The All-Star rosters have been announced, and my first thought at this time is what it always is: Imagine if we had 28-man rosters -- like those I grew up with in the 1970s and '80s -- instead of today's 34-man rosters, which don't even include the inevitable list of replacements that usually leaves us with 75 or so All-Stars. We'd really have some heated debates if the rosters were smaller.
Still, the rosters are never perfectly constructed, so here are a few thoughts. Remember the rules: The fans vote in the positional starters, the players vote for the backups at each position (included designated hitter in the American League) as well as the first five starting pitchers and three relievers, and the managers pick the remaining reserves, including the mandatory one player per MLB team.
Biggest National League snubs: Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates. This one was a little surprising, as I expected the players to vote in one or both. Instead, they went with Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies and Adam Duvall of the Cincinnati Reds, selecting the guys with more home runs over the more well-rounded excellence of Polanco and Marte. Check out the combined WAR (Baseball-Reference plus FanGraphs) of these four outfielders:
Duvall is having a nice season, with 22 home runs and a .559 slugging percentage. His defensive metrics are also good, even though he played very little left field before this season. It's the .290 OBP that lowers his value. His selection is even more odd, considering he had no track record in the majors, while Marte ranks second only to teammate Andrew McCutchen among NL outfielders in WAR since 2013. Gonzalez is having a nice season as well, hitting .317 with 18 home runs, but his numbers are boosted by Coors Field, and he doesn't provide the defense or speed Polanco and Marte offer. At least Marte -- who has never been an All-Star -- was included in the Final Vote for the last player on team. Polanco, who is hitting .297/.374/.521, isn't one of the five players on the ballot.
Biggest American League snubs: George Springer, Houston Astros, and Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers. You could see the Kinsler situation coming, given that he slotted in behind Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano at second. Once Ned Yost decided to go with 13 pitchers and a third catcher (Stephen Vogt, the lone A's representative), Kinsler had no shot because Yost had to select somebody from the Minnesota Twins, and the only reasonable options were second baseman Brian Dozier and shortstop Eduardo Nunez. That Yost chose the career utility guy over the more accomplished Dozier (his OPS is .809, compared to Nunez's .820) is certainly worthy of debate, but Kinsler simply didn't have a spot.
As for Springer, the players voted in Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mark Trumbo as the reserves, once again showing in the cases of Beltran and Trumbo that they don't care about defense, don't think it matters or don't think it matters in All-Star selections. Let's do our FanGraphs + Baseball-Reference WAR comparison again:
This is even more glaring than in the NL. Trumbo and Beltran are glorified DHs playing in hitters' parks. Springer, meanwhile, has hit nearly as well, runs better and plays right field well. It's almost like the players don't know anything about sabermetrics or park effects.
Terry Collins' choices: B+. Collins did pretty well with his selections, as he still had to find players to represent the Brewers, Pirates, Phillies, Padres and Braves. His three automatics were Matt Carpenter, the best player on the board not voted in or chosen as a backup, Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg, but that didn't solve any of the open teams above. Wil Myers was the obvious chose to represent the Padres, and he's a deserving All-Star. Julio Teheran became the obvious choice to represent the Braves. If Fernando Rodney hadn't been traded last week, he could have been the Padres' rep, and Collins might have gone with Freddie Freeman. From here, Collins went with Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers (a good choice as the third catcher), Mark Melancon of the Pirates and Odubel Herrera of the Phillies. His final choice was reliever A.J. Ramos of the Marlins.
Herrera is having a nice season, with a .390 OBP (fourth in the NL). The only other potential Phillies' rep would have been closer Jeanmar Gomez. I would have gone with Polanco or Marte over Herrera and put Gomez on the team (bumping Ramos but keeping Melancon).
Ned Yost's choices: B. Yost was in a bit of a bind, as he had to pick Vogt and Nunez plus somebody from the Rays (reliever Alex Colome). I suppose he could have gone with two catchers and shoehorned Ryan Madson of the A's onto the team, which would give him room to choose another position player such as Springer or Kinsler. He went heavy with relievers and picked five relievers and no starters with his manager choices, which is maybe not a surprise from a manager who won a World Series on the strength of his bullpen. Plus, it hasn't been a stellar year for AL starters, but Aaron Sanchez or Jose Quintana would have been more deserving choices. As it is, Yost will have to replace the injured Wade Davis, so one of those two might make it.
Most surprising All-Star: Duvall. It has to be Duvall, a Triple-A vet whom the Reds acquired in the Mike Leake trade last season and moved to the outfield after he had played mostly third and first in the minors. Others: Red Sox starter Steven Wright, Orioles reliever Brad Brach and Nunez.
NL Final Vote guy: Marte. I love what Jake Lamb is doing for the Diamondbacks, but Marte could help win a game as a defensive sub, pinch runner or pinch hitter. I suspect Brandon Belt might win the vote.
Guy I haven't mentioned yet: Carlos Correa. I would have loved to see him on the team, but Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor were definitely more deserving. It's going be fun watching these three battle for All-Star berths for the next decade.
One note on strategy: With Clayton Kershaw on the DL and Madison Bumgarner starting Sunday (which means he'll have to be replaced on the roster), the only lefty on the NL roster is Jon Lester. The AL lineup and subs, however, lean right-handed. With that in mind, I'd play David Ortiz the entire game. Let Edwin Encarnacion pinch hit for one of the catchers. The goal is to win the game, right?