The MLB All-Star game is all about watching baseball's top performers put on a show while competing against their most productive peers.
Very rarely does one player absolutely take over the Midsummer Classic. When put against top competition, the game's best players often post semi-pedestrian stats. That said, there's always a chance for a breakout performance when there are so many stars on one diamond.
Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota will play host to this year's crop of stars on July 15. There will certainly be fireworks, but which players will post the best numbers? Which ones will struggle?
You'll find predictions below.
American League: Mike Trout
Mike Trout led off for the American League in last year's installment of the Midsummer Classic, and he went 1-for-3 with a first-inning double off National League starter Matt Harvey.
This is how he should fare against the National League on July 15:
Trout is having another fine season. He's slashing .308/.402/.603 with 20 home runs, 64 RBI and 10 steals. He's arguably the most dynamic player in the game today, and that makes him a lock to lead off.
Hitting against Kershaw isn't a small task, however.
His mix of speeds and ability to set hitters down with his incredible breaking ball will play to his favor against an AL lineup that will look to be aggressive out of the gate.
Trout will grab a base hit in the game, but it won't come off Kershaw. He'll probably get it in his second at-bat against a guy like Madison Bumgarner.
American League: Felix Hernandez
Shockingly, Felix Hernandez has never started an All-Star game. That will likely change on July 15. Matt Snyder of CBS Sports also thinks Hernandez should start:
Given King Felix's pedigree, his excellent numbers and that he's possibly having his best season -- this time for a legitimate contender -- he would make a fine choice. Factor in that he's scheduled to start Friday and then the first game following the All-Star break, he would have to have a "throw day" in between. The first two innings of the All-Star Game will work perfectly. The pick seems logical and obvious, especially when you factor in he's one of the generation's best pitchers and hasn't yet started an All-Star Game.
What should we expect from Hernandez in his first-ever start in the event? More dominance, of course:
Hernandez is one of the many reasons why the Seattle Mariners have been successful. In previous years, a shortage of run support has prevented him from winning his fair share of games. While wins don't mean everything, pitchers certainly love seeing a bunch of tallies in the win column.
The NL lineup is very deep, so Hernandez probably won't cruise through his two innings. I predict a baserunner or two, but look for him to keep the Senior Circuit off the scoreboard.
National League: Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig is one of the many first-time All-Stars this year, and you can bet that he'll be amped up to play on this stage. He might get a little out of hand, though, and that could impact his performance:
He won't have jitters, necessarily, but the excitement could easily get to him. This could cause errant throws from the outfield, over-aggressiveness on the basepaths and maybe even a few swings out of his shoes.
While every fan in the seats will be on the lookout for one of his signature bat flips, they probably won't see one this time around.
He's enjoying a great year thus far, slashing .307/.393/.516 with 12 homers and 50 RBI. Last year's showing wasn't an anomaly, and Puig will likely make several more trips to the All-Star game during his career as a result.
National League: Clayton Kershaw
Thirty-six. That's the number of scoreless innings Kershaw has tossed in a row. He is on top of his game right now, and that's a scary thought for the rest of the baseball world. There's some time for him to surrender a run before the All-Star break, but that doesn't mean he won't throw shutout frames on the board at Target Field:
Kershaw's catcher, A.J. Ellis, has noticed something different about Kershaw during this run, via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
The biggest thing for me has been the consistency of the breaking balls. Usually, he'll have his 'A' slider but maybe his 'C' or 'D' curveball or vice versa, where the slider's not working but the curveball is. During this run, he's had an 'A' curveball and an 'A' slider this entire time. They're both just electric strikeout pitches, which is why I think you're seeing him have strikeout totals that have been unmatched in his career. He gets to two strikes, he could go either way.
It's going to be a long two innings for the AL if both his curve and slider are working again on July 15. When he can mix those pitches in with his fastball, he's difficult to even make contact against—evidenced by his 115 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched this year.
Kershaw pitched a scoreless frame in last year's game, and he'll probably throw more zeros on the board in this one.
There are more than the aforementioned stars in this Midsummer Classic. Below are a few more players and how they'll fare at Target Field:
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