Which players are worthy of participating July 17 in Washington, and who gets left out?
Let’s touch on this topic first: Shohei Ohtani is incredibly talented and fascinating to watch, but the Los Angeles Angels‘ two-way Japanese star simply hasn’t been on the field enough to earn a spot. Not at pitcher OR designated hitter.
Ohtani just returned to the lineup from an elbow injury that’s knocked him off the mound for now. He’s only made nine major league pitching starts, and the Angels have limited his at-bats all season due to concerns about the rookie’s workload.
So while it would definitely be fun to see him in baseball’s summer showcase, there are several more deserving American League sluggers at DH. It wouldn’t be fair to deny one of them in favor of Ohtani. And he’s unavailable to pitch at this point.
Let him win his invitation next season with a fully healthy and productive first half. Or the year after that. Or whenever it happens.
Buzzkill, I know.
But even without Ohtani, there’s plenty to watch for leading up to the first All-Star Game in the nation’s capital since the Senators hosted at RFK Stadium in 1969.
Start with Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis. With more than 2,150 career hits, he’s poised to make an All-Star team for the first time in his 13th big league season.
Matt Kemp, Miles Mikolas and Mike Foltynewicz are enjoying feel-good comebacks.
Robinson Cano, the MVP of last year’s game, will sit this one out while serving a drug suspension.
Injuries may keep familiar stars such as Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager from returning, but in their place should be exciting newcomers like Aaron Nola, Ozzie Albies, Alex Bregman and Eddie Rosario.
The American League has won five times in a row and is 17-3-1 in the last 21 years.
”I want to win. I always want to win. It’s not playing for home-field advantage anymore in the World Series, but all these guys are competitors and they want to win for their respective league Adidas Andrew Cogliano Jersey ,” said National League manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There’s a logjam at shortstop in the AL, and the NL bullpen is loaded.
That sort of thing is where it gets complicated: Each roster has 32 spots, with 12 going to pitchers. Every club must be represented, too.
Online voting for the starters at each position ended at midnight Thursday, and the teams will be revealed Sunday night.
”I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a great experience,” said Houston’s AJ Hinch, who will manage the AL squad. ”It’s as casual a game as you’ll play with the biggest names on the stage, and all the attention that comes with it. It’s a big deal.”
Disregarding fan and player balloting, here are our picks:
FIRST BASE – Jose Abreu of the White Sox gets the start, barely nudging out Toronto switch-hitter Justin Smoak.
SECOND BASE – AL MVP Jose Altuve from the World Series champion Astros is backed up by 34-year-old Oakland veteran Jed Lowrie, whose first All-Star nod is probably long overdue.
SHORTSTOP – Cleveland whiz Francisco Lindor is in the lineup. Top trade target Manny Machado from lowly Baltimore, and Jean Segura from Seattle are on the bench. Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons of the Angels is really tough to leave out.
THIRD BASE – Jose Ramirez gives the Indians both starters on the left side of the infield. Bregman backs up at the hot corner, from Houston.
CATCHER – Wilson Ramos is a big reason the Rays are holding their own. Perennial pick Salvador Perez represents the struggling Royals despite his subpar season.
OUTFIELD – Angels star Mike Trout plays center, with Boston’s Mookie Betts in left and Yankees masher Aaron Judge in right. Reserves include Rosario from the Twins, Mitch Haniger from the Mariners, and Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers.
DESIGNATED HITTER – J.D. Martinez has been worth every penny during his first season in Boston. Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo and New York hulk Giancarlo Stanton, last year’s NL MVP, both still play the outfield sometimes Adidas Corey Perry Jersey , which helps. Seattle slugger Nelson Cruz is a very difficult omission.
STARTING PITCHERS – Luis Severino is in line to become the first Yankees pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Roger Clemens in 2001. Other right-handers include Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton from Houston, plus Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer from Cleveland. The left-handers are Boston ace Chris Sale and Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell. Seattle lefty James Paxton is our top pick to replace Verlander, who doesn’t plan to pitch in the All-Star Game because he’s scheduled to start two days before.
