This year there are plenty of potential first-time All-stars in the MLB. With an influx of great, young talent coming into the league, there are a bunch of new faces that will grace out TV screens. Coupled that with the league’s new voting format, and this year’s game should be a special one.
Baseball in 2019 has been all about homers for hitters and strikeouts for pitchers. While some players on this list reflect this new trend, there are others who provide wrinkles within the modern game. There are some monster mashers, overpowering pitchers, a couple unexpected risers and a few late-bloomers; all of whom are worthy contenders to be All-stars for the first time.
With that said, here are 10 players who are likely to make their first MLB All-star Game appearance in Cleveland.
10. Pete Alonso
The New York Mets were gung-ho from the beginning that 24-year old rookie Pete Alonso would be the first baseman on Opening Day. Although they had the option to keep Alonso down in the minors for a few weeks for arbitration reasons, they wanted the rookie to play from the start.
And what a decision that’s been for the Mets and Pete. Alonso has proven to be the best power-hitter in the lineup, with 23 long-balls already, good for second in the league. The Mets’ rookie record is 26 and the overall is 41–Alonso has a chance to break both records in just his first year.
The first baseman has been a constant force in the lineup, whether it’s at the two, three or four spot. He leads all rookies in homers, RBIs (53) and OPS (.951). Alonso’s tremendous strength has been on full display all year long, as he has willed the Mets’ offense and shown All-star potential.
9. Joey Gallo
If any one player defines the modern game’s ‘three true outcomes’ of hitting, it is Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo. During his first two full seasons, Gallo batted .208 with an average of 40 home runs, 86 RBIs and 202 strikeouts. In fact, this year he became the first MLB player ever to hit 100 homers before his 100th single.
He is famous for his power at the plate, but had lacked the diversity in his game to make it to the next level. This season though, Gallo is batting .276, with a .653 slugging percentage, .421 OBP and an OPS of 1.074, all of which are career-highs. While he is still striking out a lot, his walks and average are up, showing signs of growth in his game.
Gallo’s gargantuan strength has made him one of the most fearsome power-hitters in the MLB. Even though he’s been a force to reckon with for two-plus years, he is finally getting a spotlight. Even though he suffered an oblique injury that has kept him sidelined, his early production will surely get him enough All-star recognition.
8. Austin Meadow
A key part of the Chris Archer trade between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays, Austin Meadows is proving his worth. In his first full-year as a starting outfielder, Meadows has an impressive line of .314 batting average, with .575 slugging and a .963 OPS, along with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. His all-around play, including his stellar defense, has garnered Meadows plenty of attention.
He has been a key component in their lineup for a team that is in a tight battle for first-place in the A.L. East. His fine defense, combined with his great offensive output may give Meadows his first All-star appearance in a crowded A.L. outfield.
Playing extremely well for a contending team should help his candidacy. While he may still not be a household name, he is quickly making his way up the baseball ranks. An all-star selection would just further his MLB ascension.
7. Lucas Giolito
Lucas Giolito has been nothing short of an ace for the Chicago White Sox. He had a nightmarish first season which saw him lead the league in earned runs (118) and walks (90) with a 6.13 ERA in 32 games. Fast-forward one year and now Giolito leads the majors in more favorable pitching categories.
Giolito is a sparkling 10-1 on the season, with an AL-leading 2.22 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He also leads the MLB in complete games with two, including a complete game, four-hit shutout.
That gem has been one of many on the season for the young righty. He has a 3.4 WAR and already has 95 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a pitcher that’s found a better sense of his control, he’s gone from one of the worst pitchers in the MLB to a potential first-time All-star.
6. Matthew Boyd
In this sixth year in the league, Matthew Boyd is the veteran pitcher for the Detroit Tigers‘ staff. On a relatively bad Tigers team, Boyd has been one of the few bright spots that has consistently produced this season.
In 15 starts, Boyd has a 3.35 ERA with 112 strikeouts to only 17 walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.59 leads all pitchers and he has a WAR of 3. In essence, he’s been the most valuable player on the Tigers and one of the most efficient pitchers in the MLB. Even in the midst of trade rumors, Boyd has continued to produce this year.
Regardless if he’s on a new team before the All-star break, he should be in the rotation come the All-star selection. The fact that every team is guaranteed at least one All-star selection should help Boyd make the cut.
