The 91st All-Star Game would have been played Tuesday, and it would have been a wonderful celebration of the sport's best players at Dodger Stadium. Instead, for the first time since 1945, there is no game, so the American League will carry its seven-game winning streak into 2021 at Atlanta's Truist Park, with Dodger Stadium now scheduled to host the 2022 festivities.
When World War II caused the cancellation of the 1945 game, the leagues selected rosters anyway, so in that tradition, let's select imaginary 2020 All-Star rosters. The difference: Regular-season baseball was played in 1945, but there has been no baseball in 2020. So here's what I'm doing: predicting All-Star rosters based on what will happen over the abbreviated season.
I'll stick with the regular All-Star roster rules: 32 players for each league, including 20 position players and 12 pitchers. Since the National League is using the designated hitter this season, we'll also select two DHs for the NL, as required in the AL. For this exercise, we'll predict who the fans would elect as the starters, as they do in real life, then fill out the rest of the rosters.
National League starters
St. Louis fans certainly would have made Yadier Molina a possible starter in what might be his final season in a Cardinals uniform, but Realmuto is clearly the best all-around catcher in the game, and Molina hasn't started an All-Star Game since 2013.
Freddie Freeman won the vote a year ago, but Alonso's 53-homer season made him one of the most recognizable players in the game. This is predicated on Alonso proving 2019 wasn't a fluke season. It wasn't. He'll continue mashing, and I predict he'll once again lead the NL in home runs.
Marte had a breakout season in 2019, finishing fourth in the MVP voting after hitting .329/.389/.592. The Diamondbacks added Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun, so Ketel Marte becomes the full-time second baseman after moving back and forth between second and center last year.
Anthony Rendon has departed to the AL, making this an easier choice. Arenado has started the past three All-Star Games and has made five in a row, and his year-to-year consistency makes him one of the best all-around players in the game.
One of the most popular players in the sport, Baez started last year's game. And while there's an argument for Trevor Story of the Rockies as the best shortstop in the NL (they're basically dead even in WAR over the past two seasons), Baez has the highlight-reel factor in his favor to win the fan voting. Dark horse: Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres. If he hits like he did last year, Tatis could become the fan favorite, despite the disadvantage in market size.
Good luck selecting three starters from the deep pool of NL outfielders. We'll give the first slot to the reigning NL MVP, who should be playing center field on a regular basis, with new teammate Mookie Betts in right. Bellinger won a Gold Glove in right field, but his instincts are so impressive that it wouldn't be shocking to see him win a Gold Glove in center, as well.
After nearly going 40-40 in 2019 and finishing fifth in the MVP voting, Acuna cemented himself as not just one of the most exciting players in the game but one of the best. At just 22, he already has one All-Star start under his belt, and many more are in his future.
We still have Yelich, Betts, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper on the board. It's hard to pick against Yelich after he led the NL in batting average (for the second straight season), OBP, slugging and OPS+ in 2019, while hitting 44 home runs and stealing 30 bases -- all in 130 games after his season ended in early September with a fractured right kneecap. He is healthy now, and while he might not run as much, he still projects as the best hitter in the league.
DH: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
There aren't many obvious DH candidates in the NL, and I suspect most teams will rotate players through the position, but Schwarber should get a lot of plate appearances there for the Cubs. He slugged 38 home runs last year and hit .280/.366/.631 in the second half, and this is his age-27 season. He might have hit 45 home runs this year if it had been a full season.
National League reserves
C: Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
1B: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
2B: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
3B: Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
SS: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
OF: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
OF: Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates
DH: Nicholas Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds
Contreras is already a two-time All-Star, and he slugged .533 last year. Will Smith tore it up for the Dodgers in 54 games as a rookie, and he looks like a strong All-Star candidate, as well. ... Freeman tested positive for the coronavirus, so if he misses too much time, other candidates would be Max Muncy, a slimmed-down Anthony Rizzo, Josh Bell and Paul Goldschmidt. ... Albies is still just 23 and already has one All-Star Game under his belt (2018). He was even better last season, leading the NL in hits and belting out 75 extra-base hits. ... I'll go with Machado as the backup at third base over Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez, as Machado rebounds from a so-so debut season with the Padres. ... Betts and Soto are easy choices as backup outfielders, and I know a lot of people are predicting a monster 60 games from Harper, who has traditionally been a fast starter in his career. ... Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto of the Mets are good candidates here, and Victor Robles deserves consideration just for his defense. If Robles improves at the plate, watch out. ... I'll go with Reynolds as the Pirates' rep over Bell. Reynolds hit .314 as a rookie, while Bell struggled in the second half after a hot start that earned him the starting nod at DH in the 2019 All-Star Game. ... The Reds didn't sign Castellanos to DH, of course, but his best position has always been "hitter," and they would be wise to just DH him and play better defenders in the outfield.
