Last week, we took a look at the American League All-Star roster, so it is only right that we now take a look at the National League’s squad. The same rules apply to the Senior Circuit: 15 bench players, 15 pitchers, and at least one All-Star representative from each team. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the team that will try to snap the NL’s nine-game losing streak.
Starter: Sean Murphy (ATL)
Atlanta knew they were getting one of the best catchers in the league when they sent a collection of prospects to the Athletics this past offseason to obtain Murphy, but it’s unlikely even they saw this coming. His .275 average, .398 on-base percentage, and .549 slugging percentage are all easily career-highs, and he is already more than halfway to his career-high in home runs. Far from just a bat-only backstop, Murphy has also excelled behind the plate, ranking in the top 10 percentile in both pop time and framing. At this rate, the 6-year/$73 million extension Murphy signed before the season is going to be a bargain.
Bench: Will Smith (LAD)
Smith has a strong case as the most underrated player in baseball. He’ll never be among the league leaders in home runs, and he will constantly live in the shadow of Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, but 30 out of 30 teams would take the production he’s turned in over the last few years. This season, he’s taken his game to still another level, with his .317 batting average and .962 OPS easily setting his career highs while somehow striking out only 12 times against 22 walks in 148 plate appearances. In practically any other year, Smith would earn the starting nod, but with Murphy now in the mix, he’ll have to settle for a reserve role.
Bench: Elias Díaz (COL)
Coors Field has been the home to many offensive breakouts over the years, yet even the most optimistic of Rockies fans couldn’t have predicted Diaz’s 2023 campaign. A career .244/.299/.384 hitter entering this season, Diaz currently sits behind only Luis Arraez with a .343 average. The underlying metrics point to some looming regression, as he ranks in only the 34th percentile in average exit velocity and 32-year-old journeyman catchers with moderate power don’t usually become Ted Williams. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with what Diaz is doing so far, and as of now, he gets the honor as the Rockies’ lone All-Star representative.
NL First Basemen
Starter: Freddie Freeman (LAD)
He may have wanted to stay in Atlanta, but Freeman is in the midst of turning in another terrific campaign in Chavez Revine. He once again is hitting .325 and leading the league with 66 hits, 18 doubles, and 113 total bases without missing a game. With all the pieces that have departed the Dodgers over the past couple of years, the addition of Freeman has been invaluable, and he should be rewarded with his 7th All-Star selection.
Bench: Paul Goldschmidt (STL)
It’s been business as usual for America’s First Baseman, who has seemingly avoided all the chaos around him in St. Louis en route to posting his usual MVP-level numbers. He hasn’t hit for the same power as he did last year, but his .401 on-base percentage leads all NL first baseman, and his 2.1 WAR is second only to Freeman. It really is 1A and 1B among National League first basemen, but as of now, Goldschmidt is just a step behind Freeman.
Bench: Pete Alonso (NYM)
If this list was about who was the most valuable first baseman, Alonso would likely be at the top. With the Mets offense sputtering around him, Alonso has put the team on his back with an MLB-leading 18 home runs and an NL-leading 43 RBI. The issue? He’s hitting just .231, and his 1.4 WAR pale in comparison to both Goldschmidt and Freeman.
Bench: Matt Olson (ATL)
At one point, it looked like Olson was not only on track for an All-Star start but possibly in the conversation for MVP consideration. He had a scorching spring training and slashed .317/.423/.650 through his first 15 games. Since then, Olson has still hit for power but has hit just .194 over his last 34 contests. That probably costs him an All-Star start, but his 14 home runs and .362 on-base percentage likely will still land him on the team.
NL Second Basemen
Starter: Luis Arraez (MIA)
With his other-worldly bat-to-ball skills and his “hit em when they ain’t” approach, few hitters looked in a better position to take advantage of the shift ban than Arraez. Yet even the most generous projections couldn’t have seen Arraez’s start coming, as the first-year Marlin seemed to collect three hits every night en route to a .437 average through his first 29 games. He’s “cooled off” since then with a .269 mark over his last 17 contests, which drops his average to a lowly .371. Arraez is a total throwback: He doesn’t hit for any power, he doesn’t run the bases or play defense well, but by simply putting bat on ball, he has made himself into an extremely valuable player. An All-Star starter, in fact.
