In both the NFL and the NBA, at the end of each season they put together a “best-starting lineup” of sorts, comprised of the best players at each position during the season. Seeing as it is award season in the MLB and there are no such teams for baseball, I figured I’d make them. I’ll be going with a starting nine, reliever and no DH because the DH sucks (but that’s a column for another time).
The team will be comprised of both American League and National League players, and as for positions, it’s going to be flexible. A lot of players split time this year at multiple positions, so it’s going to be a judgment call where to put them. The general rule of thumb is if the player started a considerable amount of games at the position, they’re eligible there. For example, Yelich can’t be the left fielder just because he started three games there, but Bregman can be either the third baseman or shortstop seeing as he started 50-plus games at each position. It’ll be a judgment call and there’s no set number, but I’ll try to make the best and most realistic lineup possible. I’ll also try to keep the explanations as brief as possible, but for positions where there’s a really close race, it might get a little bit longer. So, here we go.
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
Did you know there were only four qualifiers at catcher in the entire MLB? The other three were Wilson Ramos of the Mets, Christian Vasquez of the Red Sox and Yasmani Grandal of the Brewers, and while an argument could realistically be made for any of them, Realmuto was the most well-rounded of the bunch. He hit .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs, 83 RBIs and 92 runs scored in the most at-bats of the bunch. While he trailed Grandal in OPS and home runs, it wasn’t by nearly enough to offset one important statistic: Caught stealing percentage. When it comes to throwing out baserunners, Realmuto is elite, finishing the year with a league-best 46.7% caught stealing percentage, significantly better than Grandal’s 27%. When it comes to catching, you can’t underestimate the value of a cannon behind the plate, and that’s what puts Realmuto over the top.
First Base: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
As a Mets fan, this one hurts, especially over Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, but it just has to be Freeman. The Atlanta first baseman hit .295/.389/.549 with 38 home runs, 127 RBIs and 113 runs scored, making all three of which and his OPS in the top-two at the position. Even though he hit 15 fewer home runs than Alonso and his OPS was slightly worse, he beats him in most everything else, including 50-plus fewer strikeouts and overall fielding prowess. Alonso was spectacular, but Freddie is still king at the position.
Second Base: D. J. LeMahieu, New York Yankees
This is one of the more cut-and-dry positions in the league, as LeMahieu is the clear winner here. While he’s officially not the MVP now that he’s not even a finalist (I’m finally validated; ready column No. 1 and column No. 2 on why, shameless plug), he still had a fantastic season. He hit .327/.375/.518 with 26 home runs, 102 RBIs and 109 runs scored, as he was a constant for the Yankees in a season that was riddled with injuries. His defensive versatility is also something that can’t be overstated, starting 25-plus games at three positions. Simply a stellar season.
Third Base: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
This was one of my tougher decisions, but I had to go with the presumptive American League MVP, Bregman, over National League MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Rendon had an amazing season and propelled the Nationals to their first World Series over Bregman’s Astros, but as is with all the awards, they’re based on the regular season. There, Bregman just narrowly takes the cake, hitting .296/.423/.592 with 41 home runs, 112 RBIs and 122 runs scored. Like LeMahieu, defensive versatility also plays a factor, as he played significant time at both third base and shortstop as mentioned earlier. Bregman established himself this season as one of the premier talents in the MLB, and at just 25 years old, he’s here to stay.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
I’m going to be honest, before I even started writing this article I had already penciled in Marcus Semien here, seeing as he’s an MVP finalist and is No. 4 in the MLB in WAR. But then I saw the year Bogaerts had. He flew completely under the radar this season because the only storylines surrounding the Red Sox this season were about their massive World Series hangover and how they might have to trade Mookie Betts. But Bogaerts was a star. I know his WAR doesn’t come close to Semien and he’s not nearly as good a fielder, but man, the kid hit .309/.384/.555 with 33 home runs and 117 RBIs, all of which were better than Semien (except for the homers, they were tied). If you go with Semien, no one would blame you, but I just couldn’t ignore what Bogaerts did this season.
Left Field: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
It was the battle of young NL East superstars here, but Soto just edges out the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. in my eyes. The 20-year-old (yes, he’s 21 now, but he was 20 for the entire regular season) hit .282/.401/.548 with 34 home runs, 110 RBIs and 110 runs scored, combining with Rendon to power the Nationals to the World Series. He’s a stud and he’s just getting started. By the way, before anyone can call me biased on any of these, I’ve now picked three players from the NL East when an argument could be made for a Met in each case (Ramos, Alonso and Jeff McNeil right here.) I’m about to pick against another Met too, sorry Jake *frowny emoji.*
Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
It’s Mike Trout. He’s the best player of our generation, and he did it again this year. No further explanation is needed. Next.
Right Field: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
This is perhaps the toughest decision on the list. Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger. Yeli or Belli. I first went with Belli, then I switched it to Yeli and then I finally landed on Belli for one reason and one reason alone: Yeli didn’t make it the whole season. “Trout didn’t either, and you still picked him,” you say? Well, the disparity at center was so large that it had to be Trout, but it’s why Bregman is my pick for MVP. Yeli had better averages and led the MLB in OPS, but the difference just wasn’t large enough to offset the 26 fewer games and 81 fewer plate appearances. Belli has more home runs, more RBIs, more runs scored and fewer strikeouts. Yeli is a fine pick, but I just have to go with Belli.
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Man, imagine picking against Gerritt Cole here. Who would be that crazy? Well, apparently me. Like a few other positions on this list, I had already written down someone only to change by the time I actually got around to writing why. It’s close, but I have to give the edge to Verlander. He finished the season with an ERA of 2.58, a WHIP of 0.803, a 5.529 H/9 ratio, 300 strikeouts and 223.0 innings pitched, all of which were better than Cole except for the ERA (Cole’s was 2.50) and strikeouts (Cole had 326). They were both ridiculous, but Verlander has it by a hair.
Relief Pitcher: Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
I’m a sucker for ridiculous ERAs and that’s exactly what Yates had, finishing the year with his at a minuscule 1.19. Of relief pitchers who had at least 60 innings, he finished No. 1 by a wide margin, with Will Harris behind him at 1.50. He finished No. 7 in WHIP with a 0.89 and was only eight points behind No. 1 Josh Hader. He was No. 1 in saves, No. 2 in home runs given up and in the No. 4 in K/9. Even though the Padres stunk, Yates was the best reliever in the MLB.
There you have it. The All-MLB team for 2019. At most positions, arguments could be made for a number of players, but these are the ones that stand out the most at their respective positions.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.email@example.com. He tweets @jorge_eckardt31