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Picking the ASG ballot -- by entertainment value

@castrovince
June 5, 2019

Read our FAQ on this year’s revamped balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters, and the ability to vote through Google Search. For generations, there have been two popular methods of voting for the Midsummer Classic -- going with the players with the

Read our FAQ on this year’s revamped balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters, and the ability to vote through Google Search.

For generations, there have been two popular methods of voting for the Midsummer Classic -- going with the players with the best raw numbers or going with all the guys from your favorite team.

VOTE NOW: Google MLB All-Star Ballot

But what if, on the 2019 Google MLB All-Star Ballot, we cast our votes a different way? What if we tried to assemble All-Star starting lineups that would provide the most purely entertaining game because of how their particular skill sets would apply in a one-time exhibition? Guys who hit the ball hard or often or far. Guys who can flash the leather or burn up the basepaths. Guys who don’t necessarily have the best and most All-Star-worthy numbers overall, but who bring something especially fun to the equation.

Here's one such ballot. You’ll note that it generally leans against the perennial All-Stars (yes, I’ve managed to cast a ballot that somehow doesn’t include Mike Trout, though I suspect he’ll still fare pretty well, regardless), because, well, let’s make this as interesting as possible.

My thanks to MLB.com reporter Sarah Langs -- an All-Star in her own right -- for her research assistance.

FIRST BASE

AL: José Abreu, White Sox

Abreu, a pending free agent and potential trade target, has been the best in baseball at rolling out the barrels, in terms of pure quantity. A barrel, for those who don’t know, is a ball struck with the combination of launch angle and exit velocity that leads to at least a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage, according to Statcast. A well-struck ball, in other words. Abreu has 32 of them this year, the most of anybody in the Majors. It’s helped him drive in a league-leading 50 runs so far. We’re going to want barrels in this ballgame.

NL: Josh Bell, Pirates

At what point does this guy get arrested for polluting the Allegheny River with baseballs? Bell did it twice in the month of May, and he has five home runs this season with a projected distance of 450 feet or more -- the most of anybody in baseball. Of course you’re going to want to see that in the All-Star Game, even if the Allegheny will be unreachable in Cleveland.

SECOND BASE

AL: Michael Chavis, Red Sox

Again, we want the longest of long balls, if we can get ‘em. Chavis’ revelatory rookie impact on the Red Sox is accompanied by some particularly deep dingers. The average distance of his 10 home runs is 426 feet -- the fourth-highest in the Majors and the highest of any player listed on the ballot as a middle infielder.

NL: Ketel Marte, D-backs

With all the pitching changes going on in the All-Star Game, we’re going to need balance in the lineup, and nobody has proven to be capable of providing it in a single game quite like Marte. He has been one of the most prolific switch-hitters in baseball this season, and he’s the only hitter so far this year to homer from both sides of the plate in a single game. He’s already done that three times. It only happened a dozen times in all of baseball last year.

THIRD BASE

AL: David Fletcher, Angels

In the swing-and-miss league that baseball has increasingly become, how about celebrating the guy who has demonstrated the best plate discipline of anybody in the bigs this season? Fletcher has the lowest whiff rate with two strikes (6.8 percent) and the lowest whiff rate overall (6.7 percent), leading to the game’s highest contact rate (94.4 percent). We’re going to want the ball in play at the All-Star Game.

NL: Anthony Rendon, Nationals

The third-highest hard-hit percentage (95 mph or more) in baseball this season (54.9) is a Statcast-based reason to include Rendon here. But he also has the fifth-highest OPS in baseball over the last three years, and yet, has never been an All-Star (all the others in the top 15 have), so that’s a different sort of extreme. It’s time to see Rendon in the All-Star Game.

SHORTSTOP

AL: Adalberto Mondesi, Royals

Billy Hamilton is no longer the fastest guy on his own team. How about that? Kansas City’s fleetest feet belong to Mondesi, who is far and away the Major League leader in what we call “bolts” -- runs of at least 30 feet per second. As of this writing, Mondesi has 42 such runs, and the next-most is Byron Buxton with 33. Mondesi has already swiped 21 bags this season. There were only 25 players across the Majors who had that many steals in the entirety of 2018. We need some burners in the All-Star Game.

