Cubs pitchers Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, SS Dansby Swanson named All-Stars

MLB unveils pitchers and reserves for 2023 All-Star Game.

SHARE Cubs pitchers Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, SS Dansby Swanson named All-Stars
Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman is 9-6 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman is 9-6 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

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Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson made his first All-Star Game a year ago and won a World Series a season before that. If you forgot that Marcus Stroman made an All-Star team in 2019, he wore his old hat from that game while addressing the media Sunday.

Not taking anything away from them, the emergence of 27-year-old left-hander Justin Steele as a star worthy of joining those two veterans in Seattle to represent the Cubs at the All-Star Game next week took top billing — at least in the clubhouse.

“Way more excited for the news for Justin than myself,” Stroman said.

“We had a team meeting,” manager David Ross said of the announcement. “Dansby got a couple of claps, Stro got a couple of claps and the place kind of erupted for Steeley.”

For Steele, a fifth-round draft pick who was never rated as a top-100 prospect by any public outlet, the selection is the culmination of a breakout that was hinted at with a dominant final outing at the end of a rebuilding season in 2021. Less than two years later, Steele has the lowest ERA (2.43) of any qualified starter in baseball, is preparing to share an All-Star clubhouse with his idol, Clayton Kershaw, and touts a unique fastball that draws comparisons to Jon Lester for how Steele can manipulate and command it.

“His fastball essentially can be four different pitches, really,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “[Steele and Stroman] are similar in how they attack guys. They make other teams and lineups make adjustments to them.”

“He reminds me of a guy I played behind for years in Atlanta, Max Fried,” Swanson said. “In terms of the profile, the pitchability and the unique way they’re able to create soft contact.”

Stroman, who has spent much of the last few weeks publicly campaigning for Steele’s candidacy, discussed Saturday night the importance of resting during the All-Star break to prepare for making a run in the second half and minimized the importance of personal accolades. But making his second All-Star team at 32 serves as a clear validation of where his game is at, at a moment in his career where his long-term value is a regular source of debate, if not active negotiation.

“I’m very thankful and grateful, especially to get back here after all these years,” Stroman said. “My last All-Star was in 2019, so four years later to still consider myself at the top of my game, I truly feel like I’m in my prime.”

Stroman, who is fourth in the National League in ERA and third in innings, wanted to spread credit to clubbies, training staff and team massage therapists, but he also felt his double-play combination of Nico Hoerner and Swanson deserved recognition for their contributions.

With Swanson, voters listened. The 29-year-old is hitting .256/.343/.401 with nine home runs in 80 games in his first year with the Cubs, and Ross feels his power numbers would be stronger with better early-season weather. But more notably, Swanson’s defense is rated as the best of any NL shortstop by Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric.

“Dansby’s been the stabilizing force,” Ross said. “Dansby’s the new guy in town carrying the big contract, but never has he shied away from any moment. All he wants to do is play, he wants to grind, he wants to be in there for the boys.”

Ross left it up to the players and the All-Star manager to speak to who will participate in the actual game. After missing the first day of All-Star festivities last year to watch his wife, Mallory, play soccer for the U.S. national team, Swanson is encouraging everyone to just soak in the experience.

Said Swanson: “You’re there to enjoy all the blessings we’ve been given and give back to the fans.”

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