2017 fantasy All-Stars: AL edition

Judge, Sale among Junior Circuit's best fantasy assets in first half

July 4th, 2017

Rosters have been announced and final preparations are underway for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. And while fantasy value will never determine the participants for the Midsummer Classic, owners may gain some knowledge of the current landscape by checking out the top fantasy producers at each position through this point in the season. Without further ado, here are your 2017 American League fantasy All-Stars.

, catcher, Royals

While Yankees catcher 's disabled-list stint opened the door for Perez to join this squad, the veteran backstop is certainly deserving in his own right. Already among baseball's top sluggers at his position, Perez has produced notable power gains by notching career-best marks in fly-ball rate (50 percent) and hard-hit rate (41.7 percent). However, some fantasy owners may wish to sell high on Perez, whose career .781 OPS in the first half is significantly higher than his .703 mark after the All-Star break.

, first baseman, Blue Jays

The most surprising hitter on this list, Smoak has risen past superstar sluggers such as and after logging fewer than 300 at-bats in each of the previous three seasons and entering 2017 with a lifetime .223 batting mark. The 30-year-old has taken his game to another level this season, posting personal highs in average (.302) and ISO (.291). As Matthew Leach recently detailed, the key to Smoak's sustainable breakout centers around the simple concept of improved strike-zone judgment, which has led to a career-best zone-contact rate (91.7 percent) and strikeout rate (18.2 percent).

, second baseman, Astros

Among the most consistent assets in fantasy baseball, Altuve is once again delivering elite production by hitting .326 with 11 homers, 53 runs scored and 16 steals across 353 plate appearances. As the linchpin in an Astros lineup that leads the Majors with 464 runs scored, the durable speedster should continue to be a five-category stud.

, 3B/2B/OF, Indians

Coming off a breakout 2016 season, Ramirez has raised his game again by supplementing a high batting mark (.325) with improved power production (15 homers across 305 at-bats). Coming off a red-hot June (.367/.405/.661 slash line), Ramirez seems poised to rank among the top multi-position assets during the summer months.

, shortstop, Rangers

Andrus has nosed out AL West rival for this spot by demonstrating improved power skills this season. Already known as a batting-average and stolen-base asset, the speedster has produced a career-best 11 home runs. And beyond his power surge, Andrus is on pace to log at least 35 steals for the first time since 2013.

, outfielder, Yankees

Judge has dropped his strikeout rate from 44.2 percent last season to 28.9 percent this year, which has allowed his prodigious power to shine through on a regular basis. As the Major League leader in home runs (27) and a real threat to win the AL Triple Crown, the slugger -- who has produced a lofty 1.338 OPS at his hitter-friendly home park -- could go from undrafted in many 2017 leagues to first-round status next year.

, outfielder, Red Sox

Betts was a late addition to this squad, edging out Rays slugger Corey Dickerson by going 4-for-6 with two homers, eight RBIs and a stolen base on July 2. Possibly miscast at the outset of the season as a No. 3 hitter, the speedster has flourished (13 homers, 11 steals, .922 OPS across 260 plate appearances) since moving back to the leadoff spot. Betts could be on the verge of a spectacular summer as the table-setter for a talented Boston lineup that has yet to fully find its form this year.

, outfielder, Astros

While he's yet to steal a base in 2017, Springer has been one of this season's most productive fantasy assets nonetheless thanks to his stellar contributions in the other standard categories. Even if his career-high 30.8 percent HR/FB rate regresses, the 27-year-old slugger should continue to compile plenty of counting stats from his perch atop a potent Astros lineup.

Chris Sale, starter, Red Sox

Sale has found his top form in Boston, reversing course after posting a diminished 9.25 K/9 rate last season to average 12.38 K/9 in 2017. The result: Sale is 11-3 with a 2.61 ERA and a Major League-leading 166 strikeouts over 120 2/3 innings. The left-hander ranks among the safest aces for the rest of this year, as his outstanding performance thus far has been built on elite skills (7.55 K/BB ratio, 16 percent swinging-strike rate) rather than unsustainable batted-ball fortune (.288 BABIP).

, starter, Astros

Keuchel has engineered arguably the biggest bounceback season of any player this year, going 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP after posting a losing record (9-12) with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 2016. As a result, he's been one of fantasy's top pitchers despite making two disabled-list trips with a neck injury and logging just 11 starts. Expected to return shortly after the All-Star break, Keuchel could be as valuable as any hurler during the second half.

, starter, Royals

Vargas may be an even more surprising breakout player than Smoak, posting a 12-3 record with a 2.22 ERA after logging just 12 starts across the previous two campaigns and entering 2017 with a lifetime 4.18 ERA. While the left-hander continues to rarely misses bats (6.57 K/9 rate), he is displaying excellent control (2.13 BB/9 rate) and showing no signs of slowing down (1.98 ERA during June). With a 3.48 FIP and one of the Majors' lowest average fly-ball distances allowed (314 feet, according to Statcast™), Vargas may not regress as much as some owners expect during the second half.

, reliever, Red Sox

Kimbrel has gotten his career back on track in a big way this season, stopping a four-year slide in the ERA department that culminated with a 3.40 mark last year. The right-hander has regained control of the strike zone after posting a 5.1 BB/9 rate in 2016, which has led to an astonishing 65-to-5 K/BB ratio, a 0.52 WHIP and 23 saves across 25 opportunities in 2017. As the bullpen anchor on a contending Red Sox club, Kimbrel is among the top candidates to lead the Majors in saves this year.