By Adam Brown
Although the concept of an ‘All-Star Game’ is somewhat intriguing, the reality is that it’s merely an exhibition where the game’s elite congregate for what’s nothing more than a social gathering. If you were to rank the competitiveness of all-star games however, Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic has the added titbit of home field advantage for the World Series, giving it a degree of importance for those involved. The notion behind an all-star game is to give the fans their say and a chance to select the players they wish to see. This system has its drawbacks, as seen in the NBA’s mid-season showpiece when Kobe Bryant made the Western Conference team despite spending the season injured. It’s these contradictions and the popularity contest that these games are that make having them be meaningful a redundant procedure.
This year, the American League fan vote has seen almost every Kansas City Royal winning their respective position, including Omar Infante and his 48 OPS+. So, taking into consideration that baseball is played outside of the Missouri area, I’ll make a selection of all-stars based on merit as opposed to popularity.
Current Leader – Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals)
My Selection – Stephen Vogt (Oakland Atheltics)
Perez is by no means a bad choice, I’d contest alongside Vogt and Russell Martin, they make the holy trinity of American League Catchers. When the numbers are crunched, and the three players season are put into context, I think Perez is the cleat number three in the pecking order.
Vogt, undergoing a career year at aged 30 is currently sporting an OPS of .938, good for 10th in the Majors. He also has a walk rate of 14.8% which is a main reason for .393 OBP and 158 Weighted Runs Created +, which leads AL Catchers. Vogt offense is by far the best amongst his position, and his defence remains average, which makes him collectively a worthy candidate to start the All-Star Game at Catcher.
Back-up – Russell Martin (Toronto Blue Jays)
Current Leader – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
My Selection – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
This is beyond an obvious choice, an OPS over 1.000 (1.045) to partner a .455 OBP, and an Off of 27.6, which Fangraphs ranks as almost double Albert Pujols, who is 2nd among AL First Baseman.
Back-up – Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angles)
Current Leader – Omar Infante (Kansas City Royals)
My Selection – Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians)
This would probably be amongst the biggest travesties in the history of baseball. Omar Infante is not only short of All-Star consideration, he’s also not had a productive season on the whole. An OBP of .234 to correlate with an Offensive War which reads a truly horrifying – 0.4. In comparison, Jason Kipnis sits at 4.3. Defensively, Infante holds the slightest of advantages, 0.8 to 0.6, which does little to mask the clear superiority of Kipnis, who leads the American League in WAR, and trails only Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt in the Majors. Not only is Jason Kipnis currently the best Second Baseman in baseball, he’s arguably the leader in the AL MVP race.
Back-up – Brian Dozier (Minnesota Twins)
Current Leader – Alcides Escobar (Kansas City Royals)
My Selection – Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox)
I’d contest this is the weakest position in the American League, realistically Escobar has this won due to his notoriety of appearing in last season’s World Series, the weak field challenging him, and the legions of new fans the Royals have seemingly coerced into fandom.
Bogaerts, the 22-year-old Aruban has been a shining light in an otherwise dark and dreary Red Sox season. His improvement defensively has led to him becoming the premier AL Shortstop, albeit potentially just holding the fort until Carlos Correa is ready to take it.
Bogaerts has outperformed Escobar with the bat all season. He leads the OPS battle .722 to .686. He leads OPS+ 99 to 89. He leads fWAR 1.7 to 1.3. All this in addition to the tie in dWAR is demonstrative of Bogaerts overall superiority.
Back-up – Jose Iglesias (Detroit Tigers)
Current Leader – Mike Moustakas (Kansas City Royals)
My Selection – Josh Donaldson (Toronto Blue Jays)
Another Royal leading his specific position. Another Royal undeservedly leading his specific position. This, although clearly another wrong decision, wouldn’t be as heinous as the two middle infielders winning their respective vote. Moustakas is in the midst of a career year, with an .846 OPS and playing some solid defence, as evidenced by his dWAR of 0.8. However Donaldson has an OPS of .899 and a dWAR of 0.9. Elsewhere Donaldson has 35 extra base hits to Moustakas’ 22, and has a clear lead in fWAR at 3.8, to the 2.2 that the Royals slugger sits at.
Back-up – Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles)
Current Leader(s) – Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals), Alex Gordon (Kansas City Royals)
My Selection(s) – Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals), Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay Rays)
Mike Trout is the best player baseball. He has some serious challengers to the crown, but heading into four years of sheer dominance over oncoming pitchers means he needs no explanation for his selection.
Cain and Kiermaier are the two best defensive outfielders in baseball. The latter has a dWAR of 2.2, which is 0.6 higher than any other outfielder in the American League. Add in a slightly above average bat, as evidenced by his 102 OPS+ gives Kiermaier and his ability to be a two-way player an All-Star berth.
Cain, although not as good as Kiermaier defensive is still an outstanding defensive player, with Fangraphs rating his Def at 9.9, 2nd only to Kiermaier and far clear of Adam Jones in third with his 5.2 rating. Cain has also become a better offensive player, his OPS+ of 116 to go along with a career high .440 SLG% to bolster his candidacy.
Back-up – Yoenis Cespesdes (Detroit Tigers), Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox), Alex Gordon (Kansas City Royals)