We are decidedly into All-Star Voting season (remember to vote for Robinson Chirinos!), and the Astros look like they’re set up to be well represented this year in Cleveland, possibly even historically so. A big part of that is obviously that the team is good, as they sit atop the AL West with the best record in the Majors. But there’s another side to the equation that could help Houston in a bid at history: most of the American League is bad.
You see, there’s a push and pull to creating an All-Star Game roster, since there are a limited number of spots. If you want to set the record for most players attending the All-Star Game, having a good roster is important, but the rest of the league taking up fewer spots can also play a key role. And right now, only six AL teams (going by Fangraphs) have a greater than 10% chance to make the playoffs.
All-Star rosters today hover in the high 30s and sometimes even low 40s (the AL in the 2010s has been between 36 and 43 players) thanks to things like the Final Vote, injury replacements, and replacements for Sunday starters. But due to the number of teams going through rebuilds, I can honestly see an argument for half of the league averaging less than a name-and-a-half between them. I would be kind of shocked if the Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals, Tigers, or Mariners sent multiple representatives, and there are a few more teams (namely the Indians, White Sox, and Angels, but maybe also the Rangers?) that I think I would take the under on if you set the line on All-Stars picks at 2.5. That could leave two dozen roster slots to just six teams even in a small-roster year.
So with those favorable conditions in mind, what exactly would the Astros need to do to set history? Well, going back to 1998 (the year the league expanded to its current 30 teams), here are the most well-represented teams in a Mid-Summer Classic:
Most All-Stars since 1998
|7||2002 Red Sox|
|7||2006 White Sox|
|7||2008 Red Sox|
|6||8 NL Teams and 14 AL Teams|
It’s worth noting that two of the 22 teams in the 6-player category are the Astros teams of the past two years, both of which are franchise bests. Of course, the AL had an advantage for most of this period since they had two fewer teams to represent until the Astros changed leagues in 2013. If we just restricted things to post-2012, we get:
Most All-Stars since 2013
|6||2016 Red Sox|
It’s fascinating how different this table looks as far as teams represented, especially the Astros and Cardinals being the only two teams to appear multiple times. If nothing else, this absolutely seems like something that could happen to Houston this year, given their recent run.
Of course, there really isn’t an “official” record for Most All-Stars, since things in the process change so often, so you can kind of pick what you want to use as your personal benchmark. But the summary is:
Six players: Ties the Astros’ team record.
Seven players: Sets the Astros’ team record, ties the record for the 15-team-leagues era.
Eight players: Sets the 15-team-league era record, ties the record in the 30-team era.
Nine players: Record for the 30-team era
How realistic are these goals? Well, in the old voting system, Alex Bregman and George Springer would have been virtual locks with their vote totals, but I’m not sure how the new run-off voting will play out, especially given Springer’s injuries. I’d still mark them down as likely to make it either way, though, given the number of reserve slots available should they miss out as starters. Justin Verlander also seems like he’ll be difficult to deny with his strong all-around numbers, although pitcher selection is an entirely different beast. That gets us half of the way to some sort of history, at least.
Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Josh Reddick are also all currently positioned to make the run-off vote. I think Brantley is another one that will be hard to keep off a roster even if he doesn’t win a starting spot. He’s just been hitting too well this year (second in average, fifth in wRC+), and he’s too big of a name to be accidentally overlooked at this point (including three All-Star appearances to his name already). I’m mixed on the other three, though.
Reddick would be a safer pick had he kept up his pace from earlier in the year, given that he’s a fairly big name, but right now he’s sort of in a zone where I can see it going either way. Maybe some voting bloc will like his batting if he can keep it above .300, but maybe he gets edged out by a more well-rounded candidate in a deep field. Trying to guess what the players and managers will look for in picking back-ups can be a mystery at times.
Carlos Correa wouldn’t be a bad choice if he was healthy, but his most recent injury likely does his chances in. Weirdly, Altvue might have the better chance despite his worse season overall. He’s definitely a bigger name, and AL second basemen overall look kind of weak this year. It certainly helps him that the best players there so far have been lesser-known names like Tommy La Stella, Whit Merrifield, and Brandon Lowe. Maybe he sneaks in if he comes back soon and has a decent run. And he wouldn’t be the worst choice, especially if you’re the type of voter who factors in player fame, last calendar year, or an even more extended track record.
As linked to in the opening, Chirinos would make a fine pick, and the most recent voting update had him just 1,500 votes out of making the top three. I think he’s definitely more likely to make it than Reddick, Altuve, or Correa, especially because it feels unlikely that we’ll see two players from the same team at one position (even though both Jason Castro and Mitch Garver are having good years, I can see them eating into each others’ support), which clears out the competition a little.
That leaves the pitchers, which are a little harder to predict given the lack of fan voting and the fact that we don’t really know what the roster’s split of relievers to starters will be. On the bullpen side of things, Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly both feel like strong choices, and their respective saves total and scoreless innings streak seem like the types of things players and managers latch on to. And although it’s much, much less likely, Will Harris may tickle some voters’ love of holds and ERA, especially if the AL goes with an expanded bullpen. I’d still just bet on Osuna and Pressly here, though, and in the even only one makes it, I think Pressly wins the day, as his streak is the stronger narrative.
I can see the Astros also getting a second starter on the team, although I wouldn’t necessarily bet on who that will be. I personally think Gerrit Cole would be the best one given his strong fielding-independent numbers, but I can see players and managers shying away from his 3.72 ERA despite his league-leading 130 Ks. Of course, if the pitchers do lean towards the best ERAs, that probably helps Wade Miley and Brad Peacock (eleventh and thirteenth in the AL, currently). I’d still mark Cole the most likely overall, but I’m not as confident on him as I am Brantley or Chirinos or one of the relievers.
Do I think all of these players will be going to Cleveland in July? Absolutely, as the Astros have a series there at the end of the month.
Joking aside, there’s no way all of these players are making the All-Star Team. But three players looking like locks is just too good of a starting point to not start dreaming a little, and the depth of options the Astros have does give them a decent chance to at least tie one record or another from there.
Brantley, Reddick, Altuve, Chirinos, Cole, Miley, Peacock, Osuna, Pressly, and Harris will not all make it, clearly, but they’re all in the conversation, and even if seven of those ten miss out, the Astros would still tie the franchise record. Nine representatives is just not realistic, but seven feels both very doable and very significant in it’s own way. And if you want my ranking of most to least likely All-Star picks after Springer, Bregman, and Verlander, right now I’d have to go with: Brantley, Pressly, Osuna, Chirinos, Cole, Reddick, Altuve, Harris, Miley, Peacock.