Choosing Up Sides for MLB’s All-Star Game

Welcome to the 2011 MLB All-Star draft! Here at FanGraphs, we were so impressed by the cool format of the NHL All-Stars selection that we’ve decided to appoint two captains and choose sides in the same way. Dave Cameron and I will be the captains, with Dave going first, and each captain picking two at a time thereafter, until each team has 25 players (we refuse to pick a bloated 90-man roster, or whatever roster size they’re using this year).

The requirements are that you fill out a 25-man roster. You draft your starters the way you would a typical ballot – every position is specific except outfield, where you can take any combination of outfielders you like. Each team must also select at least 11 pitchers, to mimic real life. We’re using Chase Field as the game’s venue, since that’s where the 2011 All-Star Game is being held. Finally, the idea is that every player (or darn close) should play, same as the real All-Star Game.

Dave, you have the honors, who’s your #1 pick, and why? (We’ll each give a one-line reason for every pick.)

CAMERON: Albert Pujols. Because he’s Albert Freaking Pujols.

KERI: Tough to argue with that one. With my first pick, I take Troy Tulowitzki. The injury caveat I noted in my “Who Is the Most Valuable Player in Baseball” post doesn’t apply, and there’s no big comedown on park effects either; Tulo will feel right at home swinging for the downs (and snaring grounders up the middle) at Chase Field.

For my second pick, I take Josh Hamilton. Again, no injury concerns here, and unlike in the infield, it’s tough to find truly dominant players.

CAMERON: Because there’s a big gap between him and the next best second baseman, I’ll take Chase Utley.

And for my third pick, I’ll happily take the best catcher in baseball, Joe Mauer.

KERI: I’m already angry (Mauer was mine!) and we’re five picks in.

I’ll take Carl Crawford, just to spite Mauer and run all day, and also so that I won’t really need a third outfielder to cover any more ground.

Then I’ll take Joey Votto, because Canadians are awesome.

CAMERON: Since you’re creating a run on outfielders, and I want another RH bat for my line-up, I’ll take Matt Holliday.

And, because it feels wrong to let him go any further, Roy Halladay please.

KERI: In our first upset of the draft, I’m channeling my inner Mike Rizzo and taking Jayson Werth for some lineup balance.

With my 6th pick I take…Mariano Rivera. Because he’s Mariano Rivera.

CAMERON: It’s on like Donkey Kong. With Rivera off the board, I’m going with Matt Thornton as the toughest lefty to hit in baseball.

Then, because I want an equally nasty arm from the right side, I’ll also take Rafael Soriano.

KERI: AAAANNNND we’ve officially seized on the same strategy. How did I know this would happen?

CAMERON: Because we’re two wild and crazy guys?

KERI: Indeed.

Joakim Soria, come on down – unlike Soriano, whose flyball-heavy ways are going to be nom-nom-nom’d by my beastly hitters, Soria will flourish.

CAMERON: I didn’t realize your hitters could hit a strikeout in the air.

KERI: Hey, I have to hate on at least a few past or present Rays, if only to convince FanGraphs readers you didn’t hire me solely to write about that.

Hong-Chih Kuo, come on down as my lefty bullpen anchor.

CAMERON: I considered Kuo for my next pick, but then realized I could have the same thing in a starting pitcher package, so give me Clayton Kershaw.

And, just to finalize the misery of your three left-handed star hitters, I’ll take Francisco Liriano. Good luck, Hamilton!

KERI: I see your Kershaw and Liriano and raise you a Cliff Lee!

And to counter your barrage of lefties, I’ll take Dustin Pedroia, who smacks left-handers, and will feel right at home back in Arizona.

CAMERON: Well, I could use another RHP to keep the match-up game alive, so I think I’ll take some guy named Tim Lincecum.

Then, with all these flyball guys, I need a guy who can play center and hit a little bit, so give me Ichiro Suzuki.

KERI: I will take Felix Hernandez, because whenever you’re competing against the guy who actually coined the term King Felix, you have to stab him in the heart.

CAMERON: You suck.

KERI: And I’ll add to my pitching strength with the bizarrely underrated, but battle-tested, Jon Lester.

CAMERON: Well, I should probably take Hanley Ramirez now before you make him your backup shortstop just to spite me.

Then, just because Mauer can’t catch the whole game, I’m going to take Brian McCann. Have fun drafting a catcher now!

KERI: Oh you mean Buster Posey, who has much more power than Mauer and isn’t completely neutered by platoons like McCann? Don’t mind if I do!

And I’ll follow that by taking Kevin Youkilis, for versatility and OBP goodness.

CAMERON: Are you trying to win the game or a beard contest with him and Werth?