National League pitchers
SP: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
SP: Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
SP: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
SP: Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
SP: Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres
SP: Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers
SP: Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
RP: Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
RP: Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
RP: Tyler Rogers, San Francisco Giants
Most of the National League starting pitchers don't require much explanation. DeGrom is the two-time reigning Cy Young winner, and he is my pick to win it again in 2020. The last pitcher to win three in a row was Randy Johnson, who won four straight from 1999 to 2002. ... It would have been interesting to see how Scherzer and Strasburg would have performed in April and May after all their work in October, but now they can go all out for two-plus months. ... I would love to squeeze Nationals teammate Patrick Corbin on here, as well, after a 5.6-WAR season and 238 K's in 2019, but he just misses the cut. ... Flaherty is an easy choice after his off-the-charts run in the second half, when he posted a 0.93 ERA over his final 16 starts. Wait, maybe he should be the Cy Young pick ... I'll always group Flaherty and Buehler together, since they reached the majors the same season and should battle for Cy Young honors over the next decade. ... Come to think of it, Castillo also reached the majors in 2017, although he is a couple of years older. He made his first All-Star team in 2019, when he had a 2.29 ERA in the first half. He tired in the second half, but that won't be an issue with the short schedule. ... Paddack and Woodruff are coming off their first full seasons, and they showed ace potential. Paddack has a tremendous changeup with great control of his four-seamer; while Woodruff pitches off a 96 mph fastball, and he did a great job limiting hard contact. ... Alcantara was the Marlins' rep last year, and I'll go with him again. ... Yates and Hader were the top two NL relievers in 2019. Rogers? Well, I need somebody from the Giants, and he projects as their closer as a 29-year-old rookie.
American League starters
The state of catching across MLB gets criticized, but there is actually a fairly decent group in the AL, with Yasmani Grandal added to the mix. Mitch Garver of the Twins had a monster season in 2019, hitting .273/.365/.630 in 93 games, while defensive stalwarts Roberto Perez and Christian Vazquez added power. I'll go with Sanchez, last year's starter.
The weakest position in the majors is first base, and the AL starters over the past four years have been Eric Hosmer, Justin Smoak, Jose Abreu and Carlos Santana. Heck, Mitch Moreland made it is a reserve two years ago. Anyway, Santana of the Indians and Matt Olson of the A's are the best of the lot, but with the news that Guerrero is moving over to first base, his popularity would propel him to our hypothetical win in the fan voting with a little improvement upon his rookie numbers.
2B: DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees
Rockies hitters can't produce away from Coors Field? Wrong. LeMahieu left Colorado and improved his OPS+ by a whopping 48 points from 2018 and his WAR from 2.5 to 5.9. If we actually had fan voting in 2020, there no doubt would have been an anti-Astros backlash, so LeMahieu gets the nod over Jose Altuve.
3B: Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels
An already stacked position becomes even more loaded with the additions of Rendon and Josh Donaldson to the AL. Alex Bregman started in 2019, but sticking with the anti-Astros theory, let's go with Rendon over Bregman, Donaldson, Matt Chapman, Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada and Jose Ramirez. That's six players who had at least 5.0 WAR last year, plus Ramirez, who averaged 7.3 in 2017-18 and rebounded from last year's slow start to hit .327/.365/.739 in the second half.
At another loaded position, Lindor has made four straight All-Star appearances but has never started. It's time to rectify that. This position is so deep that Andrelton Simmons, the Ozzie Smith of our generation, has never made an All-Star Game. Jorge Polanco of the Twins started last year, while Xander Bogaerts and Gleyber Torres have the big-market advantage. Interesting factoid: The AL has had seven different starters at shortstop over the past seven seasons (J.J. Hardy, Derek Jeter, Alcides Escobar, Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Manny Machado and Polanco). The last AL shortstop to start consecutive All-Star Games was Jeter in 2009 and 2010.
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
The easiest choice on the board.
OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Is Judge actually healthy? He missed two simulated games over the weekend with a stiff neck, although manager Aaron Boone said it was simply something the Yankees didn't "want to push at this point." Without Mookie Betts, who started three of the past four All-Star Games for the AL, and with our anti-Astros rule (George Springer and Michael Brantley started last year), two AL outfield spots are wide open.
