By Sam McPherson
On Tuesday evening in San Diego, the best of the best in Major League Baseball will gather for the sport’s annual Midsummer Classic: The All-Star Game. This traditional exhibition game between the American League and the National League will decide which team—unknown to us all now, of course—will get home-field advantage in the 2016 World Series.
Thus, it’s an exhibition game that actually counts for something, even though no one on the field participating knows which teams will benefit from the outcome of the game for three months. Throw in the fact that all 30 MLB teams must have a representative player at the All-Star Game, and it becomes a confusing moment for many fans.
If the game means something, shouldn’t the best players—regardless of what team they play for—be in the game? That’s the beauty of fantasy baseball, of course: There’s no requirement that any fantasy baseball owner must have one player from every team on her or his roster. That would be chaos for all involved.
As the sport takes four days off here to celebrate itself, we put together our own All-Star team: The best fantasy baseball players at each position so far this season. Enjoy as you watch the festivities in San Diego this week, and remember, you actually could have had this entire fantasy team on your roster if you drafted well in late March (and traded even better since then).
Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals. With a .330 batting average, 13 home runs and 48 RBI, he is blowing away the competition at the position. On average, Ramos was a late-round draft pick, and he probably went undrafted in some leagues. However, he’s second in HRs, first in RBI and first in batting average at the position.
First Base: Wil Myers, San Diego Padres. This is a surprise, of course, but Myers is having a stellar season. With 19 HRs and 60 RBI, we can look past his .286 batting average (which is hardly mediocre). What puts Myers ahead of all other players at the position is his 15 stolen bases this year. Only one other MLB first baseman has more than eight steals this year, and Myers has more HRs and RBI than Paul Goldschmidt right now—and he was available until the 20th round of most drafts, we’d bet.
Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros. There are a lot of good-hitting players at this position, but Altuve gets the nod because of the SBs, too. It’s an undervalued category in fantasy baseball, but if you can add power (14 HRs) to speed (23 SBs) like Altuve does, you’re ahead of the bunch. That .341 batting average doesn’t hurt, either. If you have him on your roster, chances are you picked him in the first round or the second, if you were lucky.
Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays. This is another position where good hitters are in abundance this year. The reigning AL MVP is not slowing down, hitting .304 right now with 23 HRs and 63 RBI. Throw in six SBs, and Donaldson edges out a few other players having stellar seasons at the hot corner. He was a Top 10 pick in every fantasy baseball draft, we’re pretty sure.
Shortstop: Eduardo Nunez, Minnesota Twins. Once again, SBs tip the scales here in favor of an infielder. Nunez is hitting .321 with 12 HRs, 40 RBI and 22 SBs. Other shortstops have more power, etc., but if you have a player on pace for this many steals while still posting decent power numbers, you have to go with the speed factor. We bet pretty much no one out there drafted Nunez this year, either. That’s the best part about fantasy baseball sometimes, isn’t it?
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Unless you’re the best trader ever in fantasy baseball, it’s hard to imagine getting Altuve, Donaldson and Trout on your roster at the same time. But we’re sure someone somewhere has pulled it off, because that’s the worst part about fantasy baseball sometimes, isn’t it? Bad trades are a part of all sports, in real life or in fantasy sports. Trout is doing his usual thing (18 HRs, 58 RBI, 15 SBs, .322 average), so nothing surprising here.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox. With almost the same numbers as Trout, it’s surprising to see Betts here. We knew he was good, but when that Red Sox fan in your league drafted him in the second or third round, you probably chortled. Joke’s on us, then, because 18 HRs, 59 RBI, 15 SBs and a .304 average at the break have Betts on the fantasy All-Star team.
Outfield: Ian Desmond, Texas Rangers. His slow start was discouraging, so if you remained faithful to a mid-round draft pick like Desmond, the reward has been huge. But no one saw this coming: a career-high .322 average, 15 HRs, 55 RBI and 15 SBs put him on pace for a career year at age 30. Good for him, and good for the owner that drafted him late—and didn’t drop him like we suggested in mid-April.
Utility: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox. At age 40, David Ortiz is hitting like Barry Bonds at the same age, and that’s pretty unique. Allegedly he’s retiring after this season, but why do that when you still can hit .332 with 22 HRs and 72 RBI? Ortiz’ position limits him in fantasy baseball, so his draft value always takes a little hit. But with these numbers, we ponder the wisdom of that decision. Smart owners could have grabbed him anywhere after the fifth round.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers. With 11 wins and a 1.79 ERA, not to mention the 0.727 WHIP and the 145 strikeouts, Kershaw is better than ever at age 28. Yes, he’s on the disabled list right now, but the stud lefty has just nine walks in 121 innings this year. Think about that for a moment and then make sure your jaw hasn’t hit the floor too hard. Someone had to have taken him in the first round of your draft, right? Right?!
Relief Pitcher: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers. Like his teammates above, Jansen is just 28 years old and having a season for the ages. With three wins, 27 saves, a 1.16 ERA and 51 Ks in just 38 2/3 innings for a 0.647 WHIP, Jansen is easily having the best season for a closer this year in MLB. There’s always someone in a fantasy baseball draft that starts a run on closers early, and Jansen was probably gone by the seventh round in your league—and deservedly so.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.