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Here's a crazy -- but defensible -- All-MLB Team

December 1, 2019

Who to pick for the first-ever All-MLB Team? You might think the choices are obvious. Or are they? • Vote now for All-MLB Team We're taking a stab at an All-Surprise All-MLB Team for 2019. These players might not be the first names that pop into your head, but you

Who to pick for the first-ever All-MLB Team? You might think the choices are obvious.

Or are they?

Vote now for All-MLB Team

We're taking a stab at an All-Surprise All-MLB Team for 2019. These players might not be the first names that pop into your head, but you can make a case for any of them to claim a place on the inaugural All-MLB team … and we're about to do just that.

If you want to pick your own 2019 All-MLB Team presented by Scotts, the selection process runs through 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, with 50 percent of the vote coming from fans and 50 percent coming from a panel of experts.

You can vote right here, and may do so once every 24 hours until voting ends on Tuesday. 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's one crazy -- but defensible -- ballot.

Catcher: Roberto Pérez, Indians

Pérez brought the all-around game in 2019. He led all MLB players with 29 Defensive Runs Saved, seven more than anyone else. He saved the Indians 12 runs with his pitch framing, per Statcast, fourth-best among catchers. He popped 24 home runs, top-five among catchers. And he managed an Indians pitching staff that kept rolling without Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco for a lot of the season, posting a 3.59 ERA with Pérez behind the plate.

First Base: Matt Olson, A's

Olson put up comparable offensive numbers to other elite sluggers at his position (36 home runs and a 137 OPS+, meaning he was 37 percent better than league average). And he was the best defensive first baseman in baseball, leading easily in Defensive Runs Saved (13) and Ultimate Zone Rating. Olson also led MLB in FanGraphs' "Clutch" metric, which looks at how much better a hitter does in high-leverage situations, and he was sixth overall -- best among first basemen -- in Win Probability Added. He made a real difference to the A's winning games.

Second Base: Jonathan Villar, Orioles

Villar was arguably the best baserunner in the Majors this season, worth an MLB-best 10.5 baserunning runs above average, per FanGraphs. Villar stole 40 bases at an 82 percent success rate, and he took the extra base 61 percent of the time when advancing on a single or double, compared to the 41 percent MLB average. He was the first player since Carlos Gómez in 2013 to hit 20 homers and steal 40 bases in a season, and the first second baseman to do that since Alfonso Soriano in '02.

Third Base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies

It seems strange to call Arenado a "crazy" pick for an All-MLB team, but he was really overshadowed by Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon this year. Look at his numbers, though: .315/.379/.583, a .962 OPS, 41 home runs and 118 RBIs. Yes, he plays at Coors Field. But his park-adjusted numbers are nothing to sneeze at (129 OPS+), and he was great on the road, too (30 percent better than an average hitter, with 20 homers and a .521 slugging percentage). Oh, and Coors doesn't change that Arenado's maybe the best defensive player in the world.

Shortstop: Javier Báez, Cubs

If only a fractured thumb hadn't cost Báez most of September he might have been a favorite for this spot. But even with that injury, there's a case for Báez, because he's baseball's most dynamic player. Báez is a unique hitter who turns an ultra-aggressive approach into star-level production (.281 average, .531 slugging, 29 home runs, 11 stolen bases), and he has a claim (like Arenado) to the title of best all-around defensive player. Nobody makes things happen all over the field like El Mago.

Outfield: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves

Acuña's chase for the 40-40 club was one of the most compelling storylines of September. The Braves' 21-year-old star fell just short, but 41 home runs and a National League-leading 37 stolen bases? Wow. Acuña is still only the fifth player ever to hit 40 homers and steal 35 bases in a season, along with Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds (twice), Alex Rodriguez and Soriano. A true catalyst at the top of the order, Acuña led the NL with 127 runs scored.

Outfield: Juan Soto, Nationals

Acuña or Soto -- how can you choose between MLB's two super phenoms? Soto's .401 on-base percentage and 34 home runs were the highest by a 20-year-old since A-Rod in 1996. His .949 OPS was the highest by a 20-year-old since Mike Trout in 2012. He was the first 20-year-old to draw 100 walks since Ted Williams in '39. And the thing is, the numbers Soto is putting up are incredible for anyone no matter the age. He's one of the toughest outs in the game.

Outfield: George Springer, Astros

The Astros had so many transcendent players in 2019 that somehow Springer's season seems to have taken a back seat. It shouldn't. This guy did it all. At the plate, Springer continued to help redefine the leadoff role -- he had a 150 OPS+, 39 home runs overall and an MLB-high 12 leadoff homers. In the outfield, he was worth eight Outs Above Average, per Statcast, ranking near the top of the leaderboard -- and much better than, for example, Trout (minus-2) and Christian Yelich (minus-4).

Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez, Red Sox

Maybe you prefer Nelson Cruz's hitting line to Martinez's, or even Rookie of the Year sensation Yordan Alvarez's. But keep this in mind: Martinez was elite, too, and he batted over 100 times more than Cruz and nearly 300 times more than Alvarez. All those extra plate appearances from a great hitter -- Martinez finished with a .304/.383/.557 slash line, with 36 homers, 105 RBIs, a .939 OPS and a 140 OPS+ -- make a difference. He was a top-10 hitter by quality of contact. Cruz was slightly better, but would you rather have 521 plate appearances of Cruz, or 657 plate appearances of J.D.?

Starting Pitcher: Shane Bieber, Indians

Bieber picked up the slack when Kluber and Carrasco missed time and Bauer was traded. The All-Star Game MVP combined quality and quantity. Only Justin Verlander threw more innings than Bieber's 214 1/3, and only Verlander and Gerrit Cole had more strikeouts than Bieber's 259. Bieber also tied for the Major League lead with three complete games and two shutouts.

Starting Pitcher: Walker Buehler, Dodgers

The Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw and MLB ERA champion Hyun-Jin Ryu in their starting rotation. But Buehler is the guy they lined up to start Game 1 and a winner-take-all Game 5 in the playoffs. That tells you a lot. Buehler struck out nearly six times as many batters (215) as he walked (37), and he gave up just under one homer per nine innings in a historically home run-happy season. His 16 strikeouts against the Rockies on June 21 were the most in a game by an NL starter this year, and he was the only pitcher with multiple 15-strikeout games -- the first since Max Scherzer in 2015, in fact.

Starting Pitcher: Sonny Gray, Reds

Gray went from a 4.90 ERA with the Yankees in 2018 to a 2.87 ERA with the Reds in '19. He reached 200 strikeouts for the first time and only allowed a .196 batting average and 0.87 home runs per nine innings. All that despite pitching over half his games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park -- that's why Gray was among the Major League leaders in adjusted ERA-, 37 percentage points better than league average. And this is cool: Gray pitched 115 1/3 of his 175 1/3 innings against teams that finished .500 or better; he had a 2.73 ERA in those games. Gray was the only pitcher who threw 100-plus innings against those strong opponents with an ERA under three (Jacob deGrom was next at 3.16).

Starting Pitcher: Lance Lynn, Rangers

Lynn and rotation-mate Mike Minor were two of the surprise top pitchers in the American League this season. So who do you take? Minor had a slightly lower ERA (3.59 to Lynn's 3.67) but Lynn racked up a lot more strikeouts (246 to Minor's 200) in the same number of innings (208 1/3). Lynn pitched at least seven innings 16 times in 2019; the only starters who went that deep more often were deGrom and Verlander. Lynn had the third-highest Wins Above Replacement of any pitcher, by FanGraphs' version of WAR, behind Cole and deGrom.

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke, D-backs/Astros

Greinke's teammates Cole and Verlander got all the attention, but the crafty veteran put together one of the best all-around seasons of any starter. Greinke ranked in the top 10 in traditional stats like ERA (2.93, ninth), WHIP (0.98, fifth), strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.23, sixth) and innings pitched (208 2/3, sixth), plus advanced stats like FIP (3.22, eighth), Weighted On-base Average (.263, tied for fifth) and context-neutral Win Probability Added (+3.19, fourth). Not for nothing, he's one of the best fielding pitchers and hitting pitchers in the business, too.

Relief Pitcher: Ken Giles, Blue Jays

Giles might have been buried on a bad team in Toronto, but his stats speak for themselves. He saved 23 games in 24 chances, a 95.8 percent conversion rate that was second-best in MLB (Mark Melancon converted all 12 of his save opportunities). He had a 1.87 ERA (fifth-best among relievers) and struck out nearly 40 percent of all batters he faced (fourth-best) -- 83 strikeouts in 53 innings, over 14 per nine. Giles was a top-10 pitcher by quality of contact allowed among those with a comparable number of batters faced.

Relief Pitcher: Seth Lugo, Mets

Lugo was a true bullpen workhorse, throwing 80 innings of 2.70 ERA ball over 61 relief appearances, pitching more than one inning 25 times. Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit and Michael Lorenzen were the only other relievers to throw at least 80 innings with an ERA under three, and Lugo was one of seven relievers to reach triple-digit strikeouts, finishing with 104. Like Giles, Lugo was one of the best pitchers in baseball by Statcast's quality of contact metrics, with a .234 expected wOBA that was sixth-lowest allowed in MLB.

David Adler is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.