Major League Baseball announced 2016 All-Stars for the American League and National League on July 5. Pundits are already pegging the year’s biggest snubs, but how about we focus on the positive and determine the most deserving All-Stars in the AL and NL?
Although more praiseworthy players will undoubtedly be left home during the All-Star break, voters (and managers) tend to make the right call. Though fans tend to lionize legends well past their prime — Derek Jeter starting at shortstop in the 2014 All-Star Game — they’ve also exhibited the ability to recognize young talents with lower profiles. The AL’s starting infield this year will be the youngest in All-Star history, with all four players being 26 or younger.
Note: All stats referenced are accurate through July 5 and visualizations will update automatically.
Despite being 40 years old, having more than 2,000 games played on his odometer and countless high-stress (well, maybe not for him) playoff appearances under his belt, David Ortiz is somehow putting together arguably the best season of his professional career.
With a .337/.429/.670 slash line through 77 games played, only Big Papi’s on-base percentage isn’t sitting at a career best. His OPS of 1.100 and slugging percentage of .670 are the top marks in all of baseball. His 34 doubles also lead the Majors. He ranks No. 3 in batting average and boasts a top-20 WAR despite not playing in the field.
It’s nothing short of remarkable how well Ortiz has handled the bat in 2016. Despite his advanced age, Ortiz’s isolated power of .333 leads every qualified hitter. On top of his ability to hit the ball to the gaps and over outfield walls is his plate discipline and batting eye.
As one of the best power hitters in the game, Ortiz has also managed to avoided strikeouts better than ever before. His 12.6 percent strikeout rate is the best of his illustrious career.
Add in the fact that Ortiz plans to retire at season’s end, and there’s no better choice for the designated hitter spot in the AL this year. He’s putting together what could wind up as the best farewell tour in MLB history.
Update: And, as of July 6, Big Papi has 20 home runs — his 15th consecutive 20-homer season.
Despite a diminutive 5-foot-6 frame, Jose Altuve continues to prove that height doesn’t measure heart. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is by far the most deserving All-Star second baseman in the AL, as his numbers are superior to his positional peers nearly across the board.
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
No disrespect to Cleveland Indians’ right-hander Danny Salazar — who leads AL pitchers in WAR (4.0) and ERA (2.36) — but Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale has done enough to separate himself from the pack.
Sale’s 118 strikeouts rank third in the AL behind David Price and Chris Archer — two guys sputtering with vastly inferior ERAs. Sale’s WHIP of 0.98 is tops in the AL and fourth overall in the Majors. He’s been a true work horse as well, logging 120 innings pitched in 17 starts to lead the American League.
The lanky lefty has left his mark and been one of the few bright spots for a ChiSox team that has tanked in the standings after a sterling 23-10 start.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
In a game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 27, Kris Bryant made history by becoming the first player in MLB ever to go 5-for-5 with three homers and two doubles in a single game.
According to the Chicago Tribune, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, Bryant’s outburst was just the third time in league history a player hit for extra bases in every at-bat — joining Josh Hamilton (2012) and Joe Adcock (1954), who each slugged four homers and a double.
The power surge was emblematic of a stellar month for Bryant, as he mashed 11 homers in June. Through July 5, the youngster leads the Majors with 25 big flies.
At the heart of Bryant’s increased power are his tendencies to pull the ball and hit it hard. According to FanGraphs, Bryant’s hard-hit percentage is up to 41.6 percent from 37.5 percent a season ago. He’s also pulling the ball 48.1 percent of the time compared to 41.6 percent of batted balls as a rookie.
Bryant’s made plenty of adjustments at the dish since his first go-around in the pros, and he’s somehow not missing a beat.
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though Clayton Kershaw will miss the Midsummer Classic due to a lower-back injury (presumably from carrying the Dodgers on his shoulders since the season began), the three-time Cy Young winner was quite clearly the best pitcher in baseball before being sidelined.
By both WHIP and ERA, Kershaw is in the stratosphere compared to his pitching peers as the best in each category by a wide margin.
Also, despite starting 16 games compared to Johnny Cueto (17 starts) as well as Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer (18 starts), Kershaw ranks second among the four in innings pitched. The Dodgers are 14-2 in games he’s started and 34-36 with anyone else on the bump.
Without Kershaw, LA wouldn’t even be sniffing a wild card spot.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager leads all National League shortstops with a WAR of 3.9. According to FanGraphs, that’s 0.6 WAR ahead of second-place Brandon Crawford and more than double the WAR of starting NL shortstop Addison Russell (1.8).
Seager also leads all NL shortstops in OPS, runs, doubles (tied) and hits, where he’s the only guy with more than 100.
The young lefty hitter has done most of his damage against right-handed pitching, with an OPS of .946 against right-handers this season.
After a stellar 27-game debut last season — which included a .337/.425/.561 slash line to accompany four homers and 17 RBI — Seager hasn’t disappointed in his first full season by producing as one of the game’s best shortstops. At just 22 years old, he has a brilliantly bright future ahead of him.