Opinion

Red Sox Unfiltered National League All-Star Roster Predictions

2018 National League All-Star Predictions

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (July 1, 2018 – Source: John McCoy/Getty Images North America)

With the All-Star rosters being announced tonight, this seems like as good a time as any to reveal the Red Sox Unfiltered All-Star roster predictions. This exercise is meaningless and has no bearing on reality. It exists for pure entertainment purposes and should be read as such. There will inevitably picks you disagree with, which is part of the fun of this whole thing. Despite this article’s aim, we did create our rosters following MLB’s rules. Every single team is represented and the roster consists of 20 position players and 12 pitchers. Without further ado, here is the horribly constructed 2018 NL All-Star roster!

American League Predictions

Catcher (3)

J.T. Realmuto– Miami Marlins (starter)

Willson Contreras– Chicago Cubs

Francisco Cervelli– Pittsburgh Pirates

Even though the Marlins do not have much going for them right now, they have a sneaky NL MVP candidate on their hands in Realmuto. This is amazing considering he missed a good chunk of time in the beginning of the season. In fact, if I had an MVP vote, this would probably be my choice. He has been very good before but nothing like this. The backstop has added formidable power (.239 ISO and .544 SLG) to his game and has become even more skilled at controlling the run games. Basically, he is the NL version of the “Only Active Hall of Famer in the MLB” Sandy Leon.

Contreas has enjoyed another fantastic year behind the dish and swinging the stick. He has been the embodiment of offensive consistency, with wRC+ reading the following from 2016 to 2018 (125 wRC+, 121 wRC+ and 127 wRC+). Meanwhile, Cervelli, admittedly the lone Pirates representative, has been absolute nails this season. After producing slightly below league-average offense the previous two seasons, he has added launch and power to his game, running a 139 wRC+ and .229 ISO this year. Both these NL Central catchers deserve to be in Washington.

First Basemen (3)

Freddie Freeman– Atlanta Braves (starter)

Paul Goldschmidt– Arizona Diamondbacks

Joey Votto– Cincinnati Reds

Leading a young team to unexpected success might be tough for some people, but Freeman seems to be doing just fine. He leads the position in fWAR, narrowly ahead of Goldschmidt, who would be the starter if May baseball did not exist.  Yes, Goldschmidt has been the best hitter since June 1st and it is not particularly close, although Max Muncy is giving him a run for his money. In that month alone, he has been worth 2.1 fWAR with an accompanying 215 wRC+. Through Goldy, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West seems possible.

Votto has been having a spectacular year, even if the homeruns have not been there. Among qualified position players, he leads the National League in OBP (.428) and, such is Votto, has walked more than he has struckout. His cerebral approach to everything never fails to amaze; it would seem criminal to not have him on the All-Star roster. With that said, Brandon Belt and Jesus Aguilar are worthy of this spot, as well, and so is Muncy but I counted him as a third basemen.

Second Basemen (3)

Javier Baez– Chicago Cubs (starter)

Ozzie Albies– Atlanta Braves

Scooter Gennett– Cincinnati Reds

There is literally a debate among certain baseball fans about who they would rather have Baez or Mike Trout. This should not even be a conversation because Trout is a million times the player he is; he is a million times the player everyone is. Regardless, the blend of Baez’s skill (very good) and his exciting, charismatic personality has made this a thing. To the latter, there are few more entertaining players to watch than the Cubs’ infielder. He swings at everything but makes enormous contact when he is not whiffing. Despite strikeouts still being a huge hinderance, he has overcome it this year, becoming one of the best hitters in baseball. He has not played as much as Albies (76 less plate appearances) or Gennett  but has been the best NL second basemen on a rate basis.

Albies got off to an unbelievably hot start and has been able to keep much of that production since. He is arguably the best defender of the three, but has the worst offensive numbers (wRC+, SLG and OBP). Still, there is no way you can keep the Braves second basemen out of this game. Lastly, Gennett has followed up his breakout 2017 with an even better 2018. It literally feels like since he clubbed that four-homerun game last year he has been one of the best players in baseball. He has hit for more average and has gotten on-base more frequently than any of these guys.

Shortstops (2)

Trea Turner– Washington Nationals (starter)

Brandon Crawford– San Francisco Giants

Compared to American League shortstops, this crop is incredibly weak. Still, Turner and Crawford have churned impressive ’18 campaigns and deserve to be All-Stars. The former has been red-hot with the bat and has maintained stellar defense and baserunning along the way. Meanwhile, Crawford’s resurgence from a dismal’17 campaign is nothing to scoff at.

