The best players in baseball through April

April 30th, 2021

The Major League Baseball regular season is six months long, which allows us to break the season into six convenient chunks. Each chunk is equal to one another, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time; it always feels, in the moment, that the first and last months count more. But throughout the season, we will be putting together an All-Star team for each month. As we wrap up this thrilling opening month, here’s an All-Star pick from each league, at each position, for April.

Carson Kelly, D-backs
AL: Salvador Perez, Royals

After years of being stuck behind Yadier Molina (another contender for this slot), Kelly looks like a genuine star right now -- entering Thursday, his on-base percentage was over .500. He also leads National League position players in bWAR! And the D-backs look a lot better than most thought. He’s right at the center of the reasons why.

It’s tougher to find such an obvious pick in the American League, but the surprising Royals have to be on this list somewhere -- and what better player to represent them than Perez? The longtime Royal is healthy and raking again.

Honorable mentions: Omar Narváez, Brewers; Buster Posey, Giants (yes, two NL guys … the AL is weak at this spot)

First base
Eric Hosmer, Padres
AL: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Blue Jays

No one has really leapt out at first base in the NL, and while it’s tempting to go with Rhys Hoskins and his league-leading eight homers, he’s also only getting on base at a .274 clip. We’ll go with Hosmer, who continues to build on the gains he made last year and is starting to look like the most stable part of the Padres' lineup. He also shared the NL lead in hits (29) entering Thursday.

The Vlad you’ve been waiting on? He has arrived. He’s hitting for power and average, and he’s even striking out at a lower rate relative to the league. The leaner, meaner Vlad just looks terrific. At last, it's his league.

Honorable mentions: Jesús Aguilar, Marlins; Yuli Gurriel, Astros

Second base
Jazz Chisholm Jr., Marlins
AL: Nick Solak, Rangers

Chisholm just hit the injured list, but he shouldn’t be gone too long. And though the injury will hurt his May, what a fantastic and emergent April he had. Having a fun and exciting player named Jazz is just wonderful.

Solak, a former Yankees farmhand who's getting on base and hitting for power, has been the best player for Texas by a large margin. His low walk rate potentially foretells some regression, but no matter what happens moving forward, you can’t take his April away from him.

Honorable mentions: Kolten Wong, Brewers; Ty France, Mariners

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
AL: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox

The crazy thing about Tatis is that he’s actually off to a slow start (for him), and we were tempted to go with Trea Turner, who has helped keep the Nats' offense afloat in the absence of Juan Soto. And yet, even with the shoulder troubles, Tatis is slugging .631.

The primary reason for Boston's resurgence this year has been its pitching, but don’t look past Bogaerts, who’s hitting .333 through 24 games. Can you believe he is only 28 years old?

Honorable mentions: Turner, Nationals; Tim Anderson, White Sox

Third base
Kris Bryant, Cubs
AL: José Ramírez, Cleveland

Well, well, look who is back hitting like his old self on the North Side. Bryant’s hitting like a guy who knows he’s finally hitting free agency this fall, and if the Cubs don't get it going soon, he could be a hot commodity come July.

Oh, and Ramírez is bashing the ball like he always has. Nothing new here, it’s exactly what you’d expect.

Honorable mentions: Justin Turner, Dodgers; Rafael Devers, Red Sox

Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves; Bryce Harper, Phillies; Nick Castellanos, Reds
AL: Mike Trout, Angels; Byron Buxton, Twins; Cedric Mullins, Orioles

Yeah, this is where all the big names and MVP candidates reside. Acuña has been ascendant in Atlanta, Harper is the superstar the Phillies are paying for and Castellanos isn’t just playing great, he’s even inspiring his opponents’ fashion choices.

Trout may be primed to have the best year of his career, which is downright scary. Buxton, who is starting to have some injury concerns, has added power to his already overwhelming game. And look: It’s Mullins, hanging alongside Trout and Buxton, just like we all predicted.

Honorable mentions: Jesse Winker, Reds; Alex Verdugo, Red Sox

Designated hitter
Yermín Mercedes, White Sox

No offense to J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Franmil Reyes and Shohei Ohtani, all of whom are wowing us in their own ways, but at the end of the day, we’re going to go with the breakout player hitting .432 entering Thursday.

Starting pitchers
Jacob deGrom, Mets; Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Joe Musgrove, Padres; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
AL: Tyler Glasnow, Rays; Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Shane Bieber, Cleveland; John Means, Orioles

Many of the usual suspects here, including deGrom, who is on his way to a season for the ages. It’s delightful seeing Kershaw here, even if we feel bad for leaving Trevor Rogers or Tyler Mahle off.

There aren’t many flukes in either league, with Cole and Bieber fantastic in the AL and Glasnow and Means at last getting the results their peripherals showed were coming. The idea of facing any of these guys is terrifying for any hitter.

We’ve already given you 10 names, so no honorable mentions here.

Relief pitchers
Mark Melancon, Padres; Josh Hader, Brewers
AL: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees; James Karinchak, Cleveland

We went with two names per league, ostensibly a “setup man” and a closer.

You can’t really do better than any of these guys, though they all have their own unique and special styles. It’s a bullpen world, and these are the best of them.

Honorable mentions: Craig Kimbrel, Cubs; Matt Barnes, Red Sox

This may all look ridiculous in a month (a lot can happen in May!), but this is the best baseball had to offer in April. We can’t wait to see what they all do next.