the All-Star roster.
NL Position Players –
C – Buster Posey:
Posey has been dominant all season and is best catcher in the National league by a wide margin. If Posey can keep it up, he will go down as one of the best catchers in Major League History. Already 10th all-time in catcher wins above replacement with a career average of 4.04, Posey is on a Hall of Fame path.
1B – Joey Votto:
First base in the National League has been incredibly deep with 12 players hitting at least 10% better than league average at-bat for at-bat. Votto has been one of the best players in our game for the past few years and he has continued to put up great numbers in 2017. He has a 166 wRC+ which puts him at the top of the leaderboard in all of baseball. He is also putting the ball in play much more this season with his K% dipping to 11%. Pencil in Votto for the middle of the National League lineup.
2B – Daniel Murphy:
Murphy is the clear front-runner as the best hitting second baseman in the National League this year with a .341 average. Rarely does he walk (7.6%) but rarely does he strike out (9.5%). Josh Harrison has had a solid year for the Pirates, but Murphy is still the best when it comes to NL second basemen.
3B – Justin Turner:
Turner has only had about 250 plate appearances to this point, but has posted huge numbers when he has played. He isn’t hitting for tons of power compared to other All-Star candidates at his position with a .177 ISO. (NL 3B ISO = .167) However, he is getting on base quite frequently. He boasts a .473 OBP, which should make him a candidate to hit high in the order for Maddon’s squad.
SS – Zack Cozart:
The National League has had two great stars this year at shortstop, Corey Seager and Zack Cozart. They have very similar wRC+ with Seager at 143 and Cozart at 149. Where Cozart edges out Seager is on the infield. Cozart has played in less games so I will use UZR/150 to compare the two. Cozart is worth 8.5 runs per 150 games while Seager is worth only 4.8. Both are good defenders but Cozart has had a better season in the field and at the plate.
OF – Bryce Harper:
Harper has recovered from last season’s down year (by his standard). He isn’t posting numbers like he did in 2015 when he had a 197 wRC+, but he has remained the top outfielder in the National League. Last year he had soft contact about 19.8% of the time and has cut that drastically down to 13.2% this year. To the surprise of no one, Harper has been incredible this year and has certainly earned a starting spot in the all-star game.
OF – Marcel Ozuna:
Ozuna is having a great season at the plate. Along with the rest of baseball, he is hitting for more power this season. He has 20 homeruns to go along with a strong on-base percentage of .370+. Ozuna changed his approach this season and is swinging at 3% more pitches. He is whiffing more often as well, but if this new method is working for him, he should continue.
OF – Cody Bellinger:
One of the bigger stories of the first half of the season, Bellinger has come up to the major leagues and been raking ever since. He played 1B for most of his minor league career, but has shown he can play left field as well. He set the record for fewest games to get to 21 home runs and has great plate discipline, walking over 10% of plate appearances. His major flaw, however, is strikeouts, striking out almost 30% of the time. He needs to cut that down if he wants to be one of the top players in the game. However, he has earned a right to start in the all-star game.
DH – Freddie Freeman:
Freeman is about to come back early from his injury. If he is ready to play, he should be in the starting lineup as the designated hitter. He won’t have to play in the field, but the team could use his 203 wRC+, which was good for the best in the majors while he was playing. He has become a premier hitter in the National League and, if ready to play, should start for the NL.
Disagree with any positions? Tweet us @SABGroupIU. And look out for the AL All-Star Lineup coming out tomorrow.
Sports Analytics and Business at Indiana University
Image courtesy of ESPNPhoto