Bench: Thairo Estrada (SF)
The 2021 Giants succeeded in large part due to their front office’s ability to identify valuable players that others overlooked, and while the team has fallen off since then, Estrada continues to be one of their better finds. There’s nothing Estrada can’t do on a baseball field: His bat has plenty of thump with 6 home runs and a 127 OPS+ while converting on 12 of his 15 stolen base attempts and competently playing a handful of defensive positions. Estrada has come a long way since his days as a depth utility man on the Yankees, and his rise should earn him his first All-Star berth.
Starter: Dansby Swanson ( CHC)
It’s been a pretty underwhelming season for what was supposed to be a stacked group of NL shortstops. Willy Adames is hitting .204, Fransisco Lindor is hitting .227, Trea Turner has just 0.4 WAR and a .687 OPS, and Oneil Cruz broke his ankle in mid-April. With so much disappointment, I decided to give the starting nod to Dansby Swanson, who has been everything the Cubs could have asked for when they signed him to a 7-year/$177 million deal this past offseason. His offensive numbers (.265 average, 4 home runs) are nothing special, but he ranks in the 95th percentile in Outs Above Average, has played in 47 out of the Cubs’ 48 games, and leads all NL shortstops with a 2.3 WAR. With all the chaos around him, that’s good enough for an All-Star start.
Bench: Xander Bogaerts (SD)
Another recipient of a monster offseason contract, Bogaerts finds himself in the same boat as Swanson. After a hot first couple weeks as a Padre, Bogaerts has slashed .175/.298/.268 over his last 26 games, leaving his season OPS at a mediocre .762. His defense, however, has been extraordinary, as he leads the league with 8 Outs Above Average. It hasn’t been his finest first half, but Bogaerts looks on his way to his fifth All-Star appearance, and his first National League.
NL Third Basemen
Starter: Nolan Arenado (STL)
What’s wrong with Nolan Arenado? That was the talk of the town just a few weeks ago when Arenado was slashing .232/.281/.324 with just three home runs, looking every part a 32-year-old who was finally on the decline. That’s when Arenado remembered that he was, in fact, Nolan Arenado, and he promptly hit .439/.455/.902 over his next ten games, including a stretch of five straight games with a long ball. His numbers still aren’t at his typical level, but in a weak group of NL third basemen, it is still good enough for an All-Star start.
Bench: Max Muncy (LAD)
After a .196/.329/.384 2022 season, it looked like the days of Muncy being a lynchpin of the Dodgers offense may be over. Yet while his average hasn’t gotten much better, he’s already approaching his home run total from last season with 15 long balls, helping to raise his slugging percentage from .384 to .503. It’s not a terrific all-around game, but 15 home runs is 15 home runs, and Muncy’s power resurgence is enough to earn him an All-Star selection.
Bench: Jemier Candalerio (WSH)
Getting non-tendered by the Tigers usually signals the end of a big-league career, but for Candelario, his move to the Nationals has sparked a career resurgence. He’s upped his OPS from .633 in 2022 to .755 this season, but the real improvement has been on defense, where he has gone from -6 OAA to 3 OAA. Candalerio now has the second-highest WAR total among third baseman in the MLB, besting the likes of Arenado, José Ramírez, Austin Riley, and Rafael Devers. How’s that for an early-season surprise?
Starter: Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL)
Acuna Jr. may have technically returned from his torn ACL last year, but this is the first year where it feels like he is back to his own self. In fact, he might even be better than his old self, because the numbers he has put up are almost too good to believe. If one were to draw up a five-tool player, it would probably look something like Acuna Jr:
Hit: A .330 average with 28 walks against just 32 strikeouts
Power: 99th percentile average exit velocity, 99th percentile max exit velocity
Speed: Leads NL with 21 steals against just two caught stealing
Arm: 100th percentile in arm strength
The only tool up for question is his fielding, as Statcast has him in the 1st percentile in Outs Above Average (though other metrics are more favorable). Regardless, Acuna Jr.’s collection of skills is unmatched by anyone in the game, and possibly any player since prime Mike Trout. I can talk all day about Acuna Jr., but I’ll just end with this: He should have no problem being the leading-vote getter in the National League.
