Picking the 2016 National League All-Stars

Yesterday, I revealed how I would put together the AL All-Star team, if I was given full authority to pick all 34 players. Today, let’s tackle the NL, and for efficiency reasons, I’ll just copy and paste the intro I wrote yesterday. If you already read that piece, you can just skip right on down to the picks themselves.

The All-Star Game is just a couple of weeks away, so it’s time for the annual tradition of deciding which really good players get acknowledged and which really good players get left out. The fact that there’s no shortage of ways to define who should make the All-Star team doesn’t help; is it about just gathering as many big name players as possible every summer, about rewarding the players who have performed the best so far this year, or some combination of the two?

I tend to lean towards rewarding in-season performance, while using career track record as secondary variable to help make the decision when picking between multiple worthy players. Yes, some guys are going to have great half-seasons and end up on the team despite not truly being long-term stars, but I prefer that over jogging out the same 34 names every summer just because they’re the guys we’re used to recognizing as stars, regardless of what they’ve actually done that season. To me, the All-Star Game is a reward for the players who are playing at a high level, and what you’ve done this season is the most important variable in selecting the rosters.

For my selections, I’m adhering to the MLB rules, so we’re picking 22 position players and 12 pitchers, and every team has to have a representative. Yes, even the Twins. Because some positions are performing much better than others — I’m looking at you, sorry sack of 2016 AL catchers — I did take some liberties with how many players get carried as reserves at each spot, but overall, I tried to pick a team that would satisfy the requirements of how the game is managed and still rewards 34 guys who deserve to make the trip to San Diego this summer. And injured players aren’t eligible for my picks, as I’m just going with players who are healthy enough to play in the game in a couple of weeks.

On to the roster!

The Starting Nine

NL All-Star Starters
Position Player Team 2016 WAR Past Year WAR
C Buster Posey Giants 2.5 5.1
1B Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 2.9 5.5
2B Daniel Murphy Nationals 3.4 5.0
SS Corey Seager Dodgers 3.7 5.1
3B Nolan Arenado Rockies 3.4 5.4
LF Kris Bryant Cubs 4.0 7.6
CF Yoenis Cespedes Mets 2.0 6.1
RF Bryce Harper Nationals 2.9 7.4
DH Anthony Rizzo Cubs 2.9 5.0

Posey remains the best catcher in baseball, and while he’s not having as good a season at the plate as he’s had in prior years, his combination of offense and defense still put him at the head of the pack. While he usually doesn’t end up in the conversation of best players in baseball, Posey remains the primary reason the Giants are a contender in most years.

At first base, the NL overflows with quality options; Goldschmidt and Rizzo are both elite hitters who also field well, but one will likely have to start at DH anyway; they both clearly deserve to start, and that’s the only way to get them both in the line-up. The starters up the middle were fairly easy picks, even with high-quality alternatives, as both Murphy and Seager are just having remarkable seasons. At third base, I chose to go with Arenado because Bryant has played almost half his innings in the outfield, and like at first base, this allows for two deserving starters to find their way into the line-up.

In the outfield, Cespedes gets the start in center field over some other worthy candidates in part because of track record; he’s carried over his high-level of success from last year, where the other CF options are more breakout guys in the first half. Likewise, you could maybe make a case that Harper hasn’t been the best right fielder in the first half of 2016, but it’s close, and he’s clearly established himself as an upper-tier performer.

The Reserves

NL All-Star Bench
Position Player Team 2016 WAR Past Year WAR
C Wilson Ramos Nationals 2.4 1.9
C Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 2.2 3.6
1B Brandon Belt Giants 2.1 4.7
1B Wil Myers Padres 3.1 3.3
2B Ben Zobrist Cubs 2.9 4.4
2B Matt Carpenter Cardinals 3.4 6.5
SS Brandon Crawford Giants 3.3 4.9
SS Zack Cozart Reds 1.9 1.9
SS Aledmys Diaz Cardinals 1.8 1.8
3B Jake Lamb Diamondbacks 3.0 4.2
OF Marcell Ozuna Marlins 3.2 3.8
OF Gregory Polanco Pirates 2.9 4.8
OF Odubel Herrera Phillies 1.8 5.0

Ramos was one of the worst players in baseball last year, as evidenced by the fact that his Past Year WAR is lower than his 2016 WAR, but given his stellar first half, you can’t leave him off the team. Lucroy has also bounced back to perform at a high level, and would be here even if the Brewers didn’t need a representative. That they do makes him a very easy pick, though if gets traded to the AL before the game gets played, things would get complicated.