Third Basemen (3)

Nolan Arenado– Colorado Rockies (starter)

Eugenio Suarez– Cincinnati Reds

Max Muncy– Los Angeles Dodgers

When you are one of the best hitters and defenders in the big leagues in each of the last five years, it is pretty easy to garner All-Star votes. The Rockies’ franchise third basemen is enjoying his best season with the bat in his entire career with a nice 143 wRC+. He currently leads all NL players in fWAR (3.5) and probably would be the MVP if the season ended today, even with my hypothetical vote going to a freaking Marlin. Dude is a beast, plain and simple.

Suarez, like his teammate Gennett, is following a breakout season with an even better one. He has noticeably cut down his strikeouts and has hit for even more power in ’18. He has been worth 3.1 fWAR, in the top percentile of players, in spite of missing some time in the beginning of the season. On my All-Star roster, I have three Reds infielders. The Reds are one of the hottest teams in baseball and, with so many All-Star position players, it makes you wonder what this team could be if they could finally develop pitching.

Rounding on my infield, I have selected Max Muncy. I will Venmo you a large sum of pennies if you predicted Max Muncy being a 2018 All-Star. He has come out of virtually nowhere, originating from a middling prospect pedigree and mediocre minor-league results. What he has done this year is truly remarkable, with the fourth-best wRC+ (175) among players with 200 plate appearances. He has actually been a better hitter than Aaron Judge.

Max Muncy.

Remarkable.

Outfielders (6)

Nick Markakis– Atlanta Braves (starter)

Lorenzo Cain– Milwaukee Brewers (starter)

Matt Kemp– Los Angeles Dodgers (starter)

Kyle Schwarber– Chicago Cubs

Brandon Nimmo– New York Mets

Juan Soto– Washington Nationals

There is no Mike Trout, Mookie Betts or Aaron Judge among NL outfielders, but there are some very deserving guys. Markakis will make his first All-Star game in his career, which is super cool coming on the heels of his best season since 2008. Cain has been incredible and worth every penny in his first year with the Brew Crew. He is second among NL players in fWAR (3.4) which has been the byproduct of great defense, great speed and atypically impeccable plate discipline. Cain has always been semi-decent at drawing free passes, but this year he has been excellent with a near 14 percent BB% and an accompanying .394 OBP.

Kemp deserves to start for the story alone. Everyone had written him off with rumors that he would not even crack the big-league club. Well, he did and all he is done subsequently is revert to being one of the best hitters in baseball (.317 AVG and .550 SLG). Even more improbably, he has regained significant foot speed, lessening the impact of his negative baserunning and defense on his overall value.

For the reserves, Schwarber gets the nod in what is also a bounce-back season. He had a strong second-half in 2017 but was sent down towards the beginning of the year after a horrific start. This season, however, he has done nothing but mash like he was forecasted to do. He has belted 17 homers with a near .500 slugging percentage. Surprisingly, he has played the best defense of his career, as well. Nimmo has been one of the few bright spots on a Mets team that has done nothing but disappoint. No one really expected this level of production from what seems like one of the nicest and most genuine guys in the game, yet here we are.

Lastly, I have selected Juan Soto in what seems like maybe a shock to some. On a rate basis, he has been the best offensive outfielder in the NL by a fairly wide gap (159 wRC+) and has provided the much maligned Nats with a bit of a spark. He probably deserves this more than his teammate Bryce Harper, even though he has less than 200 plate appearances this season. The All-Star Game is in Washington, after all, and with no other outfielder overwhelming worthy of a spot, give it to the 19-year-old who would be adored by the hometown crowd.