Starter: Mookie Betts (LAD)
Now on the wrong side of 30, we have started to see some slippage in Betts’ game. Once an exceptional all-around player, he is now just an average fielder and below-average runner, and he hasn’t topped a .270 average in a season since 2020. Yet Betts remains one of the best outfielders in the National League, as he continues to draw walks at a terrific rate, and trading in some average for power has helped him remain one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in the game. It may not be the MVP Mookie of old, but Betts is still safely an All-Star caliber player.
Starter: Juan Soto (SD)
The thing about Soto is that he is always just one game from embarking on a hot streak that few in the game can even think about matching. For the first month of the season, Soto was the face of the Padres’ underachievement, struggling to lift the ball and being far too passive at the plate. Then something clicked on April 27, and Soto preceded to hit .346/.485/.684 over his next 23 contests. Hot streak or no hot streak, nobody in the game can draw walks like the Childish Bambino, as his 44 walks easily top the majors. It says something about Stoto that he can struggle so mightly through April and still have a 154 OPS+ in May. There is only one Juan Soto.
Bench: Corbin Carroll (ARI)
From Triston Casas to Jordan Walker to Anthony Volpe to Gunnar Henderson, it’s been a rough start for high-profile rookies at the plate. The one exception is Carroll, who has looked like he belonged from his first day in the majors. The 22-year-old has all the makings of a future superstar, slashing .286/.380/.509 with seven home runs and converting on 14 of his 16 stolen base attempts. Acuna Jr. may be the present of five-tool, NL outfielders, but Carroll is looking like the future, and the future may not be so far away.
Bench: Cody Bellinger (CHC)
What a rollercoaster Bellinger’s career has been. From the highs of winning NL MVP to the lows of being non-tendered, the 27-year-old was interesting enough for a team to take a flyer despite a .203/.272/.376 slash line from 2020 to 2022. That team was the Cubs, and they’ve reaped the benefits thus far. Bellinger’s .271/.337/.493 slash line is his best since his MVP 2019 season, and he’s added in nine stolen bases and three OAA in center field. He is certainly not all the way back to his MVP form, but Bellinger is displaying the skills that made him so great in the first place.
Bench: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (ARI)
With a surplus of young, controllable outfielders entering last offseason, the Diamondbacks decided to trade one of them, Dalton Varsho, for a…. older, impending free-agent outfielder. It didn’t make much sense at the time, but you can’t argue with the results: The Diamondbacks are off their best start in years, and Gurriel Jr. is a key reason why. His .317/.372/.557 is a career-best, and he has already surpassed his 2022 home run total with eight. Gabriel Moreno may end up being the best long-term piece acquired in the Varsho trade, but Gurriel Jr. is proving to be far more than an afterthought.
Utilityman: Geraldo Perdomo (ARI)
I literally have no idea what to do with Perdomo. Had he had 40 or so at-bats, his .547 OPS in 2022 would have been the worst among qualified hitters, and the advanced metrics (1st percentile hard-hit percentage, 5th average exit velocity) don’t believe he’s made much of an improvement this season. In fact, there is a 104-point difference between his actual batting average and his expected batting average based on the quality of contact. The point is that he had gotten almost unfathomably lucky. At the same time, a .931 OPS is a .931 OPS, and there is nothing fluky about his elite defense. So while I’m not sold on his bat, you can’t argue that his performance thus far isn’t worthy of a utility spot on this mock All-Star team.
NL Designated Hitter
Starter: Nolan Gorman (STL)
One of the top prospects entering last season, Gorman went through the normal rookie struggles in his rookie campaign, showing flashes in between bouts of inconsistency. There have been no such struggles this year, as Gorman has looked entirely comfortable from day one, leading the league with a .612 slugging percentage and a .998 OPS. He’s nearly already matched his home run and walk total in nearly 140 fewer plate appearances while cutting his strikeout rate by over 7%. Whichever way you slice, Gorman has the look of a hitter who has figured it all out.
