The American League has won the last three All-Star games and they come here to San Diego with another stacked starting lineup.
Last year the Royals were on track to have eight of their nine starting position players in the All-Star game and for a while it looked as though this year might have told a similar story. After the first voting update, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer were leading their positions while Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, Kendrys Morales, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain were second with Alex Gordon and Paulo Orlando inside the top 10 outfielders as well.
Thankfully that scenario didn’t come to fruition, and instead there are four Royals that will be headed to San Diego in a few weeks time.
Catcher: Salvador Perez (Royals)
.277 AVG, .794 OPS, 12 HR, 15 2B, 37 RBI
If there’s any starter in the American League that would be hard to argue against, it’s Salvador Perez. An All-Star for a fourth consecutive season, Perez has led all AL catchers in average, OPS, runs batted in and games played while also sitting second with 12 home runs. He’s been up there among the best backstops in the game for the last few years and although Matt Wieters, Stephen Vogt and Russell Martin are good players, they’re not quite on the same level as Perez.
The Royals haven’t been quite the juggernaut that they were this time last year, but Perez has been a big part of their continued success in the AL Central. He’ll be the starter for a third straight season, with the last AL catcher to start an All-Star game being Joe Mauer back in 2013.
First Base: Eric Hosmer (Royals)
.303/.361/.490, 13 HR, 18 2B, 49 RBI, 4 SB
The AL starter at first base was one of the most hotly contested positions on either roster, as Hosmer sat neck-and-neck with AL Central rival Miguel Cabrera for much of the voting period. In the end it was Hosmer who narrowly got the starting job.
It’s hard to argue against either player with both putting up pretty similar numbers through the first half of the season. Both have an average above .300 while having at least 49 RBIs, 13 home runs, 16 doubles and 44 runs scored. The biggest difference was that Hosmer was a Royal and Cabrera was a Tiger, with the KC fans once again ensuring that they had at least two starters in the All-Star game for the second consecutive season. It’s worth noting that Hosmer also had the third-longest hitting streak among American League players.
Second Base: Jose Altuve (Astros)
.353 AVG, .992 OPS, 14 HR, 24 2B, 49 RBI, 21 SB
Jose Altuve had a phenomenal 2015 as he was awarded with his third All-Star appearance and made his first playoff appearance with the Astros. The scary thing is this year he’s gotten even better, now adding power to his offensive approach.
When Altuve had 47 doubles and 56 stolen bases in 2014, you knew he was going to be a good player. Last year the steals weren’t quite as high (though he still led the AL with 38) but he hit twice as many home runs as the previous season. In 2016, Altuve is already just one short of his long ball total from a year ago and he’s on track to top his doubles tally from 2015 as well.
The Astros have worked their way back into the American League playoff picture after a slow start in April, and there’s no question that Altuve has been a big part of that.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
.336/.392/.481, 9 HR, 22 2B, 51 RBI, 11 SB
There have been so many great young shortstops in the American League that for Bogaerts to be awarded this honour is quite an achievement. You could easily plug Machado, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa or Eduardo Nunez here and be pretty satisfied that you’ve got a really good player.
With Machado starting at the hot corner, there’s no doubt that Bogaerts was easily the best option available. Making his debut All-Star appearance, Bogaerts is second in wRC+ among all AL shortstops behind Machado while sitting tops in average, first in RBIs, first in runs and third in stolen bases. The 23-year-old is also one of the best defensive infielders going around. Generally hitting third in Boston’s lineup, Bogaerts has been an integral part of their resurgence back to the top of the American League East.
Third Base: Manny Machado (Orioles)
.325 AVG, .964 OPS, 18 HR, 29 2B, 50 RBI
One of the headline names of this American League All-Star team, Machado could have easily been played as a shortstop but the depth of talent at that particular position means he’ll man the hot corner, a spot he’s played over 4200 innings and started exactly 480 games at during his five-year major league career.
The now 24-year-old (today’s his birthday) third baseman will be playing in his third All-Star game. He’s being spoken about as one of the best in the game, ranking third among AL third baseman in homers, first in average, fifth in RBIs and second in runs scored. Though his offensive skill set has been good enough to translate into an above-average third baseman, Machado is among the best defenders in baseball as he frequently makes highlight-worthy plays. He deserves his selection among these All-Star calibre players.
Outfield: Mike Trout (Angels)
.324 AVG, .994 OPS, 17 HR, 20 2B, 54 RBI
Mike Trout being a starter at the All-Star game has been a foregone conclusion for the last few years and will likely continue to be so down the track. He’s won the MVP in the last two All-Star games and there’s no reason he couldn’t do so again.
In fact, this is what Trout has done in his first at-bat of the All-Star game the last four years…
What will @MikeTrout do in 2016?
