Early MLB All-Star team picks for the American League and National League


MLB All-Star voting begins at noon ET today, so I wanted to share my early National League and American League choices to begin a conversation about who should make the teams for this year’s midsummer classic, which will be played July 16 in Arlington, Texas, home of the World Series champion Texas Rangers.

Some reminders: Each MLB All-Star team has 32 roster spots — 20 for position players and 12 for pitchers; and every MLB team must be represented by at least one player.

There are several steps in the All-Star selection process; go here for a rundown and here to participate in fan voting.

Deserving players are always left out, and my teams are no exception. Several of those players will hit or pitch their way onto the rosters in the coming weeks or make it as injury replacements. But because of the roster rules and voting process, some worthy players inevitably get snubbed. Several interesting races will be fun to monitor, and a lot will change between now and when the teams are finalized.

Here is my early look at the AL and NL All-Star teams, with starters and backups for each position, if I had to pick and project them today. So … how about you?

(WAR numbers are according to Baseball Reference. WAR and OPS+ are from June 4. All other stats are from June 5 unless otherwise noted.) 


American League

First base

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Josh Naylor has helped power the Guardians’ strong start to the season. (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

Josh Naylor, Guardians (starter) 
(1.1 WAR, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 128 OPS+)

Naylor leads all AL first basemen in home runs and RBIs. He brings energy and enthusiasm to the park every day.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
(1.5 WAR, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 135 OPS+)

Guerrero got off to a slow start but picked it up in May, slashing .357/.447/.469 for the month. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told me this week that he hopes to extend Guerrero, who will be a free agent after next season. He said he doesn’t think it makes sense to trade Guerrero at this year’s deadline.

Second base

Jose Altuve, Astros (starter) 
(1.6 WAR, 9 HR, 35 R, 8 SB, 127 OPS+)

Altuve has batted .291/.343/.446, and leads all AL second basemen in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He remains the face of the Astros franchise and solidified that standing in February, when he signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension through 2029. Altuve will become a nine-time All-Star if he’s selected this year.

Marcus Semien, Rangers
(2.8 WAR, 10 HR, 43 R, 35 RBI, 119 OPS+)

Semien leads all AL second baseman in home runs, runs scored and RBIs. He posts every game and is a true leader and winner.

Shortstop

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Gunnar Henderson, the reigning AL rookie of the Year, has put himself in the early MVP conversation. (Daniel Kucin Jr. / USA Today)

Gunnar Henderson, Orioles (starter) 
(4.3 WAR, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 8 SB, 175 OPS+)

Henderson is a legit AL MVP candidate and leads all major-league players in bWAR. He’s logged 5 defensive runs saved and ranks in the 91st percentile in outs above average (range).

Bobby Witt Jr., Royals
(3.6 WAR, 11 HR, 46 RBI, 17 SB, 153 OPS+)

Witt deserves to be an All-Star starter but falls just below Henderson in most offensive categories. He has 5 defensive runs saved and is in the 100th percentile in outs above average.

Corey Seager, Rangers
(2.3 WAR, 13 HR, 29 RBI, 140 OPS+)

Seager missed most of spring training and started the season slowly, batting .236/.319/.311 with two home runs through April. However, the two-time World Series MVP got hot in May, as he reached base at nearly a 39 percent clip, hit 11 homers and drove in 21 runs.

Anthony Volpe, Yankees
(2.6 WAR, 6 HR, 43 R, 11 SB, 124 OPS+)

Volpe has made significant changes to his swing and approach at the plate, raising his on-base percentage from .283 last year to .350 this year. He has six homers and 11 stolen bases. It’s going to be tough for Volpe to make the AL squad because of Henderson, Witt and Seager, but I found a way to put him on the team by carrying only two catchers.

Third base

José Ramírez, Guardians (starter) 
(2.3 WAR, 16 HR, 58 RBI, 9 SB, 147 OPS+)

Ramírez continues to lead by example in Cleveland, hustling on every play, always taking the extra base and seemingly always being in the right place at the right time defensively. He’s the face of the Guardians and lives up to that standard every game.

