Posted July 10, 2013

25-man All-Star Game roster: American League

All-Star Game
Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson is an All-Star snub, but he makes this roster — and is in the starting lineup — because of his defense as well as his offense. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The first major league All-Star Game took place 80 years ago and featured just 18 players on both the National and American League rosters. While the game’s popularity immediately exploded, the size of the rosters grew much more modestly, first to 20 men per side in 1934, 21 in 1936, 23 in 1937 and finally 25 in 1939. That number remained in place (except when there were two All-Star Games per year from 1959-62 and certain players could be replaced for the second game) through 1968. In 1969, as MLB expanded to 12 teams in each league, All-Star rosters grew to 28 and stayed that way through 1997. For almost six decades, even as the number of major league teams went from 16 to 28, the size of All-Star rosters grew by just three, from 25 to 28. But in 1998, when MLB increased to its current number of 30 teams, All-Star rosters expanded to 30, went to 32 in 2003, 33 in 2009 and finally 34 in 2010.

The result has been the annual presence of non-stars who are chosen to fill out these bloated rosters. The most recent example is Bryan LaHair, who made last year’s game representing the Cubs but is now playing in Japan.

As it stands, nearly 70 men will be introduced next week as All-Stars at Citi Field before the Midsummer Classic — and that’s before considering any late injury replacements that could swell the number to almost 10 percent of all major leaguers — but many don’t truly fit that description. With that in mind, baseball writers Jay Jaffe (the NL) and Cliff Corcoran (the AL) constructed a 25-man roster for each league. There is no rule about having one player from every team but the rosters must be built the same: eight starting position players and one DH, one backup catcher, two backup infielders and two backup outfielders; six starting pitchers and five relievers.

JAFFE: 25-man All-Star Game roster: National League

My roster is less concerned with rewarding players for their first-half or career accomplishments and far more interested in fielding the best possible team right now. Here’s how that might look:

Starting nine:

1B: Chris Davis, Orioles

His gaudy first half numbers — .316/.392/.703, 33 HRs, 85 RBI s — speak for themselves.

2B: Jason Kipnis, Indians

His overall numbers are almost identical to Robinson Cano’s except that he is also 20 for 25 in steal attempts and has hit .380/.477/.620 since June 1.

SS: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays

Reyes missed more than two months with an ankle injury, but after going 0-for-6 in his first two games back he has hit .311/.326/.533 with three home runs. He has hit safely in 18 of his 22 games this season, is at .326/.371/.494 on the season, and has the track record to support his selection.

3B: Josh Donaldson, A’s

Don’ worry, Miguel Cabrera is on this team, but I’m not going to play him at third base when I can get Donaldson’s bat and glove into my lineup.

C: Joe Mauer, Twins

An easy choice. Mauer is hands-down the best catcher in the league.

RF:  Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

The best rightfielder in the league, and his 20 home runs and .877 OPS don’t hurt.

CF: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout is the best outfielder in the American League in any of the three pastures and I want him playing his natural position in center where his legs and glove can help most.

LF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

Leftfield in the AL is slim pickings, so give me Ellsbury, an outstanding fielder who has played left in the past. He’s hitting .301, getting on base at a .364 clip and has been unstoppable on the bases this year, leading the majors with 36 steals while being caught just three times for a 92 percent success rate.

DH: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

The major league’s best hitter belongs on this team, and he belongs at DH.


IF: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Cano’s just too good to leave off this team entirely.

IF: Manny Machado, Orioles

Machado’s bat has cooled off of late, but he still leads the majors with 39 doubles and is arguable the best fielder in baseball and one who can play both third base and shortstop. He’s also a righthanded bat, which makes him a nice complement to the left-handed Cano.

OF: Nelson Cruz, Rangers

If I’m in a late-game situation in which a home run could alter the outcome and my opponent has a lefty to face Ellsbury, I want some big right-handed power to counter with. That’s Cruz.

OF:  Daniel Nava, Red Sox

I have two centerfielders in my starting lineup, so I don’t need one on the bench.  Nava is a switch-hitting on-base machine with some pop who can play in either corner or at first-base.

C: Carlos Santana, Indians

Santana has cooled off from his hot start, but he is an on-base machine with big-time power, can also back up first base, and is a switch-hitter, making him an ideal backup.

Starting Pitchers (top 5, equivalent to my rotation):

LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox

RHP: Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners

RHP: Yu Darvish, Rangers

RHP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

RHP – Max Scherzer, Tigers

These are my most recent top five Cy Young candidates, albeit in a different order. I’ve chosen them ahead of Bartolo Colon and Hiroki Kuroda, who have weaker resumes, most notably in their strikeout rates. Sale gets the start because, despite missing two starts in the first half — which is important in my Cy Young evaluations, but irrelevant to my efforts to win this game — he has been the best pitcher in the league, something which is masked by his offense-friendly ballpark and awful run support.


