July 3, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
Filling out the Rostersthe All-Star starters have been announced, and the Japan-Kroger plot to avenge the memory of Gus Bell has been thwarted, let's take a shot at figuring the rest of the AL and NL All-Star teams. Note: I'm not talking about "deserving" here; I'm just playing the home version of the game Bobby Valentine and Joe Torre are playing for real.
For the first time in a few years, it looks like we have a healthy slate of electees. Of the 17 slots decided by fans, only one went to a player who might miss the game due to injury. And even that player, Mike Piazza, may stay on the roster and serve as the National League's DH. The health of the starters makes the process of selecting reserves a little easier.
Let's start in the NL:
Catcher: Piazza's probable inability to catch should lead to the addition of two reserves. Charles Johnson is the easy first choice, with his .307 Equivalent Average and good defensive reputation. With usual suspects Javy Lopez and Jason Kendall having sub-par seasons, look for Ben Davis to make the team, although there's a chance the Dodgers' Paul LoDuca could sneak in. LoDuca has only been a part-time catcher, though, and his selection would be a surprise, even given his .340/.380/.585 performance.
First Base: Ryan Klesko should be an easy call, although with teammates Davis and Phil Nevin also deserving spots, there's a chance one will be bumped. The Reds need a representative, and since the depth in the NL's outfield will probably make it impossible to add Ken Griffey, look for Sean Casey to make the team. Mark Grace probably deserves recognition for his performance, but not ahead of Klesko, which means it will come down to roster numbers.
Second Base: It's not a good year for second basemen in the NL. Craig Biggio should get the backup slot instead of Jay Bell (poor defensively) or Todd Walker (Coorsflation).
Shortstop: It's an even worse year for NL shortstops, with very few players performing at an All-Star level. Neifi Perez has inflated numbers and the best numbers of the bunch, but Jimmy Rollins could sneak in if Bobby Valentine wants multiple Phillies on the team (and they do lead their division).
Third Base: Nevin is a no-brainer here, as is Albert Pujols. The only way anyone else makes the team is if Piazza can't play, Rick Reed is passed over, and Valentine takes Robin Ventura with him to be the token Met.
Outfield: As has become the case every year in the NL, there are many outfielders deserving of selection. Locks include Lance Berkman, Cliff Floyd, Larry Walker, and Vladimir Guerrero. Those four and the three starters give the NL zero center fielders (sorry, Lance), so Andruw Jones or Jim Edmonds should make the team. My thinking is that Edmonds is more deserving, but also more in need of the three days off, so Jones should get the call. This still leaves Moises Alou on the outside looking in, but with the numbers being what they are, I expect Alou to be the player most screwed this year.
That already leaves just nine spots for pitchers. However, the Pirates need a representative, so Brian Giles has to make the team. At least one position player has to go, and this is where I think the Padres might get squeezed. Or perhaps Floyd will be left off the roster, reopening the controversy between him and Valentine. Let's look at the pitchers first:
Pitchers Greg Maddux, John Burkett, Randy Johnson, Matt Morris, and Curt Schilling are on the team. The Brewers need someone, so Ben Sheets makes it. There aren't many relievers having big years, but Jose Mesa has a lot of saves and is the best Phillies' candidate, so he'll go. Jon Leiber has been the Cubs' best starter and is a deserving representative of the league's best rotation. The Dodgers need a player, enhancing Chan Ho Park's already-strong case.
That's nine, which would give the NL 31 players. Look for either Ben Davis to be left off the initial roster, pending a decision on Piazza, or LoDuca to make it with Park left off. That would make just eight pitchers, though, so perhaps Valentine will forego having two backup infielders and take an extra pitcher, be it Park or Shawn Estes or even Kerry Wood.
OK, on to the American League:
Catcher Jorge Posada is the easy choice. The Tigers need a representative, and Robert Fick wouldn't be the worst idea; any Tiger pick this year will have some kind of caveat attached. Einar Diaz will have some support, especially with only two other Indians making the team.
First Base: Jason Giambi is a lock, and Mike Sweeney is there on merit even if he is the token Royal. The Devil Rays' only remotely viable candidate is Fred McGriff, who, in fairness, is a worthy choice this year. It will create a roster crunch, but I think all three of these guys will go.
Second Base: I guess I'm the only one who thinks Roberto Alomar was robbed. Bret Boone can thank the OBP machines in front of him for his honor, but he's not playing any better than Alomar is, and this selection is going to look downright silly in about another three weeks. Alomar makes the team, and that's all.
Shortstop: Jose Valentin's performance in a down year for AL shortstops should earn him a slot on the team, although his lack of playing time due to injury may deny him the honor. Christian Guzman's defense makes him a worthy alternative, though. I'd expect Derek Jeter to be named, regardless.
Third Base: Even with the lousy batting average, Troy Glaus is a worthy All-Star. The Angels don't need him there, though (Troy Percival will make the team), and Torre may elect to pass on a backup and allow Cal Ripken to go the distance. And bat cleanup. And maybe even pitch an inning or two.
Outfield: As deep as the NL is, it's that shallow here. No center fielder was elected, so Bernie Williams will make the team, and Mike Cameron deserves to as well.. After that, it's a crapshoot of decent-but-not-great players, including Shannon Stewart, Bobby Higginson, Magglio Ordonez, and Raul Mondesi. Higginson, Ordonez, and one of the Blue Jays would complete the roster requirement. I could also see one of the DHs, like Ellis Burks or Dante Bichette--no, really--making the team.
There's a lot more gray area with the AL, in part because of the lack of clear All-Star-caliber players, and in part due to more teams with very few candidates. I get 11 definites from above, counting Glaus but taking only one extra catcher and one extra shortstop (in both cases, the Yankee), and assuming just five extra outfielders. That leaves ten spots for pitchers.
Pitchers: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Joe Mays, Troy Percival, and Kazuhiro Sasaki are there. I can't really see Torre leaving Mariano Rivera off the team, so that's six. Tim Wakefield is second in the league in ERA, so even with the low innings-pitched total, I think he'll go.
(I don't know whether they're bother naming Pedro Martinez or not, but I do know he won't be on the game roster.)
I expect either Freddy Garcia or Aaron Sele to make the team, but not both. Garcia has pitched much better lately and has the better Support-Neutral stats, so I'll guess him. Taking both would give the Ms eight All-Stars, which is really a ton, although Torre could leave Cameron home and take a DH...see what I mean?
Two spots left, and there are a ton of pitchers who all look a bit alike, like Jason Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brad Radke, Tim Hudson...I think you'll see Hudson or Radke, with the last spot going to some White Sock from a group of Valentin, Ordonez, Buehrle, and Keith Foulke.
Any way you slice it, the picture in the AL is much more confusing than in the NL.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.