By Sam McPherson
Every year it’s the same thing: Major League Baseball fusses and fawns over the players that make the All-Star Game rosters in the American and National leagues. Whether because of fan voting or the rule that requires every team—no matter how bad—to have an All-Star, there are a lot of players that end making the All-Star team and inflating their perceived value in fantasy baseball. You can use that to your advantage this week.
Smart fantasy owners know that being an MLB All-Star doesn’t mean that player is a fantasy-baseball All-Star, because there’s a huge difference between reality and fantasy—in every way, including this fun pastime we all partake in every year. After all, Kansas City Royals second baseman Omar Infante almost got voted onto the AL roster by overzealous fans, and the 33-year-old veteran is hitting just .232 with a .547 OPS. He shouldn’t be on anyone’s fantasy radar, period.
The injury-replacement All-Star nod is also one of those tricky things, since some players are unable to play in the Midsummer Classic due to one ailment or another. Thus, a less-deserving player gets picked to replace him in the game, and the designation gets watered down even more so. Again, smart fantasy owners know the difference between a fantasy stud and an MLB All-Star; scouring rosters wisely, you might find some trade targets in your league to trade overrated All-Stars for guys with great stats that didn’t make the “cut”.
Players That Aren’t All-Stars But Should Be
1. Yunel Escobar, SS, Washington Nationals: As of July 10, he has the 10th-best batting average (.315) in baseball, and Escobar has never been an All-Star. Perhaps this is the year he should have been, as he has just as many home runs as two All-Stars listed below combined. This is Escobar’s best offensive season since his rookie year in 2007, when he hit .326 in 94 games with the Atlanta Braves and finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: If the Red Sox needed an All-Star rep, Pedroia should have been the one. He has the third-best average among all MLB second basemen (.306), and that number is also 13th-best overall in baseball. Throw in nine HRs and 33 RBI, and this should have been Pedroia’s fifth All-Star nod. He’s also got a two-year streak with the Gold Glove at his position going, too. Pedroia is as good as it gets for the Red Sox, despite the fact utility man Brock Holt was selected as the team’s requisite All-Star player.
3. Kendrys Morales, 1B, Kansas City Royals: It’s odd that Royals Manager Ned Yost didn’t pick his own guy here for the AL roster, but Morales deserves it. He’s a Top 9 RBI producer this year (57), and everyone above him is a 2015 All-Star. Perhaps his “designated hitter” status hurt his chances, but the All-Star Game is not about defense. Morales also would have been a great human-interest story after the horrendous and random injury he suffered in 2010 with the Los Angeles Angels.
4. Hector Santiago, SP, Los Angeles Angels: Like Escobar and Morales, he’s never been an All-Star, but Santiago is pitching like one this year (2.40 ERA in 101 1/3 innings, 10th-best ERA among MLB starters). How do you ignore that accomplishment? The Angels rotation is a mess as the team tries to repeat in the AL West as champions, and Santiago has the best ERA for the team by more than a full run. Also, he’s struck out 91 batters so far. What’s not to like?
Players That Are All-Stars But Shouldn’t Be
1. Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals: While Infante didn’t get enough votes in the end, Escobar did. Yes, he has a nice .289 average right now with 31 RBI, but the two HRs and the five SBs aren’t really enough to help you. Neither is his .700 OPS, if your league uses that category. Escobar is having one of his best seasons ever at the plate, but he should not be on your roster. If he is, use this newfound fame and fleece a fellow owner in trade.
2. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: In 178 ABs this season, Holliday has just three HRs and two SBs. The .303 batting average is nice, but at age 35, he is in the twilight of his MLB career. However, the Missouri baseball fans are passionate, but Holliday is posting the lowest slugging percentage of his career (.421) right now. This is his first All-Star team since 2012, and it should be his last. Find that Cardinals fan in your league and make them an offer that includes Holliday.
3. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals: This is his seventh straight All-Star team, but Molina is a shadow of his former self. He should have won the 2012 NL MVP Award; now his career is in sharp decline the last two seasons. With just two HRs and a .703 OPS, there are a lot better catchers out there offensively. Molina’s defense keeps him respected in MLB, but that doesn’t matter for your fantasy baseball league. This All-Star should not be on anyone’s roster.
4. Kelvin Herrera, RP, Kansas City Royals: Apologies to Missouri as this was unintentional, but the other silly rule in All-Star roster selections is letting the managers pick their own players. We’ve seen San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy stack his NL roster with his own undeserving players in the past (Ryan Vogelsong, et al) and present (Joe Panik, et al), and now Yost has joined the parade, too. Herrera is a nice set-up guy, but with one win and no saves, he has no value in most fantasy leagues that don’t use holds as a category.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.