On the infield, Matt Carpenter is only on the bench because some deserving starter had to lose the coin toss; you could easily argue for him over Murphy at second or Arenado at third, but then, both of them deserve to start as well. If you want Carpenter in the line-up over one of those two, that’s perfectly reasonable, but the reality of the 2B/3B depth in the NL is that someone has to start the day on the bench, even though they’re having an All-Star Starter season.And that doesn’t even account for Zobrist, who is also having a great year!

At shortstop, we have the same problem that we had in the AL yesterday; too many great young players. I ended up carrying four to get Diaz on the team — Cozart basically had to be here because the Reds need a representative — but that spot could have easily gone to Trevor Story or Danny Espinosa, both of whom are also having excellent years.

Jake Lamb makes the team as the backup at third base, as his quiet breakout is one of the reasons the D’Backs aren’t a complete disaster despite the implosion of their pitching staff. Being behind Arenado and Carpenter on the playing time depth chart might mean he ends up relegated to pinch-hitting or something, but he’s definitely played his way onto the team.

In the outfield, there are simply too many options to choose from, and no real easy way to sort out who should go and who gets left off from the pool of deserving candidates. Herrera makes it because the Phillies need a representative and he’s their best player; if I took a guy like Dexter Fowler or Carlos Gonzalez instead, we’d end up with Jeanmar Gomez on the All-Star team, and no one should want that. Ozuna and Polanco have been legitimately excellent this year, though of course, so has Starling Marte and Christian Yelich, and Ryan Braun has hit well when he’s played.

Even Adam Duvall wouldn’t be a terrible pick if you wanted to give the Reds their representative that way. Trying to pick just six NL outfielders is impossible, but then again, I’m not sure who else I’d kick off the roster either. The NL is just loaded with top-end talent right now.

The Pitchers

For the listed WARs, I’m just using a 50/50 mix of FIP-WAR and RA9-WAR, since showing both would make the table cumbersome.

NL All-Star Pitchers
Position Player Team 2016 WAR Past Year WAR
SP Jose Fernandez Marlins 3.7 5.6
SP Noah Syndergaard Mets 3.3 5.2
SP Jake Arrieta Cubs 3.5 9.8
SP Johnny Cueto Giants 3.6 4.7
SP Madison Bumgarner Giants 3.1 5.8
SP Jon Lester Cubs 3.4 6.8
SP Julio Teheran Braves 2.6 4.2
SP Max Scherzer Nationals 2.6 4.8
RP Kenley Jansen Dodgers 1.7 2.3
RP Hector Rondon Cubs 1.1 2.2
RP Jeurys Familia Mets 1.0 2.2
RP Seung Oh Cardinals 1.2 1.2

Speaking of loaded, let’s talk about the starting pitchers over in the senior circuit. The only reason I was able to settle on these eight names is because Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg are hurt, and I’m using the healthy-guys-only designation to pick my 34 names; if they weren’t on the disabled list, I have no idea how I’d sort this group out. This is basically a who’s who of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and even without Kershaw and Strasburg, I had to go with eight starters and four relievers in order to fit the guys I thought the game couldn’t really live without. And even at that, there’s no Zack Greinke or Jacob deGrom, both of whom are excellent pitchers having good years.

At the moment, I’d probably lean towards Fernandez as the starter, but if you wanted to go with Arrieta or Syndergaard, that’d be fine too. The depth of arms here is insane, and the order in which you throw them doesn’t really matter much; this is just a collection of aces unlike anything we’ve seen for a long time.

Thankfully, the bullpen options in the NL aren’t quite as exciting, which is why I’m carrying just four relievers. Sure, this excludes some guys having good years, like Fernando Rodney, Mark Melancon, A.J. Ramos, and Arodys Vizcaino, but I’d rather have the extra spot for a starting pitcher, and Seung Oh has been insanely good for the Cardinals, so I’m carrying him as an acknowledgement of the value of non-closing relievers. If you want to swap him out for one of the others, okay, that’s fine, but Oh is a worthy pick on his own merits as well. Regardless of who gets picked for the last bullpen spot, the crazy depth of starters means that this guy probably isn’t pitching in the game anyway.

So, anyway, that’s my NL team, and even without Kershaw and Strasburg, I think it has to be favored to win. The pitching is that absurd, and the offense looks like a wrecking ball too; when Buster Posey might be the worst hitter in your line-up, you’re running out a pretty good group hitters.

We hoped you liked reading Picking the 2016 National League All-Stars by Dave Cameron!

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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szielinski
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szielinski

Dave,

You forgot to include Starling Marte as the starting CF. I’m sure it was an oversight.