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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

My 2015 American League All Star Team

Continuing my annual look at the best players in baseball, here is my American league squad, which is based largely on past calendar-year splits.


Russell Martin
Starter: Russell Martin (TOR: 5.9 WAR)
Reserve: Stephen Vogt (OAK: 3.8 WAR)

It still seems amazing to me that the Pirates were able to sign Martin to a discounted deal just a few years ago when he left the Yankees as a free agent.  He already had demonstrated significant upside in the major leagues at that point, and somehow had been relegated to a has-been pile despite just being 30 years old.  Now, at 32, he is playing at the best level of his career offensively, and his defensive numbers (particularly his framing) are always top-tier.

Stephen Vogt is the newcomer to the list.  He's a pretty interesting player; if the narrative in this post by Eno Sarris is correct, his emergence this year is thanks to a reversion to a more patient approach at the plate that he abandoned in the minor leagues at the behest of his coaches.  It's not like he was playing in some kind of backwards organization either: he came up with the Rays, and is now with the Athletics.  He's sure hitting now, though.

First Base

Starter: Miguel Cabrera (DET: 6.1 WAR)
Reserve: Jose Abreu (CHW: 4.1 WAR)

Miguel Cabrera continues to be a premier player, which is a good thing for Detroit because his 8-year extension doesn't even kick in until next season.

Jose Abreu is the newcomer; at this time last year, we were just starting to realize that he was for real.  Now we know that he's among the best power-hitters in baseball.  He's also the only White Sox position player who has posted more than 0.5 WAR this season (next closest: Geovany Soto with 0.4 WAR as a part-time catcher).

Second Base

Brian Dozier
Starter: Brian Dozier (MIN: 5.0 WAR)
Reserve: Jason Kipnis (CLE: 4.7 WAR)

Dozier nearly claimed the starting job last season, and now has claimed the top ranking honors among all second basemen.  Now in his age-28 season, he just continues to get better.  This season, he has already cleared 3 WAR, and is sporting a .262 ISO.  This edges him over the equally-impressive Jason Kipnis, who seems completely recovered from his struggles of last season and has once again asserted himself as a dominant hitter.  Dozier provides more power, while Kipnis has a .400+ OBP on the season.

Third Base

Starter: Josh Donaldson (TOR: 7.4 WAR)
Reserve: Manny Machado (BAL: 5.2 WAR)

Josh Donaldson is the best third baseman in baseball.  I know Oakland got quantity back for him when they traded him this offseason, and Donaldson was just entering his arbitration years and thus was starting to get expensive.  But given the salary that Oakland took on in their other deals this winter, I still just can't believe they made that deal.

Manny Machado missed a lot of time last season, but is back with a vengence and is still just 22!  As much as I love Todd Frazier, I see Machado as the only legitimate contender for Donaldson's title as best 3B in the game.  Machado, to this point in his career, has been a good hitter-great defender.  This year, he's hitting brilliantly as well.  He's one of the forces behind Baltimore's ascent to the top of the AL East.


Starter: Jose Reyes (TOR: 2.8 WAR)
Reserve: Brad Miller (SEA: 2.5 WAR)

As has been the case for a few years now, the AL crop of shortstops is a pretty thin bunch.  This year is thinner than most.  Jose Reyes clocks in with the top WAR over the past year, and has a history of excellence, so I went with him as the starter.  For the reserve, it was sort of a toss-up.  I tapped Brad Miller, primarily because Seattle needed a representative and he's performed well in limited playing time.  A league-average bat with solid defense at shortstop is a pretty decent player, and he's posted the second-best WAR totals in the league over the past year in just over 400 PA's.


