Last week we started our two-part series on the 2018 All-Star game by presenting our starting lineup for the American League. The response was terrific but the overwhelming question was: “Where is Xander Bogaerts?” He’s there, but is riding the bench behind Carlos Correa at third base. He’s great…Correa turned out to better – and that’s the fun of following prospects.
Today, we move to the National League. Is it stacked as much as the American League? You let me know; and in fact, let me know who wins this mythical matchup between 2014 eligible prospects in the 2018 All-Star game.
For those of you new to this series, here’s the exercise:
I decided to put the lineups together for the 2018 All-star game from players who have rookie eligibility (i.e. players in the minor leagues). Some players will be household names and others will not. Some will be on their current teams and some will be on new teams. You might also question…how did he come up with those estimates? Well, I made them up…but I did so hopefully in a logical and meaningful way.
In the end, I’m trying to answer the question: “What kind of player could X be in 5-years?”. To do that, I decided to take a fun (hopefully) approach to answering that basic question.
C: Austin Hedges – San Diego Padres
In an ESPN interview over the winter, recently retired Yadier Molina was asked who he thought was the best catcher in the league? His answer: Austin Hedges. Coming off winning back-to-back gold glove awards, Hedges makes his second all-star game appearance and his first as a starter. While experts warned that it would take a while for his offensive game to take shape, it looks like that has happened. At the break, Austin is batting .276 with 11 home runs and 45 RBI’s for the division leading San Diego Padres.
1B: Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates
It took a while for Josh Bell to get his career going as multiple knee surgeries caused him to miss time early in his career. However, when Pittsburgh Pirates manager Joe Maddon made the decision to start Bell at first base to begin the 2017 season, everything fell into place. He slugged 34 home runs and drove in 122 RBI’s to pace the Pirates to their first title in 38 years. This year Bell has already hit 20 home runs, driven in 70 runs to go along with his .268 batting average.
2B: Arismendy Alcantara – Chicago Cubs
Arismendy Alcantara, better known as AA is starting his second straight All-star game. The switch hitting second baseman has dominated the position since 2016 by averaging 21 home runs and 29 stolen bases while earning his first gold glove last year. His approach at the plate has also improved and most scouts believe that his first half slash line of .295/.375/.485 is the new baseline.
SS: Amed Rosario – NY Mets
22-year old Amed Rosario makes his first All-star appearance after Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson had to take a pass on the mid-summer classic due to an oblique strain. Rosario burst onto the scene last June and clearly has solved the shortstop problem that has faced the Mets since recently retired Jose Reyes laced up the cleats in Queens in 2011. Rosario’s speed and aggressive play has made him an ideal leadoff hitter. He’ll bring his .290 average, 28 stolen bases and 60 runs scored to the leadoff position in Tuesday’s big game.
3B: Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs
After fighting through personal problems early in his major league career, Javier Baez has finally let his bat do the talking. The result is his first All-star appearance as well as leading the Cubs to a tie in the Central Division with the Pirates. Baez hopes to build on his breakout year where he won the silver slugger award at third; slugged 38 home runs, drove in 106 runs while batting .270.
LF: Ramiel Tapia – Colorado Rockies
In an epic home run derby battle between Oscar Taveras and Kris Bryant last night, Oscar nudged out his fellow All-star teammate for the victory, but injured his quad in the process and will miss tonight’s All-star game. Replacing the NL leading vote getter is Colorado Rockies outfielder Ramiel Tapia. Tapia bursts onto the scene last year in June where he hit seven home runs in his first 15 games. He cooled off slightly but ended the year with 14 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a .305 average to easily win Rookie of the Year honors. Colorado Rockies manager, Matt Holiday believes that the sky is the limit for the 24-year-old Dominican with the chance to be one of the top five players in the league.
