Posted July 06, 2013

How Yasiel Puig can fit on the National League All-Star roster

All-Star Game, Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

Yasiel Puig ‘s heroics, theatrics and statistics more than compensate for his late arrival in the majors. (John Cordes/Icon SMI)

The All-Star rosters and Final Vote candidates will be announced Saturday evening, which means we’ll soon be done discussing who should make it and moving on to complaining about who did. No player’s candidacy has been debated more than that of Yasiel Puig, the sensational Dodgers rookie outfielder. In the past couple of days alone, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and Angels manager Mike Scioscia have voiced their opinion that Puig, who debuted on June 3, hasn’t played enough to warrant a spot on the National League roster. We here at The Strike Zone disagree.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a potential NL roster to see just how disruptive the inclusion of Puig would be. Because, while Puig’s lack of major league experience should not be held against him with regard to an All-Star selection, he still shouldn’t be selected over more deserving candidates who have played a full season, either.

We don’t yet know the identity of the fan-selected starters, but we do have updated vote totals from Tuesday. Based on the trends we’ve seen from past updates, let’s assume the voting yields these eight players:

C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B: Joey Votto, Reds
2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
3B: David Wright, Mets
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rokies
OF: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals

All but Harper held leads on Tuesday. Harper was just 15,266 votes behind Justin Upton for the final outfield spot, and given that he’s back off the DL and homered in his first game back, it’s a good bet he sneaks into that final spot.

Tulowitzki, meanwhile, is injured and unable to play. The right choice for NL manager Bruce Bochy is to choose the Brewers’ Jean Segura to replace him, even though his own shortstop in San Francisco, Brandon Crawford, was in second place in the voting as of Tuesday.

The first additions to that starting nine are easy to make. First we’ll take the three pitchers vying for the start: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Matt Harvey of the Mets. Then we’ll add one reserve at each position (three for the outfield). That gives us this second group of eight hitters:

C: Buster Posey, Giants
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
2B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
3B: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals
OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Domonic Brown, Phillies; Michael Cuddyer, Rockies

Posey, Goldschmidt, Carpenter, and Gomez are no-brainers. Desmond is a close pick over San Diego’s Everth Cabrera, who is set to return from the disabled list on Friday, with Desmond getting extra credit for his strong 2012 campaign. Alvarez is a close pick over Ryan Zimmerman, and the NL outfield gets pretty crowded after Gomez, but Brown has been a sensation and Cuddyer leads the league in OPS.

That gives us 16 hitters and three pitchers. We need at least a dozen pitchers. We also need to make sure we have one player from every team. There are just four teams that are not yet represented: the Braves, Marlins, Cubs and Padres. Here are the most-deserving players from each of those four teams:

Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B
Marlins: Jose Fernandez, SP
Cubs: Travis Wood, SP
Padres: Everth Cabrera, SS

That puts us up to 18 hitters and five pitchers, so we can flesh out our pitching staff with seven more hurlers. Give me the other two men from my recent Cy Young leader list, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals and Cliff Lee of the Phillies.

Some of you may have disagreed with a few of the picks above, but I’m guessing far more will disagree with this next decision. Last year, both leagues included five closers on their rosters, but starting pitching is far more valuable, so I’m going to limit my roster to three relievers, and they need not be closers. Give me the three most dependable late-game aces in the NL this year: Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon of the Pirates and Edward Mujica of the Cardinals, each of whom has just one blown save and some spectacular peripherals (the three have combined to strike out 134 men against just 13 walks in 113 1/3 innings).

That leaves two spots for deserving starting pitchers. I’ll take the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin and the Cardinals’ Shelby Miller. (Remember, any starters who start the Sunday before the All-Star Game would be ineligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic and thus have to be replaced by another pitcher.)

