Max and Zane tackle the 2018 All-Star rosters, disregarding all Staff input as per usual, and oftentimes rebuking the actual rosters. Stats as of July 9, 2018.
Max: The rosters have been released and since we vehemently disagree in various spots, we might as well voice our frustration in our NL edition today after publishing our AL thoughts on Sunday. You can find our picks for the AL squad here.
Zane: Let’s get to it. Rumor has it that we might even include a Triple-A player!
Catcher: JT Realmuto, Miami (.317/.368/.551, 3.5 fWAR)
Reserves: Willson Contreras, Chicago (.287/.372/.466, 2.6 fWAR), Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh (.258/.392/.489, 2.4 fWAR)
Max: In a down year for Buster Posey and with Gary Sanchez sitting around .190 with limited power, JT Realmuto has snatched the best catcher in baseball belt and run with it. The OBP is not exceptional, but by flat-out raking all year (and beating up on my beloved Nationals), JT has made himself one of the hottest names at the trade deadline. Beyond Realmuto, the NL catching core does offer impressive depth though, unlike its AL counterpart; Zane?
Zane: Thankfully, it does. Realmuto has been brilliant, but honestly, both Wilson Contreras and Francisco Cervelli have been significantly better than any catcher in the American League. Contreras in particularly really impresses me. He is only 26 years old, is a plus-plus defender behind the dish, and has a very impressive on-base percentage. Last year, he belted 23 home runs in only 117 games, and while seven in just 77 games this year is much less impressive, he has an identical wOBA this year (.362). Cervelli has been great as well – no one expected him to return to his 2015 form this year – and is still not that old at 32 years old. It’s a great year for National League catchers.
Max: Speaking of Contreras, anybody who hasn’t seen his reaction video after getting the All-Star nod should do themselves a favor and check that out. Could not be happier for the guy!
First Base: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta (.315/.406/.542, 3.6 fWAR)
Reserves: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona (.281/.388/.549, 3.3 fWAR)
Zane: At first, I considered giving my vote for Paul Goldschmidt. While he started off extremely cold, Goldschmidt hit .364 in June and is currently hitting .423 in July. Freddie Freeman, however, has been the best and most consistent player on the most surprising team in the majors. If the season ended today, he would be a favorite to win National League MVP (though, spoiler alert, my vote would go to the guy starting at third base for us), and that alone makes him an all-star game starter. Though Max, I have to say, we still love Goldschmidt, don’t we?
Max: The humidor did its best to keep Goldy in check the first few months, and while he wasn’t able to grab the starting spot from a deserving Freeman, he is back on track to post an incredible sixth straight season with a wRC+ north of 130.
Second Base: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta (.281/.320/.512, 3.2 fWAR)
Reserves: Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati (.326/.368/.515, 3.0 fWAR)
Max: Since coming up last year, Ozzie Albies has been one of the most exciting players in baseball. Now he is also one of baseball’s best, especially at second base. The National League-leading extra-base hits, the swagger, the 121 wRC+ at age 21, it’s all there with Albies. Acuna might have had all the hype, but Albies is the young Brave that Zane and I have our eyes and heart set on. Anybody else, Zane?
Zane: Bang Bang, Scoot Scoot. Gennett has been brilliant this year. I swear, ever since he hit those four home runs in one game, everything has changed for him. This year, he has 14 home runs and a high batting average, and while he has been a defensive liability in the past, he has been about league-average as a fielder this year, as his Fangraphs defensive rating sits at a respectable 0.7 runs above average. Albies may be the 21-year-old wonder, but Scooter is the gift that keeps on giving.
Third Base: Max Muncy, Los Angeles (.270/.407/.610, 3.1 fWAR)
Reserves: Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati (.315/.405/.590, 3.2 fWAR), Nolan Arenado, Colorado (.305/.388/.583, 3.5 fWAR), Anthony Rendon, Washington (.280/.347/.511, 2.7 fWAR)
Zane: Wait, what? Not Nolan Arenado? Yes, that’s right. Max Muncy deserves to start in the All-Star Game. The Dodgers’ breakout star has broken out this year, and he currently has an absolutely absurd .617 slugging percentage and .428 wOBA all while posting a pretty low .275 BABIP. He has 20 home runs in just 66 games and is walking in 18.9% of his plate appearances. He is playing out of his mind. Sure, Arenado has the great defense at third base and two more home runs, but he’s played in 83 games and is playing in Coors Field. Muncy gets the nod. That said, there are a lot of good third basemen in the National League.
