Imagine how excited Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was when he made his first All-Star Game appearance in 2017 in his first full year in the big leagues. He started the game and went hitless in three at-bats, but that didn’t matter. Judge had already won during All-Star Week, taking the top spot in the Home Run Derby.
“This is my first time doing it. For me, I’ve got no expectations. I’m just going to go in there and have some fun and see what we can do tonight,” Judge said that day. “It was a blast. I enjoyed every minute of it — watching the other guys swing, coming here early and talking to the media. Everything about today was fantastic.”
With that in mind, we at MLB.com picked one player from each American League East team who has a chance to make their first appearance in the Midsummer Classic this season at Dodger Stadium.
Bo Bichette, one of baseball’s top prospects entering 2019, might have been overshadowed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Toronto, but he proved to be impressive in 46 Major League games. Hitting .311 with 11 home runs and a .930 OPS, Bichette played with an energy and confidence that brought back memories of Josh Donaldson when he was a Blue Jay. Bichette, 22, is locked in as the franchise shortstop, with an ability to be one of the game’s best hitters at the position. Combined with his defense and recent explosion in popularity, that puts Bichette right on track for the All-Star Game. He’ll need to sustain that hot start to his career, but from where he stands today, it’s not a question of whether Bichette will sneak into the All-Star Game. It’s a question of how many Midsummer Classics could be in his future. – Keegan Matheson, Blue Jays beat reporter
Rookie center fielder Austin Hays looks like a future All-Star because of the potential five-tool skillset that, when healthy, he flashes with regularity. Let’s list those tools.
Power: Hays hit 32 homers in his first full professional season, and then 17 over 87 games last summer, including four in 21 big league contests.
Speed: Hays’ 28.6 ft/sec speed is already above average, and not far from Statcast’s elite threshold of 30 ft/sec. He worked to get leaner and quicker this winter, with an eye toward improving his mobility both in the field and on the basepaths.
Defense: Long considered more of a corner outfielder, Hays’ sensational running catch in center last September proved he’s more than athletic enough to handle the position long-term. He ended up making 11 percent of the Orioles’ 3-to-5 star plays last season, in 13 percent of their games.
Arm: Hays has always been considered a plus-thrower.
Hitting: Hays will probably need to refine his approach in the Majors, but he is considered athletic and driven enough to assuage some of those pitch recognition and plate discipline concerns for now.
All told, he has a high-upside package that inspires comparisons to George Springer. If he can stay healthy, Hays is probably primed for some big statistical years. — Joe Trezza, Orioles beat reporter
The Rays have compiled a young core that should keep them in contention over the next couple of seasons. Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe are evidence of that, both making their first All-Star appearance in 2019. In 2020, Willy Adames could follow suit.
Adames finished with a 4.2 bWAR last season, and you could make the argument that not many Major League shortstops played better than him in the second half. In those 67 games, Adames hit 10 home runs and finished with a .807 OPS. The 24-year-old also played Gold Glove-caliber defense, finishing sixth at the position with 13 Defensive Runs Saved.
Adames has improved ever since being acquired from the Tigers as the key piece in the David Price trade in 2014. He hit 20 homers last year, the most in a single season by a Rays shortstop. There’s plenty of reason to believe that the best is yet to come. — Juan Toribio, Rays beat reporter
Despite putting together one of the most dominant offensive seasons in Red Sox history in 2019, Rafael Devers was not an All-Star. It wasn’t so much a snub as Devers getting ridiculously hot in June — by which time a lot of the voting had already been done — and staying in that zone until he finally hit a rut in September. Entering his age-23 season, Devers now appears to be on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star. Last season, he produced a .311/.361/.555 slash line with 32 homers, 129 runs, 54 doubles and 115 RBIs. — Ian Browne, Red Sox beat reporter
The big-swinging Miguel Andújar provided a glimpse of his star potential in 2018, when he finished second to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in the AL Rookie of the Year race after batting .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 149 games. His 2019 season was truncated due to injury, but Andújar appeared to be healthy this spring. Though he is blocked for the moment at third base by Gio Urshela, the Yankees have committed to finding at-bats for Andújar as regularly as possible, so he could see time in left field and designated hitter. — Bryan Hoch, Yankees beat reporter