Isaac Paredes, Rays
(1.8 WAR, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 151 OPS+)

Paredes has been the Rays’ best and most consistent hitter all season. He leads Tampa Bay in hits, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and more categories.

Rafael Devers, Red Sox
(1.6 WAR, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 156 OPS+)

Devers, Boston’s face of the franchise, is putting together another strong season as he leads the Red Sox in OPS (.916) and home runs (11, tied with Tyler O’Neill).

Right field

Juan Soto, Yankees (starter) 
(3.5 WAR, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 189 OPS+)

Soto leads the Yankees in batting average (.319) and RBIs (53). He ranks second, behind Aaron Judge, with an impressive .418 on-base percentage. Adding Soto to the lineup has been a game-changer for the Yankees and he is one of the main reasons they’ve started the season 43-19, tied for the best record in baseball.

Kyle Tucker, Astros
(3.6 WAR, 19 HR, 40 RBI, 179 OPS+)

I had a difficult time choosing between Soto and Tucker for the starting right fielder, and the way I would prefer to solve it would be to start both of them on the outfield corners, with Tucker in right and Soto in left. One could argue Tucker should start over Soto in right because he’s a better defender, leads Soto in home runs and has 10 stolen bases in as many attempts. However, I went with Soto because of the overwhelming impact he’s had on the Yankees.

Center field

Aaron Judge, Yankees (starter) 
( 3.9 WAR, 21 HR, 49 RBI, 200 OPS+)

Judge has been the league MVP so far for me, just ahead of Soto, Henderson and Witt. He was the AL Player of the Month in May, hitting 14 home runs and breaking the Yankees’ all-time record for extra-base hits in the month (26).

Left field

Riley Greene, Tigers (starter) 
(1.9 WAR, 11 HR, 40 R, 126 OPS+)

This is a really shallow left-field room for the AL this year. I went with Greene because he leads all AL left fielders in on-base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.462) and is tied for the lead in home runs with 11.

Taylor Ward, Angels
(1.0 WAR, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 120 OPS+)

I put Ward on the AL team as the Angels’ representative. He’s been their best overall offensive player for most of the year with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon spending significant time on the injured list.

Catcher

Salvador Perez, Royals (starter) 
(2.1 WAR, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 152 OPS+)

Perez deserves to start the midsummer classic because he’s been the best overall offensive catcher in the league, hitting .315/.383/.521 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. His .904 OPS leads all AL catchers by a considerable margin. This would be his ninth All-Star nod.

Adley Rutschman, Orioles
(2.1 WAR, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 135 OPS+)

I think Rutschman is the best overall catcher in the sport, but it’s hard to start him over Perez based on their performances to date. Rutschman ranks in the 97th percentile in blocks above average and in the 92nd percentile in sweet-spot percentage.

Designated hitter

Yordan Alvarez, Astros (starter) 
(1.9 WAR, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 145 OPS+)

Alvarez has been hot after a cold start to the season and has raised his OPS to .856. He has 12 homers and 28 RBIs. He might not have the best numbers to date,  but his career success leads me to believe that by the All-Star break, he’ll be leading AL designated hitters in most categories.

Ryan Jeffers, Twins
(1.8 WAR, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 143 OPS+)

He has been the Twins’ best offensive player this season, leading the team in slugging percentage, home runs and RBIs. Jeffers is deserving and serves as the Twins’ lone representative in this projection, edging out the A’s Brent Rooker and the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton for this roster spot.

Pitchers

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Tarik Skubal ranks first in the AL in WHIP and third in ERA. (Rick Scuteri / USA Today)

Tarik Skubal, Tigers (starter) 
(2.9 WAR, 1.97 ERA, 73 IP, 86 SO)

I have Skubal as my new front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award as he’s gone 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 73 innings.