Max: My (not-even that) hot take third base starter was going to be Eugenio Suarez but Muncy’s production in his limited time is too good not to give the start here, and my anti-Coors Field bias only helps his case. Speaking of Suarez though, his 162 wRC+ only puts him a single point behind Jose Ramirez who is literally on pace for the greatest season by a third baseman in history by fWAR. Arenado’s defense and counting stats are ridiculous as always, and his 3.5 fWAR leads the NL group, even if he has a sizable advantage in games played. Meanwhile, Rendon has been carrying the otherwise dormant Nationals offense as of late and is a year removed from leading the NL in fWAR. Yet the real hometown hero for this All-Star game is up next.
Shortstop: Trea Turner, Washington (.278/.355/.419, 3.1 fWAR)
Reserves: Javier Baez, Chicago (.295/.328/.565, 3.1 fWAR), Brandon Crawford, San Francisco (.300/.365/.479, 2.5 fWAR)
Max: Okay. Quick rant. The push for a hometown All-Star in DC has been focused on the wrong guy for too long. Yes, Bryce Harper has been hitting monster bombs all year, but that’s just about it (they’re literally a third of his hits). A .218 batting average hardly screams All-Star, and that’s before remembering that even that lowly line is propped up by another huge April. Meanwhile, who leads not only the Nats’ lineup but all of NL shortstops in fWAR? Trea Turner. Sure shortstop in the National League is not as loaded as its American counterpart, but Trea’s 22 steals, 11 home runs, and NL shortstop leading 7.2 UZR and 54 runs should have made him a clear starter at Nationals Park. And as if I wasn’t angry enough already, MLB placed him on the final vote ballot where he sadly stands no chance of snagging that final roster spot. Guess who’s starting though, with the 79th best fWAR in baseball and no shot at a $500 million contract this offseason… Anyways, I’m done here. Oh, and #VoteTrea.
Zane: There is no shortstop I love to watch more than Trea Turner. That said, Javy Baez has been absolutely stellar this year. With 17 home runs and 16 stolen bases to date, it’s easy to see why the fans over at Wrigley Field are buzzing about Baez (M-SABR Project Manager and current Cubs employee Duncan Wallis would agree). Meanwhile, Brandon Crawford was absolutely awful in April, batting just .189. But then May and June happened. Sure, Crawford has a .159 average in July, but his average sits at an even .300 and he has 10 home runs to go with his impressive defense (though the defense is not quite as good as years past).
Outfield: AJ Pollock, Arizona (.289/.355/.590, 2.3 fWAR), Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee (.290/.394/.435, 3.4 fWAR), Nick Markakis, Atlanta (.322/.389/.490, 2.5 fWAR)
Reserves: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles (.319/.360/.549, 2.0 fWAR), Christian Yelich, Milwaukee (.285/.362/.459, 2.2 fWAR), Kyle Schwarber, Chicago (.249/.376/.498, 2.6 fWAR)
Zane: I really wish I could take a couple of the excess American League outfielders and put them on the National League roster, but that’s apparently not allowed in this exercise. So, we have made a couple of bold selections here. First and foremost: AJ Pollock. He’s missed half the season so far, but man, when he plays, he’s a massive contributor. He has 11 home runs, nine stolen bases and has been four runs better than average in center field. He’s the most efficient outfielder in the game when he plays this year. Lorenzo Cain, meanwhile, has been brilliant and is a surefire pick. Cain is approaching a .400 on-base percentage and has been worth a staggering 8.8 runs in center field this year defensively. His .340 BABIP is in line with his career .343 BABIP, as well, so this is just Cain playing at an elite level. Finally, Nick Markakis is having a career year at age 34 and absolutely deserves a nod. I love me a good .392 on-base percentage and he already has 112 hits on the season. Now Max, who do we have on the bench?
