63 men enter. Only 17 can be selected. Countless players are having strong seasons, but only 17: eight in the American League and nine in the National League, can start in the All-Star Game.
Let’s pick the correct 17.
American League Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
Yes, Yasmani Grandal is batting at a .177 clip. He counters with a .238 isolated power and a 25.6% walk rate. Among the finalists (Grandal, Salvador Perez, and Martin Maldonado), Grandal leads in wOBA, xwOBA, wRC+, OPS+, and fWAR. He has been an exceptional pitch framer while Perez has lagged in that metric.
It may be odd to start a player batting below .200, but a .389 on-base percentage is elite. Grandal should earn this third All-Star nod in 2021.
National League Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
This is painfully easy selection. Buster Posey is having a season that is rivaling his legendary 2012 NL MVP season. He is slashing .328/.412/.556 with an OPS+ of 168. His fWAR of 2.9 exceeds the combined totals of Willson Contreras and Yadier Molina (2.4). Contreras edges out Posey in home runs, runs, and runs batted in, but Contreras has had the aid of 52 extra plate appearances.
Posey should be a shoo-in to make his seventh All-Star Game, strengthening his Hall of Fame candidacy.
American League First Baseman: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
With all due respect to Yuli Gurriel and Jose Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the easiest selection out of the 17. He has an OPS+ of 206, the best since 2004 Barry Bonds. He has accumulated 4.3 bWAR and 4.7 fWAR despite being a subpar defender at first base. Guerrero rocks a slash line of .344/.446/.685, leading the Majors in both batting average and on-base percentage. Do you like counting stats? He also leads baseball in runs batted in and total bases. Not bad.
Guerrero should make his first All-Star Game. His father made nine in his career.
National League First Baseman: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
While Freddie Freeman currently leads voting at first base, he shouldn’t; Max Muncy should. Muncy has had a spectacular season with the Dodgers, posting an OPS+ of 171 and a wRC+ of 169. Muncy has also been terrific in the field, ranking sixth in total runs saved and in the 91st-percentile in outs above average. Freeman and Anthony Rizzo have the name value, but Muncy has the 2021 season to back up an All-Star selection.
Muncy should make his second consecutive All-Star game.
American League Second Baseman: Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays
Perhaps the tightest race among the 17, Marcus Semien uses a well-rounded profile to earn the spot. He leads all second basemen in total runs saved, and he edges out Jose Altuve and DJ LeMahieu in both bWAR and fWAR. Altuve has ridden an incredible June to trim the gap, but with equal hitting seasons, Semien gets the nod with his exceptional defense.
This would be Semien’s first All-Star appearance.
National League Second Baseman: Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
Similar to the American League, one player is trying to chase down the clubhouse leader. In the NL, Adam Frazier has been leading the way for most of the season as the best second baseman, but Ozzie Albies has been slowly inching back. Frazier still gets the nod here with his resounding consistency. His wRC+ and OPS+ are right in line with the AL competitors while Albies lags.
This would be Frazier’s first All-Star appearance.
American League Third Baseman: Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Fueling a resurgent Boston Red Sox squad, Rafael Devers has been fantastic this season. Devers has an impressive slash line of .282/.353/.570 with an accompanying 145 OPS+ and 142 wRC+. He leads all candidates with 2.9 bWAR and 2.9 fWAR. The raw numbers are impressive as well as he leads the group in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored.
Devers should make his first All-Star Game.
National League Third Baseman: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
All three nominees have eerily similar batting stats with Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, and Justin Turner having OPS numbers that begin with .84. Arenado lags slightly behind in OPS, wRC+ and wOBA, but his fielding once again makes the difference. The eight-time Gold Glove winner is having another good defensive season. While it is far from his finest efforts, it is a class above Turner and Bryant.
Arenado should earn his sixth All-Star nod in a row.
American League Shortstop: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Xander Bogaerts was the clubhouse leader in shortstop voting for most of the cycle, for good reason. He has an excellent .327/.389/.552 slash line for the playoff-bound Red Sox.
Then, the calendar flipped to June. Through 29 days of June, Carlos Correa scorched the earth for a legendary .345/.468/.667 slash line, mashing 14 extra-base hits and walking 19 times. Throw in a solid glove, and Correa has completed the comeback.
Correa should be making his second career All-Star Game, joining 2017.
National League Shortstop: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Fernando Tatis Jr. is having a season for the ages. He currently leads the National League in home runs, runs batted in, steals, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. His OPS+ of 201 is the highest by an MLB primary shortstop since Honus Wagner in 1908. Brandon Crawford is having a great resurgence for the San Francisco Giants, but Tatis is an easy selection.
Tatis should make his first of many All-Star Games this season.
American League Outfield: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins; Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
With all due respect to Michael Brantley, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, and Alex Verdugo, the AL outfield is a five-man competition. Three players have the season-long counting stars to warrant their selections: Adolis Garcia, Aaron Judge, and Cedric Mullins. Two players were such dynamos in April and early May that they deserve real consideration: Byron Buxton and Mike Trout.
In the end, a compromise needs to be struck between efficiency and volume. With that in mind, Buxton and Trout get the nod, joining Mullins. While Buxton and Trout have combined to play just 63 games, they had otherworldly starts to their seasons. Buxton has 2.9 bWAR in 27 games, rocking a 222 OPS+. Trout similarly dominated to the tune of a 2.0 bWA in 36 games.
Mullins earns the third spot off the back of a robust .323/.391/.554 slash line. He has been an exceptional fielder in centerfield, and he even has 14 steals.
Selecting Trout and Buxton opens the door for two replacement selections if Trout and Buxton do not play in the All-Star Game. Both are unlikely to play in an exhibition game, so they should be voted in with two replacements coming soon rather than discounting just how dominant both Buxton and Trout were.
Buxton and Mullins would be making their first All-Star Games while Trout would be making his ninth in a row.
National League Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves; Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds; Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
While Mookie Betts makes a compelling all-around argument with his exceptional defense, this trio is a fairly easy set of selections.
Ronald Acuna Jr. has had a spectacular season for a less-than-stellar Atlanta Braves team so far, leading the NL in runs scored and steals. He has a .281/.389/.597 slash line, flirting with an OPS of 1.000. His defense has tapered off slightly in 2021, but he has still accumulated a 2.9 bWAR and 3.7 fWAR through 316 plate appearances.
Nick Castellanos is rebounding after a down season in 2020. He leads MLB in hits and doubles. He is in line to win the NL batting title, and his 174 total bases lead the league. It seems that Castellanos has found a quality home in the hitter’s paradise known as Great American Ballpark.
Of the three outfielders, Jesse Winker is narrowly edging his opponents out in OPS, OPS+, wOBA, and wRC+. While Winker was one of the more underrated hitters in baseball through his first four seasons (OPS+ of 122 across 1,038 plate appearances), he is having an elite season for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. He has a .324/.402/.596 slash line, and he has nearly matched his career bWAR in just 71 games.
Winker and Castellanos would be making their All-Star Game debuts while Acuna would be making his second-straight appearance.
American League Designated Hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Then there is Shohei Ohtani. While this selection is independent of his pitching, Ohtani still stands out. He has a 175 OPS+ and a 177 wRC+. He leads the AL in triples and slugging percentage. His 28 home runs lead all of baseball. It is a special season for a special player.
Ohtani would be making his first MLB All-Star Game.
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