Way-too-early 2018 MLB All-Stars: J.D. Martinez will be the starting DH for ... ?

It's time for my second annual way-too-early All-Star teams. This is a tough assignment! We should turn this into a contest, that's how difficult it is. Last year I successfully named a whopping 28 of 71 All-Stars. You may think that's a lousy percentage, but only 23 players were All-Stars in both 2016 and 2017. Consider some of last year's All-Stars: Justin Smoak, Corey Dickerson, Yonder Alonso, Avisail Garcia, Chris Devenski, Alex Wood and Corey Knebel. Nobody would have predicted any of those players to make it in February. And veterans like Jason Vargas, Ryan Zimmerman and Zack Cozart had monster first halves to get there. I nailed Robbie Ray, but missed badly on Robert Gsellman (I did, however, predict an injury for Noah Syndergaard).

This year's way-too-early All-Star selection process is made even more difficult by all the unsigned free agents, as we don't even know what teams some potential All-Stars will be playing for. On top of that, we have to account for what the fans might do -- last year, I had Cubs fans voting in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber as starters, and none even made the team -- plus we have to have a representative from every team, including the Marlins. And remember that rosters were cut from 34 to 32 players last year.

So, let's give this a shot and see if I can top my 2017 performance.


Fan selections

C – Gary Sanchez, Yankees

1B – Eric Hosmer, Royals

2B – Jose Altuve, Astros

3B – Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays

SS – Carlos Correa, Astros

OF – Aaron Judge, Yankees

OF – Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees

OF – Mike Trout, Angels

DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox

Yes, I'm predicting Hosmer to re-sign with the Royals and Martinez to sign with the Red Sox and both to become All-Star starters. ... AL first base lacks an obvious favorite to win the fan vote, especially if Miguel Cabrera doesn't bounce back. Smoak was the starter last year, but look for Royals fans to enthusiastically support Hosmer, the 2016 starter. He'll have to get off to a better start than last year, however, when he hit .225 with one home run in April. ... Salvador Perez has started the past four All-Star Games, but Sanchez unseats him thanks to his prolific offensive production. ... Jose Ramirez started at third base last year and might end up on the ballot at second, so I'm going with Donaldson being healthy out of the gate and putting up big numbers. ... Shortstop will be a fun vote with Correa, Francisco Lindor and now Manny Machado, but Correa is my preseason AL MVP favorite, so I'm predicting big things. ... Stanton might be listed as a DH, but let's put him in the outfield in a stellar starting trio.


C – Salvador Perez, Royals

1B – Jose Abreu, White Sox

2B – Jonathan Schoop, Orioles

3B – Jose Ramirez, Indians

3B – Adrian Beltre, Rangers

SS – Francisco Lindor, Indians

SS – Manny Machado, Orioles

OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox

OF – Byron Buxton, Twins

OF – George Springer, Astros

DH – Khris Davis, Athletics

The players will vote in Perez as the backup, but Mike Zunino could be a surprise here. He was second to Sanchez in WAR among AL catchers in 2017. ... If Abreu doesn't make it, I have no idea who ends up representing the White Sox since Garcia is an obvious regression candidate. ... It's too soon for Yoan Moncada, plus second base is loaded with Schoop, Robinson Cano and Brian Dozier. Schoop made it last year and I'm buying a repeat of his breakout season. ... As I went through the rosters, Beltre was my final selection as the lone choice from the Rangers. He last made the All-Star team in 2014, although AL third base remains loaded with up-and-coming potential All-Stars like Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman. ... A couple years ago, AL outfield was so weak that Michael Saunders, Mark Trumbo, Ian Desmond and an aging Carlos Beltran were All-Stars. There's much more depth now, with defensive whiz Buxton a good bet to make his first All-Star team. ... Davis beats out Nelson Cruz, last year's AL RBI leader, for the second DH spot.

Pitching staff

SP – Corey Kluber, Indians

SP – Carlos Carrasco, Indians

SP – Chris Sale, Red Sox

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros

SP – Gerrit Cole, Astros

SP – James Paxton, Mariners

SP – Blake Snell, Rays

RP – Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox

RP – Andrew Miller, Indians

RP – Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays

RP – Shane Greene, Tigers

RP – Chad Green, Yankees

So many good choices for starting pitchers as I left out Luis Severino, Dallas Keuchel and Marcus Stroman among others. Aaron Sanchez, a 2016 All-Star and that year's AL ERA champ, is another starter to watch if he can keep the blisters from popping up. ... Verlander fixed his mechanics in the second half last year when he went 10-2, 1.95. He will be a preseason Cy Young favorite alongside Kluber and Sale. ... How good will the Cole trade look if he makes the All-Star team? ... This is the year Paxton finally stays healthy and makes 30 starts. ... Chris Archer is the more obvious pick for the Rays, but we know there has to be a surprise here, so let's go off the charts for Snell. The young lefty has top-shelf stuff and got his delivery in order in the second half, when he posted a 3.49 ERA and improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 1.32 in the first half to 2.96. He's a strong breakout candidate. ... I'd love to see Miggy make the team, since that means he's mashing again, but his poor 2017 performance and back issues are a concern, so Greene is my pick for the Tigers. ... We have to pick somebody from that dominant Yankees bullpen and Green is my guy. Batters swing through his high-spin four-seamer as he struck out 103 in just 69 innings. He's not the closer, but he’ll give Aaron Boone a valuable midgame option.


