Baseball’s award season has officially ended with this year’s All-MLB teams and the Hank Aaron Award winners. The All-MLB award is relatively new, with this just being the fifth season the award has been handed out. The award consists of two teams, the All-MLB first and second teams, with the best overall players at each position earning first-team status and the runners-up earning second-team status. Each team consists of one player at each infield position and catcher, three outfielders, five starting pitchers, and two relief pitchers.
The way the All-MLB teams are decided is unique from other awards in baseball, instead of being decided by writers or a group of players and coaches, the All-MLB is decided by a 50/50 split between a fan vote and a panel of experts but this unique system can lead to players being overlooked, here are five All-MLB team snubs who were just as deserving as the actual winners.
Five All-MLB Team Snubs In 2023
William Contreras: Catcher, Milwaukee Brewers
William Contreras is one of the most underrated players in the league so it is no surprise he was snubbed of All-MLB honors. After being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason, he put up arguably the best season of any catcher in the league in 2023 and while the awards went to Adley Rutschman and Jonah Heim for the first and second teams Contreras was just as deserving as either of them.
The reason Contreras tends to fly under the radar is that he isn’t flashy and doesn’t dominate one aspect of the position. Instead, he is very good at almost every aspect of the position while also possessing one of the most potent bats of any catcher. Contreras ranked seventh in framing runs, 11th in blocking runs, and fourth in overall defensive runs while finishing second among all qualified catchers in wRC+.
All of that combined led to him leading all catchers in fWAR at 5.4. That is 0.3 wins ahead of first-team Rutschman and 1.3 wins ahead of second-team Heim. Even though Contreras isn’t a very popular player (he’s not even the most popular catcher in his family) he was just as deserving as any catcher in 2023.
Luis Arraez: Second Base, Miami Marlins
Even though he fell short of the elusive .400 mark, Luis Arraez still put together an incredible season and one of the best offensive seasons by a second baseman this season. He won the batting title by 17 points and led all qualified second basemen not named Mookie Betts in wRC+. However poor defense and baserunning hurt his WAR total and likely his chances at the award more than they should have.
The first-team second baseman, Marcus Semien, is the pretty obvious choice considering he was an MVP candidate but Arraez could have easily been the second-team winner over Ozzie Albies. Albies had a higher WAR than Arraez (4.0 to 3.4) but that figure is misleading. Arraez’s 132 wRC+ was eight points higher than Albies’ 124 while both were equally detrimental to their teams defensively contributing a second to worst -10 Outs Above Average (OAA). The only reason Albies has the higher WAR is because of his far better baserunning, but to be a good baserunner you have to get on base, something Arraez did far more often than Albies.
Juan Soto: Outfielder, San Diego Padres
Juan Soto not being considered a top-six outfielder in the league is extremely strange, no matter who is voting on it. While his glove isn’t quite at the level of some of his contemporaries, he is one of the best hitters in the entire sport.
In 2023 he finished eighth in the majors in wRC+ and third among outfielders while also having the fifth most plate appearances among outfielders. He was third in MLB in OBP at .410 and eighth in wOBA at .395. He ranks second and third among qualified outfielders in those categories and despite his poor fielding he still accumulated an impressive 5.5 WAR, fifth among outfielders.
Zack Wheeler: Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
Zack Wheeler is one of the best starting pitchers in the big leagues, he is consistently a workhorse who approaches 200 innings every season and gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound. In 2023 he was the ace of a Philadelphia Phillies team that was one of the best in the National League and he put together another excellent season.
Just how excellent? Well, he threw 192 over 32 starts and struck out 212 batters. He put up an ERA of 3.61, FIP of 3.15, and led the entire sport in pitching WAR at 5.9. Wheeler controlled the three true outcomes as well as anyone, putting up the 11th highest strikeout rate at 26.9% and the sixth lowest walk rate at 5.0% while allowing the 12th fewest home runs per nine innings. While 2023 was a slight down year by Wheeler’s standards, he still finished sixth in Cy Young voting and put up a very impressive season worthy of being recognized.
Justin Steele: Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
It’s been a while since the Chicago Cubs have had a legitimate ace, but they found one in breakout star Justin Steele. The 28-year-old was in NL Cy Young contention until the last month of the season and despite his just 173.1 innings, he finished eighth in MLB in pitching WAR at 4.9. He didn’t put up dominant strikeout numbers, 176 at a clip of 24.6% but he was one of the most effective inning-for-inning pitchers in baseball.
He finished second in the majors in HR/9 at 0.73 and his walk rate of 5.0% is tied with Wheeler at sixth lowest in the league. Those numbers combined with his still very solid strikeout rate put him fifth in baseball in FIP at 3.02. Additionally, his ERA of 3.06 places him sixth in MLB and his ERA+ of 146 places him in a tie for fifth in the majors with All-MLB second-team selection Kyle Bradish. Overall, Justin Steele was more effective at preventing runs than almost any pitcher in baseball and while he didn’t throw as many innings as some others, he still put together one of the best starting pitching seasons of the year.
The All-MLB award is an interesting new accolade that allows fans and experts to compare players across both leagues and debate the best Major League Baseball has to offer. Despite the unique selection process, some players like the ones above get snubbed from the award and while these aren’t the only players you could make a case for, it is extra surprising that these guys didn’t get the recognition they deserved.
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