Yes, it’s great to see future Hall of Famers and established stars on the field for baseball’s annual All-Star competition and surrounding events.
But for my money, the best part is seeing players making their first All-Star appearance. There’s just something special about that endorsement, regardless of whether the player was chosen by the fans or chosen by their peers or the manager. That first All-Star nod is the “I belong” moment for players who have dedicated their lives to the sport.
MLB RATINGS: MVP | Cy Young | Rookie of the Year
Today we’re looking at 10 players — five position players, three starting pitchers and two relievers — who deserve to make their All-Star debuts in Los Angeles in mid-July. For this particular drill, we’re not looking at Impact rookies (sorry, Julio Rodriguez and Jeremy Pena), nor are we looking at sophomore standouts (sorry, Alek Manoah, Shane McClanahan and Logan Gilbert).
We only look at players who are at least in their third full league season. Most of these guys have struggled to even show they’re great, let alone create an all-star roster.
SP Nestor Cortes, Yankees
The amazing story of Cortes deserves an All-Star Chapter in 2022. This is a guy who was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2013, then picked by the Orioles in the 2017 Rule 5 draft and a few weeks into 2018 too the Yankees returned season. He was then traded to the Mariners in 2019 for “forward-looking considerations.” Considering he had a 15.26 ERA for Seattle, it’s perhaps not surprising that Baseball Reference doesn’t list anything about how those future considerations turned out.
But Cortes was a revelation for the Yankees in 2021, rolling up a 2.90 ERA in a variety of roles, each of which grew in importance as the season progressed. After earning his spot in the rotation through 2022, he’s been better than anyone could have expected. The left-hander, nicknamed “Nasty Nestor,” had his first hiccup start this week, but he still owns a 1.96 ERA in 11 starts, with a solid 2.85 FIP and a very healthy 5.07 ratio K/BB. He absolutely deserves a place on the AL list.
SP Pablo Lopez, Marlins
López’s story isn’t quite as dramatic as Cortes’, but he was also once part of the Seattle organization before being sold to Miami in 2017 in a deal that sent his aide David Phelps west. López was no stranger to the majors, but he had various issues stuck in the Marlins’ rotation, either due to injuries or disagreements. He made 10 starts in 2018, 21 in 2019, 11 in 2020 (that was a full pandemic season), and then 20 in 2021.
And maybe we should have seen this all-star version of López coming if we’d been paying attention last year. Lopez made those 20 largely anonymous starts — well, anonymous to baseball fans in general, but not to Marlins fans or the hitters he mowed down — and fashioned a 3.07 ERA with a 10.1 K/9 mark. What a spotlight Whatever existed in Miami centered on the grossly underrated Sandy Alcantara, and it didn’t help that López ended up on the disabled list just before the All-Star break and had just one more brief appearance in October.
López has allowed just a single run in four starts in April, and he has allowed more than one run in just three of his 11 starts this season. López has a 2.18 ERA, with a measly .97 WHIP and just 6.4 allowed hits per nine.
MORE: MLB All-Star Voting 2022: How it works, fan voting end date, latest results
SP Joe Musgrove, Padres
Musgrove leads the NL with a 6-0 record, a perfect 1,000 win percentage. That alone should get him the starting shot for the senior circuit.
i’m kidding, i’m kidding Winning percentage for pitchers is a silly stat (same goes for pitchers W/L records), but Musgrove really deserves a spot on the NL roster.
He’s made 10 starts with a 1.64 ERA and has pitched at least six full innings every time he’s conquered the mound. A decade ago, that wouldn’t have been a big deal. Now it’s rare – and important. In his “worst” start of the year, as noted by Game Score, Musgrove threw six innings, allowed seven hits, two earned runs and a walk with four strikeouts.
DH Jordan Alvarez, Astros
Álvarez can just smash the baseball. The left-hander hit 27 home runs in 87 games in 2019 as a rookie and 33 in 144 games in 2021 (he only played two games in 2020). This year he has 17 in 51 games.
