The 2022 MLB season is just past the halfway mark, but the unofficial midpoint of the season is the All-Star Game.
Set to take place on July 19, the American League and National League’s best will square off at Dodger Stadium in a nine-inning exhibition game.
While there aren’t any stakes to the All-Star Game anymore, bragging rights are on the line and the best players want to prove their worth. One of the greatest honors in baseball is being chosen to start the All-Star Game, as starters are typically the only pitchers who get to work for multiple innings.
So, which players should be starting on the mound for the AL and NL this season? Here are the top six candidates:
Justin Verlander, Astros
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the 39-year-old Verlander is arguably the AL Cy Young favorite. He leads the AL with 11 wins, plus he boasts a 2.00 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 98 strikeouts to just 19 walks. Verlander has all the accolades – eight All-Stars, three no-hitters, two Cy Young awards, one MVP award – but starting the All-Star Game after that injury at his age might be near the top of that list.
Shohei Ohtani, Angels
The two-way sensation is used to this. Ohtani started for the AL last year, pitching one shutout inning and getting the win. But the 2021 AL MVP has been even better on the mound this season – 8-4 record, 2.44 ERA, 111 strikeouts and just 20 walks. He’ll undoubtedly be in the starting lineup again as the designated hitter, too, which makes Ohtani’s abilities even more impressive.
Shane McClanahan, Rays
In his second full season as a starter, McClanahan has been nothing short of spectacular. The 25-year-old lefty leads the AL in ERA (1.74), strikeouts (133), WHIP (0.81) and WAR (3.2). Oh, and he’s walked just 17 batters. While Tampa Bay hasn’t been as dominant as usual this season, they are still in the playoff mix thanks to McClanahan. This season is likely to be his first of many All-Star appearances.
Sandy Alcantara, Marlins
Alcantara, 26, is having a career year in his sixth big-league season. He’s 9-3 with a 1.82 ERA and 107 strikeouts for Miami, helping keep his team in the wild card mix. His first All-Star appearance came in 2019, when he was the only representative for a lowly Marlins squad that was required to have one player on the team. Now, there’s no doubt Alcantara has earned this second nod.
Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers
It’s always cool when the starting pitcher represents the host team, with the most notable example of Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park in 1999. Gonsolin hasn’t been Pedro-level dominant, but he’s had a great run for the Dodgers in 2022. He’s 11-0 with an NL-leading 1.62 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. Gonsolin is held back by his lower strikeout numbers (80), but the hometown bump could certainly be in effect.
Corbin Burnes, Brewers
The defending Cy Young winner, Burnes hasn’t missed a step in 2022. He leads the NL with 134 strikeouts as Milwaukee sits atop the NL Central. With just a 7-4 record, Burnes doesn’t have the flashy win-loss numbers that Alcantara or Gonsolin boast. Still, he deserves to be in this conversation.