“Bruno’s Gold:” A.L. Fantasy All-Star Team, Hitters 2014
The 2014 MLB All-Star game is quickly approaching (it will be played on Tuesday, July 15th) and here at MLFS, we came up with our own fantasy All-Star Teams. Two weeks ago I gave you my lineup for the hitters of the National League, and 65 Mustangs provided the pitchers. This week, I wrote about the hitters for the American League, and again, 65 Mustangs will be covering the pitchers. The same rules apply as they did two weeks ago, but to recap: “We are ignoring the real life rules of needing a representative from each MLB team and instead will focus on who we think the best players are fantasy-wise per position. There won’t be any players on these lists because they “deserve” to be there (I’m looking at you Derek Jeter), but rather are guys who have had an impressive first-half. I will also be ignoring defense as it’s not fantasy relevant.” One final note that all of the stats found below are courtesy of FanGraphs. Now here’s my AL fantasy All-Star Lineup.
Catcher: Salvador Perez– Perez is having a solid season and his 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) leads all AL catchers. He’s currently hitting .284/.329/.444 and his batting average and on base percentage are second only to Kurt Suzuki among qualified AL catchers, while his slugging percentage is first. Believe it or not, his current splits are actually are worse – although not by much – than his career averages of .297/.330/.449, because Perez has been such a good hitter since he first started playing for the Royals in 2011. He also has 11 home runs and 37 runs scored, and if he continues on his current pace, he will easily set career highs in both of these categories. His 114 runs created plus (wRC+) leads all catchers in the AL and is only behind Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey among all MLB catchers. There’s no reason that Perez can’t keep this up in the second half. As I already mentioned, his current splits are worse than his career averages and considering he has a low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) at .297, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect these numbers to go up. His BABIP is not influenced by an inflated ground ball or fly ball rate, but rather he is hitting line drives at a decent clip (20.8%). Perez is the top-AL catcher to own in the second half. Reserve: Yan Gomes
First base: Edwin Encarnacion– This was a close call, but I gave the edge to Encarnacion because his wRC+ of 162 and his weighted runs above average (wRAA) are both 5th best in all of baseball, as well as leading all AL first basemen. He’s hitting .277/.368/.591 with 26 home runs, 57 runs scored, and 70 runs batted in, and his .314 Isolated Power (ISO) is second in all of baseball. I could rattle off any number of other stats that Encarnacion would find himself towards the top of, but if you’ve been paying attention to the MLB season this year, you already know that Encarnacion has been on quite a tear. He’s currently on the DL with a quad injury and could miss a few weeks, but if he comes back healthy, he should continue to crush the ball. Encarnacion had a breakout season in 2012 and his numbers from that year combined with last season average out to .276/.377/.555 with 39 home runs, 91.5 runs, and 107 runs batted in. In other words, numbers he should be able to replicate as long as he remains healthy. Reserve: Jose Abreu, who is arguably the best power hitter in all of baseball.
Second base: Jose Altuve– This was another tight race with three players all making strong claims for the top spot. I gave the edge to Altuve because of his 41 stolen bases, which are currently second best in baseball by just one, and 26 more than any other AL second basemen. He’s not just a speedster either, as he’s hitting .339/.378/.437 with a batting average second in all of baseball only to Troy Tulowitzki. Altuve’s 127 hits are a MLB best, and even though he only has two home runs, he still has some pop – his 27 doubles are 5th best in all of baseball. Altuve also rarely strikes out, as his 27 strikeouts are the third fewest among all qualified hitters. He is a career .296/.335/.389 hitter and his BABIP of .357 is the 14th highest in baseball, so look for his numbers to regress, but not much. In the second half I still expect Altuve to hit over .300, with another 20-25 extra-base hits, steal 20 more bases, and hold off Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano as the AL’s best fantasy second basemen. Reserve: Ian Kinsler
