Memorial Day is behind us, June is in full swing, and the Major League Baseball season is officially one-third over. You know what that means? It’s time to start looking towards the Midsummer Classic, the 2022 MLB All-Star Game, which will be hosted this year by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With the ballot scheduled to open at 12:00 pm ET on June 8th, it’s time to start thinking about which Yankees might have a shot at representing the team this year. Here, we’ll be combing through the lineup; Peter will be discussing the team’s loaded pitching staff in another piece today.
Any discussion about which players will make the AL All-Star team must begin with Aaron Judge, and no I’m not just talking about which Yankees will make the team. Remember how good No. 99 was as a rookie in 2017? This year, he’s been even better. He leads the AL in fWAR with 3.2 and ranks second in bWAR with 2.9. He paces the majors in home runs with 21; the trio of players tied for second — Mookie Betts, Yordan Álvarez, and Pete Alonso — have just 16 apiece. Judge’s 200 wRC+ is also tops in baseball. For more traditionally-minded folks, his .313 batting average is eighth in the AL, and his .382 on-base percentage tenth. Unless you need a sacrifice bunt, there’s no hitter you would want at the plate in a big spot than Aaron Judge right now.
That’s only half of the story, too. Judge has been providing this offensive performance while spending almost as much time in center field as he has in his typical right field (226.2 innings in right field vs. 165.0 in center to date). And while the defensive metrics aren’t as in love with his performance as they typically are (-1 Outs Above Average, -2 Defensive Runs Saved, 8.4 UZR/150 in center field, 2 OAA, 0 DRS, -0.4 UZR/150 in right field), his ability to play both positions competently while providing this level of offensive production makes him one of the most valuable players in baseball — and a shoo-in for the AL starting lineup in July.
After starting the season as the clear backup to Kyle Higashioka, Jose Trevino has quickly become a favorite among Yankees fans for his big performances in clutch spots and for his infectious personality. But what you may not have realized is that as he burrowed into your hearts, he climbed the rankings.
Despite having a relatively small number of plate appearances, Trevino has accrued the second-most fWAR among AL catchers, behind only Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk. He has been elite offensively (his 133 wRC+ ranks second) and behind the plate (he leads the AL with 6 DRS, and he is tied for second in Catcher Framing Runs).
If Trevino continues this performance, then he definitely deserves to head to LA this July. Unfortunately for him, at time of writing, we do not know whether the Yankees put him or Higashioka on the ballot — something that teams usually have to decide quite early in the season. If they went with Higgy, that pretty much eliminates any chance of him making the roster as a starter, and given the sheer amount of Yankees players with a case for All-Star nods (particularly on the pitching staff), he might simply end up as an easy odd man out.
Update: Trevino is indeed on the ballot over Higashioka! Hooray! Get your votes in, people.
At the start of the season, Anthony Rizzo hit like the young first baseman who went to three straight All-Star Games with the Cubs, slashing .273/.391/.675 with 9 home runs in 20 games. That torrid month has made it possible for Rizzo to make a push for an All-Star nod despite a May in which he slashed .167/.268/.313 with just a pair of long balls.
Still, through no fault of his own, he has an uphill battle. Seattle first baseman Ty France has announced that his breakout 2021 was no fluke, and through his first 54 games he has posted a 169 wRC+ and accrued 2.2 fWAR. Chicago’s José Abreu, meanwhile, has continued to mash, while the flexible Luis Arraez has seized the job in Minnesota. And then, of course, there’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has a 129 wRC+ and only just now appears to be getting into a groove at the plate. The fact that Guerrero was last year’s leading vote-getter and that he has an entire country behind him works in his favor, too.
First base is a stacked position in the American League this year. Unless Rizzo has a really strong June and sets himself apart from the rest of the pack, it’s likely that he’ll end up on the outside looking in.
In many ways, Gleyber Torres is in the exact opposite situation as Rizzo. He got off to an incredibly slow start to the season, accruing -0.2 fWAR and posting a wRC+ of just 40 through the first two weeks of the season. Since April 21st, however, Torres has been one of the AL’s best second baseman, with a .274/.308/.526 slash line and 9 home runs in 39 games. Because of this, he now ranks eighth in the league among second basemen with 0.7 fWAR (and you can argue that he should technically rank seventh, since the multi-positional DJ LeMahieu ranks above him). His 10 home runs are tied with Jose Altuve for most among AL second basemen, while is 118 wRC+ ranks fifth. Additionally, Gleyber’s 6 DRS and 7.4 UZR/150 are the most at the keystone among qualified defenders, although it should also be noted that OAA is less high on him at -1.