KERI: I’m taking James Harden too, in case a game of pickup hoops breaks out.

CAMERON: Judges – I believe Jonah has just reserved Rich Harden for his next selection. Please inform Mr. Harden to report to the green room for selection.

Since I want a right-handed pitcher who isn’t broken and occasionally throws strikes, I select Josh Johnson.

And then, one last starting pitcher, because he’s used to shutting games down in short stints – Adam Wainwright, please.

KERI: I love how we’re both not drafting a third baseman until the very last pick, knowing that whoever drafts Evan Longoria, the other guy can have Ryan Zimmerman, and vice versa. You know all my tricks, Cameron!

To mess with your batters’ heads, give me Luke Gregerson and his slider of death.

And to ensure 9th inning drama, Carlos Marmol please.

CAMERON: Yes, it will be quite dramatic to watch him walk in a run with your team down 15-3.

I want a pinch-runner who can also serve as Hanley’s defensive caddy, so I’m taking Jimmy Rollins.

Then, because I could still use another outfielder, I’ll take Shin-Soo Choo.

KERI: All right, time to draft the best high-leverage pinch-hitter money can buy. Welcome, Miguel Cabrera.

Then because I want yet ANOTHER crazy beard on my team…Brian Wilson, of course.

CAMERON: For flexibility and switch-hittingness, Ben Zobrist.

And then, I’ll take Ryan Zimmerman so you can have the inferior third baseman.

KERI: We’re going to test Jose Bautista’s Brady Andersonness by making him my 54-HR rover.

And Brett Gardner can be the late-inning pest, defensive replacement, how-the-heck-did-he-get-here guy.

CAMERON: Because he’s inferior to the same version I’m taking one pick later – Michael Bourn.

And then, because your bench is so RH heavy, I’m going with Andrew Bailey to mow those guys down.

KERI: Well then I’ll have to go Robinson Cano on you (and make Pedroia my bizarro fallback SS option).

Then I’ll take Evan Longoria, just to declare him the best 22nd-round pick ever.

CAMERON: Give me one more LOOGY to combat your LH sluggers – Brian Fuentes and your crazy sidearm action, come on down.

And, to round out my pitching staff, I want Ryan Madson’s change-up.

KERI: My pledge to not load up on past and present Rays has failed…Joaquin Benoit, please join Jose Bautista on my flash-in-the-pan-plus-one-big-game squad.

And Geovany Soto can be the three true outcomes backup catcher.

CAMERON: Well, then, I guess my team is just missing a pinch-hitter or two. And so, I’ll choose the most overqualified player in the history of the game for that spot… Mark Teixeira. Bonus points for being a switch hitter, giving me three guys who can hit from both sides of the plate coming off the bench.

And then, just because every All-Star Game needs some crazy, I’ll take Manny Ramirez. Having him face Marmol should be hilarious.

KERI: I love it!

We need one last lefty to round out the pitching staff, and a guy who could pitch seven extra innings if our epic battle goes long. Cole Hamels, you’re Mr. Relevant.

Thanks Dave. Look forward to seeing you kick dirt at the umps when they inevitably blow a key call for your team, and we both wish for robot umpires. See you in July!

CAMERON: I’ll start ordering champagne for my victory celebration now.


1. Ichiro, CF
2. Ramirez, SS
3. Mauer, C
4. Pujols, 1B
5. Utley, 2B
6. Holliday, LF
7. Choo, RF
8. Zimmerman, 3B
9. Halladay, SP

1. Crawford, LF
2. Tulowitzki, SS
3. Hamilton, CF
4. Longoria, 3B
5. Votto, 1B
6. Werth, RF
7. Cano, 2B
8. Posey, C
9. Lee, SP


Catchers Joe Mauer, Brian McCann
Infielders Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Zimmerman
Outfielders: Matt Holliday, Ichiro Suzuki, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Bourn
Utility: Ben Zobrist
Mascot: Manny Ramirez
Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Francisco Liriano, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson, Brian Fuentes

Catchers: Buster Posey, Geovany Soto
Infielders: Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis
Outfielders: Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista, Brett Gardner
Pitchers: Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez (HA-HA!), Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, Hong-Chih Kuo, Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Luke Gregerson, Joaquin Benoit

Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.

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13 years ago

Hahaha. Great stuff. I really liked what the NHL did this year.

Relievers off the board… a bit earlier than expected, maybe Cameron forced the issue… but a fun read.

Brad Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  Telo

That’s a function of the process. They’re trying to draft the best team for one game which gives shutdown relievers a disproportionate increase in value while also increasing the importance of playing matchups.

I’m actually surprised by the number of starters out there. Also wondering how Adams and Wuertz missed the reliever train as ROOGYs of DOOM.