The MLB All-Star break has arrived, and an array of the game's finest have gathered in San Diego for Tuesday night's All-Star Game. It may have evolved into more of an exhibition over the past couple decades, but the game retains a great deal of personal, albeit mostly sentimental, meaning to me. The showdowns of the early 1970s continue to live in my mind's eye, as the contemporary matchups will for a new generation of fans.
Each game has its own unique cast of characters. Some players are perennials, while others are having their singular moment in the sun thanks to exuberant fan voting, an aberrant first half, the need for a club to have a representative, an injury -- you name it.
As we did last season, let's rank every All-Star, including replacements and the players they replaced, by the relative likelihood that they would have made it to an All Star Game based on their respective amateur and minor league pedigrees. Throughout, I will reference my annual minor league position player and starting pitcher rankings, based on performance and age relative to league/level. I've been preparing these lists since 1993; they basically serve as master follow lists, with the order tweaked afterward based on traditional scouting methods.
Ten of the 17 no-brainers from last year's list are back -- repeats are noted in parentheses -- with 12 new players joining them.
1. Bryce Harper (repeat): Last year's No. 1 repeats in that spot. Not much to be said here: When even casual baseball fans know your name not long after your first day of high school, you're the bluest of blue-chippers. Harper blasted through the minors, ranking No. 3 on my minor league position-player list after being drafted first overall at age 17, the definition of a slam dunk All-Star.
2. Stephen Strasburg: The Nats sure did pick the right years to get the first overall pick. Strasburg, the first overall selection in 2009, raced through the minors as well, ranking fourth on my minor league pitching rankings in 2010. Harper rates a slight edge, as Strasburg didn't break into the national consciousness until the summer after his freshman college season.
3. Kris Bryant (repeat): The second player taken in 2013, Bryant rampaged through the minors, ranking second on my minor league position-player list the following season. Highly regarded but unsignable out of high school, he put on quite a show at a Mariners pre-draft workout in 2010 when I was a member of their front office.