So Torres as he continues his current hot streak — he is slashing .265/.294/.612 with five home runs in his last 13 games — then he has an outside shot of making his third All-Star Game. Even so, it won’t be easy, not in the slightest. Altuve undoubtedly has one of those spots locked down, while Boston’s Trevor Story and Cleveland’s Andrés Giménez have strong candidacies of their own. That said, at this point in time, nobody has really run away with it, and to a large degree, second base will come down to a mixture of popularity and the month of June.
When it comes to the All-Star Game, DJ LeMahieu finds himself in a tricky spot. Among second basemen, his 1.3 fWAR is tied for fifth, while among third basemen, it is tied for fourth. But in truth, LeMahieu is neither a second basemen or a third basemen, but rather a generic infielder: he has played 7 games at first base, 15 at the keystone, and 26 at the hot corner. When you’re trying to determine LeMahieu’s worthiness for the All-Star team, where do you put him? That’s the big question. Gleyber Torres is the Yankees’ listed second baseman on the ballot, and if DJ LeMahieu is at third, the competition is stiff.
LeMahieu compares most favorably to the second basemen, tied with Torres for fifth in wRC+ (118) and ranking fourth in on-base percentage (.339), all the while providing average to above-average defense (8.6 UZR/150, -1 DRS, 0 OAA). But he’s only played 112 innings there, so he’s being considered at third. On the flip side, while he’s provided 204 innings of elite defense at the hot corner (his 5 DRS are second only to Donaldson and his 3 OAA second only to Oakland’s Kevin Smith, while his 15.3 UZR/150 lead the league), his offensive numbers pale in respect to the league’s elite third basemen: his 118 wRC+, although fourth in the AL, pales in comparison to José Ramírez (190) and Rafael Devers (176).
There is a route to LA for LeMahieu, however. If DJ can hit anything remotely close to how he did in June 2019 — when he led the AL with a 188 wRC+ and drilled six home runs — while continuing to play elite defense at third and solid defense at second, then his flexibility might just give him the edge as a reserve over a player with similar numbers.
Back when he played for the Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton was a staple at the All-Star Game. Since coming to the Yankees, a mixture of bad luck — he was injured for much of 2019, and there was no All-Star Game in 2020 — and elite DH performances have kept Stanton at home during the break. So long as the voters consider him exclusively as a designated hitter, that does not project to change in 2022.
At this point in time, the starting DH in the AL is likely to be one of Yordan Álvarez, J.D. Martinez, or Shohei Ohtani, and honestly, it’s hard to complain about that. Álvarez has been one of the most electric young hitters in the game, and his 192 wRC+ is the only one in the same ballpark as Judge in the AL this year. Although his home runs are down, Martinez is an on-base machine for the Red Sox, reaching base more than 40 percent of the time. And Ohtani is, well, Ohtani — one of the faces of the game and an extraordinarily popular player.
Clearly, Stanton is not making the team as a starting DH. But what about as a reserve outfielder? The slugger already has 19 games in right field this season, and while that’s not exactly a lot, it might be enough for managers and players to consider him as an outfielder/DH hybrid when they vote — so long as he continues to play the outfield about half the time in June, as he had been before he got injured. And that’s a good thing for Stanton, as his performance ranks very highly among AL outfielders: his 143 wRC+ and 11 home runs are fifth, while his 35 RBIs rank third. And while he may not play Gold Glove defense out there, he’s not incompetent with the glove, either, as his 13.0 UZR/150 ranks 11th among 70 AL outfielders with 100 innings or more.
Update: Stanton is listed on the ballot as an outfielder! So he has an outside shot of consideration under that regard. Josh Donaldson is considered the Yankees’ DH with Aaron Hicks the odd man out in the outfield.
As always, June will be pivotal for helping fans cast their All-Star votes and players make judgments on their contemporaries. This is just the beginning of the process and should be considered a starting guide for the Yankees most likely to join Judge at the Midsummer Classic. Stay tuned.
All statistics are as of the end of play on Monday, June 6th.