Mike Trout
Starters: LF - Alex Gordon (KCR: 5.5 WAR), CF - Mike Trout (LAA: 7.4 WAR), RF - Jose Bautista (TOR: 5.1 WAR)
Reserves: Lorenzo Cain (KCR: 5.5 WAR), J.D. Martinez (DET: 4.9 WAR), Michael Brantley (CLE: 4.6 WAR)

While the gap may have narrowed, I still consider Mike Trout the best player in baseball.  I love Alex Gordon, and I gave Jose Bautista the nod in right field because I trust his bat better than I trust Lorenzo Cain's fielding numbers (though I love Lorenzo Cain too).  I have a special affection for Michael Brantley because he seems like such an interseting player: good power, decent patience, all combined with brilliant contact ability.  There are other players who make contact like Brantley does, but they don't have his power.  He's pretty exciting.

Starting Pitchers

Corey Kluber (CLE: 7.1 WAR)
Chris Sale (CHW: 6.5 WAR)
David Price (DET: 6.2 WAR)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU: 5.8 WAR)
Sonny Gray (OAK: 5.3 WAR)

There has been a lot of turnover among AL Pitchers in the past year.  Max Scherzer and Jon Lester moved to the NL.  Yu Darvish is injured.  And we've seen the emergence of Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Dallas Keuchel, and Sonny Gray.  Kluber and Sale are a blast to watch because of their ridiculous strikeout totals.  I've watched several games by each of them this season.  Keuchel is pretty fun because his ground ball rate is so over-the-top compared to most other pitchers, and he combines it with good control and strikeout rates.  Gray I actually have overlooked a bit, and mostly still know him as a promising prospect.  He has almost 400 MLB innings under his belt now, however, and has been fabulous.  I certainly should know him.

Relief Pitchers

Wade Davis
Wade Davis (KCR: 3.4 WAR)
Dellin Betances (NYY: 3.3 WAR)
Andrew Miller (NYY: 2.4 WAR)
Joe Smith (LAA: 2.3 WAR)
Zach Britton (BAL: 2.2 WAR)

I think it's fascinating that three of the top four relievers in the American League over the past year, based on an average of FIP-WAR and RA/9-WAR, are not currently closers on their teams.  Someone has probably already done this, but it would be neat to track how closely the current dip in run scoring is attributable to improvements in relievers compared to starting pitchers.  I'll put that on my to-do list.

Pats on the Head

Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer, Starting Pitcher (4.4 WAR)
Chris Archer seems to have taken a step forward from his already-good performance last season, and is now posting ridiculous numbers: 11 k/9, 2 bb/9, 49% GB rate, and a 2.31 ERA (with other component ERA estimators matching that value).  I could have taken elite-fielding CF Kevin Kiermaier, but this is one of those cases where I don't trust fielding numbers enough to take someone who is generating 2.5 WAR by glove alone.  ...  at least, not when their are other viable options.

Boston Red Sox: Mookie Betts, Center Field (4.2 WAR)
After his phenomental half-season debut last year, Betts' 2015 season has been a bit disappointing.  His combination of good hitting and good fielding at a premium position has already been worth 2.3 WAR this year, however, which puts him at the top of the Red Sox leaderboard during the past year.

Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre, Third Base (4.1 WAR)
Beltre hasn't been very good this year.  He has missed time with injury, and hasn't hit like he did last year (his totals here are entirely bouyed by his brilliant 2014 second half).  I think the bat is likely to come around, however, and he still posts good fielding numbers every year.  His contract has an option for the 2016 season, and it will be interesting to see if the Rangers pick it up.  If not, he seems likely to still get a job if he wants one.  I'll be interested to see how much support he gets for the Hall of Fame once he retires.

Organization Totals

(not including "pat on head" selections)
BAL - 2
CHW - 2
CLE - 3
DET - 3
HOU - 1
KCR - 3
LAA - 2
MIN - 1
NYY - 2
OAK - 2
SEA - 1
TOR - 4

The Blue Jays get the nod for most stars on their squad.  They are currently one game out of first place in the AL East, and I tend to think better things are in store for them down the stretch.  If they can find a left fielder and another starter on the trade market, they would seem poised to make a nice run.  Johnny Cueto might look pretty good in blue, and I'd enjoy watching him carry their team to a pennant.