Kepler had a breakout season in 2019, hitting .252/.336/.519 with 36 home runs and 90 RBIs. And that was after his numbers nose-dived due to a shoulder injury in September, when he hit .171 with no home runs in 11 games. I think there's more improvement to come.
There's a deep pool of candidates here, including Jorge Soler, who led the AL with 48 home runs, plus Nelson Cruz, Yordan Alvarez, Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton. Given that Alvarez has yet to report to Astros summer camp and has been placed on the injured list with an undisclosed condition, I'm not sure what's going to happen to him this season. We'll go with Martinez, who is more of a sure thing as compared to Soler, the 40-year-old Cruz or the injury-prone Stanton.
American League reserves
C: Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
1B: Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
3B: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
3B: Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
SS: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
SS: Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
OF: George Springer, Houston Astros
OF: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
OF: Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
DH: Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals
Garver's swing changes prior to 2019 made him a legitimate power threat, and while matching his 2019 rate of production is almost impossible, I'll still pencil him as the backup catcher. ... Olson is a really good player, an elite Gold Glove defender who mashed 36 home runs in 127 games in a tough home run park. ... In picking Altuve and Bregman as reserves, I'm suggesting they'll be fine even without any garbage can shenanigans to help them out. ... I hate to leave Devers off the squad after he hit .311 with 90 extra-base hits (the third most in Red Sox history and more than Ted Williams ever had), but Chapman's defensive brilliance wins him this spot. ... Bogaerts was right behind Devers with 85 extra-base hits. And I'll pick Semien as a third shortstop based on his outstanding all-around 2019 season, with apologies to Correa, whose prorated 2019 stats over 150 games were 42 home runs and 118 RBIs. ... Springer has made the past three All-Star teams and is in his free-agent year. Will he be with the Astros next season? ... Gallo homered in last year's All-Star Game. If he hits .253 like he did in his injury-shortened 2019 campaign, he is a really valuable player (3.1 WAR in 70 games). But we'll see if he hits .253 or .203. ... Jimenez hit 31 home runs as a rookie, and he needs to improve his approach and discipline at the plate; but when he does make contact, watch out, as he ranked in the 92nd percentile in hard-hit rate. ... Soler gives me a Royals rep. Picking an AL squad is tough enough, but it would get even more difficult if you replace Jimenez and Soler with, say, Byron Buxton and Cruz from the Twins, as we still need reps from the Orioles, Tigers and Mariners.
American League pitchers
SP: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
SP: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
SP: Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians
SP: Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians
SP: Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
SP: Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers
RP: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
RP: Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
RP: Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays
RP: Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
Cole and Verlander were a one-two punch for the ages last season, with Verlander edging Cole in the Cy Young voting. ... Clevinger would have missed the start of the 2020 season after tearing a meniscus in his knee in spring training, but he should be good to go now and ready to dominate like he did in 2019, when he had a 2.71 ERA and 169 K's in 126 innings. ... Indians teammate Bieber made his first All-Star team last year. He is intriguing in that he gives up a lot of hard-hit balls -- he ranked way down in the fifth percentile in hard-hit rate -- but he racks up the K's and doesn't hurt himself with walks. ... If Glasnow can stay healthy, he is a Cy Young contender with an upper 90s fastball with which he blows hitters away. Teammate Snell should have a bounce-back season and return to his 2018 Cy Young form. Charlie Morton, third in the Cy Young voting, gives the Rays a third potential All-Star-caliber starter ... I need a Mariners rep, and we'll tab Gonzales, coming off a durable 34-start, 200-inning season ... Likewise, we need a Tigers rep, and Boyd did fan 238 in 185⅓ innings last year. He needs to cut down on the home run balls, however. ... Chapman tested positive for the coronavirus, but it doesn't look like he'll miss much time (if any). ... Rogers quietly had a terrific season for the Twins, and it would be fun if he joined his twin brother, Tyler, as an All-Star. It's also fun that Taylor is a lefty, while Tyler is a righty. ... Anderson averaged 15.2 K's per nine innings pitched as a rookie reliever, and after coming over from the Marlins, he posted a wipeout 41:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio with the Rays. ... Finally, we need somebody from the Orioles. John Means was the surprise All-Star last year, but his ERA ballooned in the second half, so ... umm, I guess anybody in the bullpen could have 30 good innings. Givens didn't have a great 2019, but he has been a steady performer in the past. Of course, if Givens gets off to a good start, the Orioles will probably trade him. Any suggestions for an Orioles All-Star?