Starting Pitchers (7)

Max Scherzer– Washington Nationals (starter)

Jacob deGrom– New York Mets

Miles Mikolas– St. Louis Cardinals

Aaron Nola– Philadelphia Phillies

Ross Stripling– Los Angeles Dodgers

Patrick Corbin– Arizona Diamondbacks

Mike Foltynewicz– Atlanta Braves

Scherzer has been the best pitcher in the game this season and there is absolutely nothing bad to say about him. Except, maybe, that his two worst games of the season have come against the Marlins. In only two starts this year has he surrendered more than three runs and they both have come against Miami. Baseball is weird. deGrom is Scherzer’s 1B and it feels like an insult even dropping him to 1B. If there existed a middle ground between 1A and 1B — perhaps 1AB — that is what the Mets starter would be. He has an even lower ERA than Scherzer (1.79) and, well, the whole league. If only he could get some run support…

Mikolas is the lone Cardinals representative on a very deep team that does not have very many stars, rather, it has solid players across the board. Mikolas has been one of the best signings off the offseason, coming from Japan. Unlike a lot of his All-Star peers, he is not a big strikeout guy but he is one of the best command and control pitchers the game has to offer. Nola was my sneaky NL Cy Young pick entering the season and, if it were not for deGrom and Scherzer, this would look like one of the most intelligent baseball predictions of my life. He has been lights out for the Phillies, ranking third in fWAR among NL pitchers. At the ripe age of 25, we should be seeing many more Nola All-Star appearances in the future.

Stripling joins Muncy as an improbable contributor to the Dodgers in 2018. He has been a beast, making his first start on April 30th, and has pitched to the tune of a 2.22 ERA and 2.74 FIP. This is not luck or random variance, rather, Stripling has truly been one of the best pitchers in baseball, with a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate.

Ross Stripling.

Remarkable.

Anyway, Patrick Corbin got off to possibly the hottest start in baseball and, while he has cooled off a bit, he has still been a joy to watch this season. With a 3.05 ERA and even better peripherals, he may land the biggest contract among free agent pitchers next season. The southpaw is having the best season of his MLB career. Lastly, Foltynewicz deserves some love and an All-Star spot. While he does walk a handful of batters, his stuff is absolutely filthy with one of the highest velocities among starters in the game. In fact, his fastball averages 96.6 mph, trailing only Severino among starting pitchers. He is a strikeout machine, propelling him to a sexy sub-2.50 ERA.

Relievers (5)

Josh Hader– Milwaukee Brewers

Adam Ottavino– Colorado Rockies

Sean Doolittle– Washington Nationals

Craig Stammen– San Diego Padres

Seranthony Dominguez– Philadelphia Phillies

Josh Hader leads relievers in fWAR at 2.4 and the second-closest player to that mark is Sean Doolittle at 1.6. That is a huge gap, but for the best strikeout pitcher in the game of baseball, it is not too shocking. This man strikeouts nearly two batters per inning (16.72 K/9) and has been not only the most-valuable reliever in baseball, but one of the most valuable players in the game. When he has been asked to close games, he has been unhittable. When he has been asked to go two or three innings, he has been unhittable. He has just been unhittable, basically. His ERA is 1.21 and his FIP has been 1.20, so everything he has done this year has been deserved. Can you imagine how valuable Hader will be if the Brewers make the playoffs? That bullpen is lethal.

Ottavino is the closest Hader comparison we have for 2018 and he falls short of capturing that level of excellence. Still, he has been awesome for the Rockies, which has a bullpen that costs as much as the United States trade deficit (it only “costs” if you actually pay it, though). His strikeout per nine is a whopping 14.06, which has, in large part, created the sparkling 1.79 ERA we see from the Rockies reliever. Colorado will need him to continue this torrid pace if they are to make a playoff push.

Sean Doolittle has been the NL’s best closer. He is one of the most methodical pitchers in the game with impeccable command of the strike zone. His BB/9 is astronomically low at 0.72 (the NL reliever average is 3.70 BB/9) and he couples that with a hefty amount of strikeouts. He is the only year-long closer among my NL All-Star relievers.

Craig Stammen and Seranthony Dominguez are both unheralded, but, make no mistake, both have been exquisite. The former is the Padres lone All-Star but he would have been featured on my “for-fun roster” anyway. Stammen is fourth among NL relievers in fWAR, with an ERA (2.79) that is almost a point higher than his FIP (1.93). Granted, his homerun rate is unsustainably low, so that is probably the reason the discrepancy is so large. Still, he has been the best Padres reliever from a great Padres bullpen. It is about time a different reliever named Craig made the All-Star team.

Lastly, Dominguez. Beast. He has not logged as many innings this year, making his MLB debut in early May, but, oh my gosh, in those innings he has been electric. He possesses a 1.82 ERA and 1.67 FIP, with strong strikeout and walk numbers. He throws incredibly hard and has an incredible slider to boot. For my last spot on this team, this rookie deserved the hell out of it.

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