The short season was nearly as long as a normal All-Star audition. Who would have gotten the call?
The coronavirus pandemic robbed a lot from the 2020 baseball season, as it did from all areas of our lives. One specific thing we lost was the annual All-Star process. Sure, the whole thing is a bit of a spectacle, and we always complain about the picks. Some folks don’t care about it at all.
But for many of us, All-Stars are one of the fun traditions of the MLB year. In real life we’ll get the All-MLB Team next week, which is weighted 50/50 between a fan vote and a panel of experts, but that’s not exactly the same. It’s not split between AL and NL, and there is no team rep requirement. It’s a consolation prize, but it’s not the All-Stars as we know them.
So let’s make our own! Here’s an imagining of what the All-Star teams might have looked like in 2020. The season lasted 60 games, which would have normally taken us into early June. By then we’re usually at least thinking about who might make the midsummer cut, even if final decisions don’t get made for another month, so this shortened campaign is close enough to be a stand-in for a regular pre-All-Star first half.
I’ve selected a 2020 AL All-Star team, trying to stay true to the real-life rules (we’ll do the NL team in a separate post). That means at least one rep for every club, special treatment for contending teams, an emphasis on offense over all-around WAR, and a splash of name power, while remembering the players also get to vote on some spots and the fans get their Final Vote. And Michael Brantley has to make it, because he just does every single year.
In 2019 there were 32 roster spots, split between 20 position players and 12 pitchers. Since there was a universal DH this year, we’ll assume both leagues have one in their starting lineups, though I won’t be choosing backup DHs. The position splits on the bench otherwise follow normal precedents. Here’s what I came up with, followed by some notes, explanations, and snubs.
- C: Salvador Perez, KCR
- 1B: Jose Abreu, CHW
- 2B: D.J. LeMahieu, NYY
- SS: Tim Anderson, CHW
- 3B: Jose Ramirez, CLE
- OF: Teoscar Hernandez, TOR
- OF: George Springer, HOU
- OF: Mike Trout, LAA
- DH: Nelson Cruz, MIN
- SP: Shane Bieber, CLE
These all seem like easy picks. Eight of them finished in the Top 11 in MVP voting. The exceptions were Springer, who placed 15th and is easily popular enough to get fan votes (even with the Astros cheating scandal); and Perez, who was the only catcher to receive any votes and also had ridiculous numbers this year on top of being extremely popular with fans.
The other high MVP finishers who didn’t make it were simply blocked at their positions, like Brandon Lowe (behind LeMahieu), Luke Voit (behind Abreu), and Anthony Rendon (behind Ramirez). They’ll be on the bench for sure.
This group has the stats and the name power, and the MVP ballot ends any doubt (plus Bieber’s Cy Young win). The starters are cut and dried.
Reserve position players
Now things get trickier. Here are my picks, with the key snubs highlighted in bold text in the writeup below:
- C: Sean Murphy, OAK
- 1B: Luke Voit, NYY
- 1B: Jeimer Candelario, DET
- 2B: Brandon Lowe, TBR
- SS: Xander Bogaerts, BOS
- SS: Jose Iglesias, BAL
- 3B: Anthony Rendon, LAA
- 3B: Gio Urshela, NYY
- OF: Michael Brantley, HOU
- OF: Byron Buxton, MIN
- OF: Kyle Lewis, SEA
As noted in the starters section, Voit, Lowe, and Rendon are locks. We also need Candelario, Bogaerts, and Iglesias as lone reps for their teams, as they fit well on this roster and they really are the best picks from their weak clubs. Lewis might also be a lone rep depending if you agree with my pitching staff — he won Rookie of the Year, so he’s got some extra name power as a tiebreaker in the outfield with whoever else you might want in his spot.
At catcher, it’s either Murphy or Yasmani Grandal. Their basic numbers are similar, and I’m picking Murphy because it achieves a better balance between A’s and White Sox (3-to-4, instead of 2-to-5).
