There was no 2020 MLB All-Star Game, and there will be no 2020 MLB All-Star Game.
The league justifiably didn’t want players from all the teams getting together in one spot, and there wasn’t any time for the game anyway.
But what if there had been?
The All-Star Game might be fun (or, if we’re being honest, it might not be), but to the players the biggest element of it is simply the recognition. Being named an All-Star is a lifelong dream fulfilled for the first-timers, and another notch in the resume for all selections.
No San Francisco Giants will get to add “2020 MLB All-Star” to their list of career accomplishments, but which ones would, if there were a game? At the risk of killing all suspense, you can probably guess.
So let’s make it interesting with a detour.
The preseason favorites
In January — back when we were anticipating a 162-game season — I wrote an article titled, Who will be the Giants All-Star representative?
The subheader was The Giants will have exactly one (1) player at the 2020 MLB All-Star Game. Who will it be?
I doubled down on that notion in the body of the article, writing the following:
Which means the Giants are guaranteed one player at Dodger Stadium for the midsummer classic. And they’ll almost surely have exactly one player, because let’s face it: They’re not likely to be good.
Every MLB team is guaranteed at least one All-Star, which means the teams lacking star talent usually end up with some weird and kind of undeserving All-Star. I firmly had the Giants in that camp: one All-Star, and only because the league mandates that they must have one.
My prediction was Tony Watson, because I thought the Giants would get the “sneak a reliever in and no one will really care” All-Star selection.
Second on my list was Buster Posey, who did not play this year.
Third on my list was Johnny Cueto, who had a 5.40 ERA.
Fourth on my list was Brandon Crawford and hey, that doesn’t actually look that bad.
Fifth on my list was Evan Longoria and hey, that does look pretty bad.
I want you all to acknowledge the courage I’m exhibiting by writing this. My boss is going to read this and invariably realize that I know nothing about the team I’m paid to know things about. It takes guts to loudly broadcast that, but I’m a capital-J Journalist and must properly represent what happened.
So, who actually would make the All-Star Game?
The pandemic robbed Mike Yastrzemski of his first All-Star nod. Not only would Yaz have been an obvious All-Star selection, but he almost surely would have been a starter.
Among qualified position players in the National League this year, Yastrzemski finished fifth in both WAR (2.7) and wRC+ (160), per Fangraphs. Those numbers were second and fourth, respectively, among outfielders.
Had there been an All-Star Game, Yaz likely would have been standing in the grass when the game started, and who in the world could have seen that coming.
The likely All-Star
Brandon Belt’s All-Star case is a little bit murkier, for only two reasons: he missed a chunk of time at the beginning of the season due to injury, and he’s Brandon Belt and therefore under-appreciated.
I hope that voters would have rewarded Belt for being among the very best players in the league in the time he did play, even if I’m not entirely optimistic.
Among NL position players with at least 150 plate appearances, Belt was fourth in wRC+ (173), trailing only Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna. That mark was second among first baseman, and his WAR was third at the position.
He deserved to be an All-Star for his value added even with the missed time. And if you just look at who he was on a day-to-day basis, he was an elite player.
The other candidates
Yastrzemski and Belt would have likely been the only All-Stars for the Giants, but others deserve mention.
Brandon Crawford had a good enough season that he would have had a chance as the token All-Star if the Giants didn’t actually have a deserving player (or two).
Austin Slater played at an All-Star level on a rate basis, but only had 104 plate appearances due to injuries.
Kevin Gausman was very good, but not quite good enough.
Drew Smyly was certainly on pace, but didn’t pitch nearly enough.
Donovan Solano would have been an All-Star if they did the All-Star game at the halfway mark of the season, like in normal years.
So there you have it, folks. Congratulations to Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Belt, your 2020 should-be All-Stars.