Voting for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game is well underway, which, in theory, should tell us who baseball's current best players are.
But there's a fine line between "best" and "most popular."
All-Star voting takes care of the latter.
We'll handle the former.
Though our stated goal is to identify the "current best" players at each position, that doesn't mean regurgitating the guys who lead the majors in 2022 wins above replacement. That was one of the biggest data points taken into consideration, but we're also accounting for performance in previous seasons and current health (sorry, Jacob deGrom, Fernando Tatis Jr., etc.) in an effort to identify the best of the best.
It comes down to one question: If you were starting a franchise from scratch and could choose one player from each position with the goal of winning the World Series in each of 2022, 2023 and 2024, who would you take?
None of the decisions was easy. But we ended up with one heck of a starting lineup.
Catcher: Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Defensively, heck no, Willson Contreras is not one of the best catchers. He has a good arm, but as far as things like pitch framing and defensive runs saved, he's average at best. In those departments, Yadier Molina, Travis d'Arnaud and Sean Murphy are the cream of the crop.
But Contreras more than makes up for it with his bat, as he leads catchers this season in both home runs (12) and OBP (.398). He has made 16 starts as the Cubs' designated hitter, as they understandably want him in the lineup as often as possible.
This is Contreras' seventh consecutive season with an on-base percentage of at least .339, and he is well on his way to a fourth season with at least 20 home runs. While you could make the case that his brother, William, or Dodgers catcher Will Smith is deserving of this spot, Willson's long-established success gives him a leg up on the competition.
Also, with Contreras an impending free agent on a team that is 17 games below .500, we'll see a ton of "Where Will the Best Catcher in the Majors Land?" articles in the buildup to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, so you might as well start accepting him as the best.