Major League Baseball will announce the rosters for the All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon. Seconds later, fans and media members will begin debating the makeup of the American League and National League squads.
It's a summer tradition, after all.
As usual, the fans will make a few strange choices in their voting for the starting lineups, the players will make some odds decisions in their balloting for some of the pitchers and reserves, and AL manager Ron Washington of the Rangers and his NL counterpart Bruce Bochy of the Giants will show some bias toward their own teams in filling out the rosters.
Because everyone loves a good baseball argument, especially when it comes to the All-Star Game, let's get this one started early with my annual picks for the Midsummer Classic. As usual, I relied on some of our proprietary metrics here at Baseball Prospectus to help guide my selections, such as Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), True Average (TAv), Fair Run Average (FRA), and Skills Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA).
I also followed MLB's rules when it comes to selecting the rosters, meaning every team must be represented and each league must have at least 14 pitchers on its staff in case the game lasts 25 innings. All stats are through Monday.
First baseman: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (.361/.415/.611, .356 TAv, 5.5 WARP). The Red Sox paid a steep price in prospects to the Padres to acquire him last winter, and the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter has certainly been worth it so far.
Second baseman: Ben Zobrist, Rays (.271/.351/.481, .306, 2.9). Zorilla has become one of the most valuable players in the game, thanks to his ability to both play multiple positions and produce offensively.
Third baseman: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (.300/.377/.513, .311, 3.2). So much for the idea that A-Rod was starting to slip.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (.295/.346/.502, .308, 2.5). He has had a breakout season on both sides of the ball, though he has cooled at the plate in recent weeks.
Catcher: Alex Avila, Tigers (.304/.375/.542, .335, 3.3). He is rapidly becoming one of the premier young players in the game, yet it seems that few people have taken notice.
Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox (.311/.391/.582, .337, 2.4). So much for the idea that Big Papi was starting to slip.
Outfielder: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (.328/.469/.656, .392, 5.4). He has emphatically proven that his monster 2010 was not a fluke by being the best player in baseball through the first half of 2011.
Outfielder: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (.303/.365/.461, .301, 3.5). He has put his injury-riddled 2010 behind him and cemented himself as one of the game's premier leadoff hitters.
Outfielder: Curtis Granderson, Yankees (.276/.360/.572, .324, 3.1). He has carried his last-season surge into 2011 while continuing to avoid his former struggles against southpaws.
Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Tigers (2.38 ERA, 3.58 FRA, 2.97 SIERA, 2.2 WARP). He hasn't necessarily been the best pitcher in the AL this season, but nobody can dominate a game like Verlander, and it would be fun to see him face an All-Star lineup for two innings.
Pitchers: Daniel Bard, Red Sox (0.8 WARP); Aaron Crow, Royals (0.8); Gio Gonzalez, Athletics (1.8); Dan Haren, Angels (1.7); Felix Hernandez, Mariners (2.0); Brandon League, Mariners (0.4); David Price, Rays (2.4); Mariano Rivera, Yankees (0.6); CC Sabathia, Yankees (2.0); Sergio Santos, White Sox (0.8); James Shields, Rays (2.2); Jordan Walden, Angels (0.8); Jered Weaver, Angels (3.1).
Position players: C-Carlos Santana, Indians (1.7 WARP); C-Matt Wieters, Orioles (1.1); 1B-Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (3.1); 2B-Howie Kendrick, Angels (1.6); 2B-Ian Kinsler, Rangers (2.3); 3B-Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (2.9); SS-Jhonny Peralta, Tigers (2.3); OF-Alex Gordon, Royals (3.2); OF-Matt Joyce, Rays (2.4); OF-Carlos Quentin, White Sox (1.9); OF-Denard Span, Twins (2.4).
Second baseman: Rickie Weeks, Brewers (.290/.360/.498, .297, 3.0). He has blossomed into the star player that the Brewers always thought he could be.
Third baseman: Chase Headley, Padres (.300/.397/.408, .298, 1.7). The NL hot corner offers a very weak field, but Headley has been an on-base machine for an otherwise awful offense.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Mets (.341/.385/.514, .322, 3.8). Like Fielder, he is set to hit the jackpot this upcoming winter as another under-30 free agent coming off a huge year.
Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves (.307/.384/.528, .317, 3.1). He continues to put up big numbers every year without drawing much attention.
Outfielder: Ryan Braun, Brewers (.308/.390/.554, .329, 3.2). The Brewers have committed to him as their franchise player, and his performance has been worthy of that distinction.
Outfielder: Matt Kemp, Dodgers (.336/.422/.636, .373, 4.6). With his focus on baseball instead of celebrity, he has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season in Chavez Ravine.
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (.285/.388/.463, .309, 3.1). He is the cornerstone player for a franchise that is finally starting to emerge from the abyss of 18 consecutive losing seasons.
Pitchers: Madison Bumgarner, Giants (3.1 WARP); Roy Halladay, Phillies (2.6); Cole Hamels, Phillies (3.0); Joel Hanrahan, Pirates (1.0); Jair Jurrjens, Braves (1.8); Craig Kimbrel, Braves (1.1); Cliff Lee, Phillies (3.3); Francisco Rodriguez, Mets (0.7); Tim Stauffer, Padres (3.3); Huston Street, Rockies (0.4); Jonny Venters, Braves (1.3); Brian Wilson, Giants (0.8); Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals (2.7).
Position players: C-Yadier Molina, Cardinals (0.9 WARP); C-Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (1.8); 1B-Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (2.9); 1B-Joey Votto, Reds (2.9); 2B-Danny Espinosa, Nationals (2.2); 3B-Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks (1.8); SS-Starlin Castro, Cubs (1.9); SS-Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (2.3); OF-Lance Berkman, Cardinals (2.5); OF-Hunter Pence, Astros (2.1); OF-Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (2.7); OF-Shane Victorino, Phillies (2.4).
Rumors and Rumblings:
Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright is hoping to beat some long odds and be ready to pitch in late September and the postseason after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February. Wainwright has financial incentive to rush back because options for $9 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013 would be triggered if he is on the active roster at the end of the season… The Phillies will go with a combination of left-hander Antonio Bastardo and right-hander Michael Stutes to finish games now that they are down to their fourth-string closer with Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson all on the disabled list… The Giants have decided to switch back to Miguel Tedada at shortstop as rookie Brandon Crawford has struggled at the plate in his first taste of the major leagues… The Rangers continue to push hard to acquire an eighth-inning reliever to set up closer Neftali Feliz, who would also be under club control next season and could move into the closer role while Feliz shifts to the rotation. Two pitchers whom the Rangers have interest in that fit the criteria are the Padres' Mike Adams and the Nationals' Tyler Clippard… The Nationals, who entered Tuesday 4 1/2 games out in the NL wild card standings, are willing to make trades to help their playoff chances this season but only want players under club control beyond 2011. One deal they have discussed is acquiring center fielder Julio Borbon from the Rangers for Clippard.
Marlins utility player Emilio Bonifacio: "He has his limitations, but he's the type of player that (manager) Jack McKeon has a knack for getting the most out of. Jack won't overexpose him, and he'll find situations where he can succeed. It's too bad the guy has never learned how to use his speed to get on base, because he's as fast as anybody in the game."
Athletics right fielder David DeJesus: "I know his numbers are terrible, but I'd buy low on him if I were a contender. He still has a really good eye, and I don't see any holes in his swing. I know he's better than a .225 hitter."
Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez: "The thing that really strikes me about him, especially for such a veteran, is that he looks really antsy this year when he's hitting with runners in scoring position or the game on the line. He looks like he can't wait to get the at-bat over with."
Brewers right-hander Kameron Loe: "He's turned into one of the best set-up men in the league since coming back from Japan. What I like about him is he doesn’t mess around. He comes right after the hitters and dares them to hit it. He's much more aggressive than he was when he was starting."
Mets shortstop Jose Reyes: "I know teams aren't as willing to give up prospects in trades like they used to, but the Mets need to leverage him into something good at the deadline. The way he's playing, he will be a difference-maker for whatever team gets him, and the Mets have to make sure they get full value for that. Sandy Alderson is a smart guy, and he could really set that club up for the future with the right trade."