Here’s what we have so far:

C: Molina, Posey
1B: Votto, Goldschmidt, Freeman
2B: Phillips, Carpenter
3B: Wright, Alvarez
SS: Segura, Desmond, Cabrera
OF: Beltran, C. Gonzalez, Harper, C. Gomez, Brown, Cuddyer
SP: Kershaw, Wainwright, Harvey, Zimermann, Lee, Corbin, Miller, Fernandez, Wood
RP: Grilli, Mujica, Melancon

There are four remaining roster spots, three of which will be announced tomorrow, and one which will be filled by the final vote candidate selected by the fans.

I didn’t use wins above replacement as a guide for the above, but if we turn to Baseball-Reference.com’s version of the stat we see that Puig has a bWAR of 2.4. Here are the players not on the above roster with an equal or higher bWAR total:

4.4: Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
3.7: Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Rockies
3.6: Starling Marte, LF, Pirates
3.4: Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks; Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
3.0: Russell Martin, C, Pirates
2.9: Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves
2.7: Jay Bruce, RF, Reds
2.6: Chase Ultey, SS, Kyle Kendrick, SP, Phillies
2.5: SPs Mike Leake (Reds), Jeff Locke (Pirates), Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers)

A few notes: Simmons’ bWAR is based amost entirely on his fielding, which is legitimately outstanding, but a player with a 70 OPS+ doesn’t belong on my All-Star roster. Bruce and Utley have played all three months so far and are 0.3 or less bWAR ahead of Puig, a meaningless difference. Puig could very easily pass both of them in the next week, as well as Kendrick, Leake, Locke and Ryu. That narrows our list of contenders for those final spots to the three Pirates, the two Rockies, Parra, and Puig.

Now, here’s an interesting twist. The two non-relievers with the lowest bWARs among the 30 players I selected above are another Pirate (Alvarez, 1.9) and another Rockie (Cuddyer, 1.6, who grades out as a brutal defender). With three Pirates already selected, let’s replace Alvarez with McCutchen, a deserving perennial All-Star. Matt Carpenter thus will back up both second and third base, the latter being where home-field hero David Wright of the Mets will start, so there will be little complaint if he plays the whole game, and Everth Cabrera can play second base if needed (he had five starts there last year). Rockies fans can have their pick here between Cuddyer and De La Rosa, but let’s not have four players (including the injured Tulowitzki) from a losing team, which also means Chacin is out. I’ll take De La Rosa to add depth to my pitching staff.

Now we have four men left. Martin has been a huge part of Pittsburgh’s success this year, so let’s have him as a third catcher and leave off Marte because we already have four Pirates. Martin also helps solve our infield shortage as he has made two starts at third base this year. That puts Parra and Puig in the final two spots to be announced tomorrow and leaves the rest, including Alvarez and Cuddyer as Final Vote candidates. So that yields this roster of 33:

C: Molina, Posey, Martin
1B: Votto, Goldschmidt, Freeman
2B: Phillips, Carpenter
3B: Wright
SS: Segura, Desmond, Cabrera
OF: Beltran, C. Gonzalez, Harper, C. Gomez, Brown, McCutchen, Parra, Puig
SP: Kershaw, Wainwright, Harvey, Zimermann, Lee, Corbin, Miller, Fernandez, Wood, De La Rosa
RP: Grilli, Mujica, Melancon

Among the potential candidates for the Final Vote, then, we have Marte, Chacin, Simmons, Bruce, Utley, Kendrick, Leake, Locke, Ryu, Alvarez, Cuddyer and whichever closers you might feel I snubbed (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and, ironically, Jonathan Papelbon, being the ones that leap to mind), none of whom I’d rather have on the roster over Puig, but one of whom would get to join him there. So, there is room for Puig on the National League All-Star team, if just barely. I look forward to seeing him at Citi Field on the 16th.

25 comments
Merijn
Merijn

There should be only 1 criterium for the manager: Getting a W. And if you need a W right now you want Puig on your team. I'm not advocating having players play 9 innings or have pitchers throw a lot; then it wouldn't be an all-star game, but in building the roster on the position player side this ain't an issue, so select with the W in mind.

Deserving is nice and all, but if your team would be playing WS game 7, I think you would give up that principle for it to be in your team's home park.