CL: Joe Nathan, Rangers

Grant Balfour hasn’t blown a save in 23 chances, but Nathan has blown just one in 30 and has no losses (Balfour has one) while putting up better numbers in a far tougher ballpark for pitchers.

RHP: Mariano Rivera, Yankees

It feels like blasphemy to have him in a set-up role, but it would be worse, even in this exercise, not to have him at all, and Nathan has simply been better this year.

RHP: Joaquin Benoit, Tigers

As explained in my look at the Final Vote yesterday, he has been incredibly effective this season.

LHP: Glen Perkins, Twins

The best (and only) left-handed closer in the league is a lefty I can use in more than a mere match-up role.

LHP: Brett Cecil, Blue Jays

Go figure that Cecil of all people makes this 25-man roster. It’s because he fills a very specific role, that of left-handed relief pitcher.

RHP: Bartolo Colon, A’s

I want the last man in my pen to be able to give me innings: efficient, effective, error-free innings. That means a minimum of walks and home runs, which can be deadly late in a close game. Colon fits the bill. Not only has he walked just 15 men in 120 1/3 innings on the season, but over his last 11 starts, all quality, he has allowed just three home runs in 79 frames and posted an 1.71 ERA.

So there you have it. This 25-man roster has five men not on the actual 34-man American League roster (Reyes, Donaldson, Ellsbury, Nava and Santana) as well a sixth who may not make it despite being, in my opinion, the most deserving Final Vote candidate (Benoit). Most of those are a result of the parameters of this exercise. I would only argue for Donaldson and Ellsbury to be included on the actual roster. The others all serve a specific role here or, in the case of Reyes, are chosen despite missing an excess of time in the first half due to track record and recent performance.

Not included here are three fan-elected AL starters: J.J. Hardy (his cold bat is bumped at shortstop by Reyes’s hot one), Adam Jones (simply not one of the three best outfielders in the league) and David Ortiz, (because I have Miguel Cabrera at designated hitter rather than third base).

The biggest surprise to me is how similar the two pitching staffs are. Set aside the injured Clay Buchholz and Jesse Crain and choose Benoit from among the Final Vote candidates and the only AL All-Star pitchers I omitted were Justin Verlander and Justin Masterson, both selections of Tigers and AL manager Jim Leyland that I don’t think deserve to be on the 34-man roster, either, while all 11 of my pitchers above are on the actual AL roster.

So perhaps approaching the All-Star rosters this way doesn’t solve all of the problems we have with the current 34-man set-up. I still have Brett Cecil and no Evan Longoria, though at least I have a better excuse for omitting Longoria amid a crowded third-base field with nine fewer roster spots than Leyland had and no inexplicable alternate Rays representative.

That said, looking at that roster above, it does imply a game that is more competitive and less of an exhibition. With a five-man bench, the men in my starting lineup will be expected to play nine innings unless injury or strategy forces them out of the game, and my bullpen strategy would be to get at least two innings out of each of the first four men in my “rotation,” saving my relievers for mid-inning jams, Scherzer for any non-save situation in the ninth inning or beyond, and Colon exclusively for extra-innings. That’s a game I’d much rather watch than the one we’ll actually see next Tuesday.

More All-Star coverage:

Complete AL and NL rosters

CORCORAN: NL has the edge

VERDUCCI: How to improve the Home Run Derby

CORCORAN: Benoit, Puig deserve to earn Final Vote spots

SI Now: Why Matt Harvey should start the All-Star Game for the NL


No Pedroia at 2b??!!  He is only hitting .325 while playing flawless defense and has 50 rbi.  And where is David Ortiz?  Hitting .333 with 20 HR's 60 rbi after missing first month of the season.  Did you forget about the DH?


Cliff Corcoran is fool and should be making sandwiches at Subway. How does this idiot have a job? Go Cards.


Kipness over Cano!?  Are you drunk? Am I the only one on this that can understand that the only reason the Yankees are where they are at with all the injuries they've had is because of #24?!!!   Put on your socks, now stand up and put on your pants..... Congrats- you know hit behind Cano in the depleted Yankee lineup of 2013 that is still 7 games above .500


I can never tell if Cliff Corcoran stories are supposed to be funny or just come out that way.  Kipnis over Pedroia is a joke.  Reyes at SS when he's missed 2 months and only played in 22 games, yet you say your team is built with guys playing good over the first half of the season, not based upon career numbers.  Donaldson at 3B over Cabrera?  David Ortiz is best DH in the game, and I'm an Angels fan that voted for Trumbo.  Donaldson is lucky to be third best 3B (behind Cabrera and Machado).


