I would like to thank Major League Baseball for once again giving me the chance to look at and correct their rosters for this year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City.
What? No, they aren’t actually using my advice or anything. Their rosters are just badly in need of fixing (yet again). I mean, there’s nothing Ryan-Howard-over-Joey-Votto level bad like there was two years ago. Granted, that’s an awful standard to use when complimenting someone: “Well, you didn’t screw up so badly it that made me injure myself while banging my head on a wall in disbelief.”
What I’m saying is, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. And improve I shall.
Let’s begin with the visiting NL All-Stars, going in positional order. That way, it takes us all the way to...catcher before we have an issue. Wow, really guys? The first position we hit? Anyway, the three catchers are currently Buster Posey (starter), Carlos Ruiz, and Yadier Molina. This one is entirely on the fans. Ruiz and Molina are doing pretty incredible; Ruiz has a .358/.423/.585 slash line with 11 homers and a 172 wRC+ (weighted runs created) that leads all regular NL catchers. (Note: wRC+ is like OPS+, in that 100 is a league average hitter, a 120 hitter is 20%, etc. The difference is that on-base percentage is given greater weight than slugging percentage, as being on base is more important to scoring runs than hitting for power. That number also accounts for park differences and such.) That’s good for 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs. Molina directly trails him, with a .311/.362/.585 line, 12 home runs, and a 142 wRC+, good for 3.2 WAR.
Posey is having a decent year, with 2.0 WAR to date. However, the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis has 2.8 WAR, due to his slightly better defense and hitting (while the two have an identical .835 OPS at the moment, Ellis has a .050 point advantage in OBP, giving him a 134 wRC+ to Posey’s 129). I’ll promote Ruiz to starter and replace Posey on the roster with Ellis.
Joey Votto and Dan Uggla are more than acceptable starters. Votto is far and away the best player in the NL right now, and Uggla is close enough to being the best second baseman this year that he’d make the roster anyway. I’s not worth stressing about whether he’d be the starter or not as long as he’s on the roster. Their back-ups need some work, though. Bryan LaHair had a hot start, but has cooled as of late. As a Cardinal fan, I would like to nominate Allen Craig, who has a .983 OPS and a 166 wRC+. However, he’s only played in 38 games, so I’ll give the spot to Paul Goldschmidt. The Diamondback has .911 OPS and 2.0 WAR, and there aren’t many other overwhelming first base campaigns.
Goldschmidt’s teammate Aaron Hill somehow got left off the team despite his two cycles to date. Look, I have no short-age* of love for Jose Altuve, but Hill has been better. Hill’s out-valued Altuve 2.8 to 1.9, in part due to hitting .301/.362/.516 to Altuve’s .309/.351/.453. It’s close, but I’ll take Hill.
*I apologize for that. I really do like Altuve though.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal started the year strongly, but has dropped off since. He’s hit .280/.346/.377 and been worth 1.5 WAR so far. But I’ll start Jed Lowrie (.261/.347/.486, 2.6) instead. Backups Ian Desmond and Starlin Castro can stay.
At third base, Pablo Sandoval somehow overtook David Wright to start at third, despite Wright being the only NL player playing at a Joey Votto-level that isn’t already named Joey Votto, with 4.5 WAR and a .355/.449/.564 line. In fact, it might be better to bump Sandoval totally, since he’s only played in 44 games and there are other deserving third basemen. I’ll go with Chase Headley of the Padres, who’s played solid defense while hitting .271/.369/.415 in Petco Park, meaning it translates to a 127 wRC+ that’s just short of Sandoval’s 131 (the only other third basemen with a higher wRC+ than Headley outside of Sandoval and Wright is Chipper Jones, who’s only played in 43 games himself). Altogether, Headley’s been worth 3.2 WAR.
So, we finished the infield with only five exchanges. The outfield is much more solid; I would keep Melky Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Ryan Braun (and one of those six would be the NL’s starting DH). Kemp will be injured for the game, so Michael Bourn can take his spot. Bourn has played his normal stellar defense while finding his stroke, hitting .307/.355/.442 with a 121 wRC+, good for 4.0 WAR. I’ll take Matt Holliday over Jay Bruce as well. Holliday has the advantage in batting average (.307 to .257) and OBP (.389 to .327) despite Bruce playing in a better hitter’s park. As a result, Holliday has a higher wRC+ (145 to 123) and WAR (2.7 to 1.4) as well.
