Not every rule implemented for baseball’s All Star Game is met with praise. One that nearly universally accepted is the implementation of the fans being able to vote for the starting position players. After all, this makes sense for an exhibition game.
For the most part we get it right—this year included. However, there can be a few tweaks made.
With less than a month to go before the All Star Game is played in Minneapolis, here is how the AL and NL starting lineups should look—with recent performance and appeal being the main qualifiers.
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki (Twins)
Joe Mauer used to occupy this spot for years. Now that he’s more entrenched at first base, it’s another Twin that can fill the void with a chance of playing in front of a home crowd. Suzuki is the only AL catcher with a batting average over .300, had 30 RBI and 12 doubles. His bat control is evident, with just 12 strikeouts to his name. A starting spot, though, looks unlikely as Suzuki was fifth among AL catchers in the June 16 fan voting.
First Baseman: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
When you win the Triple Crown in 2012 and then nearly do it again in 2013, anything less than that is going to be deemed a disappointment. Cabrera isn’t on pace to equal the superhuman-like number of the past two years, but he does have a .324 average with 12 home runs and 55 RBI. Add in the fact that he remains one of the most imposing hitters in the game, and that’s more than worthy of being in the All-Star spotlight.
Second Baseman: Robinson Cano (Mariners)
Monetarily, Cano made the right choice in bolting the Yankees (if you can believe that). As far as winning games goes, that’s still to be determined. Nevertheless, Cano has remained a solid player in his first year with the M’s—even if his power numbers have dipped. Going from lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium to spacious Safeco Park will do that. Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve can make a case, but Cano will get the popular vote.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter (Yankees)
The All-Star Game is not just reserved for those who deserve to be there on the merits of this year, but also to honor the popular veterans. Jeter definitely falls into the latter category—more so because of 2014 being his final season. The public has made it clear it’d like to see the career-long Yankee be the starting AL shortstop, as he led the June 16 fan voting over Alexei Ramirez by more than 200,000 votes.
Third Baseman: Josh Donaldson (A’s)
The no-name A’s are unfamiliar to the novice, a delight to the baseball purist. Donaldson is just one the many players that deserves his due. Granted, his batting average (.249) is not All Star worthy, but two major stats are. He is among the AL’s best in home runs (18) and RBI (51) in leading a balanced and effective Oakland offense. With Evan Longoria slumping and Manny Machado slowly coming back from injury, Donaldson has a significant lead in the balloting at third base.
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz (Orioles)
He has found redemption—and his power stroke—in Baltimore. In his first year with the O’s, Cruz has belted more long balls and has driven in more runs than any AL player. Not bad for a player that was seemingly put into exile by the Rangers after a 50-game suspension came down last season for his involvement with Biogenesis.
Outfielders: Mike Trout (Angels), Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Michael Brantley (Indians)
Regardless if his stats aren’t up to the caliber of being an All Star starter, Trout will get this spot. The future face of baseball is second in the outfield voting—just behind Bautista. The Jays have enjoyed an about face after 2013’s debacle. And with the 33-year-old’s consistent numbers (15 HR’s, 47 RBI, .314 BA), Toronto should stay on top. There weren’t many better over the past few days than Brantley, who was named AL Player of the Week on Monday after a seven-game stretch that featured a .538 average with three doubles, two homers, three RBI and nine runs scored. He has yet to receive his due, however.
Michael Brantley remains 7th in All-Star voting among American League outfielders. About half a million votes shy of a starting spot.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) June 16, 2014
Starting Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees)
The only starting position in the AL not voted on by the fans is the pitcher. But if they did have a say, they’d no doubt be pining for the Japanese rookie sensation. Tanaka leads the league in ERA (2.02), is tied for most wins (10) and has struck out 103. There were questions about the Yankees signing a relatively unknown product to a massive contract. As he single-handedly carries the New York rotation, those questions have long disappeared.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers)
The popular choices in this category are Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. Each has a worthy case to be the starting catcher, even if Posey is suffering from a slow start. Of course, Lucroy is behind those two in the latest polls. It most likely won’t be Lucroy on the initial lineup card, but with a .336 average and 25 doubles, he will at least get a reserve spot.
First Baseman: Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs)
Going into 2014, it was going to be hard for Goldschmidt to top what he did in 2013. But he’s doing a job trying to match it. Last year’s MVP candidate homered twice in a recent series with the Dodgers—giving him a total of 15. His strikeout total (72) may hard to look at. The rest of his game isn’t, which is why he should be making his second straight All Star appearance and first start.
Second Baseman: Neil Walker (Pirates)
Walker only has Chase Utley to “chase” down. It probably won’t happen, as the veteran Phillie is up by nearly 600,000 as of June 16. While Utley certainly is worthy of inclusion, the better choice is with Walker. When it comes to homers and runs driven in, there’s no better second baseman in the NL. In the field, he has all but flawless, with just one error committed in more than 250 chances.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)
His team may have fallen on hard times, but Tulowitzki has managed to keep up his torrid pace. With a league-best .362 average and 18 home runs (No. 2 in the NL), his all-around hitting ability makes him the top shortstop in MLB. With that, you forget that this two-time Gold Glove winner is also one of the best fielders. Should he stay healthy, Tulo may be in for his best season yet.
Third Baseman: Todd Frazier (Reds)
David Wright leads, but it is Frazier that has the better numbers. His 15 home runs are easily the most among those at the position, not to mention 39 RBI and an OPS of .862. Frazier’s also gotten hotter as the season has progressed—already having jacked six homers in June. It’s too bad for him that the Reds have the 14th ranked offense in the NL.
Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
One day, the DH will be a permanent fixture in the NL. For now, it’s the lone spot in the batting order that doesn’t get a fan vote. Stanton certainly deserves to be one of the three starting outfielders chosen, but the team would be best served by having him as a bat specialist for the game. The Marlins slugger has 19 homers—none of them having come cheaply. That total is tops for all NL outfielders—as is his 56 RBI.
Outfielders: Yasiel Puig (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Carlos Gomez (Brewers)
This trio doesn’t lack for speed—meaning the AL lineup is going to have a tough time hitting one past them. There is also plenty of showmanship and flash to go around. After just one year in the bigs, Puig is already a household name thanks to partly to his antics and mainly to his overall skills. Gomez also has a tendency to rub opponents the wrong way with behavior. However, you can’t question is significance to the Brewers’ first-place effort with his speed and range in center field. McCutchen used his bevy of tools to lead the Pirates to the playoffs last year and garner MVP honors. Pittsburgh has regressed overall so far in 2014, but he hasn’t. After 255 at-bats, McCutchen has hit .325 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Hudson (Giants)
From a gruesome ankle injury in 2013 to a revival in 2014, Hudson has defied expectations with a turn-back-the clock campaign. His first two-and-a-half months as a member of the Giants have seen him go 7-2 with an NL-best 1.81 ERA, having allowed just four home runs and 13 walks. Other pitchers in the league may have more wins—including his teammate, Madison Bumgarner. But the overall body of work favors Hudson. It doesn’t hurt to have a nice comeback story, either.
— MLBdreampicks (@MLBdreampicks) June 12, 2014