The final infield spot could have gone to David Fletcher, and maybe it would have if the Angels were better, but Yankee Urshela edges him out. This one may have come down to the Final Fan Vote, where you’d have to think a legit New York star would have an advantage. Also in contention on the infield would be second basemen Tommy La Stella, Cesar Hernandez, and Cavan Biggio, and third basemen Matt Chapman and Kyle Seager.
In the outfield, like I said, Brantley is a lock. Every year I think this will be the time he barely misses out, but he’s always there. Each of the last three years, and four of the last six. He has the numbers to make it a borderline call again, but at worst the players will vote him in. That leaves a spot for Buxton, and then one more. It could also have gone to Eloy Jimenez, but Chicago already has enough reps for a Wild Card team, so I gave the nod to Lewis. Alex Verdugo (BOS) and Eddie Rosario (MIN) also received downballot MVP votes.
My pitchers in alphabetical order, remembering Bieber is also there as the starter. There are usually 3-5 relievers, so I went with four:
- SP: Chris Bassitt, OAK
- SP: Gerrit Cole, NYY
- SP: Marco Gonzales, SEA
- SP: Dallas Keuchel, CHW
- SP: Lance Lynn, TEX
- SP: Kenta Maeda, MIN
- SP: Hyun-jin Ryu, TOR
- RP: Nick Anderson, TBR
- RP: Alex Colome, CHW
- RP: Brad Hand, CLE
- RP: Liam Hendriks, OAK
We’ve got the Top 6 in Cy Young voting here, with Bieber, Maeda, Ryu, Cole, Keuchel, and Lynn, and they shouldn’t require further explanation. That leaves Bassitt and Gonzales.
Bassitt finished eighth for Cy, just behind Lucas Giolito, so he follows the same OAK/CHW principle as Murphy/Grandal. Gotta have some A’s, and we don’t need the entire White Sox roster to make it.
The last spot comes down to Gonzales, Dylan Bundy, or Blake Snell. There are no lone rep considerations, as every team already has somebody (unless you bumped Lewis from the outfield, in which case Gonzales is necessary here?). It would be nice to squeeze in an extra Ray with Snell, since they were the No. 1 seed in the league and he has the name power, but his numbers just don’t measure up. (In reality, though, I do wonder if he might make it, perhaps on a players’ vote or a Final Fan Vote.)
That leaves Gonzales vs. Bundy, and their numbers are basically a coin-flip. I choose Gonzales because he’s been good for a few years now instead of two months, and this would be his well-deserved first career berth, and also because the Angels already have two hitters on the squad. Bundy can make another go at it next year.
(Framber Valdez (HOU) also got a Cy Young vote, but, pass. I also passed up Spencer Turnbull as a potential Tigers lone rep, in favor of Candelario at first base. Carlos Carrasco (CLE) warrants a mention too.)
In the bullpen, Hendriks, Hand, and Colome are locks, leaving one more spot. You could argue for Astros closer Ryan Pressley, but his ERA was mediocre despite an impressive saves total, and we already have two Astros — plenty for a losing team. You could also take the shiny ERA of our own Jake Diekman. But the Rays only have one rep right now in Lowe, and that just won’t do for the top seed. Anderson was basically Tampa Bay’s righty version of Diekman, with just one earned run allowed all year (0.55 ERA) and 12 save/holds without blowing any. He gets the nod.
The White Sox and Yankees lead with four reps each, while the A’s, Indians, and Twins have three apiece. The Rays, Astros, Angels, Blue Jays, and Mariners have two, while the Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Orioles, and Red Sox settle for lone reps.
What do you think, Athletics Nation? Should one of my snubs be subbed in for somebody else I picked? Is there somebody else I didn’t even mention? Do you agree with my three A’s reps, and with three being the number we have? Would you re-arrange my lone reps to reshape the roster in another way?
Vote in the three polls below, and then let’s debate in the comments!