For my final position spot, I’ll take Martin Prado. Prado has provided value with his bat a glove, leading to a 138 wRC+ and 3.7 WAR. In addition, he can play multiple positions in a pinch. Also, my first line of injury replacements will consist of Jason Heyward (3.3 WAR), Brandon Phillips (2.3 WAR), and Bryce Harper (1.4 WAR in 56 games).
Lastly, the 13-man pitching staff. The rules require a minimum of three relievers, so I’ll pick ten starters rather than the eight the actual rosters use (starters are generally more valuable than relievers, so I don’t feel too bad about this change). Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Wade Miley, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman are all great picks for a staff. Tyler Clippard of the Nationals leads NL relievers in Win Probability Added and Shutdowns, meaning he’s done the best in important situations. It’s good enough for my final reliever spot (over Joel Hanrahan).
The two former reliever spots (Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon) go to Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto. They rank second and third, respectively, in home runs allowed per 9 innings, and first and sixth in pitching WAR. In addition, Cueto is fifth in ERA, while Greinke is sixth in strikeouts.
Lance Lynn (3.62 ERA, 1.7 WAR) has been solid, but his spot should go to James McDonald, who has a 2.44 ERA (sixth in the NL) and 2.4 WAR. My first two alternates would be Madison Bumgarner and Josh Johnson.
The summarized NL Roster (*starter, new player):
C: Carlos Ruiz*, Yadier Molina, A.J. Ellis
1B: Joey Votto*, Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Dan Uggla*, Aaron Hill
SS: Jed Lowrie*, Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond
3B: David Wright*, Chase Headley
OF: Melky Cabrera*, Carlos Beltran*, Matt Kemp* (injured), Michael Bourn*, Ryan Braun* (DH), Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Giancarlo Stanton, Martin Prado
P: Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg, Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Clippard, Aroldis Chapman
Alternates: Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper, Brandon Phillips, Madison Bumgarner, Josh Johnson
Arizona (3): Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Wade Miley
Atlanta (4): Dan Uggla*, Michael Bourn*, Martin Prado, Craig Kimbrel
Chicago (1): Starlin Castro
Cincinnati (3): Joey Votto*, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman
Colorado (1): Carlos Gonzalez
Houston (1): Jed Lowrie*
Los Angeles (3): A.J. Ellis, Matt Kemp* (injured), Clayton Kershaw
Miami (1): Giancarlo Stanton
Milwaukee (2): Ryan Braun* (DH), Zack Greinke
New York (2): David Wright*, R.A. Dickey
Philadelphia (2): Carlos Ruiz*, Cole Hamels,
Pittsburgh (2): Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald
San Diego (1): Chase Headley
San Francisco (2): Melky Cabrera*, Matt Cain
St. Louis (3): Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran*, Matt Holliday
Washington (4): Ian Desmond, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Clippard
The AL roster is like a mirror of the NL roster: the infield has significantly more problems than any other part. Starting again at catcher, Mike Napoli has had difficulty following up last year’s breakout season, and has seen his wRC+ drop from 178 to 106. The .238/.338/.444 slash line doesn’t quite look like All-Star material. There aren’t any great replacement catchers, so we’ll leave his spot empty for now (that’s foreshadowing, by the way).
Prince Fielder has been decent; however, his .856 OPS isn’t anything too incredible. Konerko, with his .969 mark, would look much better as the starter, and Edwin Encarnacion (.935 OPS) would make a much better back-up option. There’s no reason for three first basemen on the AL roster since we already need room for at least two designated hitters, so Fielder is done.
At second base, Robinson Cano is the clear top choice. But I would go with Jason Kipnis as the bench player rather than Kinsler. Kipnis has a .275/.335/.426 batting line to Kinsler’s .376/.336/.450. The two look similar enough, but when accounting for the fact that Kinsler plays in a great hitters park, Kipnis comes out with a slight advantage in wRC+ (117 to 111) and WAR (2.4 to 2.1). I’ll also take second baseman/supersub Ben Zobrist (.252/.375/.458, 128 wRC+, 2.3 WAR), who could fill in wherever in a pinch. He’ll take the extra catcher spot. Kinsler would be one of my top choices for a replacement, though.