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) July 15, 2015
A natural cycle! This is a guy that seems to live for the big moments despite playing in only three postseason games. He relishes the opportunity to play alongside and against the best players in his sport. Not many players can say that. David Ortiz is likely the only exception in this All-Star game, with names like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera coming to mind in more recent years as well.
As the best player of the modern day there was almost no way that Trout wouldn’t be voted in by the fans to play in San Diego. He’s been hitting over .320 with 39 extra-base hits, 54 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases, all on a team that sits 18.5 games out in their division with the second-worst record in the American League.
Outfield: Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox)
.294/.381/.546, 16 HR, 20 2B, 6 3B, 53 RBI, 7 SB
Many will remember Bradley Jr. for that 29-game hitting streak he went on in May which helped the Red Sox to a 29-18 record at the time. That may have been an important part of his season, but he’s had a great year on both sides of the ball in Boston. The 26-year-old has been particularly good at Fenway Park where he’s hitting .323 with a .960 OPS as opposed to a .256 average and .883 OPS on the road.
Starting all 78 games he’s played in center field, Bradley Jr. has really made the position his own in 2016 having been given an opportunity to do in both 2014 and 2015. His defence has been great having made only two errors so far this year. Like Machado, Bradley Jr. has also made a number of highlight-worthy plays.
Outfield: Mookie Betts (Red Sox)
.296/.335/.523, 18 HR, 21 2B, 4 3B, 57 RBI, 13 SB
You can make a case that 2016 has been a breakout year for Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, though no one has impressed more than the latter. Betts may not have quite had the 26 or 29-game hitting streak, but he has been a key cog atop the Red Sox lineup as he leads all of baseball in plate appearances with nearly 400. Only 23, Betts also is tops in baseball with 191 total bases having accumulated only 286 last year. That would be in large part due to his 43 extra-base hits which puts him eighth in the majors and equal third in the AL.
Defence has also been an important part of Betts’ game having started 81 of a possible 83 games in right field. He’ll be making his first All-Star appearance in San Diego, a testament to how well he’s played thus far in 2016.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz (Red Sox)
.339 AVG, 1.112 OPS, 19 HR, 34 2B, 66 RBI
There was never going to be anyone else starting as the designated hitter for the American League. Playing in his final season, Ortiz makes his 10th All-Star appearance and first since 2013.
Despite being 40 years old, Ortiz just seems to go from strength to strength in 2016. He is leading all designated hitters in average while sitting second in RBIs and fourth in home runs. Ortiz also has above-average walk and strikeout rates. He’s on track to break a career-high in doubles during his final season, as well as currently leading the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
The Red Sox have been a dominant team with Betts, Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts all being a big part of that, but there’s no presence more important in the clubhouse than that of Ortiz. He’ll certainly receive some type of farewell in San Diego from players and fans alike.
M Betts, RF
M Trout, LF
X Bogaerts, SS
E Hosmer, 1B
D Ortiz, DH
S Perez, C
J Altuve, 2B
M Machado, 3B
J Bradley Jr, CF
C Stephen Vogt (A’s)
C Matt Wieters (Orioles)
1B Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
2B Robinson Cano (Mariners)
SS Eduardo Nunez (Twins)
SS Francisco Lindor (Indians)
3B Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays)
OF Carlos Beltran (Yankees)
OF Mark Trumbo (Orioles)
OF Ian Desmond (Rangers)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays)
LHP Chris Sale (White Sox)
LHP Cole Hamels (Rangers)
RHP Danny Salazar (Indians)
RHP Steven Wright (Red Sox)
RHP Marco Estrada (Blue Jays)
RHP Dellin Betances (Yankees)
RHP Craig Kimbrel (Red Sox)
RHP Zach Britton (Orioles)
LHP Andrew Miller (Yankees)
RHP Wade Davis (Royals) *injured, will be replaced
RHP Brad Brach (Orioles)
RHP Alex Colome (Rays)
RHP Kelvin Herrera (Royals)
RHP Will Harris (Astros)
When you take a look at all of these names, it’s hard not to get excited about what we might see come July 12. Royals manager Ned Yost has a host of great arms at his disposal and though the American League doesn’t have quite the eschalon of starters available, they’re absolutely loaded with guys who can throw gas out of the bullpen. Dellin Betances, Zach Britton and Craig Kimbrel would be a tough late-game trio alone, but then you throw in the rest and it’s a scary thought for the National League bench.
With respect to the other AL starters, Chris Sale seems like a lock to get the start at Petco Park. His 14 wins are easily the most in the game with Johnny Cueto and Jake Arrieta the next best with 12. He’s averaging 8.85 strikeouts per nine and has the third-lowest ERA among AL starters. Sale has also thrown more innings than anyone and has walked fewer than two batters per nine innings.