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Picking the most ‘extreme’ All-MLB Teams

@SlangsOnSports
November 30, 2019

Voting is underway for the 2019 All-MLB team, and everyone's filling out their ballots. That got us thinking about how to vote based on different strengths. In reality, the position players who win the voting will run the gamut, excelling at various combinations of skills. But for the sake of

Voting is underway for the 2019 All-MLB team, and everyone's filling out their ballots.

That got us thinking about how to vote based on different strengths. In reality, the position players who win the voting will run the gamut, excelling at various combinations of skills. But for the sake of highlighting these skills individually, it's worth isolating a few and seeing which candidates were best at each of them.

What if we looked specifically at power, speed, batting average and defense, focusing four of the five tools by which position players are judged?

The selection process for the 2019 All-MLB Team runs through 5 p,m. ET on 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. 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.

Here is a 2019 All-MLB Team ballot based on each of four different tools:

All-power team

If you cared about power above all else, here’s the ballot you would have. Instead of basing these simply on most homers, this is instead based on the longest average home run distance -- yet another demonstration of pure power.

1B -- Pete Alonso (NYM), 414 feet: Alonso led the Majors in homers, and he didn’t hit cheapies.

2B -- Jonathan Villar (BAL), 412 feet: The most homers among the second base finalists belonged to Max Muncy (35), but Villar made his 24 count. Villar hit perhaps the most historically notable homer of the year, too -- No. 6,106 across MLB in 2019 broke the single-season record.

SS -- Trevor Story (COL), 414 feet: Seven of Story’s 35 homers this season went 440 feet or more, with a long of 459 feet on April 19 off Vince Velasquez at Coors Field.

3B -- Matt Chapman (OAK), 408 feet: The back-to-back Platinum Glove Award winner is typically associated with defense, but he can hit the ball far, too.

C -- Gary Sánchez (NYY), 417 feet: Sánchez led all catchers with 34 homers, and his average distance was third-longest in the Majors among players to hit at least 25.

DH -- Jorge Soler (KC), 414 feet: It's fitting that Soler is on this list in the year when he became the Royals’ first 40-homer hitter and the first player in franchise history to lead the AL in that category.

OF -- Mike Trout (LAA), 419 feet: It should come as little surprise that Trout was the best at something else this year. His average distance led all hitters with at least 25 long balls.

OF -- Ronald Acuña , Jr. (ATL), 418 feet: He showed off his power on May 10, when he hit one 466 feet, marking the longest home run by a Braves player tracked by Statcast (since 2015).

OF -- Charlie Blackmon (COL), 412 feet: It's only fair to point out that Blackmon averaged 421 feet on 22 homers at Coors Field, compared with 393 feet on 10 road homers.

All-speed team

Thanks to Statcast’s sprint speed measurements, we can determine which players were the quickest, among their fellow finalists at each position. For context, the Major League average sprint speed is 27 feet per second, and anything at 30 ft/sec or better is considered elite.

1B -- Yuli Gurriel (HOU), 27.6 ft/sec: Gurriel’s sprint itself wasn’t particularly notable, but it was fastest at a relatively slow position.

2B -- Ozzie Albies (ATL), José Altuve (HOU), Whit Merrifield (KC), 28.6 ft/sec: For a tiebreaker, let’s go to Bolts, which are individual runs at 30 ft/sec or faster. Altuve has the edge there, with 48 this season, ahead of Albies (20) and Merrifield (11).

SS -- Trevor Story (COL), 29.2 ft/sec: In the last two seasons, Story has shown how well-rounded of a player he is, raising his batting average while maintaining his power. His place on both the power and speed lists speaks to that as well.

3B -- Kris Bryant (CHC), 28.2 ft/sec: Bryant has been in the 28-plus range throughout his career, topping out at 28.9 ft/sec in 2017.

C -- J.T. Realmuto (PHI), 28.7 ft/sec: Catchers are not typically known for their speed, but the fastest catcher on the All-MLB ballot actually outpaced the fastest at a few other positions, including first base, third base and designated hitter. Realmuto had three Bolts this season. All other catchers combined for one, by Jorge Alfaro.

DH -- Jorge Soler (KC), 27.0 ft/sec: Soler’s career year landed him on multiple of these all-skill ballots. His sprint speed was right on the dot of the Major League average.

OF -- Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL), 29.4 ft/sec: It stands to reason that Acuña, who just missed out on a 40-40 season, makes the lists for both power and speed.

OF -- Mike Trout (LAA), 29.2 ft/sec: You don’t get the deserved reputation that Trout has garnered by being average. No, Trout excels in most aspects of the game, speed included.

