By Sam McPherson
Philadelphia Phillies reliever Pat Neshek made his second All-Star team this season, and anyone that loves baseball is happy for him. He’s overcome a major injury and personal trauma to be where he is today, offering inspiration to fans everywhere. However, in an 11-year career, Neshek has eight career saves along with a 30-21 record and a 2.80 ERA. He’s never started a Major League Baseball game in his life, and Neshek has finished in the Top 5 of a statistical category just once in his career (74 appearances in 2007 put him fifth in the American League).
As a result, if Neshek is on your fantasy baseball roster, chances are the team is in the basement of your league standings. He made the National League All-Star Team in 2017 due to the arcane MLB rule that states every team must have a player representative in the game, and while Neshek is having a great season (1.31 ERA, nine holds) on the worst team in baseball, he’s worthless in fantasy baseball as Neshek has just two wins and one save in 34 1/3 innings. He’s most likely on the waiver wire in 99 percent of online fantasy leagues (unless holds are counted, which is not standard).
Basically, this fantasy baseball All-Star team below represents the kind of players you want on your roster if you expect to win your league. How many do you have on your team this year? How many more can you acquire? Those are the key questions as you approach the midway point of the fantasy baseball season.
Catcher: Salvador Pérez, Kansas City Royals (AL), and Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (NL)
The Royals star has been the best fantasy catcher in baseball this year, with a .290 average, 18 home runs and 57 RBI. The Giants backstop isn’t too far behind, though, sporting a .325 average with 10 HRs and 35 RBI. Honorable mention here goes to the Miami Marlins catcher, J.T. Realmuto, with a .306 average, eight HRs, 33 RBI and four stolen bases. It’s not often you find a catcher with the potential for double-digit steals.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (NL), and Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Goldy is a fantasy beast (.313, 20 HRs, 67 RBI, 13 SBs), and Smoak is having a great season (.294, 23 HRs, 56 RBI) on a struggling team. But there are several NL first basemen better than Smoak this year, including Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto (.315, 26 HRs, 67 RBI, three SBs). In truth, while Smoak is the best fantasy option in the AL this year, he may just fifth or sixth overall in the majors at the position right now.
Second Base: José Altuve, Houston Astros (AL), and Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (NL)
Altuve is a four-category fantasy stud, of course: .342, 12 HRs, 47 RBI, 18 SBs. It’s hard to top that, although Turner’s numbers before he got hurt last week are good, too (.279, seven HRs, 32 RBI, 35 SBs). With a fractured wrist, Turner won’t be adding to those numbers anytime soon. Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, however, is right there, too, with a .298 average and 31 steals.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (AL) and Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks (NL)
Elvis has left the building 11 times this year, although it’s his batting average (.304) and speed (20 SBs) that his game is built upon. His 50 RBI are a great bonus this season, too, thanks to the power surge. Owings’ game is a well-rounded one, too: .284, 12 HRs, 49 RBI and 11 SBs. Turner was also the best SS-eligible player before he got hurt, by the way.
Third Base: José Ramírez, Cleveland Indians (AL) and Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (NL)
The Tribe are lucky to have this versatile player (also eligible at SS and OF) on their roster, and you are, too, in fantasy terms. His .329 average comes with 16 HRs, 46 RBI and ten SBs. On the other hand, Arenado is more traditionally built for the position: .302, 17 HRs and 70 RBI. He is on pace to lead the NL in RBI for the third straight season. Honorable mention here goes to Milwaukee Brewers corner man Travis Shaw (.296, 18 HRs, 61 RBI, seven SBs).
Outfield: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (AL), and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (NL)
With a .330 average and 30 HRs, Judge is on pace for the greatest rookie season in recent memory, not only in fantasy baseball but in real life, too. The 66 RBI and six SBs are nice additions as well. Blackmon (.320, 19 HRs, 60 RBI, eight SBs) edges out Houston’s George Springer (.307, 27 HRs, 61 RBI) as the best in the NL.
Utility/Designated Hitter: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (NL), and Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (AL)
The outfield is packed with studs, so Harper falls to the DH spot, basically, with his .322 average, 20 HRs and 64 RBI. Meanwhile, Betts is on pace for a 30-30 season (15 HRs, 52 RBI, 15 SBs). Honorable mention here goes to Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna (.316, 23 HRs, 69 RBI), which might surprise most people.
Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (NL), and Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (AL)
It’s a coincidence that the DHs and SPs match up here, so don’t read anything into it. Scherzer (10-5 record, 2.10 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 173 strikeouts) just edges out Los Angeles Dodgers stud Clayton Kershaw (13-2, 2.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 146 Ks) in the NL, while Sale (11-4, 2.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 178 Ks), is cruising in his first year with the Red Sox.
Relief Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox (AL), and Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (NL)
The Boston closer is having a historic season (23 saves, 1.19 ERA, 0.504 WHIP and 16.2 Ks per nine innings pitched), but Jansen’s overall numbers add up almost equally (21 saves, 0.96 ERA, 0.558 WHIP, 13.6 Ks/9). It’s hard to choose between the two, in truth. Honorable mention goes to Colorado’s Greg Holland, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery very nicely (28 saves, 1.62 ERA, 1.020 WHIP, 11.6 Ks/9).