In an off-season that has been unprecedentedly slow in terms of player movement, people need their fix of baseball discussion. If we can’t debate the merits of huge free agent signings or bold trades, then we have to frantically search for our baseball talk elsewhere. David Schoenfield of ESPN has come to the rescue at just the right time. He released his second annual Way-too-Early All-Star teams, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are well represented.
Corey Seager is predicted to be voted in as the NL shortstop. Seager has made the All-Star team in both of his full seasons in the majors, but has never started. The starting lineup of the All-Star team is especially difficult to predict because it’s not necessarily a meritocracy. The Dodgers play within a well represented market, empirical data suggests it might not be an easy task. Los Angeles has not had a position player start in the All-Star game since Yasiel Puig in 2014. Seager’s stats certainly portray him as worthy of the starting spot though. In 2017, he ranked first among qualifying NL shortstops in runs, hits, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and Wins Above Replacement. He also ranked second in doubles, tied for second in RBI’s, and third in home runs. Overall a solid pick by Schoenfield.
— Ned Colletti (@realnedcolletti) November 14, 2017
He also has first baseman Cody Bellinger and third baseman Justin Turner being named as NL reserves. Bellinger is one of three backup first basemen behind starter Freddie Freeman, alongside Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt as the reserve first basemen,. Schoenfield even notes that the logjam of skilled first baseman in the league makes it difficult to leave certain players off the team. Bellinger made the team as a reserve last year, and led qualifying NL first baseman in home runs in 2017 as a rookie despite ranking only 10th in at-bats. He ranked second among qualifying NL first baseman in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS, fifth in Wins Above Replacement, and tied for fifth in RBI. The intrigue alone of Bellinger playing a full season is too tantalizing to leave him off the roster.
Justin Turner was picked to join Kris Bryant as the reserve third basemen, with Nolan Arenado as his predicted starter. Among NL third baseman, Turner ranked first in batting average and in OBp. He also ranked third in OPS, fourth in WAR, fourth in hits, fifth in slugging, and fifth in doubles. Assuming they stay healthy, Arenado and Bryant are the two most likely NL third baseman on the squad. It leaves Turner to compete for that final third base spot along with every other player in the league. Guys like Anthony Rendon, Zach Cozart, Jake Lamb, Travis Shaw, and Eugenio Suarez.
Schoenfield has Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen making the NL pitching staff. Assuming they both stay healthy, these two are practically a guarantee to make the team. Kershaw’s credentials are otherworldly, and there is no conceivable way that Schoenfeld could have made this list without including a guy who led the majors in ERA last season. Not to mention in five of the previous seven seasons. Jansen tied for the NL lead in saves last season, and had the lowest ERA and WHIP of any NL reliever who appeared in at least 60 games. The Dodgers are a talented team and they will get Jansen plenty of save opportunities throughout the first half of next season.
All five of these Dodgers seem poised to make the All-Star team next year. If I had to rank them in terms of certainty, I’d go Kershaw, Jansen, Seager, Bellinger, Turner. Overall, Schoenfield made a good list in terms of Dodgers inclusions. It speaks volumes about the strong nucleus this team possesses heading into 2018.
Who would you put on this list? Are they any Dodgers players you see having a surprise breakout year?
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