Chris K
Chris K

Hilarious.  Let's keep leaving off Pirates because there are already too many of them.   I mean, they only have the best record in baseball.  If the Yankees had the best record in baseball, there would be 7 on the team and no questions asked.   Maybe Cliff should go work for ESPN.

Michael10
Michael10

Hey, Cliff -- by your own conjecturing, Puig is at best the TENTH most deserving NL outfielder this season.

To squeeze him into the roster you have to shortchange the infield (Hey -- Wright can play the whole game; let's dump our 21-HR backup at 3rd) and play flip-flop politics (let's not have 4 players from a losing team, but let's not have more than 4 from the best team, either) -- effectively throwing Alvarez, Cuddyer and Marte under the bus. 

You're seriously trying to make the case that Puig is more deserving this season than any one of these three? Not to mention legitimate run producers like Craig, Choo and Bruce who don't fit your "WAR machine" model (presumably because of defensive metrics which you downplay yourself in order to dismiss Simmons).

You really don't see this as anything more than absurd fanboyism? (I noticed you slipped your other boy, Harper, avoiding his own WAR-deficit by simply assuming he'll come from behind in the voting).

The outrage will not be Puig having to wait until he actually has a half-season under his belt before he appears in an All-Star game (enough hype has been generated this month to get him elected to the next five); it will be if Bochy caves to media pressure or MLB takes the easy way out and snubs some other guy who's paid his dues by slipping Puig into the Final Vote.

I actually suspect the latter will happen, and he'll get though in the absence of a singular "anti-Puig" candidate...

Petzuk
Petzuk

Many other proven players deserve the All Star game over Puig.

Period

TerryEnright
TerryEnright

If Puig goes to the AS game, then the Red Sox  Jose Iglesias  141 AB .411 BA, OBP 458,  great glove, great range. Involved in a high pressure setting in the middle of a pennant race, deserves to go as well.  I'm not making a direct comparison (two different types of Ball Players), I'm just saying that if they make a special exception for Puig, then they need to make room for Iglesias.  Where do you draw the line? Lets see how both these guys do for the rest of the year before we send them to Cooperstown. Teams will eventually find the holes in their swings, and they'll have to make the adjustments. The great players do, the average guys can't figure it out, and fade to mediocrity. Neither of them has earned their stripes as of yet.


TylerMorrissey
TylerMorrissey

SI's Puig cheerleading has become really sad and bizarre. I can't read the MLB coverage anymore since every day they find a new way to slobber over this guy.

Sportswiters of all people should be wary of potential flashes in the pan like him.


riley8
riley8

Add a spot every year for the top rookie.  Face it EVERYONE looks at the Dodgers boxscore now looking for one name.  Put him in the game or you will lose MILLIONS of viewers.  

MarkRowden
MarkRowden

I'd have to agree with most of this reasoning, with one exception. You've completely forgotten Allen Craig. Craig is in the top three in RBI's and has played just about error free at first base.

DaveMcLean
DaveMcLean

I'm a Dodgers fan and in love with Puig, but you can't put him on the All-Star roster after just a month. He's incredibly exciting, to be sure, but it's a slap in the face to all of the deserving veterans. Puig will have a bevy of All-Star games in the future, but not this year.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Chris K Since the Pirates have been pretty bad for two decades it has taken someone a while to make a claim of media bias against them, but you did it.  Nice work!   I believe that you guys have now discovered that the media has a bias for or against every team in baseball.  Again, well done.

Michael10
Michael10

Did I call this or what?

So who has the best chance as the anti-Puig candidate in the Final Vote? I'm going to throw my votes behind Hunter Pence -- I think the SF ballot-stuffers might just be able to get the job done...

Michael10
Michael10

@TerryEnright This is how all-consuming the Puig coverage has gotten -- I wasn't even aware of Iglesias until now. You are correct -- he's been hitting like Puig for almost twice as long and from a more valuable defensive position. 

