Major League Baseball
Early MLB All-Star picks: Who should start in the AL?
Major League Baseball

Early MLB All-Star picks: Who should start in the AL?

Published Jun. 19, 2024 3:53 p.m. ET

Based on their production thus far, you should be able to pencil in a starting American League All-Star outfield of Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Juan Soto and Astros standout Kyle Tucker.

Outside of that, a case could be made for multiple players at every other starting spot on the AL roster. 

Unfortunately for the top shortstops, there isn't a positionally ambiguous "guard" or "frontcourt" option in voting like there is for MLB's NBA counterparts. You can't bump Gunnar Henderson and Bobby Witt Jr. over to second or third base, so despite the fact that both sensational shortstops are orchestrating MVP-caliber first halves, one of them will unfortunately draw the short end of the starting stick in Arlington. 

Henderson currently holds a sizable lead after the first balloting update, but this exercise isn't about which players we think will win the vote. Rather, this is about which players should have an argument to start the game based on their first-half production and which positions are the hardest to decide right now. (Hint: The Orioles have plenty of candidates!) 


Below are the closest calls in the American League, with candidates listed in order of votes after the first balloting update. It's worth remembering that whether they end up starting, most players on this list will still make the team. 

(For what it's worth, fans have the outfield correct so far. Good work, fans. You can keep voting up to five times per day until June 27, at which point the top two vote-getters at each position — and top six outfielders — in each league advance to Phase 2, when fans can vote once per day until July 3 to determine the starter at each position.)  

Fans can only vote for position players, but we're including the starting pitching competition below as well, since that will be something to watch leading into the All-Star Game on July 16. 


Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles - 792,857 votes (1st in voting)
Salvador Pérez, Kansas City Royals - 588,952 (2nd in voting) 

Rutschman holds the edge in hits, homers, runs and RBIs, but the ageless Pérez leads in every slash line category among qualified AL catchers and is in the midst of arguably the best offensive season of his career at 34 years old. While he's no longer hitting over .300 as he had been for most of the year and his pace has slowed in June — perhaps a result of the knee discomfort he has been dealing with lately — Pérez still leads Rutschman (and all AL catchers) in OPS while posting career-best walk and on-base rates. Pérez has reached base in 62 of his 71 games, and his underlying metrics suggest he should be slugging even better. 

Rutschman's consistency is remarkable. Here are his year-by-year OPS totals for his career:

2022: .806
2023: .809
2024: .806 (entering Wednesday)

His batting average and slugging percentages are up this year, though his on-base rate is down since he's walking at about half his usual clip, in part because he's chasing and whiffing more than usual (though still not nearly as much as Pérez). Defensively, Rutschman has been one of the best catchers in baseball at blocking, but the two are comparable in most other areas behind the plate. 

My early pick: Pérez 

First Base 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays: 746,031 (1st in voting)
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles: 693,594 (2nd in voting)
Josh Naylor, Cleveland Guardians: 404,389 (3rd in voting) 

It's a down year for AL first basemen. Guerrero's pacing the field in average and on-base percentage and leads this trio in WAR, wOBA and wRC+. Naylor's only hitting .229, but his 17 homers and 50 RBIs are easily the most among AL first basemen, and his slugging and OPS edge Mountcastle for the best at his position. However, most of that production came in a blistering start to the season. Guerrero has 21 more hits than Naylor on the year and has been considerably better of late (Naylor has an OPS under .700 since the start of May; Guerrero's at .850), though the Toronto slugger's seven home runs and 30 RBIs on the year are rather pedestrian. Guerrero needs to start finding the sweet spot of the bat more and elevating if he wants to tap back into his MVP potential. None of the three are particularly stout defensively, but let's be real, we're not really watching All-Star first basemen for their gloves. 

My early pick: Guerrero 

Second Base 

José Altuve, Houston Astros: 620,724 (1st in voting)
Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers: 539,223 (2nd in voting) 

Semien has the edge in runs and RBIs as well as WAR, in large part because he has been the best defensive second baseman in the majors, but no need to overthink this too much. Altuve leads all qualified AL second basemen in every slash line category as well as hits and steals and is tied for the lead in homers.  

