25-man All-Star Game roster: National League
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, SI.com 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.
As with Cliff’s choices, this roster is focused on fielding the best possible team right now, though there are cases where I used established levels beyond the past half-season to make tough choices.
1B: Joey Votto, Reds
With all due respect to Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman, Votto’s in the midst of his fifth straight year of elite production, and he’s no slouch on defense, either.
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies
He’s not back to his 2005-2009 form — and at 34 years old he may never get back to it — but he’s shown more power than in any of the past four years and is still an outstanding defender.
SS: Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
The Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki would be the choice here if he weren’t rehabbing his way back from a broken rib. In place of Tulo, Ramirez is the best option. He’s hitting .419/.456/.743 through 114 plate appearances, which obviously won’t hold up, but it suggests that his bat is back, and his transition back to shortstop hasn’t been a disaster.
3B: David Wright, Mets
On days when Matt Harvey isn’t pitching, the Mets are almost unbearable to watch, but Wright is always worth checking out. He’s on his way to his best season since 2008, which is something to behold.
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Gets the edge over Buster Posey for his defense (45 percent caught stealing rate and near the top in pitch framing) to go with the continued improvement of his offense.
LF: Bryce Harper, Nationals
At 20 years old, he already looks ready to challenge for an MVP award, though the knee injury that cost him a month probably eliminates him from consideration this year.
CF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
His power is a bit down thus far relative to the last two seasons (nine homers after hitting 31 in 2012), but it’s clear that he’s no fluke.
RF: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
It wouldn’t have been too difficult to choose an all-Carlos outfield in this context (with Gonzalez and Gomez at the other two spots), but Beltran’s the one who gets to represent because he’s continuing to make his case for a spot in Cooperstown.
DH: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Tulo’s injury helps open up a spot for the so-called “America’s First Baseman,” who is off to a great start: .310/.389/.563 and an NL-best 74 RBIs.
C: Buster Posey, Giants
Not only the best-hitting catcher in the game right now, but adjusted for park and league scoring context via Baseball Prospectus’ True Average stat, one who could challenge Mike Piazza for the title of best-hitting catcher of all time. Posey is at .321 on a .313/.382/.506 career line, while Piazza finished at .314 on a .308/.377/.545 career line.
IF: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
He’s having an outstanding season with the bat (.316/.390/.487), has taken to a brand new position well enough to rate as above-average by most metrics and — important here — has plenty of experience at first base, third base and the outfield corners as well as his new home at second base.
IF: Marco Scutaro, Giants
At this time last year it appeared he was done. Now he has a new lease on life with the Giants, and in this context, his ability to spot at second base, shortstop and third base matters.
OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers
After five years of being a punchline, he’s developed outstanding power to go along with his speed and glove, and he leads the league in WAR (5.5) by more than half a win.
OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
You’re welcome to your outrage over all the snubs — Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Jay Bruce et al. Puig won’t hit .409/.436/.667 forever, but virtually every day thus far , he has demonstrated that in this context, he could be a difference-maker off the bench with one swing of the bat, one trip around the bases or one play in the field.
Starting Pitchers (top five, equivalent to my rotation):
LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
With all apologies to hometown favorite Harvey, Kershaw is the best pitcher in the league when you consider the combination of workload and run prevention (i.e., value), and the numbers — league leads in ERA (1.89, tops for the third straight year), WAR (5.3, tops for the second straight year), hits per nine (5.9, tops for the third straight year) and innings (138 1/3, his third straight year in the top three) — show why he should start.
RHP: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
You know how they say that command is always the last thing to come back for a pitcher after Tommy John surgery? Wainwright’s current 9.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio would rank fourth all-time.
RHP: Matt Harvey, Mets
He’s something special thanks to his ability to miss bats, but despite hometown sentiment, he’s not first in line here.
LHP: Cliff Lee, Phillies
At 10-2 instead of 6-9, it’s like he suddenly remembered how to — okay, in all seriousness, this guy’s pinpoint control, ability to miss bats and durability makes him the league’s second-best lefty.
RHP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
He’s not wowing people or missing bats like last year, but his run prevention has actually been better (whether or not you account for unearned runs, and you should) and he’s pitching deeper into games.
CL: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
He’s not striking out half of all hitters faced, as he did last year, but he’s still elite.
RHP: Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
With relatively little fanfare, he’s not only striking out 12.5 per nine, he’s got an 8.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio while throwing smoke. His ability to pitch more than one inning keeps him in a setup role here
LHP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
Triple-digit heat from the left side? Yes please.
RHP: Jason Grilli. Pirates
What this overall number four pick (1997) has done to revive his career in his mid-30s is just phenomenal. With a league-high 28 saves this year compared to just five prior, he’s shown that even an old dog can take up closing and become one of the best.
LHP: Paco Rodriguez, Dodgers
He’s here as the lefty speicalist, but the first 2012 draft pick to reach the majors has already become a go-to guy who’s wiping out both righties (.145//.273/.200 in 67 PA last year and this one) and lefties (.145/.213/.159 in 76 PA).
RHP: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
He doesn’t miss as many bats as his more famous teammate, but outstanding control has allowed him to pitch deep into games; his 7.0 innings per start ranks fourth, but he’s the long man here.
Six of my starters among position players are matches with the actual starting lineup (everywhere but second base and the non-Harper/Beltran outfield spot). With the exception of Puig, who’s got a good chance of winning the Final Vote, all of my bench players are already headed to Citi Field, as is that alternate outfielder, McCutchen, leaving Utley as the only position player I picked who’s not already on the squad. Furthermore, all of my starting pitchers are on the team save for Strasburg, with Jansen and Rodriguez my rogue choices from the bullpen.
The one elected starter I snubbed, Brandon Phillips, is hitting just .265/.317/.415, which is terrible given that he plays half his games in a hitter’s park; I don’t think he deserves a spot on the real team. I’d like to have found room for Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner and maybe even Marlins rookie righthander Jose Fernandez, but so it goes.
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