Bench: Jorge Soler (MIA)
The Marlins signed Soler to a $3-year/$36 million deal to do one thing: Hit bombs. Year One was an unequivocal failure, as he battled injuries all season and hit just 14 long balls with a 95 OPS+. Year Two, however, has been Soler’s revenge tour. He’s already passed last year’s home run total with 15 dingers in over 100 fewer plate appearances, and he ranks in the top 5% of all hitters in both max exit velocity and barrel %. It may have taken a year, but the Marlins have finally found their middle-of-the-order bat.
NL Starting Pitcher
Starting Pitcher: Spencer Strider (ATL)
Strider was everyone’s hot pick for NL Cy Young entering the season, and he has been as advertised so far through 10 starts. His 97 strikeouts and 15.1 K/9 are comfortably the best in the majors, and his 6.1 H/9 tops the senior circuit. In fact, Strider’s numbers could easily be even better: His 2.29 FIP is significantly lower than his 2.97 ERA. It speaks to just how dominant Strider is that he can still be the best pitcher in the National League while dealing with poor luck. Look for Strider and his blazing fastball to be on center stage in Seattle this summer.
Reserve Pitcher: Mitch Keller (PIT)
Many of the Pirates’ key players have fallen off after their red-hot start, but Keller has the look of a legitimate ace. He leads the NL with a .973 WHIP and a 5.50 K/BB ratio while ranking fifth in the National League in ERA. The key difference this season has been the introduction of a cutter that holds batters to a .195 average and allows his four-seamer and sinker to play up. Keller looks to have made the much-desired leap from thrower to pitcher, and it should land him his first All-Star appearance.
Reserve Pitcher: Alex Cobb (SF)
The Giants pitching factory has done it again. Just a few short seasons ago, Cobb was an oft-injured, back-of-the-rotation starter whose fastball rarely topped the low 90s. The Giants rescued him off the scrap heap, helped him add about three miles per hour to his fastball, and watched him transform into a top-of-the-rotation arm who sits second in the NL with a 2.17 ERA. How do they do it? Nobody knows. Let’s just stop asking questions and enjoy one of the best pitchers in the NL
Reserve Pitcher: Josiah Gray (WSH)
To rescue themselves from their rebuild, the Nationals are going to need to hit on a lot of the prospects they acquired in trades, and though they have a long way to go, it looks like they have hit a home run with Gray. After a disastrous 2022 campaign in which he allowed a league-leading 38 home runs, Gray has cut that total down to just five through his first 10 starts, helping him post a 2.65 ERA that ranks in the National League. The underlying metrics paint a far less pretty picture, but Gray has been everything the Nationals could have hoped for this season.
Reserve Pitcher: Justin Steele (CHC)
With a middling fastball and a mediocre strikeout rate, Steele has all the look of a back-end starter, yet he currently sits third in the National League with a 2.20 ERA. So how does he do it? For one, he is a master at inducing weak contact, ranking in the top five percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage allowed. He’s also become more adept at throwing strikes, cutting his walks-per-nine-innings from 3.8 in 2022 to 2.3 in 2023. Even his unassuming fastball is better than it appears, as its 82nd-percentile spin rate allows it to play up. It took a long time for the 27-year-old Steele to get to this point, but he now looks to be the next of a long line of crafty lefties to emerge as top-of-the-rotation arms.
Reserve Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
Did someone say crafty lefty? He may not have the same world-bending stuff as his heyday, but Kershaw continues to carve up hitters better than almost anyone in baseball. He’s compensated for his fastball’s lack of zip by upping his slider usage to 44%, a smart move considering the pitch holds batters to a .167 average. The result has been a 10.8 K/9 which is his best since 2015. The key for Kershaw will always be health, as the big lefty has not made 30 starts since that aforementioned 2015 season. Yet every time Kershaw looks to be nearing the end, he proves that he still has plenty left in the tank. Bet against him at your own risk.
Reserve Pitcher: Bryce Elder (ATL)
I can’t really figure out what Elder does well. He doesn’t have great stuff or throw an exceptional amount of strikes. He doesn’t induce weak contact: In fact, his opponents’ hard-hit percentage ranks in the eighth percentile among all pitchers. His fastball and sinker in particular have been destroyed as opposing batters have an average well over .300 against both pitches. Yet somehow, someway, Elder has an NL-best 2.01 ERA. Is it luck? Probably. But for right now, Elder has earned a spot on the NL All-Star team.