My early pick: Altuve 


Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles: 740,436 (1st in voting)
Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals: 541,261 (2nd in voting) 

Can we get some sort of exception to let them both start?

Henderson holds the edge in homers, slugging and OPS. Witt leads in hits, batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, runs, RBIs and steals. The only player in the American League with more home runs than Henderson is Aaron Judge. By bWAR, Henderson has been on par with Judge as the most valuable player in the sport. He entered Wednesday having reached base in 25 straight games dating back to May 22. Witt, meanwhile, grades out with the top defensive marks at his position while posting the highest batting average in the sport at any position. The Royals star has the most hits of anyone not named Luis Arráez and the fourth-most steals in baseball. 

Both players will make the team and are deserving of the start. If either player was in the NL, they would both be starting. Henderson has been the MVP of one of the most talented teams in the American League. Witt has helped orchestrate a potentially historic turnaround in Kansas City. If you like pop at the plate, the edge goes to Henderson. If it's all-around play, it's Witt, the North Texas native who will be playing close to home in the All-Star Game. (Also, it's worth a quick shoutout to Anthony Volpe and Carlos Correa, who have been terrific but just haven't been on the otherworldly pace of the other two sensations). 

My early pick: Witt (in a toss-up) 

Third Base 

José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians - 742,910 (1st in voting)
Jordan Westburg, Baltimore Orioles - 366,670 (2nd in voting)
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox - 342,046 (3rd in voting) 
Josh Smith, Texas Rangers - 175,731 (5th in voting) 
Isaac Paredes, Tampa Bay Rays - 129,078 (9th in voting) 

"Hey, that's a lot of names!" you might be saying. And you would not be wrong. Unlike some of these other spots, an All-Star worthy starting third baseman will probably end up getting left out of the game entirely. All five players from this quintet have been worth somewhere between one and three wins this year. By wRC+, they've all hit somewhere between 37 and 51% better than league average. 

I know some might not care about RBIs, but Ramírez is on pace for nearly 150 of them this year. That's … a lot, and that production has been vital for a Guardians team holding the top spot in the surprising AL Central. Ramírez leads the other four players on this list in the category as well as hits, homers and steals. Devers is on fire in June and has the highest OPS of the group, though he lags behind in at-bats after missing some time in April. 

Westburg doesn't have the name recognition of other stars on this list (or his own team), but his steady play in a breakout second season shouldn't go overlooked. His OPS has been over .800 since April 13, and he ranks slightly ahead of both Ramírez and Devers in bWAR. But the leader in bWAR overall at third base is actually Smith, who also leads all qualified third basemen in both average and on-base percentage and has been essential to the Rangers offense with Josh Jung injured. Smith, however, only has five homers and has far fewer plate appearances than any of his fellow third base contenders. Paredes, meanwhile, has been one of the few good things about the Rays offense this year. 

My early pick: Ramírez 

Starting Pitcher 

Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers
Luis Gil, New York Yankees
Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles 
Tanner Houck, Boston Red Sox
Seth Lugo, Kansas City Royals 
Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners
Garrett Crochet, Chicago White Sox 

There are so many potential options for Bruce Bochy to choose from here, and he can't go wrong with any of them. Skubal has been a Cy Young front-runner all season and will likely be joined on the team by rotation mate Jack Flaherty. Gil, who has the best ERA and opponents' batting average in MLB, is both a Rookie of the Year and Cy Young contender as the surprise breakout on the best team (and, arguably, rotation) in baseball. Burnes, every bit the steady force that Baltimore hoped he would be, is working on a streak of 10 straight quality starts — the first Orioles pitcher to do so since Jeremy Guthrie in 2007 — and has a 1.85 ERA over that stretch. Houck, the MLB pitching leader in fWAR, has a shutout under his belt, the lowest FIP in MLB and has allowed just two homers in 15 starts. Lugo leads all AL pitchers in wins. Gilbert has thrown the most innings and trails only Crochet in WHIP. Crochet also leads the pack in strikeouts. 

My early pick: Burnes. The Orioles deserve a starter in the game, and while Henderson will very likely end up earning the starting role via balloting at short, it would be fun to have an entire line switch of Baltimore reserve infielders take the field at the same time. 

Stay tuned next week for the National League close calls. 

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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