We’re about a month and a half into the MLB season, which means we can finally do one of my favorite activities of the baseball calendar: All-Star game roster projections. In this article, I’ll take a crack at envisioning what the American League All-Star game roster will look like when the lights turn on in Seattle on July 11. A couple of rules before we get started:
- For the most part, I chose the players who were statistically more deserving, but I did factor in popularity and narratives into the decisions as well.
- I followed the rule that every team has to have at least one representative.
- This is solely a reflection on what the players have done so far, not a projection of what it will look like come July.
- I tried to make as accurate a roster as possible with 15 bench spots and a pitching staff of 15.
Alright, that’s enough rules. Let’s see who made the mid-May American League All-Star team.
Starter: Jonah Heim (TEX)
The Texas Rangers have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this year, led by an offense that ranks second in the major leagues in runs scored. At the heart of this attack is Jonah Heim, who has emerged as one of the best-hitting catchers in all of baseball. In his first full season as a starter in 2022, Heim showed flashes of offensive upside with a league-average bat and 16 home runs, but he has taken it to another level this season, slashing .313/.368/.519 and leading all AL catchers in WAR with a 1.6. Our next name on the list might get more attention as the future of the catching position, but to this point, Heim has been the clear best catcher in the American League.
Bench: Adley Rutschman (BAL)
In Year Two of the Adley Rutschman Era in Baltimore, the switch-hitting catcher has been everything the Orioles could have hoped for. He’s raised his average by 31 points and his OPS by 43 points from his already stellar rookie season while using his trademark patience to draw a league-leading 32 walks. The only thing you can really nitpick is that he hasn’t hit for much power, as his .444 slugging percentage ranks only fourth among qualified American League catchers. Regardless, Rutschman has had a tremendous all-around season so far and is more than worthy of an All-Star spot.
Bench: Salvador Perez (KC)
It’s been business as usual for Salvador Perez in 2023, displaying his usual all power-no patience-no defense approach for a typically bad Royals team. It’s not the prettiest of profiles, but not many catchers can post an .899 OPS while gearing up nearly every day. Not to mention that someone has to be the Royals representative, and Perez has been the default pick for a couple of seasons now.
Also In Consideration:
Carlos Pérez has played in just 26 games but has already accumulated 0.7 WAR to go along with a .855 OPS. If he continues to hit at this pace as he builds up playing time, he’ll have a strong case for an All-Star bid.
Connor Wong has been a rock defensively this season, leading all American Leaguers in defensive WAR. Yet besides one incredibly hot week, Wong has been a well-below-average hitter, likely costing him an All-Star spot in an unusually strong group of AL catchers.
A red-hit last week has propelled Cal Raleigh all the way to third in American League catchers in WAR. His .230 average isn’t going to excite old-school fans, but he does everything else well.
AL First Basemen
Starter: Yandy Díaz (TB)
For years, Yandy Díaz has been one of the most frustrating players in baseball, as his extreme ground ball rates held back his elite exit velocities. This season, however, he has begun lifting the ball to tremendous results, leading all American League first baseman with 10 home runs and a .593 slugging percentage. He’s done all that while walking nearly as much as he strikes out and leading the league with a .429 on-base percentage. Get ready: There’s going to be a lot of Rays on this list.
Bench: Anthony Rizzo (NYY)
With Aaron Judge missing time and the rest of the lineup underachieving, you can make the argument that Anthony Rizzo has been the Yankees MVP. The 33-year-old is having a career season, batting .308 and ranking second among AL first baseman with 9 home runs. It stands to question whether Rizzo can sustain a batting average 40 points higher than his career average, but he looks on his way to his first All-Star appearance since 2016.
Bench: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)
He may never reach the heights of his 48-home-run 2021 season, but Vlad Jr. is having yet another terrific campaign by doing what he has done for his entire career: Play every day and hit the ball hard. He ranks in the 98th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, expected batting average, and expected slugging percentage, leading to a .312 average that is second among all American League first basemen. He’s a step behind Diaz as of now, but with a little more batted ball luck and a little more launch angle, Guerrero Jr. can easily get the start at first base for the American League.