CF: Gregory Polanco – Pittsburgh Pirates
After a disappointing rookie season in 2014, Gregory Polanco skipped winter ball and trained with former Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. Polanco shortened his swing and became even more selective in his approach and has never looked back. In his second straight starting All-Star appearance, Polanco is building on his 25/35 output in 2017 and is on pace for a 30/30 season while hitting .280. In fantasy circles, he’s a monster as well – going in the top 3 of all players selected.
RF: Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs
With a Golden Spikes award on his resume, Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant hopes to add an MVP to his trophy case before his career ends. After a cup-of-coffee in 2014 at third base, Bryant spent the first half of 2015 re-learning the angles in right-field in the minors before getting the call for good in June of that same year. He’s been a mainstay in the outfield and a terror to pitchers ever since. Over the last two years, he’s averaged 32 home runs, 96 RBI’s while batting .272. However, this year Bryant has really notched it up with 36 home runs, 85 RBI’s and a .310 batting average in the first half. If he can do 80% of that in the second half, he could very well add that MVP to his trophy case.
SP: Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
Archie Bradley bursts into the Majors in 2014 and easily won the NL Rookie of the Year with an 11-4 record while helping the Diamondbacks to a wildcard showing in the playoffs. However, the extra mileage on the arm led to a torn UCL and Tommy John Surgery in 2015. Fully recovered and pitching better than ever, Bradley is back and pitching in his second consecutive All-star game; this time as the National League starter.
SP: Jonathan Gray – Colorado Rockies
When the Rockies took Jonathan Gray with the third overall pick in the 2013 first year player draft, many people wondered if Gray could navigate the difficult conditions of Coors Field. After a rocky debut in 2015, Gray started to figure things out the following year and today, makes his second All-star appearance. The stuff continues to be impressive as Gray leads the league in strikeouts with 132 in 107 innings. His ERA remains inflated at 3.63 with an xFIP of 2.87.
SP: Lucas Giolito – Washington Nationals
Lucas Giolito got his Tommy John Surgery out of the way early in his career and has gone on to become the ace of the Washington Nationals. While Giolito’s still struggles at times with his control, his arsenal can be unhittable. In fact, his 215 strikeouts led the National League in 2017, despite a 1.32 WHIP. His performance reminds many of the early profile of Yankees hurler Max Scherzer. Nationals fans hope that Giolito can eventually repeat Scherzer’s back-to-back CY Young awards that he won while pitching for the Tigers. However, they do hope that his career peak is longer as Scherzer is a shell of himself despite the Yankees still owing him $90 million dollars over the next three years.
SP: Noah Syndergaard – NY Mets
Noah Syndergaard makes his first appearance in the All-star game after posting a terrific 12-1 record for the first place New York Mets. Syndergaard has been solid since making his debut in the second half of 2014. However, he was never able to live up to the hype that his prospect status offered. His career 3.74 ERA and 7.8 strikeout-per-nine has been solid but not spectacular.
SP: Andrew Heaney – Florida Marlins
Making his third consecutive All-star appearance, Andrew Heaney has given the Marlins a 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup since he made his debut in 2014. Each year, Heaney gets better and better as his command reminds many of former major leaguer and All-star Cliff Lee. His 1.32 walks-per-nine was tops in the league in 2017.
MR: Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals
The pitching university known as the St. Louis Cardinals continues to produce elite pitchers. The latest graduate is 23-year-old Alexander Reyes. As with Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, Reyes starts his career off in the pen where his plus-plus fastball and hard curveball combination have baffled hitters. Cardinals fans and fantasy owners alike hope that Reyes will only spend his first two years in the pen before joining Rosenthal and Martinez in the starting rotation.
CL: J.R. Graham – Atlanta Braves
J.R. Graham was an effective starting pitcher for the Braves during the 2015 season but when his shoulder started barking midway through the 2016 season, the Braves decided to move him to the pen. With the move, Graham was able to get an extra grade on his fastball and has become a dominate closer. While the National League is stacked with elite closers, Graham became an easy addition to the squad with a first half that reads: 26 saves, 1.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched.