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All-Star Game

How MLB All-Star rosters are selected

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Both the NL and AL will have 32 players on the roster for the midsummer classic. Here’s how they are chosen.

90th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

MLB All-Star starting position players will be revealed on Thursday night. Five Dodgers are still technically alive for that honor. But in the National League, that only accounts for a quarter of the total roster.

So let’s look at how the rest of the All-Stars are chosen.

The rules

Each All-Star roster will have 32 players, including 20 position players and 12 pitchers.

At least one player from each major league team must be selected.

The All-Star teams are managed by the previous year’s pennant winner, which in the NL is the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts for a third straight All-Star Game.

There are exceptions to this rule, with no real pattern set in stone. Dusty Baker was let go after guiding San Francisco to the NL pennant in 2002, but managed the NL All-Stars in 2003 while representing the Cubs. Bob Lemon was fired by the Yankees midway through 1979, but still managed the AL All-Stars a month after his ouster. Lemon was fired again by New York early in 1982, and this time the All-Star managerial nod went to Billy Martin of the A’s, the previous year’s pennant runner-up.

Had the 2020 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium not been canceled by the pandemic, the American League would have been managed by someone other than 2019 pennant-winner A.J. Hinch, who was serving his season-long suspension for the Astros’ 2017-18 sign-stealing scandal.

Starters

8 in NL, 9 in AL

The fans elect eight starters in the NL and nine in the AL. That’s one catcher, one player at each infield position, three outfielders, and in the case of the AL, a designated hitter.

The National League will also start a designated hitter in the All-Star Game, but that will be someone chosen from among the remainder of the roster by the manager. The starting pitcher for each team is also selected by the manager.

The Dodgers have five players in phase two of fan voting this year, a new feature in which the top three at each position (and top nine among outfielders) in the first phase of voting advance. Voting totals are reset for this round, which started Monday and runs through Thursday at 11 a.m. PT.

Max Muncy might have the best shot among Dodgers to start for the NL. He led first basemen in voting in the first phase, though the votes are reset for round two. He’s up against Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo.

Mookie Betts also has a good chance to start. Still productive in a “frustrating” year for him, Betts is still incredibly popular. He finished fourth among NL outfielders in the first round of voting, but in a cluster at the top.

A rule that I didn’t realize existed, but is in fact codified in the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and MLB owners, is that elected starters are required to play at least three innings and bat at least once in the game.

Players vote

16 in NL, 17 in AL

Major league players get a say here as well. They vote for eight position players in each league, plus the designated hitter for the AL, as well as five starting pitchers and three relievers.

88th MLB All-Star Game
Corey Seager was a players’ selection to the National League All-Star team in 2017.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Should the chosen starter by the player happen to be the same as the fan’s choice, the player with the next-most votes at that position gets a roster spot. A recent Dodgers example here is in 2017, when the Reds Zach Cozart was elected to start for the NL at shortstop by the fans. Cozart also got the most votes from players at the position, so the roster spot went to the second-place finisher among players, Corey Seager.

If Betts isn’t elected by the fans as a starter this year, I have a hard time believing the players don’t pick him for an All-Star nod. His ranks among player voting in the AL beginning in 2016, once he was established: second, second, second, and third.

The players vote brings the All-Star rosters to 24 players for the National League, including 16 position players and eight pitchers; and 26 players for the American League, thanks to the two designated hitters.

Commissioner’s office

8 in NL, 6 in AL

This is where the majority of the angst goes when people complain about All-Star snubs. Plenty of ire is directed at the All-Star manager, assuming they might be favoring their own players. That almost certainly was the case for decades, but the commissioner’s office took over sole duties of finishing out the roster in 2017.

“The managers now don’t have a say, which is unfortunate,” Roberts lamented a few weeks back.

For the NL, that means selecting four position players and four pitchers get selected. In the AL, two position players and four pitchers get picked.

From 2002 through 2018, one of these final spots was determined by a “Final Vote,” where fans picked between five players in each league for the final roster spot. Justin Turner made the All-Star team in 2017 through this process, for instance.

Will Smith is the most deserving All-Star position player among Dodgers not elected in the top three at his position by fans, so his chances lie in either the player vote or commissioner’s choice as a reserve.

“Obviously, that was the fans’ vote, but hopefully the players get it right,” Roberts said Sunday. “I just don’t see how he’s not one of the top three catchers in the National League.”

Over the last 10 All-Star Games (2010-19), the average is just a tick below three catchers on each roster. There have been four instances during that time of carrying two catchers (including 2019 AL, and both teams in 2017), and three times an All-Star team had four catchers (including the NL in 2018).

Important dates

That’s how the sausage is made, so to speak, how we get to 32 players on each All-Star team. Here is a schedule of when each step is revealed, plus the game itself:

  • Thursday, 6 p.m. PT: All-Star starters revealed (ESPN)
  • Sunday, 2:30 p.m.: Full All-Star rosters revealed (ESPN)
  • Tuesday, July 13, 5 p.m.: All-Star Game, Coors Field in Denver (Fox)