Fan vote

C – Buster Posey, Giants

1B – Freddie Freeman, Braves

2B – Daniel Murphy, Nationals

3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies

SS – Corey Seager, Dodgers

OF – Bryce Harper, Nationals

OF – Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals

OF – Tommy Pham, Cardinals

Posey makes his fourth straight at catcher, edging out Yadier Molina in the voting. ... National League first base is the most loaded position in the majors. Zimmerman was the starter last year, Rizzo in 2016 and Paul Goldschmidt in 2015, so the fan voting could go in any direction. Joey Votto might be the best, but hasn't started since 2013. How about another new starter in Freeman? He was hitting .341/.461/.748 when he was hit by a pitch and fractured his wrist on May 17. ... Second base is pretty weak, so let's give Murphy his second straight appearance there. ... Arenado won the voting last year, and I'll project him again, although it feels weird to have no Cubs starters given their rabid fan base. ... Kenley Jansen ripped Dodgers fans after Cozart beat out Seager in the voting last year, but Seager should make his third straight appearance and first as a starter ... Harper is an easy choice and Ozuna actually has started the past two All-Star Games. Pham is my surprise choice, but he had a quietly awesome all-around season, and Cardinals fans will vote well if he gets off to a good start.


C — J.T. Realmuto, Marlins

1B – Joey Votto, Reds

1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

1B – Cody Bellinger, Dodgers

2B – Javier Baez, Cubs

3B – Kris Bryant, Cubs

3B – Justin Turner, Dodgers

SS – Trea Turner, Nationals

OF – Charlie Blackmon, Rockies

OF – Christian Yelich, Brewers

OF – Rhys Hoskins, Phillies

OF – Manuel Margot, Padres

Let's hope the Marlins don't trade Realmuto, because the roster is otherwise lacking an obvious All-Star candidate. ... I'm going with three backups at first base and I'm still leaving off Rizzo. One of them can start at DH. ... The players voted in DJ LeMahieu as the backup last year, but let's give the nod to Baez. His OBP won't be great, but there's 30-homer potential here along with plus defense. ... Like first base, third base is loaded. I'm going with Bryant and Justin Turner over Anthony Rendon and Travis Shaw, and last year Jake Lamb made it with a monster first half. ... Trea Turner missed two months last year, but I think he breaks out this year. In April and May, he had just six walks and 38 strikeouts. After that, he had 24 walks and 42 strikeouts. If he can maintain better discipline, the line-drive power will come into play and he hits .300 with 60 steals. ... Blackmon will start if he puts up the same numbers as last year. ... Look for Yelich's power to increase in Milwaukee as he's hit 41 home runs on the road in his career compared to just 18 in Miami. ... Hoskins can flat mash. ... Margot gets the final nod on the bench as the Padres' lone representative.

Pitching staff

SP – Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

SP – Max Scherzer, Nationals

SP – Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

SP – Noah Syndergaard, Mets

SP – Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks

SP – Yu Darvish, Cubs

SP – Jon Gray, Rockies

RP – Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

RP – Corey Knebel, Brewers

RP – Felipe Rivero, Pirates

RP – Raisel Iglesias, Reds

RP – Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks

Kershaw and Scherzer are easy choices and Strasburg might be the Cy Young favorite considering the way he finished last year -- a 0.84 ERA and one home run allowed over his final eight starts, then zero earned runs over two playoff starts. He also blamed the All-Star Game for his DL stint last year since it forced him out of his regular routine, so it seems likely he'd skip any invitation. ... OK, Mets fans, let's predict good things for Syndergaard this year. ... Damn right I'm still on the Robbie Ray train. ... It's a Yu Darvish sighting! I have an itch to put him on the Brewers instead of the Cubs, but I think he still ends up in Wrigley and pays dividends with a big season. ... OK, we need an unpredictable name and picking a Rockies starter qualifies. Gray would be the first Rockies starting pitcher to make the All-Star team since Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 (Aaron Cook, Shawn Chacon and Mike Hampton are the only others). ... Picking All-Star relievers is a crapshoot, so I'm simply going with the guys who dominated last year. Iglesias is a secret gem, although it's possible the Reds trade him. Rivero is my Pirates rep, but he makes it on merit. Hey, maybe the Andrew McCutchen and Cole trades will end up as good as the Mark Melancon-for-Rivero one.