Max: Though we might not be as delusional as the Los Angeles Times writers naming Matt Kemp as one of the front-runners for NL MVP, the season he is having is hard to deny. Beyond that, Christian Yelich continues to be one of the most underappreciated studs in all of baseball and adds to a Brewers outfield that already includes the aforementioned Cain. Finally, Kyle Schwarber may never hit for a high average, but everything else is there. The 16.6% walk rate is excellent and his defense grading out positively this season might be one of the biggest upsets in all of baseball.
The Opener: Josh Hader, Milwaukee (44.2 IP, 1.21 ERA/1.20 FIP, 2.4 fWAR)
Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer, Washington (11-5, 2.33 ERA, 177 K, 4.3 fWAR)
Pitching Staff: Jacob DeGrom, New York, Aaron Nola, Philadelphia, Patrick Corbin, Arizona, Jon Gray, Colorado, Mike Mikolas, St. Louis, Noah Syndergaard, New York, Ross Stripling, Los Angeles, Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta, Sean Doolittle, Washington, Craig Stammen, San Diego
Max: It would simply be wrong for me to steal your thunder on the Opener, so tell us why we’ve got Hader here first and then I can resume with an impassioned ode to Max Scherzer—the best pitcher in baseball.
Zane: Look, Max. Haters gonna hate, but Hader’s gonna strike out the side in the first inning. I know not everybody is in on the Opener bandwagon, but I was one of the first writers to advocate for it and I still think it is a brilliant idea. Josh Hader has been absolutely brilliant this year and would be my current vote for NL MVP this year if Max Scherzer was not dominating on the mound (and, to a certain extent, at the plate) this year. Hader is striking out an absolutely insane 16.72 hitters per nine innings, has a 1.21 ERA that is above his 1.20 FIP, is allowing only 0.4 home runs per nine innings, and his only weakness is that he is walking 3.63 batters per nine innings. Even more impressive? The Brewers are 26-3 in games where Hader pitches. All I ask is that Dave Roberts embraces the analytics and opens with Hader. That’s all I ask. I know that Scherzer won’t see the lineup more than once anyhow, but hey, do it for the principle.
Max: I like it. Beyond Hader and Scherzer, we have a couple of one-off team representatives with some more deserving than others. Aaron Nola is putting it all together for an upstart Phillies team this year, and his 2.41 ERA, 2.73 FIP, and 3.6 fWAR should have all of Philly excited no matter how bad Markelle Fultz looks! Mike Mikolas has established himself as the guy in St. Louis, and Craig Stammen is putting together a remarkable year that has earned him the spot of designated Padre on our team (sorry to M-SABR favorite Eric Hosmer). Thor and DeGrom are both studs, and Patrick Corbin continues to impress in the desert. And while Ross Stripling might not have been the most predictable choice amongst Dodgers pitchers to make an All-Star appearance this year, his 2.4 fWAR is nothing to scoff at. But wait, who is that with a 5.77 ERA sitting right above Stripling on the fWAR leaderboards, Zane?
Zane: Well, it just so happens to be the current ace of the Albuquerque Isotopes, Jon Gray. Look: Jon Gray really should not be an all-star. He has been roughed up this year to the tune of a 5.77 ERA. He has a 2.81 xFIP, 11.64 strikeouts per nine innings, and an opponent BABIP of .386, but as The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh wrote, Gray gets into a ton of trouble and allows runs at a bizarre rate when he finds himself in trouble. Multiple elite pitchers have needed some time in AAA to work things out in years past; Max Scherzer and Roy Halladay come to mind. Neither broke the advanced metrics quite like Gray has, however, and because of that, Gray deserves to be an all-star (at least on our team).
Honorable Mentions Hitting: Joey Votto, Cincinnati; Brandon Belt, San Francisco; Trevor Story, Colorado; Matt Carpenter, St. Louis; Juan Soto, Washington (not Bryce Harper)
Honorable Mentions Pitching: Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles; Zack Greinke, Arizona; Zack Eflin, Philadelphia; Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh; Tony Watson, San Francisco