5. Josh Bell
After a promising rookie year in 2017, Josh Bell took a bit of a step backwards last year. As a 24-year old rookie, Bell bashed in 26 home runs and 90 RBIs with a .255 average. The next season, Bell saw his average up to .261 but lacked severely in the production department. He only had 12 homers and 62 RBIs, a far cry from his rookie totals.
Bell has had a resurgence in 2019 and he’s been on fire in the first half. He’s batting a career-high .323 with an OPS of 1.049. Bell is also in the top-five in the league in slugging percent as well, which is due to his 19 home runs. He’s the league-leader in RBIs with 64 and doubles with 26.
Bell has been an extra-base hitting machine for the Pirates and is very deserving of an All-star nod. His rise as been anticipated since his rookie campaign, and he’s finally starting to show signs of a true star.
4. Ketel Marte
Another late-bloomer that has new life in a new home, Ketel Marte has been a huge boost for the Arizona Diamondbacks. After spending his first year and a half with the Seattle Mariners, Ketel was traded to Arizona. Last year, he showed the first signs of All-star potential, logging 135 hits with 26 doubles, 14 homers and an MLB-best 12 triples.
Now, Marte is one of the most verastile offense threats in the league. He already had tremendous speed and agility; now he has a power game to boot. Marte has already hit 19 home runs, driving in 49 runs. In the modern game that emphasizes home runs and on-base percentage, Marte is coming into form.
For a Diamondbacks team that lost Paul Goldschmidt, Marte has proved invaluable for Arizona. He leads the team in at-bats and has been the constant force within their lineup. While Marte has stiff competition to beat in Ozzie Albies and Mike Moustakas, he should get a crack at a spot on the bench of the All-star roster.
3. Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo basically had two separate seasons last year. In the first half, he was 5-8 in 20 starts with a 5.49 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Then after the All-star break, he was terrific going 5-4 in 11 starts with a 2.44 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The difference between those splits was very encouraging for the Cincinnati Reds heading into this year.
Castillo proved that the second half of last year was not a fluke, as he’s had a career-year so far. In 14 starts this season, Luis is 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Although his strikeout rate is up, so are his walks. However, he’s only allowed a league-leading 5.6 hits-per-nine-innings. This is because of his wicked velocity and improved control.
The Reds have a current and future ace in Castillo. He throws the ball in the upper-90s with ease and placement. His slider and other secondary pitches have drastically improved, which has led to his recent success. Castillo’s commanding pitching should give him his first All-star appearance.
2. Hyun-jin Ryu
The journey of Hyun-jin Ryu has been one for the ages. From a Korean All-star pitcher, to an encouraging Los Angeles Dodgers prospect, to post-shoulder surgery, and now one of the game’s best hurlers, his path is rather unique. Coming into the MLB, Ryu was considered the most accomplished Korean League pitcher. In his rookie year in the Korean Baseball Organization, he was the KBO MVP and Rookie of the Year as well as the Triple Crown. Ryu hoped that he could carry his success in Korea into Los Angeles.
And that he did, starting 30 games in his rookie year, logging in 196 innings with a 14-8 record and a 3.00 ERA. Things were going well, until 2015 when he missed the entire season due to shoulder problems. He came back fully healthy in 2017 and slowly got better over the past couple of years.
Now aged 32, Ryu is just hitting the prime of his career. Most elite pitchers usually have to adjust from getting hitters out with their fastballs to getting them out with the changeup. Ryu has already mastered that part of his transition, which has led to his incredible season. As the NL leader in wins (9) and ERA (1.36), Ryu is on his way to win the Cy Young. Before that, he’ll certainly take the mound as the starter for the NL.
1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is riding high in his first two years in the majors. Last season he batted .293 with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs and an OPS of .917, en route to winning Rookie of the Year. He’s quickly established himself as one of baseball’s next superstars. Acuña Jr.’s first All-star appearance will be his first step towards greatness.
He’s continued to justify that claim by continually producing in his second season. While he hasn’t topped his numbers from last year, he’s right around his first-year averages. Acuña Jr. is hitting .287 with an .857 OPS and already has 15 homers and 45 RBIs for the first-place Atlanta Braves.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Acuña Jr. will in the starting outfield. He is going against some tough competition in Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. Right now, he is the third-leading vote-getter in the NL outfield, so things are looking bright for the youngster. Only 21-years old, Acuña Jr. should make his first of many All-star games.