NEW YORK (AP) Now that fan voting is finished, it’s a good time to take a hard look at All-Star Game selections.
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.
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,” 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:
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.
THIRD BASE – Nolan Arenado is sensational with his bat and glove for the Rockies. Eugenio Suarez is blossoming into a big run producer for the Reds, and St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter can play both corner infield spots – even second base if needed.
STARTING PITCHERS – Washington ace Max Scherzer, who won his second consecutive Cy Young Award last year and third overall, gets the ball to start on his own mound. The other right-handers are Nola from the Phillies, Foltynewicz from the Braves, Mikolas from the Cardinals, and Jacob deGrom of the Mets. Cubs lefty Jon Lester rounds out the group, with Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks next in line as a potential replacement for someone.
RELIEVERS – So many to choose from, and not only closers. A bevy of NL setup men are putting up dominant numbers. In the end, this bullpen features Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, Arizona setup man Archie Bradley and San Diego’s Kirby Yates from the right side, complemented by Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, Milwaukee strikeout artist Josh Hader and San Francisco’s Tony Watson from the left side.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, and Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed.
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