The best All-MLB candidates who weren't All-Stars

December 2nd, 2019

For nearly nine decades, All-Star Game appearances have been baseball fans’ go-to tool for finding the best players in a given season. But the inherent problem with that approach has always been obvious; the Midsummer Classic is played with about 2 1/2 months left in the regular season, and a lot can change from then through September.

That’s one of the beauties of the new All-MLB Team, which should help solve this issue as it makes its grand debut this month. The selection process for the 2019 All-MLB Team presented by Scotts runs through 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, with 50% of the vote coming from fans and 50% coming from a panel of experts.

You can vote right here, and may do so once every 24 hours between now and when voting ends next Tuesday. The inaugural All-MLB Team will be announced on Dec. 10 at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings in San Diego.

There will be a first team and second team All-MLB, and voters are asked only to consider performance during the regular season when casting their ballots. Each team will include one selection at each position (including designated hitter and three outfielders, regardless of specific outfield position), five starting pitchers and two relievers.

This year’s All-MLB ballot includes 24 position players and 10 pitchers who weren’t selected for the American and National League All-Star rosters in July. Below, we’ve picked the 10 full-season performances -- no easy task, considering that meant omitting names from and to and to and -- that stood out the most. References to WAR are from FanGraphs’ formula.

, SS, Athletics
2019 stats: .285/.369/.522, 33 HR, 92 RBI

Semien is probably the third-most famous member of his own infield, but he was a quiet force for the A’s, finishing among the American League’s top five in total bases, runs, hits, doubles and triples while starting all but one of Oakland’s 162 games. Once a defensive question mark, Semien held his own playing next to Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, evolving into a complete shortstop who finished fifth in the Majors in WAR (7.6). He was a legitimate AL MVP finalist.

, 3B, Red Sox
2019 stats: .311/.361/.555, 32 HR, 115 RBI

Devers’ prodigious hitting ability blossomed in 2019; it could be argued that he was the most consistent slugger in a Red Sox lineup that also featured Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. No one put more hard-hit balls in play than Devers, and he also improved at the hot corner.

, RHP, Rangers
2019 stats: 16-11, 3.67 ERA, 246 K, 208.1 IP

Lynn defined the workhorse moniker in his Lone Star debut, recording his highest strikeout rate in nearly a decade and nearly cutting his 2018 walk rate in half while facing an AL-most 875 hitters. His ERA wasn’t sexy, but only five qualified pitchers finished with a larger gap between their ERA and FIP -- and none of them were nearly as effective as Lynn. As the Majors' third-best pitcher by WAR (6.8) behind Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom, Lynn already gave the Rangers a major return on their three-year, $30 million investment.

, DH, Twins
2019 stats: .311/.392/.639, 41 HR, 108 RBI

Hunter Pence was a great story when he won the All-Star fan ballot, but the 39-year-old Cruz finished with numbers that players his age simply don’t put up very often -- and his counting stats would have been even more fearsome if a left wrist strain didn’t rob him of about five weeks of action. Cruz’s presence flipped a switch in the Twins’ record-setting “Bomba Squad” lineup, helping Minnesota claim its first division title in nine years.

, 3B, White Sox
2019 stats: .315/.367/.548, 25 HR, 79 RBI

The Majors’ most stacked position added another star this year in Moncada, who finished 2019 somewhat quietly as a top-25 player. Moncada tapped into his power with a slugging percentage that outranked sluggers like Olson, Betts and Kris Bryant, and he did so while cutting down on his strikeouts. His emergence is one of many factors that make the White Sox future look so bright.

, 3B, Braves
2019 stats: .259/.379/.521, 37 HR, 94 RBI

Donaldson’s one-year, $23 million gamble was one of the best betting-on-yourself years in recent memory. He shook the rust off in April and May and then tore the cover off the ball, knocking 30 homers and slugging .577 over the season’s final four months. Donaldson also quieted concerns about his shoulder, finishing runner-up to Chapman in defensive runs saved at third base.

, RHP, Nationals
2019 stats: 18-6, 3.32 ERA, 251 K, 209 IP

What a difference a year made for Strasburg, who finished 2018 with 130 innings and a 3.74 ERA, but became a true workhorse in ’19. Strasburg eased off the gas and emphasized his excellent curveball to get more free strikes, and he completed his first season since ’14 without a day on the injured list. He was a top-10 Major League starter this season, even before he ripped off an October for the ages.

, OF, Nationals
2019 stats: .282/.401/.548, 34 HR, 110 RBI

Soto became the first player with two .400-plus OBP campaigns before his age-21 season, but he was one of the Majors’ best hitters regardless of age. Soto’s discipline was the headliner, but he got more powerful in his sophomore year, finishing among baseball’s most consistent purveyors of hard contact in the air. The sky is the limit with Soto, but his current level is already elite. He proved that time and time again in October.

, RHP, Cardinals
2019 stats: 11-8, 2.75 ERA, 231 K, 196.1 IP

If it weren’t for Jake Arrieta’s mind-blowing run to the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, Flaherty’s second half might rank as the best of this century. His ERA sat at 4.64 at the All-Star break, but he permitted two or fewer runs in all but two his final 15 starts once play resumed. Nine of those outings were scoreless. Flaherty’s second-half numbers finished in video-game, rookie-mode territory: A 0.91 ERA, .424 opponent OPS, five homers allowed and 124 strikeouts to just 23 walks.

, DH, Astros
2019 stats: .313/.412/.655, 27 HR, 78 RBI

Alvarez debuted too late to get All-Star consideration, but he made up for it with a Willie McCovey-esque, short-season assault on the record books. Once Alvarez did debut on June 9 (homering in his second at-bat), he was tied with Cruz for baseball’s third-best hitter. Shoeless Joe Jackson is the only rookie to finish with a better batting line over at least 300 plate appearances.