Shortstop: Erick Aybar– Even though there hasn’t been a lot of offensive production from the shortstop position in the AL, this was another close call. I went with Aybar because he has the highest slugging percentage and wRC+ (105) among AL shortstops, while the rest of his numbers hold up as well. He’s hitting .280/.315/.414 with 31 extra-base hits, 44 runs batted in (1st among AL shortstops), and 11 stolen bases. His strikeout percentage (K%) of just 9.5% is 7th best in baseball. Aybar’s on base percentage is fairly low at just .315, but as the 5th hitter for the Angels, his fantasy value is not reliant on getting on base and scoring runs, as he is often up with runners on base and the opportunity to drive them in. Besides, for on base percentage, Aybar’s current line is above his career averages of .277/.317/.388, and I expect his second half to look closer to this line than his current one, even though there’s not a significant difference. While I gave Aybar the nod for his first half performance, I prefer Jose Reyes in the second half because he has been underperforming and I expect him to rebound in the second half. Reserve: Jose Reyes
Third base: Adrian Beltre– Ho hum. Another year, another great season (so far) for Beltre. I wanted to name Lonnie Chisenhall the starter, as his 157 wRC+ is not only best among AL third basemen, but its tied with Giancarlo Stanton for 9th best in all of baseball. (Beltre’s wRC+ is 147, tied for 17th.) However, Beltre has the edge in wRAA (20.4 to 18.1) as well as in most of the standard categories. Beltre is currently hitting .336/.380/.532 with 12 home runs, 48 runs scored, and 49 RBI, better than Chisenhall in every category except for on base percentage. Beltre has a career .284 batting average, so his current .336 average looks high in comparison, but since 2010, he has only hit lower than .315 once. His current average is also inflated by the league’s 13th highest BABIP at .358, but his line drive percentage is right on par with what he hit last season when he finished the year with a .322 batting average. Look for Beltre’s .336 average to drop off in the second half, but not enough to hurt his fantasy value, as he will approach a 30 home run, 90 runs scored, 100 runs batted in season. Reserve: Lonnie Chisenhall– Hopefully you heeded my advice and added Chisenhall when you had the chance.
Right Field: Jose Bautista– After a few positions that had close calls, right field in the AL was not a tough decision. Bautista blows away his competition, posting a line of .292/.412/.510, with 17 home runs, 57 runs scored, and 52 runs batted in. His 156 wRC+ is not only is 28 points better than the next AL right fielder, but it’s also tied for 11th best in baseball, and his wRAA of 26.0 is 9th best. Bautista is not just a great power hitter (his .218 ISO is 25th best in baseball), but he is also able to get on base at an astounding clip, as his .412 on base percentage is topped by only two other players (Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen). Bautista has also improved his eye at the plate and it has led to a career high walk percentage (16.2%) and a career low strikeout percentage (14.9%). He actually has more walks (61) than strikeouts (56) this season. While Bautista’s batting average and on base percentage are well above his career averages and can be expected to drop, it is encouraging that he is walking more and striking out less, while also hitting line drives at almost four percent more than his career average (19.2% to 15.5%). His slugging percentage is sustainable and can actually be improved upon, especially if he hits another 12-15 home runs, which is entirely possible. Reserve: George Springer
Center Field: Mike Trout– I’m going to gloss over Trout because the numbers for baseball’s best player speak for themselves. He’s hitting .303/.396/.590 with 20 home runs, 60 runs scored, 64 runs batted in, and has 10 stolen bases. His .287 ISO is 4th best in baseball, his 175 wRC+ and his 32.7 wRAA are both second best, and his 5.4 fWAR is best. If he’s on your fantasy team, you’re happy. Reserve: Adam Jones
Left Field: Nelson Cruz– As good as Trout has been this season, depending on the fantasy league, Cruz has often been better. He’s tied with Jose Abreu for the league lead in home runs with 28, his 55 runs scored are tied for 18th best, and no one has more runs batted in than his 73. His 155 wRC+ is good for 13th overall, and his 26.5 wRAA is good for 8th best. Only two players (Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion) have a better ISO than his .294. He’s been an incredible offseason signing for the Orioles and hopefully you drafted him and haven’t looked back. He’s on pace to fly by some of his career highs (namely home runs and runs batted in) and his numbers so far this year don’t show signs of him slowing down. His walk percentage is higher than his career average, while his strikeout percentage is below it, and his .296 BABIP shows he isn’t getting lucky, although you don’t need luck when you hit the ball where they can’t field it. Ride the Cruz train while it’s hot and look for another 15 home runs and 50 runs batted in during the second half. Reserve: Michael Brantley
Just for kicks, here’s the AL roster in the order that I would bat them:
- Altuve- 2B
- Bautista- RF
- Trout- CF
- Cruz- LF
- Encarnacion- 1B
- Beltre- 3B
- Aybar- SS
- Perez- C
As always, follow me on Twitter @BenBBruno and check out my most recent post on the Washington Nationals here, in which I discuss how seven of the top-10 hitters in terms of most strikeouts are from the NL East.
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