Announcing the MLB All-Star roster now comes in three waves.  We’ve already passed the first two, with the fan-selected starters and manager-selected reserves.  But with the slew of injury replacements who find their way onto the roster, both the American League and National League dugouts begin to resemble college football rosters by the time the actual game rolls around.  

So the current snapshot below represents a more accurate representation of who has most deservedly earned the All-Star moniker.  And even excluding the next wave of players, there’s still a fair degree of uncertainty as to how Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost will actually manage these rosters, which creates some intriguing questions that won’t be answered until the game.

Check out the current AL and NL rosters below while also looking ahead to which players could find themselves most prominently featured in the Cincinnati spotlight.


2015 MLB All-Star Game Lineups


Storylines to Watch

Who Starts on the Mound?

The final vote might be the most immediate roster concern in the spotlight, but the most glamorous decision will come with the starting pitcher announcements.  Whereas one league has a fairly clear front-runner, the other squad will have a much wider net to cast to field its range of possible candidates.

In the senior circuit, Max Scherzer has been the clear class of the National League.  The Washington Nationals’ ace has been spectacular apart from a brief early June blip and, according to FanGraphs’ WAR, has accumulated nearly a full win more than any other pitcher in the league.

Scherzer has always harbored swing-and-miss stuff, but his control hasn’t always been great, something that held him back early in his career.  His newfound elite control has elevated his pitching again, though, as his 1.02 walks-per-nine-innings rate (BB/9) currently ranks third among qualified starters.  Assuming he does get the starting nod, Scherzer will join some historically elite company:

Yost won’t have nearly as simple a choice for the AL.  Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is somehow not on the roster despite leading the league in WAR, though he might sneak his way onto the roster later.  One possible alternative could be Dallas Keuchel, the ace of the Cinderella first-place Houston Astros.  

The Astros don’t really have a signature player serving as the mainstream face of the franchise, and a starting All-Star nod for Keuchel could vault him into that role.  The 27-year-old has maintained a sparkling 2.14 ERA and 11-3 record despite some poor fly-ball luck, and he’s certainly earned the respect of his peers:

The Chicago White Sox’s Chris Sale might get the nod based on pedigree, as he’s now a four-time All-Star who’s been on the precipice of starting previous games without actually earning the distinction.  Sale’s absurd 11.78 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate leads all qualified starters as he continues to carry the mantle for an otherwise nondescript White Sox squad.

Chris Archer, Sonny Gray and David Price are among the others who could at least make an argument for the starter’s role.  Whoever gets the assignment will likely face off against Scherzer, but the guess here is that it boils down to Keuchel vs. Sale.


Who Replaces Injured Starters?

The starting pitcher’s slot isn’t the only starting job that will be up for grabs.  As you can see in the lineups above, there are at least three fan-voted starters who will be unable to participate because of major injuries: Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton.  

St. Louis’ Matt Holliday has also been on the disabled list for the past month with a torn quad, but the Cardinals vet is pushing for a return and plans to play in the All-Star Game, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold.

For now we’ll operate under the assumption that Holliday does play, leaving three spots open for current reserves.  It’s important to note that the managers don’t simply need to take the next-highest vote-getters to replace their injured starters, as Yost and Bochy will both be able to pick their own starters.

On the AL side, the pickings are slim to replace Cabrera.  Eight of the top 10 leaders in WAR among first baseman are from the NL, and Cabrera is one of the two AL reps.  Albert Pujols is the other one, and given his MVP pedigree and power resurgence (which will see him featured in the Home Run Derby), the Machine seems like the most logical candidate to replace the Detroit Tigers first baseman.

Yost doesn’t have to stick with a natural left fielder to replace Gordon, but if he does, he might have to go off the roster for the best candidate.  

Yoenis Cespedes is currently on the Final Vote ballot and has accumulated the second most WAR among left fielders behind Gordon.  Cespedes won’t get a chance to win a third Home Run Derby title, but giving him the starting nod would provide a platform to feature his power for the Cincinnati crowd nonetheless:

Figuring out Stanton’s replacement is a little trickier.  Former MVP Andrew McCutchen has the biggest name and most popularity, but he has a bit of an offensive dip this season.  The honor should probably go to one of three young breakout stars: Joc Pederson, Starling Marte or A.J. Pollock.  Pederson’s power and status as a big-market star make him the most marketable, but would Bochy pick a Los Angeles Dodger to start?

None of this will have an impact on the game’s outcome, of course, but it’s a good way to evaluate the reputations and resumes of baseball’s biggest stars.  And though home-field advantage throughout the World Series controversially remains on the line, those status evaluations are the most interesting part of the All-Star selection process.


Advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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