Reserve Pitcher: Zack Wheeler (PHI)
Wheeler is pretty much the anti-Elder. His stuff is fantastic, and his strikeout and walk rates are exceptional, yet his ERA sits at a mediocre 4.11, easily the highest of anyone on this list. Many may believe that Wheeler is having a down season, but in reality, he is still the same ace-level pitcher as ever, with the only difference being poor luck and the atrocious Phillies defense behind him. In fact, his 2.89 FIP is the same as it was last year, except his ERA is nearly a run and a half higher. Don’t get fooled by the surface-level numbers: Wheeler is still one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Reserve Pitcher: Zac Gallen (ARI)
Gallen is the epitome of the modern ace. He takes the ball every fifth day, eats innings better than anyone in the National League, and posts exceptional strikeout and walk rates. Like Wheeler, Gallen has gotten a bit unlucky in 2023, as his ERA is nearly a full run higher than his league-leading WHIP. Strider may have the flashier stuff, but if you needed to win one game, you’d be hard-pressed not to pick Gallen.
Josh Hader (SD)
It’s been a get-right season for Hader, who has rebounded quite nicely from a disastrous first month in San Diego to reclaim his place as one of the best closers in baseball. After posting a 5.22 ERA last season, including a 7.31 mark after getting traded to San Diego, Hader has allowed just two earned runs in 21 innings while posting a league-leading 13 saves. The Padres may be drastically underachieving but don’t point the finger at Hader. He’s been as dominant as ever.
Camilo Doval (SF)
For some reason, Doval doesn’t get enough recognition for being among the best closers in baseball. That sort of thing tends to happen when you play on the West Coast for a .500 baseball team. Regardless, Doval has been as good as ever in 2023, tying Hader for the league lead in saves while posting a career-high 13.5 K/9. It’s about time Doval starts getting the credit he deserves, and it can start with his first All-Star selection.
Alexis Díaz (CIN)
He might always be known as “the other Diaz,” but Alexis has proved he’s more than just Edwin’s little brother. After a spectacular rookie season that landed him the closer’s job by the end of the season, Diaz has been even better in his sophomore campaign, striking out 35 batters in just 18.2 innings while posting a sub-2.00 ERA. Like his big bro, Diaz features a lethal fastball-slider combination, but his breaker might be even better: It’s held batters to a 0.54 average and induced an absurd 50% whiff rate. With Edwin out for most of the season, it will be up to Alexis to represent the family at the All-Star game, and he looks more than up to the task.
Devin Williams (MIL)
In 2009, future Hall-of-Fame closer Trevor Hoffman finished off his career with one last All-Star appearance as a Milwaukee Brewer. Over a decade later, the Brewers find themselves with another changeup-first closer, and he is mastering the pitch better than anyone since Hoffman. Williams. He throws the pitch over 50% of the time, holding hitters to a .133 average and inducing whiffs on 40% of swings. The pitch allows his mid-90s fastball to play even further, creating a one-two punch that is almost impossible for hitters.
David Robertson (NYM)
In a sea of power pitchers with triple-digit stuff, Robertson has had a resurgent season by getting back to his roots. The 38-year-old has remastered his cutter-slider-curveball repertoire, throwing each pitch for a strike and inducing a 35% whiff rate with each offering. The result has been a sparkling 1.27 ERA and an 8-for-9 conversion rate on saves. It’s been 12 years since Robertson last made an All-Star team, but he looks on track to return to the midsummer classic in 2023.
David Bednar (PIT)
Since taking over the Pirates’ closer role as a rookie in 2021, Bednar has been among the best stoppers in the game, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level this season. His control has reached almost unfathomable levels, as Bednar has issued just one free pass in 18 innings. Don’t think he’s just a control artist either: His fastball-split-fingered-curveball combination has helped Bednar post a whiff rate in the 95th percentile and strike out over a third of opposing batters. There’s a lot of great closers in the Senior Circuit, but Bednar may have the strongest case for closing out a potential National League ninth-inning lead
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)