The ever-changing rosters for the All-Star Game have made for a hectic past few days, for late additions from both leagues.
On Sunday, the final day of the first half of the season, four pitchers were subbed out on the National League roster alone. The rule that allows starting pitchers who threw Sunday to be replaced was the culprit, though injuries have also played a part in the shuffling.
So, the original roster count of 68 players now stands at 81. That’s a lot of All-Stars, and a lot of roster turnover for a game that determines which league will have home-field advantage for the World Series.
Now that the rosters are set, here’s a look at which team, at least on paper, should prevail.
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The AL squad must be deep if Chris Sale had to be picked in the Final Vote and if Garrett Richards was snubbed. The injury to Masahiro Tanaka is a bummer, but manager John Farrell has formidable options in Felix Hernandez (11-2, 2.12 ERA) and reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (11-3, 3.35), among others. The NL team would have the edge hands down if it could use only Adam Wainwright (12-4, 1.83) and Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 1.78). But there has been a significant dropoff after the dynamic duo, with Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmerman bowing out after pitching Sunday.
The AL team is loaded with closers, who oftentimes don’t pitch well anywhere but the ninth inning. Many, though, have histories as setup men. Among them are left-handers Glen Perkins and Sean Doolittle, and first-time All-Star Koji Uehara. Look for Greg Holland if the AL has a lead late. If the NL takes the lead, there’s no doubt that Craig Kimbrel will get the ball in the ninth. He’s the game’s best closer. Francisco Rodriguez, once the game’s best, is an All-Star again after a bumpy ride with the Mets. NL manager Mike Matheny picked one of his own, Pat Neshek, as a setup specialist. Nice story there.
The NL gets a boost with the designated hitter in place. It will be slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The lineup also features an outfield that includes reigning league MVP Andrew McCutchen, WAR machine Carlos Gomez and rock star Yusiel Puig as starters. Gomez’s WAR plays second fiddle to Troy Tulowitzki, who leads baseball in the metric. It will be interesting to see how his offensive game translates from Coors Field, hitting heaven, to Target Field, more of a pitcher’s park. The AL squad is loaded, with the exception of shortstop. But Derek Jeter had to be the starter in his final year. Farrell gets to tinker with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, among others.
How is this for depth? Jose Abreu is backing up at first base on the AL team. All that rookie is doing is leading the majors in home runs. The backups at third base on each team are better than the starters. Adrian Beltre, the AL’s leading hitter, will back up Josh Donaldson, and Todd Frazier, who can do a lot of everything for Cincinnati, is backing up Aramis Ramirez for the NL team. Arlington High’s Hunter Pence is back in the All-Star Game, representing San Francisco.
This seems like an easy job, but isn’t. The hard part, picking the teams, is over. Now Farrell and Matheny have to know when to make the right pitching moves in what could be a tight game with home-field advantage for the World Series on the line. Look for Matheny to micro-manage. He picked true setup relievers and has a few versatile players on his bench, whereas Farrell is loaded with closers and has less flexibility on the bench.
Prediction: American League 5, National League 3