Also In Consideration:
Ryan Mountcastle has gone deep nine times and been a key cog in the Orioles’ machine, but he doesn’t really do anything else well, and his .279 on-base percentage is 152nd out of 166 qualified hitters.
Vinnie Pasquantino’s development has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal Royals season. The second-year first baseman has played in all 45 games while slashing an impressive .268/.354/.488
AL Second Basemen
Starter: Marcus Semien (TEX)
Marcus Semien is the most unassuming superstar in the game today. He’s not flashy, he doesn’t say much, and you won’t see him on many highlight shows, but you look up in mid-May and he is leading the American League in WAR. The gap is even larger among second baseman, as he leads all AL keystoners in RBI, total bases, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS while ranking second in average and home runs. He is a no-doubt selection.
Bench: Andrés Giménez (CLE)
This is my first real tough selection on the list. On paper, both Taylor Walls and Mauricio Dubón have better numbers, but both the Rays and Astros are already going to be sending multiple players to the All-Star game. Instead, I’m going to select Gimenez, who has had a disappointing season offensively but is 7-for-8 in stolen bases and has played his usual terrific defense. It’s a difficult choice, but that’s what I’m here for.
Also In Consideration:
The aforementioned Taylor Walls has been a revelation for the Rays this year, posting a .930 OPS and a 1.9 WAR after slashing a measly .172/.268/.285 in 2022. His only issue? He plays on the best team in baseball that is going to send multiple, higher-profile players to Seattle.
With Jose Altuve getting hurt, Mauricio Dubón has been just what the Astros needed, leading all American-League second baseman with a .309 average despite not hitting a single home run. Unfortunately, Altuve’s return will likely push Dubon to a utility role and take away his everyday at-bats.
Gleyber Torres looked to have a strong case for an All-Star bid after a strong start to the season, but a .222/.288/.376 slash line over his last 31 games likely sinks his chances.
Starter: Wander Franco (TB)
We are watching Wander Franco’s rise to superstardom before our own very eyes. After an injury-plagued 2022 season in which he played in just 83 games and slashed a mediocre .277/.328/.417, the 22-year-old has come back with a vengeance in 2023. He is a true 5-tool talent, playing incredible defense, swiping 14 bags, and improving his slashline to .288/.351/.500. All told, 2023 should be the first of many All-Star selections for Franco.
Bench: Bo Bichette (TOR)
In any other year, Bichette would likely be a shoo-in for the starting shortstop position. The 25-year-old leads all AL shortstops with a .319 batting average and 8 home runs while ranking second with a 1.9 WAR. Unfortunately, Bichette shares both a position and a league with Franco, which is something he’ll have to contend with for years to come.
Also in Consideration:
It’s been a breakout season for former top prospect Jorge Mateo, who is slashing a career-best .261/.304/.470 and once again sitting atop the leaderboards in stolen bases. Unfortunately for him, that batting line still isn’t good enough to overshadow his fellow AL East shortstops.
Jeremy Peña has had a season very much like his rookie one: plus defense, moderate power, poor on-base skills, and a league-average bat. It’s the profile of a valuable player, but likely not an All-Star
Bobby Witt Jr. has clearly emerged as one of the most electrifying players in the league, homering seven times and swiping 13 bags through his first 44 games. His defense, however, remains a work in progress, as does his plate discipline.
A dark horse for a reserve spot come July is Anthony Volpe. His baserunning and defense have been elite all season, and his bat has finally started to come around.
AL Third Basemen
Starter: Matt Chapman (TOR)
Well this was unexpected. After a three-year stretch in which his strikeout rate ballooned, his average plummeted, and his defense went from exceptional to merely above average, Matt Chapman is putting together a career year. He 2.5 WAR more than doubles any other AL third baseman, and his .318 average, .402 on-base percentage, and .931 OPS are all career highs. And in case you think it’s a fluke, his average exit velocity, hard–hit percentage, and barrel percentage are all in the 98th percentile or better. Buy into this start.
Bench: Rafael Devers (BOS)
After receiving a 10-year/$ 310 million extension this offseason, Devers has shown that the money hasn’t affected his game. His 11 home runs and 46 RBI are both currently second in the American League while continuing to make improvements in his much-maligned defense. He still expands the strike zone far too often and his expected batting average suggests he has gotten a bit unlucky this season, but Devers still has the look of a perennial All-Star.