At short, Derek Jeter has been decent so far in 2012. However, his numbers (107 wRC+, 0.9 WAR) are a cut below those of Elvis Andrus (118, 2.9) and Asdrubal Cabrera (138, 2.3), and the roster is going to get crowded soon, so we’ll have to drop him.
At third base, there are a number of deserving candidates, but Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera both fit. I’ll throw in local star Mike Moustakas as well; he’s hitting .264/.331/.472 with a 116 wRC+, which is below those two. However, his defense helps make up the difference. Overall, he’s at 2.6 WAR. Brett Lawrie has also impressive, thanks in part to his great defense (.293/.341/.438, 110 wRC+, 2.8 WAR). However, he’ll have to settle for an alternate role, as Moustakas has an extra advantage.
That advantage is the designated hitter position. Right now, David Ortiz, Adam Dunn, and Billy Butler all fill that spot. While roster rules require me to have at least two, three seems like overkill, especially since this is the All-Star roster; everyone should be able to hit somewhat, and DH isn’t exactly a hard position to learn. Butler has the worst numbers of the three, but he is the only Royal on the team. Or, rather, was. Since I added Moustakas, I can drop Butler.
Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Adam Jones, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo can all stay. However, Granderson’s numbers this year are lacking compared to those five (1.4 WAR, with a fairly large hit on defense). In any case, I’d rather take fellow center fielder Austin Jackson, who also plays center field and has hit better (.945 OPS to .857) than Granderson. I should still have one position player slot open. I’ll use it on Josh Reddick, partly because he deserves it (.859 OPS while playing in the Oakland Colosseum, 3.1 WAR), but also partly because the only A’s player on the roster is reliever Ryan Cook. First, I dislike it when a team’s lone representative is a reliever, as I think it defeats the purpose of the “One Player Per Team” rule. Second, Cook doesn’t make it through the cuts process.* Josh Willingham would be my alternate outfielder.
*Whoops, I think I spoiled the surprise. Sorry
The AL pitching staff is surprisingly well-built. I’ll keep every starter-Matt Harrison, Felix Hernandez, David Price, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson. I’ll also take Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney, and Jim Johnson, as I think they’re the three best relievers on the staff at the moment. However, as I mentioned in the NL, I don’t like to have more than the minimum three relievers, as the work the starters put in is so much larger. So, I’m removing the last two relievers (Ryan Cook and Chris Perez) for starters Jason Hammel and Jake Peavy. Both are top ten in the AL in ERA (tenth and sixth, respectively). Additionally, Peavy is sixth in strikeouts and fourth in WHIP, while Hammel ninth in WHIP. All together, it’s good for 2.8 (Peavy) and 2.2 (Hammel) WAR, third and eighth among AL pitchers. Yu Darvish and Hiroki Kuroda would be my first alternates.
The summarized AL Roster (*starter, new player):
C: Joe Mauer*, Matt Wieters
1B: Paul Konerko*, Edwin Encarnacion
2B: Robinson Cano*, Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist
SS: Elvis Andrus*, Asdrubal Cabrera
3B: Adrian Beltre*, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Moustakas
OF: Josh Hamilton*, Jose Bautista*, Mike Trout*, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Austin Jackson, Josh Reddick
DH: David Ortiz*, Adam Dunn
P: Matt Harrison, Felix Hernandez, David Price, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jake Peavy, Jason Hammel, Joe Nathan, Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney
Alternates: Yu Darvish, Brett Lawrie, Josh Willingham, Hiroki Kuroda, Ian Kinsler
Baltimore (4): Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson
Boston (1): David Ortiz*
Chicago: (4) Paul Konerko*, Adam Dunn, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy
Cleveland (2): Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera
Detroit (3): Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Justin Verlander
Kansas City (1): Mike Moustakas
Los Angeles (4): Mike Trout*, Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson
Minnesota (1): Joe Mauer*
New York (2): Robinson Cano*, CC Sabathia
Oakland(1): Josh Reddick
Seattle (1): Felix Hernandez
Tampa Bay (3): Ben Zobrist, David Price, Fernando Rodney
Texas (5): Elvis Andrus*, Adrian Beltre*, Josh Hamilton*, Matt Harrison, Joe Nathan
Toronto (2): Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista*