All-Star FAQ: All you need to know on rosters

July 4th, 2021

The complete rosters for the 2021 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard are here, and if you want to know how players are being picked for the July 13 Midsummer Classic at Denver's Coors Field, here is an explainer.

While the way starters are chosen has evolved, the way pitchers and position-player reserves are selected is largely unchanged.

Here's a handy FAQ to guide you through the particulars of the selection process.

How many spots have to be filled?
Finalists who don't win the Starters Election at their position are not automatically added to All-Star rosters, so after the starters are selected by fans, the NL has 24 roster spots to fill, while the AL has 23. The difference, of course, is that fans vote in a starting designated hitter for the AL team. There are 32 roster spots for each league, with 20 position players and 12 pitchers per side.

Who picks the reserves and pitchers?
In short, it's a group effort between the player ballot and the Commissioner's Office. A change made in 2017 resulted in All-Star skippers no longer having a say in selections, so there's no longer the potential for any perceived conflicts of interest.

How many player ballot selections are there?
The ballots gathered in all 30 clubhouses shortly before the roster announcements account for 16 players in the NL and 17 in the AL -- eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), as well as one backup for each position (including DH in the AL).

What if the players select a guy already voted into the starting lineup by the fans?
Next man up. The guy who was second on the player ballot at that particular position is selected as the backup. This doesn't change the number of player ballot selections. The player ballot is basically used as a pecking order to fill the backup slot at each position.

How many MLB selections are there?
The Commissioner's Office is responsible for selecting eight NL players (four pitchers and four position players) and six AL players (four pitchers and two position players). At this stage, MLB must ensure that every club is represented by at least one All-Star selection.

Is every team represented?
Yes, and it is the job of the Commissioner's Office to ensure this stipulation is accounted for with its selections. It should be noted, however, that if a player is selected to the roster and can't participate, he does not necessarily have to be replaced by a teammate.

How is the starting pitcher for each team determined?
By the league managers. The announcement is made the day before the game.

Who picks the replacements for injured players or those who decline to participate?
If an elected starter is unable to play, the manager will choose one of the player selections to replace him in the starting lineup. The roster replacement is then chosen by the league.

If a player-elected reserve position player must be replaced, the next in line on the player ballot becomes a reserve, unless the leaders of the player ballot have already been accounted for. If the top finishers on the player ballot are already All-Stars, then MLB can select another replacement.

Does an injured or otherwise unavailable player have to be replaced by a player from the same position?
Not necessarily. Pitchers are replaced by pitchers. But on the position-player front, we've seen situations like infielders replacing outfielders and vice versa.

Are starters who pitch the Sunday before the game allowed to participate?
Initially, Sunday starters were deemed ineligible. Then, they were allowed to make the decision themselves (albeit limited to a single inning if they opted to play). Now, clubs or players are allowed to make requests for usage accommodation if there are factors (such as an IL stint, recent surgery, innings workload or other reasons) that would affect the pitcher's availability. If an accommodation is granted, then the parties agree upon the pitcher's status and workload availability.

What if a selected player gets traded to a team in the opposite league before the All-Star Game?
This happened to Jeff Samardzija in 2014, when the Cubs dealt him to the A's. Samardzija was deemed ineligible to participate in the game, but was still recognized as an All-Star for the NL (he wore a generic NL jersey and All-Star Game cap for the pregame player introductions). With the game no longer counting for home-field advantage in the World Series, it's unclear if MLB would take as stringent a stance should a similar scenario play out.