Luis Gil, Yankees
(2.3 WAR, 1.82 ERA, 69 1/3 IP, 85 SO)

Behind Skubal, I have Gil ranked slightly higher than Lugo and Burnes as the next best AL starting pitcher after the first two months and change of the season. Gil is 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.923 WHIP. He has struck out 85 batters in 63 1/3 innings while yielding just 30 hits.

Seth Lugo, Royals (3.3 WAR, 2.13 ERA, 84 1/3 IP, 71 SO)
Corbin Burnes, Orioles (1.4 WAR, 2.26 ERA, 79 2/3 IP, 76 SO)
José Berríos, Blue Jays (1.7 WAR, 2.78 ERA, 74 1/3 IP, 58 SO)
Tanner Houck, Red Sox (2.9 WAR, 1.85 ERA, 78 IP, 75 SO)
Jon Gray, Rangers (1.7 WAR, 2.21 ERA, 57 IP, 56 SO)
Emmanuel Clase, Guardians (1.9 WAR, 0.30 ERA, 19 SV)
Mason Miller, A’s (1.1 WAR, 2.08 ERA, 11 SV)
Andrés Muñoz, Mariners (1.2 WAR, 1.73 ERA, 12 SV)
Kirby Yates, Rangers (1.2 WAR, 0.89 ERA, 8 SV)
Erick Fedde, White Sox (2.6 WAR, 3.12 ERA, 69 1/3 IP, 66 SO)

(Note: Fedde serves as the White Sox’s representative; Ward makes the team as the Angels’ representative; Jeffers, Paredes, Miller and Muñoz are their respective teams’ lone representative. Gray is currently on the IL but appears to be nearing a return.) 


National League

First base

Bryce Harper, Phillies (starter) 
(2.1 WAR, 14 HR, 44 RBIs, 155 OPS+)

Harper leads NL first basemen in RBIs and slugging percentage and is tied for the lead in home runs. He’s played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, making it easy to forget he’s still new to the position. Harper has more than lived up to the $330 million contract he signed in 2019, bringing the same kind of grind and competitiveness he’s shown his entire career to Philadelphia.

Freddie Freeman, Dodgers 
(2.1 WAR, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 150 OPS+)

Freeman leads all NL first basemen with a .401 on-base percentage. He is a plus defender, for my money the most consistent first baseman in the game, and plays every day. (He leads all first basemen in games played this season.)

Pete Alonso, Mets
(0.6 WAR, 14 HR, 31 RBI, 124 OPS+)

Alonso leads the Mets in home runs and RBIs, like he did last year. In all likelihood he will get traded at the deadline for a package of prospects and then the Mets will do everything they can to re-sign him in the offseason. He loves New York and New York loves him. The Mariners, Astros, Yankees, Twins and Giants are among the teams that could use him.

Second base

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Ketel Marte ranks in the 99th percentile in outs above average and leads the Diamonbacks with an .839 OPS. (Rick Scuteri / USA Today)

Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks (starter) 
(3.1 WAR, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 136 OPS+)

Marte has been the best all-around second baseman in the league, slashing .278/.337/.502 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs. He brings positive energy and a passion for the game to the park every day.

Luis Arraez, Padres
(1.4 WAR, .335 AVG, 37 R, 126 OPS+)

There was strong competition at second base in the NL as Bryson Stott of the Phillies and Nolan Gorman of the Cardinals also deserve consideration. And if Ozzie Albies had been healthy all season, he probably would have been my starter. That said, Arraez deserves to make the team because he’s hitting an impressive .335, which gives him a chance to win his third straight batting title.

Shortstop

Mookie Betts, Dodgers (starter) 
(3.5 WAR, 8 HR, 42 R, 9 SB, 164 OPS+)

Betts has made the transition to shortstop look easy, although he’s said how hard it really is. He leads the NL in bWar and can beat you in every way possible — with his glove, arm, speed, base running, hitting for average or power. In fact, I’m not sure there is anything he can’t beat everyone in, from bowling to golf to pool to video games.