OF -- Cody Bellinger (LAD), 28.8 ft/sec: A big part of what led to Bellinger’s MVP this season was his versatility, and his speed plays into that. You could always see him sprinting down the line -- his 3.97-second average home-to-first time tied Kevin Kiermaier for fastest among players with at least 125 competitive runs.

All-batting average team

This one doesn’t require too much explanation. Batting average might not be held in the esteem it once was -- but on this list it is.

1B -- Yuli Gurriel (HOU), .298 BA: Gurriel is one of a handful of players appearing on more than one of our all-skill lists. He has consistently been around .300 in each of the past three seasons.

2B -- DJ LeMahieu (NYY), .327 BA: LeMahieu found himself in the midst of the AL batting race for most of the season, and although he didn’t win the title, he did post the second-highest average of his career. He did so without playing a single game at Coors Field, silencing some critics.

SS -- Tim Anderson (CWS), .335 BA: Anderson is the player who ended up winning that batting title. He was the first White Sox player to lead the Majors in average since Luke Appling in 1936. It had been a while.

3B -- Anthony Rendon (WSH), .319 BA: That .319 is exactly what Rendon should have hit, based on expected batting average, which takes into account quality of contact and strikeouts. Rendon was the only qualified hitter in 2019 with a batting average exactly equal to his expected average.

C -- Christian Vázquez (BOS), .276 BA: Vázquez just barely edged out Realmuto, who hit .275. For Vázquez, it was a huge rebound from a 2018 season in which he played in 80 games and hit .207.

DH -- Yordan Álvarez (HOU), .313 BA: Álvarez hit some impressive homers, making it easy to overlook that he hit for average in 2019 as well, narrowly beating out Nelson Cruz (.311).

OF -- Christian Yelich (MIL), .329 BA: Yelich has won back-to-back batting titles, so of course he shows up here. Before Yelich in 2018, no Brewers player had ever won a batting title.

OF -- Ketel Marte (ARI), .329 BA: Marte’s breakout was one of the best stories of 2019. His .329 average came after never previously hitting higher than .283, which was in a 57-game stint in 2015 with the Mariners. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting.

OF -- Jeff McNeil (NYM), .318 BA: For a while, it looked like our batting champs might be from the two New York teams, when LeMahieu and McNeil both spent time atop the leaderboards. Ultimately, neither won, but McNeil continued to show the value of his high-contact approach.

All-defense team

It isn’t all about what happens at the plate, of course. There’s no doubt that some of the finalists on the ballot ended up there in large part thanks to their defense, even if they excelled in other areas as well. Here’s the ballot you’d have if you prioritized defense first -- using Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) among the finalists at non-outfield positions, and Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA) in the outfield.

1B -- Matt Olson (OAK), 13 DRS: Olson and his teammate Chapman both have won back-to-back Gold Gloves, so it follows that Olson is here. And indeed, he led all first basemen in DRS -- not just the ones on the All-MLB ballot.

2B -- Ozzie Albies (ATL), 8 DRS: Albies matched his DRS total from 2018. He was a Gold Glove finalist this year, an award won by Kolten Wong, who is not on the All-MLB ballot.

SS -- Trevor Story (COL), 17 DRS: Remember when we said Story was well-rounded? We weren’t kidding. To recap, he’s already on here for power and speed -- and now, defense too. Story was second among all Major League shortstops in DRS.

3B -- Matt Chapman (OAK), 18 DRS: If Chapman continues his current career arc, it sure seems like he may get a Gold Glove Award or even the Platinum Glove Award named after him. No matter how you slice it, he’s been the cream of the crop at third base -- no small task with high school teammate Nolan Arenado occupying the same position.

C -- Roberto Perez, 29 DRS: Defense is why Pérez is a finalist on the ballot. He had a breakout year at the plate, but not quite in the same echelon as some of the other good offensive catchers these days. But his defense was outstanding. He led his position in DRS, and was recognized last month with his first Gold Glove Award.

OF -- George Springer (HOU), 8 OAA: That number was a vast improvement over Springer's 2018 total (0 OAA), though we’d be remiss if we failed to mention that Victor Robles led all outfielders this year with 23 OAA. .

OF -- Mookie Betts (BOS), 7 OAA: It feels like we constantly see Betts making spectacular plays in right field. He won his fourth straight Gold Glove in 2019, further solidifying himself as one of the elite defenders in the outfield.

OF -- Cody Bellinger (LAD), 7 OAA: Hey look, it’s Bellinger again. The NL MVP did it all in 2019, and this is just another example. Bellinger split time between the outfield and first base in his first two Major League seasons, but it had been more first base than anything else -- and he hadn’t really played right field. He’d started just three career games in right before 2019, then made 102 starts there this year.

OF -- Max Kepler (MIN), 7 OAA: Kepler had a breakout season offensively, but his defense had already been good -- he had 9 OAA last year, and built on that.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.