Bench: José Ramírez (CLE)
The Guardians have been abysmal on offense this year, and the team-wide cold spell has even affected their best player. Despite drawing more strikes than strikeouts, Ramírez has managed just four home runs on the season, and his .457 slugging percentage is his lowest since 2015. Now on the wrong side of 30, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him, but his performance, along with his pedigree, is still good enough to warrant an All-Star selection.
Also In Consideration:
Issac Parades is yet another Rays player having an exceptional offensive season, posting an .847 OPS and six home runs. Like Taylor Walls, however, he falls victim to being on the best offense in baseball.
In a disastrous White Sox season, Jake Burger has been one of the few bright spots, launching 10 home runs and slugging an incredible .726. It’s hard to give him an All-Star spot when he has played just 26 games, but if he keeps up this pace, he’ll force his way onto the roster
Josh Jung has been everything the Rangers could have hoped for as a rookie, ranking third among AL third baseman with 70 total bases. A 53/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, however, is holding him back from even better numbers.
Starter 1: Mike Trout (LAA)
On paper, Mike Trout doesn’t have the strongest case for one of the three AL All-Star starting outfielder spots. His 1.5 WAR ranks only seventh, as does his .506 slugging percentage. Yet the All-Star game is about, well, the stars, and none are bigger than Mike Trout. It’s also not like Trout is having a bad season: He still has homered 9 home runs to go along with a solid, if not quite Troutian, .895 OPS. As long as Trout is doing damage at the plate, he will continue to crack the AL starting lineup.
Starter 2: Aaron Judge (NYY)
Like Trout, Aaron Judge is not having his best statistical season. Part of it is due to a short IL stint at the beginning of May, but his .272 batting average ranks 14th among American League outfielders while his WAR is only 9th. Yet, because he is Aaron Judge, he is always just a couple of games away from getting going, and a recent hot streak has him atop the AL home run leaderboards. It seems to be a pretty safe bet that Judge will be among the leading vote-getters come July.
Starter 3: Randy Arozarena (TB)
Randy Arozarena let us know early on that this was going to be a special season when he dominated the World Baseball Classic, and he has carried that momentum right into the regular season. He’s set new career highs in average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage, and is already halfway to his career high of 20 home runs. His career-best walk and strikeout rates give even more evidence of a player that has put it all together, and it should take him all the way to Seattle.
Bench: Luis Robert Jr. (CHI)
How quickly things can change. A couple of weeks ago, Luis Robert Jr. was the subject of nationwide mocking due to his failure to run out a would-be infield single. Yet one 13-game stretch where Robert launched 7 home runs and slashed .413/.491/.978 and not only are all fences mended on the South Side of Chicago, but Robert now leads all AL outfielders in WAR. A couple more weeks of this kind of production and Robert will do the unthinkable: Overtake Judge and Trout on the AL All-Star leaderboard.
Bench: Alex Verdugo (BOS)
At the end of last season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora challenged Alex Verdugo to elevate his game, declaring that there was more in the tank. Verdugo has responded in every conceivable way, not only hitting for considerably more power and batting over .300 but drastically improving his defense. Verdugo accumulated -5 Outs Above Average in 2022 but has already been worth +2 in 2023, good for the 86th percentile. This is the 5-tool player the Red Sox thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, and his career-best season has him on track for his first All-Star berth.
Bench: Masataka Yoshida (BOS)
Like Robert, Yoshida’s slow start to the 2023 season has been completely forgotten about after a torrid two-week stretch. Yoshida began his major league career by hitting just .167 with one home run through his first 13 games, raising questions about whether his game would translate to MLB. Yoshida silenced the doubters by slashing an unconscious .406/.447/.696 with five home runs over his next 17 contests, a stretch that now has him among the top five in AL outfielders in both average and on-base percentage. Yoshida’s numbers should only continue to improve as he grows more comfortable with MLB pitching, and he should have no problem earning a trip to Seattle.
Bench: Julio Rodríguez (SEA)
Selecting an All-Star team is not just about the numbers. If it was, Julio Rodríguez would have little chance of making the squad. The reigning Rookie of the Year has taken a step back in 2023, posting a .664 OPS and an alarming 28.9 strikeout rate. Yet an All-Star game only comes to Seattle every 30 years, and the face of the franchise needs to be there to represent the team and the city. As long as Rodriguez is healthy, he’s going to be on the All-Star roster.
Bench: Adolis García (TEX)
Adolis García is far from the perfect player. He has poor plate discipline, doesn’t hit for a high average, is a below-average defender, and has only stolen three bases this season after stealing a combined 41 in the previous two. What Garcia does really well, better than anyone in the American League, in fact, is hit bombs. His 13 home runs lead the junior circuit, while his 46 RBI leads the entire MLB. As long as he keeps mashing, he’ll make the All-Star roster.
Also In Consideration:
Maybe we should have taken more notice when Mariners coaches were raving about Jarred Kelenic’s improved mindset while he was blasting dingers all March. Sure enough, the former top prospect has come out of the gate firing, doubling his average from .141 in 2022 to .282 this season to go along with six home runs and eight stolen bases. It was a rough two years, but it looks like Kelenic has finally figured it all out.
I grouped Kevin Keirmaier and Josh Lowe together at the risk of getting repetitive. Both players are having terrific seasons, with Kiermaier ranking second in AL outfielders in WAR and Lowe ranking fifth along with an OPS over 1.000. However, the Blue Jays and Rays are both sending a truckload of players to the All-Star game already, and I couldn’t find room for a reserve spot for these two.
Even though I put the other two Red Sox outfielders on the All-Star team, it is actually Jarren Duran who leads Boston in WAR despite playing in just 27 games. It’s too early to put him on the team now, but if he continues this pace in his new everyday role, he might force my hand.
Cedric Mullins is having a very Cedric-Mullinsy season: A lot of stolen bases, a little bit of power, an above-average bat, and great defense. It’s a great profile, but not quite good enough to stand out in a stacked group of AL outfielders.
AL Designated Hitter
Starter/Reserve Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
Not much more needs to be said about Shohei Ohtani. He’s a freak. He hits the ball harder, runs quicker, and throws the ball faster than any human alive. This season, Ohtanni has even taken his game a step further: His .292 batting average is a career high. Oh, and he’s also homered ten times, stolen six bases, allowed the fewest hits per nine innings in major league baseball, and struck out 71 batters in 53 innings. Because he’s Shohei Ohtani.
Bench: Brent Rooker (OAK)
Heading into the season, it looked like it was going to be an impossible task to pick an All-Star representative from the Oakland Athletics. That was before Brent Rooker turned into prime Miguel Cabrera, slashing .295/.408/.605 through with 11 home runs. It’s fair to wonder how long the 28-year-old career journeyman can keep it going, and he has only slashed .230/.338/.410 in May, but as of right now, he’s earned an AL reserve spot at DH.
Bench: Y0rdan Alvarez (HOU)
Feels kind of weird that we’ve gone this long without an Astros All-Star, but I guess that happens when Jose Altuve is hurt, Alex Bregman underperforms, and Kyle Tucker only hits around the league average and is a disaster in the outfield. Anyway, Yordan Alvarez has continued to be among the most feared sluggers in the game, homered nine times and spitting on enough pitches to accumulate a .388 on-base percentage. He hasn’t quite gotten all the way going yet, as his .939 OPS is somehow only the third-best mark of his still-young career, but he has been an All-Star nonetheless.
Also In Consideration:
Byron Buxton would certainly be among the outfield reserves if the Twins didn’t stick him at designated hitter everyday to keep him healthy. Because he is being judged solely on his bat, Buxton can’t stack up to the other three designated hitters on this list.
Stop me if you heard this before: Harold Ramírez has had a surprising offensive season, but not quite as good as the other Rays on this list.
Justin Turner has been just what the Red Sox needed, working quality at-bat after quality at-bat en route to a .368 on-base percentage and a 115 OPS+. His five home runs, however, pale in comparison to his DH peers.