Dustin Pedroia has MUCH better numbers than Kipness or Cano. He leads all second basemen in virtually every offensive statistical category, and he has only committed 1 error in the field. It would be a travesty if he is left off the team


Any AL All Star bullpen that omits Greg Holland has been constructed by someone who doesn't know the first thing about a good, deserving relief pitcher.   Dude's having a HISTORICALLY amazing season.  3rd best K rate EVER, ERA 1.80, 22/24 saves...and not a whiff....You pick Colon for a relief spot because you want someone to "give you innings"?  Seriously?  You're going through this to pick an All Star team...You don't need a freaking long reliever in an All Star game you doofus...


Wow  it will be great to see that lineup play!!!!. ALL Great players, Lots of fun. How will be the bating order??


if you are looking for bat And glove at third why not take Beltre who has both a better bat And glove than Donaldson,  and a better track record


I agree that Elsbury deserves to be there.  Show me somebody better in all around performance and I'll reconsider my position, but for now.......


"He’s also a righthanded bat, which makes him a nice compliment to the left-handed Cano."

COMPLEMENT, you idiot.


Wow.  All-star break already?   Can't wait....for football to start up.


Where's Hiroki Kuroda? This man gets no respect just because his win loss isn't very good. Win-Loss record should be a non-factor in determining All-Stars. Sure it may look good on paper, but it has nothing to do with pitching quality. If a pitcher is getting no run support and giving up 1 run a game and losing it is not his fault. Likewise, if a pitcher is pitching poorly, but getting run support and still winning he should not be chosen to the All-Star game as a result. ERA is the most important factor when evaluating pitching, in my opinion, and based on Kuroda's ERA he has earned a spot on the All-Star team.


This article sucks!! Donaldson is having a breakout year, but not starting the best hitter in the game at 3B in Cabrera? That's just one small example of this fantasy on the toilet killing time roster. And I would love to have the Royals bullpen in Detroit over most other teams. DUMB.


so the royals, whose pitching staff led the AL in ERA for the majority of the first half, put no pitchers on the all star team? people keep forgetting how bad the royals franchise is and how our being 2 games under .500 at the all star break is miraculous. Ervin Santana is a deserving all star, as is Salvy Perez 


you didn't even mention dustin pedroia, who's crushing the WAR metric, playing outstanding D, and hitting the ball well. Better than Kipnis and Cano in my opinion. Also, Nava as an all-Star? haha

Irik Edens
Irik Edens

Even you snub Grant Balfour who is the only perfect closer at this point this year and is perfect going all the way back to May of last season for 41 straight saves? Shame on you.


@CameronMorris Oh, you're talking about the guy that doesn't lead his team in ANY individual offensive catagory as opposed to the one man who has nearly- by himself offensively- kept his team in the picture? The same guy who has 21 home runs as opposed to Pedroia's (My math could be a bit off but I believe Mr. lil bean is exactly 15 home runs short of Cano).....I'll check with ya in mid Aug when he gets to double figures....Not to mention the plays that the lil "hustler" gets his chin grassy on in short right field-Robinson makes standing up then blows a bubble while he fires a laser at whoever the Yankees have covering first base that day and hits em right in the chest... Take it in, now throw up, now you are clear headed and you understand that lil Ped can't hold a candle to Cano and you've now accepted it and you can go on about your life worshiping tea, cream pie, clam chowder  and Ted Williams 


@Irik EdensThe only perfect closer is a rather weak argument. So the difference between Balfour and Mujica this season is one bad pitch?


@Michael10 @Irik Edens 

Not to mention, the only difference between "closers" and other relievers is the number on the scoreboard under "inning".  Saves are meaningless. 

A dominant middle reliever comes on in the 8th inning vs detroit with a one-run lead and faces Cabrera, Fielder and Martinez, strikes out the side, but it's the closer that gets the golden stat, even though he had the easier job?


@jb22 @Michael10 @Irik Edens Save are also one of the most widely variable situational stats as well. Mujica just got one for retiring one batter with a four-run lead. I still remember Bruce Sutter turning 2-3 inning saves 2-3 times a week. Balfour has yet to turn in a 2-inning save.

And Balfour's "streak" is pretty bogus, anyway. He blew a game in June to the Mariners by giving up a 3-run homer, but since it was a tie game, he took a loss rather than a blown save (he gave up four runs for a loss during the streak last year, too, but it was the pitcher who came in to clean up his mess that got tagged with the blown save...)