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The 20 players who should start the 2023 MLB All-Star Game

The 2023 All-Star Game is less than two weeks away, and before MLB announces the fan-voted starters Thursday, I wanted to offer my two cents (or three or four) on which stars should take the field first on July 11 in Seattle.

Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. have already claimed starting spots, and no one should be confused as to why Juan Soto and his 160 OPS+ is in my lineup. But there are some All-Star starters listed below that might surprise you. Here’s how I see it … 

American League:

Catcher: Adley Rutschman, Orioles
First base: Yandy Díaz, Rays
Second base: Marcus Semien, Rangers
Third base: José Ramírez, Guardians
Shortstop: Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
Left field: Randy Arozarena, Rays
Center field: Luis Robert Jr., White Sox
Right field: Alex Verdugo, Red Sox
Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole, Yankees

National League:

C: Will Smith, Dodgers
1B: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
2B: Luis Arráez, Marlins
3B: J.D. Davis, Giants
SS: Orlando Arcia, Braves
LF: Juan Soto, Padres
CF: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks
RF: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves
DH: Bryce Harper, Phillies
SP: Bryce Elder, Braves

Rutschman is in a tight battle with the Rangers’ Jonah Heim in phase two of the voting, and both their first career selections will be well-deserved. But it’s the Orioles’ phenomenal backstop that we initially want to see take on the NL’s best pitchers. Rutschman, though only 25 years old, already looks like a perennial All-Star with his .380 on-base percentage and league-leading 52 walks. His first taste of playing on a national stage alongside the game’s superstars, albeit in a semi-competition with no actual stakes at play, could be memorable.

Given the on-field antics we’ve come to know and love from Arozarena, it’s pretty wild that he has yet to earn an All-Star nod in his five-year career. This is the perfect year for the Rays’ leader to not only be selected but start, what with Yordan Álvarez‘s oblique injury clearing the path in left field. In fact, Arozarena’s 155 wRC+ is second only to Acuña among all qualified MLB outfielders, as he continues to help propel an excellent 2023 Tampa Bay team.

Now, to avoid burying the lede, your eyebrows are probably still raised after seeing that I picked Robert over Mike Trout in center field. 

White Sox’s Luis Robert Jr. crushes solo homer vs. Angels

This is obviously not a knock on arguably the greatest player of his generation. Trout continues to put up plus numbers — his 133 wRC+ is still top five among qualified AL outfielders. But, guess who’s in front of him in almost every major offensive category this season? Robert, who’s yet to make an All-Star team, ranks first among AL outfielders in fWAR (3.3) and slugging (.561) and second in OPS (.885) and wRC+ (140). Tabbed as the “Cuban Mike Trout” by MLB Network’s Yonder Alonso, Robert has 22 home runs through his first 78 games for the White Sox this season. Moreover, the 2020 Gold Glove winner has again been playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Robert has nine runs saved compared to Trout’s one, and eight outs above average to Trout’s three. 

Despite all that, Trout’s 11th career All-Star selection appears likely to be in the form of another start in center. But, in this space, Robert has earned that job, and he deserved more love from fans to help get him there.

With Aaron Judge out indefinitely, Cole is the only member of the Yankees with a chance of starting. That would be a first for the five-time All-Star, and there’s merit for it. Cole, perhaps baseball’s most reliable workhorse, is in the midst of one of his best seasons while helping keep New York afloat. Conveniently, he would be on regular rest to start the Midsummer Classic. (Incidentally, the last time a Yankees pitcher started the All-Star Game — Roger Clemens in 2001 — was also the last time Seattle hosted the event.)

In the NL, Davis being the starting third baseman shouldn’t be viewed as controversial so much as it’s surprising. After re-signing with the Giants on a one-year deal in the offseason, he leads the league in wRC+ (131) and OPS (.840) at his position. What he’s been able to do in 122 games with San Francisco after struggling with consistency and staying on the field across three-plus seasons with the Mets has been nothing short of revelatory. 

With Nolan Arenado holding a healthy lead over Austin Riley in the current round of voting, the Cardinals‘ perennial All-Star appears likely to get the starting nod at the hot corner. Neither of those two have approached their peak this year. If the starting job wasn’t partially based on being a popularity contest, Davis would be in the running. At the very least, the 30-year-old should be tabbed for his first career All-Star appearance.

On the mound, Elder might not be as flashy of a name as, say, Marcus Stroman, but he’s been the league’s top pitcher, posting a 2.44 ERA across 16 starts for the NL-best Braves. His 182 ERA+ leads MLB, even though his 3.76 FIP suggests he might be getting lucky. Still, on an Atlanta staff that includes guys like Spencer Strider and Max Fried, who would’ve thought Elder would be the arm anchoring the rotation? He should be the NL’s first hurler on the bump at T-Mobile Park.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for three-and-a-half seasons as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. She never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone he’s playing in. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 

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