MLB 2024 ALL-Star Game:: Surprises and Snubs

In a week, thousands of fans, journalists, and other celebrated individuals will descend into Arlington, Texas to witness the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star week festivities, hosted by the reigning champion Texas Rangers for the second time in the club’s history. Given the amount of talent on all 30 teams these days, it has become customary for the annual All-Star Game to feature some players who surprisingly make it. In contrast, others get snubbed because their team’s record is worse or they have less popularity amongst fans or other players.

All-Star Voting Process

The annual Home Run Derby on July 15 and the All-Star Game the following night will be held at Globe Life Field, the Rangers home stadium since 2020. On July 7, MLB announced the American (AL) and National League (NL) reserves, both leagues well-represented by a mixture of established superstars and young phenoms who are set up to dominate the league for years to come. Unlike the fan-voted starting lineups announced a few days earlier, the MLB office and fellow players selected the reserves. The league ensures that every team gets at least one representative, and it is often the case for replacement players to be added to the roster before the game because of injuries or unavailability. Regarding the latter, it usually applies to starting pitchers who pitch the final game before the All-Star Break and therefore can not pitch in this game because there are not enough days off between outings.

2024 All-Star Spotlights

MLB seems to be getting increasingly younger and more athletic, and this year feels like the perfect time for youth to seize the national spotlight as veteran stars like Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Paul Goldschmidt won’t take part in the All-Star Game due to injuries or underperformance. In their place are the likes of Detroit Tigers’ ace pitcher Tarik Skubal, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals’ do-it-all shortstops Gunnar Henderson and Bobby Witt Jr, and Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland Athletics’ rookie flamethrowers Paul Skenes and Mason Miller. It was not shocking to see these five young, healthy, dynamic players on the roster as they all are on the path to, if not having already achieved, baseball stardom. However,  the voting outcome for the players discussed below was more surprising, especially for those with a strong case to be going but are not. 

Five Surprises

1)Reynaldo Lopez

Based on his first-half performance, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Reynaldo López deservedly earned his spot. What is surprising is that López has blown past all expectations as he is in the midst of a career-best season in his first campaign solely as a starting pitcher since 2019. Last year, López traversed the country, suiting up for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, and Cleveland Guardians. Now, he seems to have found a home in Atlanta, as the free-agent acquisition has helped fortify the team’s rotation that tragically lost ace Spencer Strider to a season-ending injury early in the season. Through 16 starts, López is 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA and only 19 runs allowed in 89 innings pitched. The Braves need his stellar performances to translate through the rest of the season if they want to make the playoffs, let alone catch the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East division. 

2) Matt Strahm and Jeff Hoffman

Speaking of the Phillies, their MLB best record rewards them with a franchise-record seven All-Stars. Two of those names, right-handed reliever Jeff Hoffman and lefty Matt Strahm are unconventional picks as most All-Star relievers are the league’s dominant closers. Yet these two made the team due to their prominent middle relief/setup bullpen roles for the league leader. Hoffman’s stats are up across the board in his second season with the Phillies, holding a 3-1 record, eight saves, and a 1.21 ERA in 38 appearances, while lanky lefty Strahm is befuddling opposing hitters to the tune of a 4-1 record and 1.59 ERA in 36 games. 

3) Jackson Merrill over Brandon Nimmo

Pirates’ rookie sensation Skenes is the current favorite for NL Rookie of the Year honors. San Diego Padres’ 21-year-old center fielder Jackson Merrill is one of his toughest competitors for this prestigious award. Merrill’s numbers (12 homers, ten stolen bases, .288 batting average) over his first few Major League months are impressive considering his youth. Yet it’s fair to wonder if they are All-Star worthy compared to a snub like New York Mets’ veteran outfielder Brandon Nimmo (14 home runs, 55 RBIs, and stellar outfield defense). Also, with San Diego’s left fielder Jurickson Profar and right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr voted as starters, one may question the fairness of a team’s entire starting outfield getting selected instead of upping the number of representatives from another team.

4) David Fry over Brent Rooker

Guardians’ utility player David Fry earned the AL reserve designated hitter slot for his positive impact on his team’s first-place performance in the more competitive AL Central division. In 66 games, Fry is hitting .305 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs. His versatile, on-base-oriented style of play is a far cry from the traditional role of the designated hitter as someone whose value resides mainly in their ability to hit home runs and drive in runs at the plate. That is an archetype shared by the league’s All-Star starter, Houston Astros’ slugger Yordan Alvarez, and the player whose spot Fry likely grabbed, Oakland Athletics’ designated hitter Brent Rooker. Rooker, who represented the A’s last July in Seattle, was likely impacted by his team’s subpar record and the rapid ascendance of their closer Miller. Nevertheless, he has taken his game to another level as he is on pace for 30+ home runs for a second straight year, has a career-high in RBIs, and is hitting for a career-high average. Given the A’s organizational futility and Rooker’s continued success, it is not unfathomable that he may get traded to a contending team in need of offensive support in the coming weeks.

Other Snubs

There are far too few spots in the All-Star game to accommodate the wealth of talented athletes, so there always will be deserving players that get overlooked.  In addition to Nimmo and Rooker, a couple of additional snubs this year are New York Yankees’ electric rookie pitcher Luís Gil and Orioles’ infielder Jordan Westburg, both of whom have played key roles in their teams’ seasons to this point. Westburg flies under the radar as part of a loaded Orioles’ lineup, whereas Gil blew up for his instant success as a lesser-known name on a star-studded Yankees’ roster.

In contrast to basketball and football, professional baseball players take their league’s All-Star game seriously. As a result, it should be a fun few days of seeing the best talent in the league mingle and compete against one another. In the meantime, enjoy the last week of regular-season action before MLB takes a week off for the All-Star Game. After that, it’s the trade deadline and the final push to the season’s finish. What an exciting time to be a baseball fan!

Main Image: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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