Elly De La Cruz, Reds
(1.9 WAR, 10 HR, 39 R, 32 SB, 112 OPS+)

De La Cruz is one of the most athletic players to ever play the game and needs to be mentioned with the likes of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders in that regard. He ranks in the 99th percentile in sprint speed, the 97th percentile in range and the 91st percentile in arm strength. He has a chance for 30 home runs and 100 stolen bases.

CJ Abrams, Nationals
(1.2 WAR, 9 HR, 8 SB, 32 R, 116 OPS+)

The Nationals’ most deserving All-Star is probably starting pitcher Trevor Williams or closer Kyle Finnegan, but I had a difficult time having either one make the NL pitching staff. Therefore, I went with Abrams, who could be used at second, short or as a pinch runner in this game. Abrams’ combination of speed and power is special, and he’ll someday join the 30/30 club — if not this year then next.

Third base

Alec Bohm, Phillies (starter) 
(1.4 WAR, 6 HR, 50 RBI, 136 OPS+)

Bohm leads all NL third basemen in doubles (23) and RBIs (50). He’s one of the main reasons the Phillies are tied for the best record in MLB. He really doesn’t have a lot of NL competition at the hot corner this year, although Ryan McMahon of the Rockies and Matt Chapman of the Giants deserve consideration.

Ryan McMahon, Rockies
(1.9 WAR, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 131 OPS+)

The Rockies have a few players who deserve consideration, including shortstop Ezequiel Tovar, center fielder Brenton Doyle and second baseman Brendan Rodgers. I went with McMahon because of his .369 on-base percentage, 10 doubles and 10 home runs. He also leads NL third basemen in OPS at .832, just ahead of Bohm. The Rockies have to be represented in the game and McMahon is my choice as of today.

Right field

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (starter) 
(1.2 WAR, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 6 SB, 125 OPS+)

Tatis is the best defensive right fielder in the league and I decided to start him over Teoscar Hernández because of that. He is hitting .265 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs but I expect a much better second half of the season from him. He’s still among the league leaders in swag and style too.

Teoscar Hernández, Dodgers
(1.3 WAR, 12 HR, 38 RBI, 124 OPS+)

Hernández was one of the most underrated free-agent signings of the offseason, as the Dodgers scooped him up with a one-year, $23.5 million deal. He leads all NL right fielders in doubles, home runs and RBIs.

Center field

Jazz Chisholm Jr., Marlins (starter) 
(1.0 WAR, 8 HR, 11 SB, 112 OPS+)

This is a very thin position in the NL this year. I considered the Rockies’ Brenton Doyle, the Braves’ Michael Harris II and the Cubs’ Cody Bellinger. I probably would have chosen Bellinger, but because the Marlins have to be represented, I went with Chisholm here. However, I think the fans will vote in Bellinger or Harris and if that happens, Chisholm probably won’t make the team as I’d expect Jesús Luzardo or Tanner Scott to be selected to represent the Fish.

Left field

Jurickson Profar, Padres (starter) 
(2.0 WAR, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 169 OPS+)

Profar deserves to be the starter in left field as he’s slashed a remarkable .329/.424/.491 with eight homers, 34 runs and 38 RBIs.

Christian Yelich, Brewers
(1.2 WAR, 6 HR, 8 SB, 163 OPS+)

Yelich spent about a month on the IL, but since returning he’s been raking. He is batting .318/.400/.530 with six home runs and 27 RBIs over 35 games.

Catcher

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William Contreras’ .858 OPS ranks eighth overall in the National League. (Thomas Shea / USA Today)

William Contreras, Brewers (starter) 
(2.5 WAR, 8 HR, 44 RBI, 145 OPS+)

Contreras has been the best overall catcher in the NL all season. He’s slashed .310/.380/.478 with eight home runs and leads all catchers with 44 RBIs. He’s in the 76th percentile in caught stealing above average and in the 98th percentile in average exit velocity.

Will Smith, Dodgers
(1.8 WAR, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 145 OPS+)

Smith is slashing .296/.363/.515 and leads all NL catchers with 16 doubles and nine home runs. He leads the majors in caught stealing rate (44 percent) and ranks in the 77th percentile in pop time.

