With so many Latino stars influencing the course of this year’s title chases, maybe it’s time to pick an All-Star lineup composed entirely of Latino players.
It’s speculative and subjective, to say the least, but interesting to ponder the possibilities — especially since Major League Baseball is about to have an All-Star Game of its own (at Denver’s Coors Field on July 13).
That being said, here’s how the Latino All-Stars should shape up:
C — Salvatore Perez, Kansas City Royals. He’s succeeded Yadi Molina, long-time backstop of the St. Louis Cardinals, as the top Latino catcher in the game. And maybe the best catcher of any background. A Gold Glove receiver, he also has plenty of thunder in his bat and has become the top player on his team. Too bad the Royals don’t have enough other polished players to keep them out of the American League East cellar.
1B — Vlad Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays. No longer just the son of Vladimir Guerrero, this powerful infielder lost 42 pounds last winter, gave up his dream of playing third base, and suddenly blossomed into a Triple Crown contender. The last man to lead either league in home runs, runs batted in, and batting average was another Latino, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. But he’s in the twilight of his career while Vlad the Impaler is in the dawn of his.
2B — Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves. The shortest player in the National League carries one of the most productive bats. A switch-hitter batting behind Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Ozzie spent recent weeks as the NL leader in runs batted in. He’d do even better if he didn’t swing at the first pitch every time.
SS — Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres. His father was the only man to hit two grand-slams in one inning but Junior is likely to do things his old man couldn’t. His power, speed, and strong arm are making strong impressions and keeping the Pads in contention, though he needs to cut down his fielding errors.
3B — Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox. A position that belonged to Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez in recent seasons is now fixed at Fenway, thanks to this productive power-hitter. Along with shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Devers gives the Red Sox starting All-Stars on the left side of their infield — certainly a rare feat.
RF — Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves. Is it the power? the exit velocity? the speed? the rocket arm? Acuna has it all and is out to fulfill his boast of a 40/40 season. He’d steal even more if Freddie Freeman weren’t hitting directly behind him. Don’t bet against Acuña succeeding Freeman as National League MVP.
CF — Starling Marte, Miami Marlins. The biggest star on a mediocre ballclub, Marte has been offered a contract extension by the Fish but may wind up in a trade instead. He does everything well, including hit for average.
LF — J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox. Returned to the outfield after service in the DH role, Martinez is one of the key reasons the 2021 Red Sox have rebounded to the top of the American League East standings. He once hit four home runs in a game and still is a regular RBI producer who hits in the clutch.
RHP — Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds. After an awful start, this 28-year-old starter has recaptured the form that made him one of the game’s top righthanded pitchers not named Jacob deGrom. He was 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 2019, the last uninterrupted season.
LHP — Julio Urías, Los Angeles Dodgers. The first pitcher to reach 11 wins this year, he’s picked up the gauntlet for the injured Clayton Kershaw and suspended Trevor Bauer. Urías, 24, has picked up where he left off after last year’s successful postseason.
Closer — Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers. Still the anchor of a Dodger bullpen that has proven itself this season, the 33-year-old Jansen is a converted catcher with a heart condition. But he’s been good at his job for more than 10 years, topping 40 saves in three different summers.
Bench — It wasn’t easy to leave out Juan Soto, the 22-year-old right-fielder of the Washington Nationals, or shortstop Francisco Lindor, who hit the first New York Mets grand-slam of the season Friday night against Pittsburgh. Both are tremendous talents who are certain to influence the National League East race for the remainder of the season.
In the meantime, catcher Yadi Molina (Cardinals) and starting pitcher Freddy Peralta (Brewers) — also considered here — were announced as All-Star Game replacements Saturday. It’s the 10th time Molina is an All-Star. There are now 24 All-Stars (15 AL, 9 NL) born outside the United States. They include players from the Dominican Republic (8), Venezuela (5), Japan (3), Cuba (2), Puerto Rico (2), plus one each from Aruba, Australia, Canada and Curaçao .
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