The fact that there aren't a dozen such articles pleading Iglesias's case points directly to the disproportionate amount of media types that follow Puig like a gaggle of ten-yer-old girls...

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

@TerryEnright but Iglesias hasn't even really been a guaranteed starter on his own team. That's not an All-Star right there. No one outside of a Red Sox fan would make this argument.

amva55
amva55

@TerryEnright No special exception. There is no rule about how many games or months you play to qualify for the All Star Game. 

Marsh the Great
Marsh the Great

@TylerMorrissey Did you say this about Trout and especially Harper last year?  It was the exact same thing, no more, no less. It's what the media does. It's their job to "push" what's interesting and exciting and regardless of whether you personally agree or not, Yasiel Puig (and by proxy, his resurgent Dodgers team) IS pretty damn newsworthy. That said, I don't think one month of brilliance is worth an All-Star nod. Maybe invite him to the HR derby or something but it wouldn't be right to reward a guy for one month of work in the bigs when everyone else has put in nearly 4.

Michael10
Michael10

@riley8 The top rookie usually does go to the ASG -- and this year it's not Puig, anyway...not yet.

Michael10
Michael10

He has ignored Allen Craig because he is an All-Star, not a WAR-Star. Craig is now one RBI behind Goldschmidt and is THIRD in the batting race -- and he's been doing it all season.

Here's a slash for you: .476/.495/.695 -- those are Craig's numbers as of tonight with runners in scoring position (.488/.545/.707 with two out). And, Craig has almost as many plate appearances in those situation as Puig has TOTAL. I'd much rather see Craig coming off the All-Star bench with a man on and down a run...

Craig may well be the most deserving player snubbed this year thanks to the “No Team Left Behind” policy – assuming Upton fall behind Harper in the voting and Bochy goes with Freeman over Kimbrel (whose 2012 finish more than offsets any perceived advantage Melancon has this season) as the Braves’ representative. Keep in mind though, most of the reserves are selected by the players and coaches; Bochy will only have a few selections and will have to use them to make sure everyone is represented and positions are balanced.

Chris K
Chris K

@JoeCabot  Except the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Braves and Dodgers.  You must work for ESPN, too.

Michael10
Michael10

@MattBugaj @TerryEnright So because there is enough positional depth on the Red Sox roster, Iglesias doesn't deserve to go? 

I'll buy that (despite the fact that Iglesias has started all but one of his games, including 37 of the 40 the Red Sox have played since he was called up), but the argument works both ways -- there's will be more than enough positional depth on the NL All-Star roster to justify Puig's omission...

TylerMorrissey
TylerMorrissey

@Marsh the Great No, but SI was not as over-the-top and lovelorn about Trout or Harper. Their Puig coverage is OBSESSIVE. Besides, SI is NOT covering the Dodger's resurgence, they've covering Puig.
 

There are other newsworthy stories in the MLB. And the media's job is also to find other interesting stories that escape the layman, not just keep pushing what everyone knows. SI seems to have a new Puig story every day, regardless of any specific thing he's done.

Chris K
Chris K

@JoeCabot Actually, I thought you were the fluff guy for Rece Davis and Mel Kiper.   If you really think the media doesn't love about 10 teams and could care less about the rest, you must think Bud Selig is the best commissioner ever in any sport.  There is a reason the ratings continue to slide for our former National Pastime. 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Chris KYeah, I am employed by ESPN.  My top secret job is to spend my life digging around the WWW and to attempt to convince you folks that these media conspiracies are nothing but the product of a small bout of paranoia.   Now that you have outed me I am in big trouble.

StephenEndicott
StephenEndicott

@TylerMorrissey @Marsh the Great Well, in fairness, SI DID feature Trout on the cover of the August 27 issue with the word "Supernatural" across his chest. That's pretty over the top to me...and I loved every minute of it, because Trout deserved it! Puig is this year's player story and he deserves the coverage. 

But the Pirates' resurgence is an equally big TEAM story and certainly deserves equal coverage -- maybe even a cover...especially since the Pirates haven't made the cover of SI since '92.