J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
(1.3 WAR, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 109 OPS+)

Realmuto ranks in the 94th percentile in caught stealing above average and in the 95th percentile in pop time. He’s on pace to hit 20 home runs, which would be the third year in a row he’s hit that mark and the fifth time in his career.

Designated hitter

Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers (starter) 
(3.1 WAR, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 14 SB, 179 OPS+)

Ohtani has a chance to be the first designated hitter to ever win an MVP Award as he’s batting .321/.390/.590 with 41 runs scored, 14 homers and 38 RBIs while swiping 14 bases in 15 attempts. He leads the NL with 138 total bases.

Marcell Ozuna, Braves
(2.2 WAR, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 181 OPS+)

It’s not easy to pick between Ohtani and Ozuna for the DH starter, but based on their performances to date, I gave the edge to Ohtani because of his speed and base-running ability. However, Ozuna leads the league in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS and deserves serious consideration to start.

Pitchers

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Zack Wheeler finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2021. If he keeps this up, he could win it this year. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)

Zack Wheeler, Phillies (starter) 
(2.2 WAR, 2.23 ERA, 80 2/3 IP, 91 SO)

Wheeler is my favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award this season. He’s 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 91 strikeouts in a league-leading 80 2/3 innings. His extension ranks in the 96th percentile and his fastball run value is in the 100th percentile. Opposing batters are hitting .187 against his four-seamer, .154 against his sinker, .147 against his sweeper, .161 against his split-finger, .231 against his curveball and .250 against his cutter. Any questions?

Shota Imanaga, Cubs
(2.4 WAR, 1.88 ERA, 62 1/3 IP, 65 SO)

One could make a strong argument that Imanaga deserves to be the NL starting pitcher. He’s exceeded all expectations, going 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA over his first 11 starts in the major leagues. His four-seam fastball has been impressive, especially at the top of the zone, and opposing batters are hitting just .180 against the pitch. His split-finger has also been nasty (43.4 whiff percentage, .241 batting average against). He gets batters to chase out of the zone, at both the top and bottom, at impressive rates. It will be interesting to see if hitters start to adjust and make Imanaga stay in the strike zone more often.

Tyler Glasnow, Dodgers (1.7 WAR, 2.93 ERA, 80 IP, 104 SO)
Chris Sale, Braves (1.6 WAR, 3.06 ERA, 67 2/3 IP, 82 SO)
Ranger Suárez, Phillies (2.7 WAR, 1.70 ERA, 74 IP, 79 SO)
Paul Skenes, Pirates (0.8 WAR, 2.45 ERA, 22 IP, 30 SO)
Sonny Gray, Cardinals (0.9 WAR, 3.00 ERA, 57 IP, 77 SO)
Reynaldo López, Braves (2.0 WAR, 1.73 ERA, 57 1/3 IP, 55 SO)
Dylan Cease, Padres (1.1 WAR, 3.42 ERA, 71 IP, 87 SO)
Javier Assad, Cubs (2.3 WAR, 2.27 ERA, 63 1/3 IP, 61 SO)
Logan Webb, Giants (1.5 WAR, 2.95 ERA, 79 1/3 IP, 67 SO)
Robert Suarez, Padres (1.8 WAR, 0.69 ERA, 17 SV, 0.731 WHIP)

(Note: Alonso makes the team as the Mets’ representative; Chisholm makes the team as the Marlins’ representative; McMahon serves as the Rockies’ representative; Marte, Abrams, Gray, Webb and Skenes are their respective teams’ lone representative.) 


Again, there are several deserving players who I couldn’t fit on the teams either because players at their position were just better than them or because every team has to be represented. But, as of today, based on all of the parameters, this is who I believe should make the team.

Who do you think should start at each position? Please use the comments section to let me know what I got right and wrong. As always, thanks for reading, debating and sharing your opinions.

(Top image: Aaron Judge and Juan Soto: Adam Hunger / Associated Press; Bryce Harper: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)



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