By: Eric Cain / @_Cainer
Major League Baseball released both the American and National League all-star rosters for the 89th Midsummer Classic – set to be played on Tuesday, July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. – Sunday evening.
Though the Astros, Red Sox and Indians are all well represented with five all-stars on the AL side, the Braves lead the way for the NL by sending four players to our nation’s capital. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis were ahead of the pack in individual voting for the league and are slated as starters while Ozzie Albies was selected as a reserve with Mike Foltynewicz added as a pitcher.
Atlanta has two players selected as starters for the first time since 2003 (Javy Lopez & Garry Sheffield) and the four players total mark the first time the Braves send more than two representatives to the all-star game since 2013 (Freeman & Brian McCann).
So, let’s talk about those Braves.
Freeman is off and running to an MVP-caliber season. The Canadian’s fourth all-star nod will be the first in starting fashion as the first baseman is currently hitting .315 with 16 homers, 59 RBI, 56 runs scored and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .948.
Freeman suffered a stretch in the tail end of June that saw his average dip from a near .350 down to just over .300 but has improved lately with 6-for-8 tick in his last two games.
Atlanta’s other starter on the NL lineup card will be 34-year-old Nick Markakis who is experiencing a career-year in the final season of his four-year, $44 million-dollar deal signed with the Braves prior to the 2015 season. The right fielder sports an average of .322 with 10 long balls and 59 runs driven in. With an OPS of .866 and an NL-high of 112 hits, Markakis is deserving of his Midsummer Classic recognition.
Throughout a career of 13 seasons that spans over 2,000 hits, 900 RBI, 800 walks, 1000 runs and 450 doubles it took the former 1st round pick 1,928 career games to finally reach the all-star status.
The most intriguing all-star starter position battle on not only the NL squad but all of the Major Leagues was second base with the three-headed race of Javier Baez (Cubs), Scooter Gennett (Reds) and Ozzie Albies (Braves). All three were deserving of the starting spot but it was Baez who will receive the start thanks to the fan vote.
Deservingly so, too, as Baez has slashed .295/.328/.565 through Sunday’s announcement with 17 home runs, 65 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Baez does it all for Chicago, both offensively and defensively, and has shown he can hit in every situation.
After a dreadful start to the season, Cincinnati has come on strong thanks to the play of first baseman Joe Votto, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Gennett – all of whom are reserve picks.
Gennett has impressed with a .326 clip at the plate, 14 home runs, 58 RBI and a .368 on-base percentage. In his first-full season of everyday duty, the former Brewer has shown he is capable of hitting above average routinely and not solely a power bat off the bench.
And then there’s Albies who led the fan voting most of the way. The 20-year-old flashy middle infielder has raked 18 homers with 50 RBI, stolen eight bases while hitting .281 at the plate. Albies has proved to be consistent at either the leadoff spot in Brian Snitker’s lineup card or in the No. 2 hole.
Again, all three players have the stats to be considered a starter in this game, but I think the fans got it right with Baez while fellow players made sure to get Albies and Gennett in the classic as well.
Atlanta’s final all-star tally went to right-hander Mike Foltynewicz who appears to have finally put it all together in his fifth season. The Braves No. 2 starter to begin the season has a 6-5 record with an impressive 2.37 ERA in 17 starts this season.
Flanking Markakis in the outfield for the NL will be Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Bryce Harper of the hometown Nationals.
Harper, who is having an uncharacteristically-low season in terms of average (.219), has still been a major source of power for a struggling Washington club with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. Despite the ugly average, it’s no surprise Harper will start his fifth all-star game of his career. Why? The game is in Nationals Park. Harper has also committed to taking part in the Home Run Derby as well.
Kemp is an all-star now and can potentially be the league’s Comeback Player of the Year when it’s all said and done. The former superstar has returned to form while slashing .317/.355/.550 thus far with 15 bombs and 57 RBI. The 33-year-old is no stranger to the all-star show as he was a starter in 2011 and a reserve in 2012.
In a contract dump between the Braves and Dodgers this offseason, Los Angeles is getting way more that it ever expected from the elder Kemp.
Other NL starters include Wilson Contreras (Cubs) behind the plate getting his first all-star selection, Brandon Crawford (Giants) at short and slugger Nolan Arenado at third base.
The fans, who vote in the starters each year online, did a good job this year. Fellow players and the commissioner also did their part in getting in the guys who deserved recognition as reserves. You can see the full lists of starters, reserves, pitchers and the final vote ballot below.
American League All-Star Starters
|1B||Jose Abreu||White Sox|
|OF||Mookie Betts||Red Sox|
|DH||J.D. Martinez||Red Sox|
American League All-Star Reserves
|1B||Mitch Moreland||Red Sox|
American League All-Star Pitchers
|SP||Chris Sale||Red Sox|
|RP||Craig Kimbrel||Red Sox|
|SP||J.A. Happ||Blue Jays|
American League All-Star Final Vote
|OF||Andrew Benintendi||Red Sox|
National League All-Star Starters
|DH||Managers Discretion||(Dave Roberts / LA)|
National League All-Star Reserves
American League All-Star Pitchers
National League All-Star Final Vote
Producing The Facts Episode 72
Get the rest of Cain’s Corner HERE