- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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We're one-third of the way through the season, early enough that fans are starting to discuss All-Star Game selections. People get too worked up about this -- with the bigger rosters and the rules regarding starting pitchers (if you start on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, you're not eligible to pitch and are replaced) and the inevitable injury replacements, we end up with something like 75 to 80 All-Stars. There were 77 All-Stars a year ago.
So, really, most players with a legitimate All-Star case eventually make it on to rosters (and several without). Still, I suppose the arguments about how should start and who should make it can still be fun. I believe the most interesting debates this year will: Should Bryce Harper and Mike Trout be All-Stars?
Let's start with Trout. Among AL hitters with at least 125 plate appearances, Trout ranks 11th in the league with his .912 OPS. AL outfielders with a higher OPS are Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Josh Willingham, Austin Jackson and Matt Joyce. The knock against Trout is that he hasn't played enough. But with his injury, Jackson only has a few more plate appearances than Trout and Joyce is a platoon player. In Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement, Trout ranks tied for sixth at 1.8, behind Hamilton (3.4), Jones (2.4), Joyce (2.3), Jackson (2.3) and Josh Reddick (2.1).
Based on merit, I'd argue that Trout is clearly one of the five or six best outfielders in the American League right now. Aside from the guys listed above, you'd have to throw Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista into the mix, and perhaps Mark Trumbo, Trout's Angels teammate, if you want to consider him an outfielder. Trout didn't get recalled from Triple-A until April 28. I wouldn't hold those 20 games against him. Right now, he looks like a deserving All-Star.
Harper's case is a little more difficult. Of the 17 NL players with an OPS above .900 (minimum 125 PAs), 10 are outfielders. Harper is 10th in that group with his .922 figure and ranks just 24th in Baseball-Reference WAR among NL outfielders at 0.8.
If you look at the obvious All-Stars, you get Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran, Michael Bourn and Melky Cabrera. Plus the injured Matt Kemp and NL RBI leader Andre Ethier. Oops, that's already nine outfielders. As exciting as would be to see Harper in the All-Star, there are just too many good, deserving outfielders ahead of him right now.
But MLB would be insane if it didn't put Harper in the Home Run Derby.