But do you know what’s really impressive about his performance this season? He has greatly reduced his strikeouts. In his first three seasons, Álvarez had a strike rate of 24.6. That’s high, but not crazy high and acceptable for a home run hitter. But 2022? His strike rate is only 15.4 percent. That’s a huge improvement.
In 2021, Álvarez basically had three strikeouts for every walk: 145 strikeouts, 50 walks.
This year it’s pretty darn close to a 1:1 ratio: 28 walks, 33 strikeouts.
He absolutely deserves a spot on the AL list in LA.
1B Ty France and SS JP Crawford, Mariners
Yes, OK, we’re bending the “five position players only” rules, because how on earth can you choose between these two Mariners teammates? France leads the club with a 2.9 bWAR and Crawford is just behind with 2.5. Crawford, who has been Seattle’s first shortstop in a number of years, is posting offensive highs across the board, with a slash line of .294/.382/.442 containing three career bests. He also kicks out less and walks more, which is always a good combination.
And France, well, everything he does has hit it. He’s hitting .327 with a .402 base percentage and 163 OPS+ to go with nine homers and 38 RBIs. And his strikeout percentage of 12.1 is 12th out of 161 qualified batters in the bigs. Impressive.
R.F. Taylor Ward, Engel
Ward was one of this season’s success stories out of nowhere. He made his MLB debut in 2018 and played 159 games with 15 home runs and .693 OPS in the 2022 season. He nearly hit that home run total in 38 games before landing on the IL with a hamstring problem, slamming 10 over the fence and producing a stellar .333/.443/.644 slash, good for 211 OPS+ and 2.1 bWAR. crazy stuff
The Angels are hoping he’ll be back soon, and if he continues to put up as many numbers as he has in the first 38 games, he’ll earn a spot on the All-Star team.
2B Andrés Giménez, guard
Giménez made his debut with the Mets during the pandemic year and then struggled in his freshman season in Cleveland; In those two years, he averaged 84 OPS+ in 117 games.
It’s safe to say he was a different player on the plate in 2022. Giménez, who was dealt to the AL as part of the deal that sent Francisco Lindor to New York, has already hit a career-high with seven homers and his OPS+ is a decent 149, which compares well with his .309 average. At 23, he’s younger than the other players on this list, but he’s in his third full season so he’s making it. And he deserves a place.
SS Tommy Edman, Cardinals
He may not have the overwhelming punching power of Alvarez or a batting average to rival Ward or France, but check out the WAR leaderboards. He is third among positional players on the baseball reference chart with 3.1 and he is fourth as calculated by FanGraphs with 2.8. He is level on points with teammate Harrison Bader for the NL lead in stolen bases at 14.
And he stepped up when the Cardinals needed him. The club put Dylan Carlson at the helm early in the season but he struggled and Edman stepped in. The front office decided that season that Paul DeJong would still be the team’s shortstop — despite mountains of evidence showing that wasn’t the best decision — and when they eventually beat DeJong with a .130 average, .417 OPS and 22 OPS+ sent to the minors, Edman was moved to the shortstop despite not having played more than a handful of games there since attending Double-A in 2018.
RP Clay Holmes, Yankees
Yankees fans might have rioted if Holmes wasn’t on this list. Ever since the Yankees stole him from Pittsburgh, he’s been amazing. He posted a 1.61 ERA last year and a microscopic 0.33 ERA this season, with almost twice as many strikeouts (29) as hits allowed (15). And he stepped into the narrower role following Aroldis Chapman’s troubles, scoring a perfect 9-on-9 on the save opportunities.
RP JP Feyereisen, Rays
If you have a minute, take a look at all the helpers who are having phenomenal seasons. The competition for this second bullpen spot was fierce. So why Feyereisen?
That’s how many earned runs he’s allowed this season. In 22 appearances covering 24 1/3 innings, Feyereisen has a .00 on-season ERA. He’s only allowed seven hits and five walks while striking 25. Did we mention he has a 0.00 ERA? It doesn’t even matter that he’s on the IL at the moment. He gets a seat.