The All Star Game is slightly later than usual this year, putting our annual exercise to pick the most deserving players for the July 19th midsummer classic slightly ahead of the curve.
But our selection process is a little different because we don’t just use stats from the first three months of this season. It’s much more instructive to see which players have proven themselves over an entire year’s worth of games.
With some help from BaseballHQ.comhere are the statistical leaders in each position in the second half of last season and the first half of this one – from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. (At least 20 games in a position in 2021 or 2022 to qualify.)
Our choices for AL and NL starters are in bold.
Catcher: Willson Contreras or JT Realmuto in NL?
Even though he has battled a thumb injury for much of this season and can be sidelined until September† Salvador Perez of the Royals had such a stellar 2021 that no other American League catcher can come close to matching his 40 home runs, 76 runs scored and 107 RBI over the past full season.
Alejandro Kirk of Toronto – who leads all AL catchers with a .293 average and is second with 51 runs scored – could threaten Perez’s crown next year.
The NL is a three-man fight with the Cubs’ Willson Contreras to take out JT Realmuto and Will Smith. Contreras has the advantage in batting average (.267), while Smith leads the NL catchers in homeruns (27) and RBI (85). Realmuto leads the league with 74 runs and rounds out the field with 19 stolen bases.
However, it is Contreras’ consistency – he ranks among the top five catchers in all five major fantasy categories – that gives him the nod.
First base: Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Pete Alonso all worthy
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. isn’t quite up to speed to repeat last year’s astonishing numbers, but he still packs a lot of punch on the record. The Blue Jays star leads AL first basemen with 40 home runs and 101 runs scored in the past full season — and his 91 RBI is second to Jose Abreu’s 98.
Perhaps the hardest of all is in NL, where three superstars have all produced at the elite level.
Player A: .270, 46 HR, 123 RBI, 93 R
Player F: .321, 23 HR, 86 RBI, 117 R
Player G: .338, 39 HR, 122 RBI, 117 R
As you might expect, two-time defending All-Star Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso leads the league with 46 home runs. No one – in any position in either league – has scored more points than Freddie Freeman since July 1 last year.
But Paul Goldschmidt has the highest overall batting average of the majors, is just behind Alonso in RBI and is tied with Freeman for most points. At 34 years old, Goldschmidt is experiencing arguably the best season of his career.
Another note: don’t forget CJ Cron of the Rockies, who is seventh in batting average (0.298), fourth in home runs (34), third in RBI (117) and eighth in runs scored (84).
Second Base: The Speed Of Tommy Edman Or The Power Of Ozzie Albies?
Second base has a number of players who can move to other places around the diamond. Taking that into account, Jorge Polanco fits best in the AL. He is the only one in the position in both leagues to have more than 100 RBI in the past calendar year, and he has just two home runs behind Marcus Semien’s leading 34 in the Major League.
Semien had an even bigger lead over Polanco in stolen bases (17 vs. 8) and runs (96 vs. 82), but batting under .200 in the first two months of this season gave Polanco a decisive lead of 28 points in batting average – .267 to .239.
The NL spot comes down to whether you prefer more speed or pop on the keystone. Tommy Edman was the only second baseman to score more than 100 runs and stole more than 30 bases (108 and 35 to be exact).
Ozzie Albies hit more homeruns (23), with 83 RBI and 88 runs, but his .250 batting average was 18 runs less than Edman’s.
Short stop: Bo Bichette, Trea Turner remain elite
Bo Bichette he’s not really hitting the average like he did last season, but he’s doing everything else and piling up the counting stats. The standout Blue Jays are among the top eight shortstops in four of our five categories – with 26 home runs, 90 RBI, 18 stolen bases and an AL-leading 97 runs scored in the past full season.
Trea Turner used to be The Consensus No. 1 Overall Fantasy Choice going into this season because he is doing everything exceptionally well. He is in the top three in average (.321), runs (98), RBI (95) and steals (29). And his 25 home runs are just three behind NL-leader Willy Adames.
Dansby Swanson is a valuable runner-up, with 27 home runs, 97 RBI and 93 runs, but he can’t match Turner in average or steals.
