Table of Contents

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My 2015 National League All Star Teams

It's time to talk All Star voting once again, and so here are my annual picks for the midsummer classic exhibition extravaganza.  As in prior years, I'm basing my recommendations for the All Star game on past calendar year performance; I don't like the fact that we don't pay attention to second-half statistics when choosing our All Stars.  Fortunately, FanGraphs makes this super-easy to do, thanks to their past-calendar year split.

Below, bold-faced players did not appear on my 2014 teams.

Catcher

Buster Posey
Starter: Buster Posey (SFG; 6.6 WAR)
Reserve: Devin Mesoraco (CIN; 3.0 WAR; injured)
Alternate: Francisco Cervelli (PIT; 3.0 WAR)

Buster Posey has been magnificent over the past year, and has been worth approximately twice the value of any other catcher according to FanGraphs calculations.  Not only that, but he also tops Baseball Prospectus's rankings for Framing Runs added this year at 10 runs above average, so he's good at that as well.  He walks almost as much as he strikes out (and he has incredibly low strikeout rates), he hits for good power, and has played 147 games in the past year by manning first base.  There's talk that he might eventually have to move out from behind the plate, but that has to be a difficult proposition given how amazing he is back there.

Francisco Cervelli shocked me, but all of his PA's have happened in the past calendar year.  The last time he had even 300 PA's in a season was 2012 with the Yankees AAA affiliate.  But now that he's both healthy and being given a chance, he's showing himself to be a pretty nice hitter.  Sure, the .400 BABIP will come down, but a solid hitter and a top-tier framer?  The Pirates are looking pretty darn smart.

First Base

Anthony Rizzo (CHC; 5.7 WAR)
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI; 5.3 WAR)

Rizzo is the newcomer (he "merely" earned a pat on the head last year as the Cubs representative), but as the Reds just witnessed first-hand, he has really come into his own in Chicago and might just be the best first baseman in baseball.  He's at the top of the leaderboard, if nothing else.  Rizzo's calling card is his power, but he gets on base thanks to decent walk rates and excellent contact rates.

Second Base

Joe Panik (SFG; 4.0 WAR)
Howie Kendrick (LAD; 4.0 WAR)

Although their overall value pegs out as identical over the past year, Panik gets the nod here over Kendrick because he has done so in fewer PA's, because he's having the better 2015 season, and it's fun to vote for young guys.  I don't remember Panik being much of a prospect as far as ballyhoos go, but he's having himself a terrific start to his career with the Giants.  The 24-year old is hitting for good power this season (mostly doubles), has outstanding contact skills, and holds his own in the infield.

Third Base

Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier (CIN; 5.6 WAR)
Anthony Rendon (WAS; 4.4 WAR)

For the second-straight year, Frazier is my starter in the National League at the hot corner.  I really enjoy watching Frazier in the field; he has good hands, but for me what seems to set him apart is his ability to make such good, strong, accurate throws from almost any position.  Offensively, while he is an aggressive hitter and often seems to lunge at balls low and away, he somehow gets enough barrel on balls to hit them with power when he does so.  Or, at least, he can hit them in the air over the infielders heads.  2015 is, so far, easily the best year of his career.  Two causes: one, a lower strikeout rate, and two, a major drop in his ground ball rate.  Almost everything he hits goes into the air, and he has enough power to do serious damage.

There's a bit of a snub with the reserve here, where I took Anthony Rendon over Josh Harrison.  Harrison actually had slightly more WAR (4.5), but Rendon got his total despite missing time with injury.  And, frankly, he's a guy I really like.  And I picked him last year.  Still, with Harrison being a Princeton High grad, I feel a little bad about.  I ended up taking him as an outfielder below...kind of a stretch, but he has played there.

Shortstop

Jhonny Peralta
Jhonny Peralta (STL: 5.5 WAR)
Brandon Crawford (SFG; 3.5 WAR)

This is a pretty thin position.  Peralta, though, continues to be one of the most interesting players I've seen.  When with the Indians, he was moved off of shortstop due to significant concerns about his ability to field the position.  The Tigers signed him and plugged him back at shortstop, but just about everyone thought this was a foolish move; would he hit enough to make up for his defense?  Not only did he do that, but he actually has become one of the best fielders at his position.  The how is still a bit unclear to me, but a) he very rarely makes mistakes, and b) he seems to be incredibly good at both positioning and reading the ball off the bat (or, maybe, reading the bat before it even hits the ball?). Regardless, he's easily been the best shortstop in baseball over the past year.

Outfield

Starters: LF: Giancarlo Stanton (MIA: 5.2 WAR); CF: Andrew McCutchen (PIT: 5.0 WAR), RF: Bryce Harper (WAS: 5.7 WAR)
Reserves: Josh Harrison (PIT: 4.5 WAR), Starling Marte (4.2 WAR), Denard Span (4.0 WAR)

Of Harper's 5.7 WAR over the past 365 days, 4.6 of them have come this season.  He has nearly a full win lead over the next-best player (Josh Donaldson: 3.8 WAR), has an OBP we haven't really seen since Barry Bonds (.479), a 20% walk rate, an equal strikeout rate, and has shown a huge drop in his ground ball rate to help his other-worldly power play up.  I still think Mike Trout is a better ballplayer, but Harper's actually making me question that.  How fun; those two players have always been tied to one another, and now we're seeing both of them making good on their promise.

Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw (LAD: 8.2 WAR)
Max Scherzer (WAS: 6.5 WAR)
Cole Hamels (PHI: 5.6 WAR)
Jacob deGrom (NYM: 5.5 WAR)
Jake Arrieta (CHC: 5.2 WAR)

Here I'm using an average of RA9-WAR (based purely on runs allowed per nine) and normal fWAR (based on FIP) in an effort to recognize that FIP doesn't catch everything that is within a pitcher's skillset.  Clayton Kershaw once again leads the way, and rightly so.  Jake Arrieta and Jacob deGrom were the two surprises for me.  Reigning rookie of the year deGrom has long been throwing well, but I guess I didn't realize how well.  And while I knew that Arietta had a great season last year, I overlooked him this year...likely because the Reds missed him when they faced the Cubs last week.

Relievers

Aroldis Chapman (CIN: 2.4 WAR)
Drew Storen (WAS: 2.3 WAR)
Ken Giles (PHI: 2.2 WAR)
Kenley Jansen (LAD: 2.1 WAR)
Jonathan Papelbon (PHI: 2.1 WAR)

Aroldis Chapman has seemed mortal in recent weeks, but over the past calendar year he has arguably been the best reliever in the league.  It's curious that one team recently rumored to be interested in him is the Washington Nationals, who control the second name on this list.  A Storen-Chapman combination, played to maximize platoon advantage, would be brutal in late innings.  I didn't expect the Phillies' bullpen to rank out so well.  Ken Giles, in particular, is a revelation.  He has been walking a few more this season, but the 24-year old has a 1.49 ERA (and a 2.27 SIERA) in 72 innings between this and last year.  I completely overlooked him in my recent Phillies preview.


Pats on the Head

(players selected as team representatives despite not making the cut above)

Freddie Freeman
Atlanta: Freddie Freeman, 1B (4.7 WAR)
Colorado: Nolan Arenado, 3B (3.7 WAR)
Milwaukee: Carlos Gomez, CF (3.0 WAR)
San Diego: Tyson Ross, SP (3.3 WAR)


Team Totals

ARI - 1
ATL - 0
CHC - 2
CIN - 3
COL - 0
LAD - 3
MIA - 1
MIL - 0
NYM - 1
PHI - 3
PIT - 4
SDP - 0
SFG - 3
STL - 1
WAS - 5
(not including pat-on-head selections)

After placing second in the "Star Counts," the Nationals take the lead this year.  They've had a fairly disappointing season thus far, but I still like them to take their division when it's all said and done.  They're only 1.5 games behind the Mets.