AL Starting Pitchers
Starter: Gerrit Cole (NYY)
It’s hard to believe that Gerrit Cole hasn’t started an All-Star game or won a Cy Young, but at least one of those things should change this year. Save for one start against the Rays in which he blew a 6-0 lead, nobody has touched him this season. In a league-leading 62.2 innings, Cole’s 2.01 ERA and 72 strikeouts both rank second in the American League, while his 2.7 WAR is bested only by Ronald Acuña Jr. Bet on him to throw the first pitch on July 11 in Seattle.
Reserve Pitcher: Sonny Gray (MIN)
It may have taken eight years, but Sonny Gray has finally fulfilled the ace potential that he showed in his lone All-Star season in Oakland. The key has been in the introduction of his cutter, which along with his nasty two-seamer and sharp curveball, creates an almost impossible task for a hitter. In nine superb starts this season, Gray leads the league with a 1.64 ERA, a 2.02 FIP, and has somehow not allowed a home run in 49.1 innings. As always, Gray needs to prove he can stay healthy for a full season, and his underlying metrics speak to looming regression, but as of now, Gray is clearly an All-Star.
Reserve Pitcher: Eduardo Rodriguez (DET)
Eduardo Rodriguez may be the only Tiger on this list but don’t think this is a default pick. After a rough first season in Detroit plagued by an extended stay on the bereavement list, Rodriguez has not only turned the page, but he is posting career-best numbers. His 2.06 ERA would be a career-low by over a run and a half, and his 1.9 BB/9 is also easily a career-best. Rodriguez would have to tumble quite a bit to lose his status as the Tigers’ lone All-Star, but given how he’s pitched so far this season, that seems highly unlikely.
Reserve Pitcher: Shane McClanahan (TB)
Shane McClanahan might not repeat as the American League’s starting pitcher, but he has put together another terrific campaign. While wins are far from the end all be all, especially when you pitch for the best offense in baseball, it does say something that McClanahan has already accumulated a league-leading seven wins in his nine starts. McClanahan also ranks five in the AL with a 2.34 ERA and is sixth in strikeouts despite only ranking 20th in innings pitched. The one blemish? His 4.3 BB/9 is nearly double his career high entering this season. If he gets that under control, McClanahan won’t just be an All-Star, he’ll be firmly in the Cy Young conversation.
Reserve Pitcher: Kevin Gausman (TOR)
Kevin Gausman was one of the obvious candidates for positive regression after leading the league in K/BB ratio and posting a FIP nearly a run lower than his ERA. Yet while Gausman has somehow improved on that K/BB ratio with a league-leading 12.6 K/9, his ERA remains stuck in the mid-threes. A large part of that is due to one disastrous start against the Red Sox in which he allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings, but Gausman has been underperforming his expected numbers for over a year now. He’s still probably good enough to make the All-Star team, but if he played up to his expected numbers, it wouldn’t even be a question.
Reserve Pitcher: George Kirby (SEA)
Not exactly the Mariners starter you were expecting? As dominant as Luis Castillo has been at times, George Kirby has been better by just about every metric. The one nitpick is that he’s only struck out only 7.2 batters per nine innings, but it doesn’t really matter when you walk just four batters in 51.1 innings. In all likelihood, Castillo’s flashier stuff and better pedigree will earn him the All-Star nod, but there is no denying that, as of right now, Kirby deserves it more.
Reserve Pitcher: Joe Ryan (MIN)
Over his first two seasons, Joe Ryan had all the looks of a good pitcher, but he just couldn’t put it all together. He pounded the zone, struck out batters at an above-average rate, and created deception with a low, three-quarters delivery. Yet his ERA over his first two seasons was only 3.63: Solid, but not representative of his talents. This season, he has once again posted exceptional strikeout and walks rate, but he has cut his ERA to 2.16. No matter what team you root for, it is always fun to see a pitcher fulfill his potential, and Ryan should ride this career-best season all the way to Seattle.
Reserve Pitcher: Framber Valdez (HOU)
With Justin Verlander off to New York, Framber Valdez has taken over the role as ace of the defending World Series champions, a title well-earned after his dominance during both the 2022 regular season and the Astros postseason run. And despite many of his Astros teammates disappointing around him, Valdez has been just what the doctor ordered this season. He’s averaged over six innings a start, posting a 2.84 ERA and career-best walk and strikeout rates. Every season, Valdez has taken another step forward, and this one should earn him a second-straight All-Star appearance.
AL Relief Pitchers
Reliever: Emmanuel Clase (CLE)
It hasn’t been a banner year for Emmanuel Clase. His strikeout rate has plummeted from 9.5 in 2022 to 5.6 in 2023, and his 2.82 ERA would easily set a career-high. Yet because he is still Emmanuel Clase, he leads the league with 15 saves. It may not be his best start, but Clase’s track record still should earn him a spot on the AL roster.
Reliever: Félix Bautista (BAL)
Félix Bautista is the definition of a true outcomes pitcher. He walks everybody, as his 16.7 walk percentage ranks in the fourth percentile among all pitchers. He also strikes out everybody, as his 44.4 strikeout percentage is the best among all pitchers. It’s a crazy profile, but Bautista makes it all work, as he’s posted a 1.35 ERA and converted on 11 of his 14 save opportunities. With Clase stumbling, Bautista is making a strong claim for the best closer in the American League.
Reliever: Yennier Cano (BAL)
How about this story? A year ago, Yennier Cano was a 28-year-old rookie compiling an 11.50 ERA between the Twins and Orioles. Now, he leads all AL relievers in WAR by allowing just one run in 22.2 innings without walking a batter. Nothing about this looks fluky by the way: His Baseball Savant page is a sea of red, with his expected ERA, expected batting average, and expected slugging percentage all ranking in the 99th percentile or better. It takes a special reliever to make an All-Star team without being his team’s closer, but Cano is having that kind of season.
Reliever: Jhoan Duran (MIN)
In this era of explosive relievers, Jhoan Duran still manages to stand out. He leads all pitchers with a 101.5 average fastball velocity, and his upper-90s splitter (yes, you heard me right) has held batters to a .053 average. His control has taken a step back this season, with his walks per nine innings increasing from 2.1 to 4.9, but he has still managed a 1.62 ERA and converted on 7 of his 8 save opportunities. There still may be more in the tank, but in his second MLB season, Duran has all the looks of an All-Star pitcher.
Reliever: Dane Dunning (TEX)
It’s been a unique season for Dane Dunning, but one that deserves to be recognized nonetheless. The Rangers’ offseason spending spree bumped him from the rotation to the bullpen, and he excelled in his new multi-inning role, posting a 1.77 ERA through April. Then Jacob Degrom’s injury forced Dunning back to the rotation, where he allowed just three runs over three starts. His versatility has been a huge reason why the Rangers sit at 27-17 despite an up-and-down pitching staff. Every All-Star team needs a long reliever in case the game goes into extra innings, and Dunning looks to be the AL’s representative in 2023.
Reliever: Carlos Estévez (LAA)
It’s nice to get away from Coors Field. After six years battling the altitude to the tune of a mediocre 4.59 ERA, Carlos Estévez took his talents to Los Angeles and is in the midst of his best season. His dominant start quickly forced the Angels to put him in the closer’s role, and he has converted on all 11 of his save opportunities. Credit to the Angels for finding a diamond in the rough, as it appears they have rescued an All-Star closer from the dangerous grounds of Denver, Colorado.
Also In Consideration:
Kenley Jansen looked like a shoo-in for this list before two straight blow-ups against the Cardinals threw a sledgehammer to his overall numbers. His cutter velocity still continues to be the highest since his prime in Los Angeles, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he gets right back to dominating.
After a disastrous rookie season as a starter, Josh Winckowski has excelled upon his move to the bullpen, posting a 2.15 ERA in his new multi-inning role. He is just a step behind Dunning for the long reliever spot on this roster.
With all the big names in the Yankees bullpen, you can make a strong argument that Ian Hamilton has been the team’s best reliever. He has posted a 1.23 ERA and a 12.3 K.9 over 22 innings of work.
Former top prospect Matt Moore has shown that last year’s dominance as a short-inning reliever wasn’t a fluke. He’s once again posted a sub-2.00 ERA while teaming with Estevez to form one of the most fearsome back-ends of the bullpen in baseball.
Despite a worrisome walk rate, Alex Lange has been a huge reason why the Tigers have managed to hover around .500. He has a 0.98 ERA and converted on eight of his nine save opportunities.