Third Base: Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado show all-round excellence
When it comes to combining elite strength and speed, no one does it better than the Guardians. Jose RamirezI† Let’s count the ways: He’s the only player in the majors to have at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the last full season. He also leads all third basemen with 116 RBI over that period and together with Rafael Devers leads the most runs with 105.
Devers has a slight lead on home runs (36 vs. 34) and his .302 average is 20 points higher than Ramirez’s, but the huge difference in steals doesn’t make it a game.
There’s another third baseman to hit the triple digits in both runs and RBI: Manny Machado of the Fathers. He also hit .310 to lead the NL in position, finishing fourth with 28 home runs and chipping in 11 steals. No one else in the league has such well-rounded skills in the hot corner.
Austin Riley of the Braves isn’t far behind, though. He led all third basemen with 38 home runs and led the NL with 113 RBI – in addition to hitting .292 with 92 runs scored.
Outfield: Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper Lead the Way
There are some no-brainers in the AL outfield in Aaron Judge (MLB-leading 50 home runs, plus 107 runs and 115 RBI) and Jordan Alvarez (.285, 43 HR, 92 runs, 110 RBI). The third place is now almost a dead heat with Kyle Tucker getting the nod over Teoscar Hernandez.
With nearly identical numbers in home runs and RBI, Tucker’s .289 batting average and 23 stolen bases were just enough to top Hernandez’s .282 and 10 (although Hernandez scored 15 more runs).
Bryce Harper led all MLB outfielders for the past calendar year with an average of .327 and 111 runs, while also leading the NL with 37 home runs and 109 RBI. He is reunited with his former teammate Juan Sotowho is second in the league after Harper in three categories with 109 runs, 34 home runs and 91 RBI.
Third place in the outfield goes to Starling Marte, who spent most of the second half of last season collecting stolen bases in Oakland before returning to NL with the Mets. His 43 total steals in the past calendar year are the most in the majors. In addition, he hit a combined .297 with 102 runs scored – good for top-five places in both categories.
What about Shohei Ohtani† Last year, he played only seven games in the outfield, but if he qualified there, his 35 homeruns would finish in fifth place. He also had 23 steals and 94 runs, both of which would put him in the top 10. On the mound, Ohtani finished 11th in ERA and fourth in WHIP.
So if we use stats to pick All-Stars, huh has to be on the team.
Pitcher: Youngsters Alek Manoah, Shane McClanahan Come Forward
There appears to be a changing of the guard on AL starting pitchers. Outstanding in the second year Alek Manoah from Toronto and Shane McClanahan of Tampa Bay dominate last full season’s stats – with Manoah racking up a stellar 2.60 ERA, leading the league with 17 wins and second to Ohtani with a 0.99 WHIP. McClanahan had an AL-best 2.30 ERA to go along with a 1.03 WHIP, 15 wins and 203 strikeouts.
Reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray holds on to the third starting spot of the competition. He is second in the majors with 240 strikeouts, along with 13 wins, a 3.04 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Honorable mention to Dylan Cease of the White Sox, who led everyone with 244 gizmos in just 165 innings (13.3 K/9).
in NL, Corbin Burnes hasn’t slowed down since winning his competition’s Cy Young award† The Brewers ace is in the top five in the majors in ERA (2.38), WHIP (0.94) and strikeouts (an NL lead 238).
the evaders Julio Urias (17 wins, 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) and the Braves’ Max Fried (16 wins, 2.55 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) have nearly identical stats – though Fried has a slight lead in strikeouts. Interestingly, the best ERA in the majors came from another Dodger, Tony Gonsolin, who just missed the cut despite his 2.24 mark and 13 wins — 10 of which were in 2022.
As for the closers, five American Leaguers have had at least 30 saves in the past full season, but none can hit Emmanuel Clase† And we wrap up our list with the MLB leader in saves, Josh Haderwho collected 38, to go along with a scintillating 1.60 ERA.
Contributors: Matt Cederholm, BaseballHQ.com.
See more stats from July to June and follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB All-Star Game: Most deserving starters based on season-long stats