These guys are destined to be 2nd-half All-Stars ... just hear us out

July 16th, 2023

There's no All-Star team waiting as a reward for being great in the second half of the season. But let's pick one anyway.

We're building a Second-Half All-Star team out of players who weren't All-Stars in 2023 -- but who are poised for a big second half.

Some are players who posted All-Star caliber numbers in the first half but just missed out on making the team. Some are rookie sensations who simply didn't get enough games under their belt to play their way onto the All-Star rosters. Some are veteran stars who were off their game in the first half but have the track record to believe they'll be back to their usual selves in the second half.

This is one team for MLB overall, with one player at each position on the All-Star ballot, plus three starting pitchers and two relievers. (All stats are through the first half of the season unless otherwise noted.)

Here are the players who will be second-half All-Stars.

Catcher: , Giants

Called up in May, the 24-year-old Bailey has been one of the better all-around catchers in baseball since his debut. Offensively, he batted .293 with five homers and a 122 OPS+ in 40 games in the first half. Defensively, he ranks third among all catchers in pop time (1.87 seconds to second base) and is the best pitch framer among regular catchers by his called strike rate on borderline pitches (52.7%).

First base: , Cardinals 

The reigning National League MVP was already good in the first half -- Goldschmidt hit .285 with 15 home runs and a 131 OPS+ -- and he might be closer to his MVP level than you realize. All of Goldschmidt's quality of contact metrics are on par with his 2022 season. He ranks in the 95th percentile of MLB hitters in exit velocity, the 96th in hard-hit rate, the 89th in expected batting average and the 91st in expected slugging percentage.

Second base: , Mets

The defending MLB batting champion saw his average drop from .326 in 2022 to .253 in the first half of 2023, but McNeil's contact skills didn't go anywhere. He's swinging and missing a career-low 15.7% of the time, and his 12.1% strikeout rate ranks among the top 5% of hitters this season and is right in line with his career numbers. McNeil is still spraying the ball across the field, too, he's just not finding the launch angle sweet spot as often as he did last year. Once he starts turning a few popups into line drives, his numbers will bounce back.

Third base: , Reds

Honestly, De La Cruz wouldn't have been out of place at the All-Star Game even though he only played 30 games in the first half. The Reds rookie is that electric. De La Cruz didn't just hit .325 with four homers and 16 stolen bases in the first half, he hit the ball harder than almost anyone in MLB (98th percentile max exit velocity), he was the fastest player in the league (30.5 ft/sec sprint speed), and he had the strongest arm of any infielder (95.6 mph average arm strength). The 21-year-old is already one of baseball's most fun players to watch.

Shortstop: , Royals

Witt heated up as the first half went on, entering the All-Star break with 14 home runs and 27 stolen bases -- and those totals came with the 23-year-old underperforming his expected stats for most of the season. Witt's expected batting average is .290; his actual batting average is .257. His expected slugging percentage is .515; his actual slugging percentage is .442. His quality of contact is All-Star caliber already. And he's going to be an elite power-speed star soon. Witt has 30 barrels (balls hit with elite contact) and 76 bolts (runs at elite speed). No player has more barrels and bolts combined.

Outfield: , Red Sox

Yoshida would have been a deserving All-Star in his first season in the big leagues. He's already one of the best contact hitters in the Majors, with a .316 batting average in the first half that ranked third in the AL and a 10.7% strikeout rate that was second-lowest, plus 10 home runs and an .874 OPS (139 OPS+). If Yoshida has a second half like his first, it will seem silly that he didn't make the All-Star team in 2023.

Outfield: , Brewers

This has been a big bounceback season for Yelich even without the big power numbers of his 2018 and 2019 seasons in Milwaukee. Yelich finished the first half batting .284 with 11 home runs, 21 steals and a 129 OPS+, and he's been ripping the ball. Yelich's 53% hard-hit rate is in the top 5% of the league, his .295 expected batting average is in the top 6%, and his 92.8 mph average exit velocity is in the top 7%. In a way, he's reinvented himself as the elite contact hitter he was with the Marlins.

Outfield: , Padres

Tatis is playing like an all-around superstar again. He hit .288 with 16 home runs, 14 stolen bases and an .871 OPS in the first half, while rating as a top-10 defender in baseball by Statcast's Fielding Run Value thanks to his combination of strong range and an elite arm in the outfield.

Designated hitter: , Phillies

Harper came back strong from Tommy John surgery, batting .291 in 56 games in the first half after returning to the Phillies lineup on May 2. He hasn't found his power stroke yet (three home runs before the break), but once he does, look out. If his home run on Saturday night was any indication, you'll be seeing the Bryce Harper you expect soon enough.

Starting pitcher: , Padres

Snell closed out the first half on an absolutely lights-out run, going 5-1 with a 0.68 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 53 innings over his final nine starts. That brought his season ERA to 2.85 and his strikeout total to 132 entering the All-Star break, ranking seventh and fourth in the Majors, respectively. In other words, All-Star worthy numbers. The lefty has the track record and the wipeout stuff to believe he'll keep it up -- and he did exactly that in his first start of the second half with five scoreless innings and seven K's against the Phillies.

Starting pitcher: , Twins

Ryan has built on his impressive rookie season in 2022, opening the second half with a 3.70 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 107 innings (10.4 K/9) in 18 starts. But his numbers could be even better. Ryan actually leads starting pitchers in expected ERA (2.88), based on the poor quality of contact against him. He doesn't walk anybody (4.2% walk rate) and he racks up plenty of K's (28.8% strikeout rate) -- Ryan has the third-best difference between his strikeout and walk rate among qualified starters, behind only Spencer Strider and Kevin Gausman. He's got a George Kirby thing going, and Kirby was a 2023 All-Star.

Starting pitcher: , Mets

OK, it's been a rocky going for Verlander in his first season in New York. But we're betting on the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner to find his old form down the stretch. Verlander had some good starts against winning teams, allowing one run or fewer against the Reds, Blue Jays, Yankees, Brewers and Giants, even if he hasn't quite looked like Verlander … yet.

Relief pitcher: , Yankees

Holmes missed out on the All-Star team this season after making it for the first time in 2022, but the Yankees closer finished the first half with excellent numbers: 10 saves in 12 opportunities, a 2.23 ERA, 47 K's in 36 1/3 innings and scoreless outings in 24 of his final 26 appearances. His turbo sinker and slider make him one of the toughest pitchers to drive the ball against -- Holmes has allowed just one barrel out of 84 batted balls against him, a 1.2% barrel rate that's one of the lowest in baseball.

Relief pitcher: , Twins

Duran might have the most sheerly overpowering stuff in baseball. His fastball is averaging 101.8 mph and topping out at 104.6 mph and his "splinker" -- technically an offspeed pitch, as it's classified as a splitter -- is averaging 98.8 mph and topping out at an absurd 101.9 mph. Duran finished the first half with 12 saves, a 2.10 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings, so it's kind of a surprise that he wasn't an All-Star. But look for more domination down the stretch.