NL: Nick Ahmed, D-backs

Our all-Arizona middle infield in the NL continues with perhaps the best active defensive shortstop in baseball, considering Andrelton Simmons is currently injured. Ahmed leads all shortstops in defensive runs saved (11), and it’s no fluke. Last year, he tied Simmons atop the MLB leaderboard with 21, and that was seven more than the next-closest NL shortstop (Paul DeJong). We need some dazzling defense in the All-Star Game.

CATCHER

AL: Gary Sánchez, Yankees

The Kraken is back(en?), having already matched his 2018 home run total (18). He has the highest percentage of barrels per plate appearance (16.0) in the game. But he’s also here because his pop time (1.93 seconds to second base) is among the best in baseball, and his arm strength (88.2 mph on max effort throws) is the best among catchers in MLB. If we’re going to have some slick speedsters on these squads, we need catchers up to the task of trying to nab them on the basepaths.

NL: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies

Same rationale here. Realmuto thus far hasn’t maintained the offensive pace that made him a first-time All-Star last season, but he’s second only to Sanchez in arm strength (87.6 mph) and first in pop time (1.85 seconds to second).

OUTFIELD

AL: Joey Gallo, Rangers; Byron Buxton, Twins; Ramón Laureano, A’s

Regardless of his current oblique injury, Gallo deserves your All-Star support because he’s remade himself from a sort of Adam Dunn/Rob Deer love child to legitimately one of the best all-round players in the game. But he’s specifically on this list because he has the highest average exit velocity in the game (96.3 mph) and the highest hard-hit rate in the game (58.5 percent). We want to see that.

We also want to see Buxton, the AL leader in outs above average in the outfield (nine) and the AL’s highest average sprint speed (30.2 feet per second), make a homer-robbing catch akin to a certain other Twins center fielder from way back when.

And if Laureano can’t crack this AL roster with a starting spot, can we at least insert him as a pinch-thrower on any fly balls to the outfield? Because his rocket arm (5.0 runs above average, per FanGraphs) has become one of baseball’s best attractions.

NL: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers; Lorenzo Cain, Brewers; Christian Yelich, Brewers

Even when you try to build an All-Star roster a different way, it still necessarily has to include Bellinger in the year 2019. It’s unavoidable. Because in addition to essentially hitting it on the “sweet spot” in half of his batted balls (he’s achieved an ideal launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees 50.3 percent of the time, which is the highest rate in the game), he also has the most defensive runs saved in baseball (16) and a FanGraphs-calculated arm rating better even than that of Laureano. Hard to believe there were once questions about whether Bellinger could make it work as an outfielder.

Cain, meanwhile, famously robbed a homer on the final play of Opening Day and has been electric in the outfield every day since, leading the NL in outs above average (nine). So, he’s another good candidate to make a standout play in the outfield.

Yelich is another superstar who is not on here for the reason you might suspect. Obviously, the numbers are again not All-Star worthy, but Yelich is here because, in the All-Star Game itself, you only get one shot at a particular pitcher. And nobody in baseball has fared better against opposing pitchers the first time he faces them this season. Yelich has a .351 average, .464 on-base percentage and .825 slugging percentage with 23 extra-base hits in those plate appearances. First impressions matter in the All-Star Game.

DESIGNATED HITTER

AL: Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners

The round mound of pound. Vogelbach, listed at six-foot and 250-pounds, looks like a baseball version of the movie “Tommy Boy” -- a large, lovable character who swings big. But don’t ignore the studiousness that has allowed him to tap into that pure power. He’s in the top 10 percent of the league in barrels-per-batted-ball but also in the top two percent in walk rate. Most importantly, his OPS in close and late situations (1.639) is the best in baseball, which means we can trust his heartbeat in a showcase like this.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.