RELIEVERS – Four filthy closers in the bullpen: Yankees lefty Aroldis Chapman, plus right-handers Craig Kimbrel (Boston), Edwin Diaz (Seattle) and Blake Treinen (Oakland).
FIRST BASE – Braves cornerstone Freddie Freeman starts over Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, who overcame a miserable May with a monster June.
SECOND BASE – The unexpected starter at a competitive position is Scooter Gennett from the Reds. Right behind him are flashy Javier Baez from the Cubs and 21-year-old igniter Ozzie Albies from the surprising Braves.
SHORTSTOP – San Francisco pro Brandon Crawford is backed up by Colorado bopper Trevor Story.
THIRD BASE – No Quarterback Matt Ryan is in the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 seasons and still searching for the ultimate prize.
Last year’s meltdown in the Super Bowl has been well documented with the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead and losing to New England, but Ryan has his team back in the postseason despite a big drop-off in points and yards.
At 10-6, they’ve gone from the No. 2 seed to the sixth, but they’re the only NFC team to return to the playoffs. Ryan hasn’t enjoyed the kind of seamless production that made him the league MVP last season, yet he likes the team’s chances even though the offense has scored just two touchdowns over the last two weeks.
”We do a very good job throughout the week of getting ourselves prepared and ready to play,” Ryan said Tuesday. ”That provides confidence, so I think guys just need to focus on doing the best that they can with where their feet are at that time of the day.
”If we do that and we’re locked in for practice and walkthroughs, that’s going to give us the best chance to be successful.”
Atlanta has won three of four and six of its last eight heading into Saturday’s wild-card game at the Los Angeles Rams (11-5). The defense is better than a year ago, moving into the top 10 in scoring and total yards for the first time at the end of the regular season the 1998 Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl.
But the offense has been unable to match last year’s productivity, dropping from first to 15th in scoring as opponents have held five-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones to just three touchdowns. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are still a tough tandem to defend, but both have missed time with concussions. The offensive line hasn’t been as stout despite another Pro Bowl season from center Alex Mack.
Regardless of what’s happening around him, Ryan said his best course of action during the week is to stay focused on the game plan. He doesn’t want to get caught up in discussions about his legacy and whether he has what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
”That’s not something I worry about or think about too much Adidas Ryan Getzlaf Jersey ,” he said. ”I try to focus or worry or lend my brain space to trying to win games. I’m lucky to have a lot of good friends around this league. I certainly have a lot of respect for the guys I play against week in and week out and I imagine they feel the same way.”
Ryan has won 95 of 158 career starts in the regular season, but he’s 3-5 in the playoffs and 0-2 on the road. That kind of discrepancy is why he said he puts little stock in whether last season’s easy victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum could help the Falcons this week.
The Rams’ defense has flourished in a new scheme devised by 70-year-old coordinator Wade Phillips and it has found success with a trio of dual-threat linebackers in Alec Ogletree, the former Georgia star, Robert Quinn and Mark Barron.
Atlanta also must keep tabs throughout the game on defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has 11 sacks.
”He’s one of the better players against the run at the position they play him at, but he’s also one of the better interior pass rushers in the league,” Ryan said. ”That creates some problems, but we’ll have a plan to account for where he’s at, and we certainly trust our guys up front to play well.”
Notes: WR Julio Jones was held out of practice with ankle and rib injuries. Jones was hit hard on the opening drive last week by Carolina safety Mike Adams, but he missed only a couple of snaps. He was limited in practice last week with ankle and thumb injuries. Jones has yet to miss a game despite being on the injury report this season with a hip flexor, back and knee injuries, too. … Freeman was held out of practice with a knee injury. … Listed as limited Tuesday were Mack (calf), receiver Taylor Gabriel (hamstring), tight end Levine Toilolo (knee) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (calf). … LG Andy Levitre (triceps) was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Ben Garland will start in his place.