A lot has happened over the last 4 weeks since my last All-Star post. And, due to a number of upcoming calendar conflicts, this may be my last post on the All-Star ballot for this year. For many years I have upheld that the best players should be the ones starting the All-Star game. Not the most popular. Not the guy who should have been on last year’s team and was snubbed. But, the guys who are actually playing at the top of the game at this point in time. If the managers of each team decide they want to fill their rosters with guys that are on the more popular teams, so be it. But, the starters should be the cream of this year’s crop. Which is why my ballot this year will have the following names on it:
CATCHER: Joe Mauer (MIN) – Mauer is batting .330 (best among catchers, 3rd in the AL) with 8 HR, 25 RBI, and a .916 OPS (best among catchers, 7th in the AL). He also leads all catchers with a 153 wRC+ (6th in the AL). Add to this the fact that there are only 2 catchers in the AL who have caught as many games as Mauer and have a better CS%, and you have the total package behind the plate in Minnesota.
RESERVES: If Mauer is my starter, at this point, I believe you have to go with Carlos Santana (CLE – .278, 10 HR, 32 RBI, .865 OPS, 142 wRC+) and Jason Castro (HOU – .275, 10 HR, 25 RBI, .818 OPS, 123 wRC+) as the back-ups. Neither of them are as good at throwing out baserunners as Matt Wieters, but Wieters isn’t having a very good year at the plate (OPS below .700, wRC+ of 78, batting .229, etc.).
FIRST BASE: Chris Davis (BAL) – maybe the easiest choice in the American League. He leads the AL in HR (27), OPS (1.132), SLG (.719!!), and wRC+ (199 – which means he is producing runs at a rate nearly 100% higher than league average!). He also leads all first basemen in RBI (70), OBP (.416) and batting (.336).
SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (NYY) – this is a tighter race than many may realize. Too many will focus on Cano’s 16 HR and 45 RBI (both of which do lead all AL 2nd basemen, though the RBI total is only a slight lead). But, the rest of his numbers, while near the top, aren’t as dominating as you might expect. He’s 4th among AL 2B in wRC+ (124), 7th in batting (.276), 6th in OBP (.354), and 6th in SB (5). He does lead them all in OPS (.850), but by a very narrow margin. He deserves to be the starter at this point, but I would hold off deciding for sure on my ballot until closer to the July 4th deadline.
RESERVES: Cano’s closest competition is Jason Kipnis (CLE – .289, 9 HR, 41 RBI, .845 OPS, 133 wRC+, and 17 SB), who is ahead of Cano in a few areas, but not enough to leapfrog him on the ballot just yet. Another contender would be Howie Kendrick (LAA – .323, 8 HR, 36 RBI, .841 OPS, 132 wRC+, and 6 SB), though more likely as a backup.
SHORTSTOP: Jhonny Peralta (DET) – another close race that I’m afraid people will judge too quickly. Without looking at all of the stats, Peralta’s 7 HR and 34 RBI are a good distance behind the leader at shortstop. But, that’s where the trailing portion of his stats end. He leads all AL SS in batting (.324), OBP (.383), SLG (.485), OPS (.867), and wRC+ (137). He’s also 2nd in fld. pct. (.986). Overall, his numbers are more impressive than . . .
RESERVES: J.J. Hardy (BAL). Yes, he leads all AL SS with 15 HR and 44 RBI. But, he trails Peralta significantly in batting (.267), OPS (.775) and wRC+ (107), and his fld. pct. is not as good (.981). The only other person I would consider close to being All-Star worthy at this point might be Jed Lowrie (OAK). He’s swinging a decent bat (.304, 4 HR, 30 RBI, .800 OPS, 125 wRC+), but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Stephen Drew (BOS) is playing very well at short, but is batting .221 with a .681 OPS, which is closer to liability territory than All-Star.
THIRD BASE: Miguel Cabrera (DET) – an obvious choice. Leads the AL in batting average (.370!) and RBI (75), and leads all 3B in pretty much everything else (20 HR, .462 OBP, .644 SLG, 1.106 OPS, 198 wRC+). If Chris Davis slows down at all in the second half of the season, Cabrera very well could win a 2nd Triple Crown.
RESERVES: Once again, Evan Longoria (TB) is having a fantastic year, and so few know about it – .304, 17 HR, 47 RBI, .903 OPS, 156 wRC+. All that along with his gold-glove caliber fielding, and he’s the definition of an All-Star. Manny Machado (BAL) also deserves recognition – .322, 5 HR, 38 RBI, .837 OPS, 127 wRC+, and some very impressive defensive stats.
OUTFIELD: 1. Mike Trout (LAA) – another easy choice, leading all AL OF’s in OPS (.918), batting (.306), XBH (40), and wRC+ (154), while currently ranking 3rd in RBI (46), and SB (18), and ranks 9th in HR (12). 2. Nelson Cruz (TEX) – leads AL OF’s in HR (19) and RBI (55), and is 2nd in OPS (.855) and 5th in wRC+ (124). 3. Adam Jones (BAL) – a much more difficult choice, but he has a lead ahead of other contenders in enough areas to give him the edge: .298 (3rd among AL OF), 15 HR’s (4th), 55 RBI (t-1st), 37 XBH (2nd), .828 OPS (6th), 122 wRC+ (6th), and 9 SB (12th). It was a very close call, between him and . . .
RESERVES: Matt Joyce (TB): .258, 14 HR, 31 RBI, .839 OPS, 134 wRC+, 6 SB . . . and, Jose Bautista (TOR): .254, 16 HR, 42 RBI, .838 OPS, 129 wRC+, 27 XBH, and 5 SB. These two, and Jones, are very close together. Others worthy of mention, but not worthy of being starters are: Coco Crisp (OAK): .279, 9 HR, 28 RBI, .832 OPS, 129 wRC+, and 13 SB; and Alex Rios (CHW): .284, 11 HR, 34 RBI, .816 OPS, 119 wRC+, 30 XBH, and 13 SB.
DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz (BOS): .316, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 1.005 OPS, 164 wRC+. Ortiz is having an excellent year at the plate, and is an easy choice here, since he leads all others at this position in every significant offensive stat (even SB, with a whopping 2). I’m not even going to mention reserves here, because 1) it’s dumb to even vote for DH’s when there won’t be a DH in the game, as it’s played in an NL park, and 2) to consider any of the other DH’s in the AL an “All-Star” would be an insult to the real All-Stars.
CATCHER: Yadier Molina (STL) – Yadier has the lead in several categories, but the lead is narrow. This is a tight race, but Molina is definitely the leader right now. He leads all NL catchers in batting (.353), OBP (.397), OPS (.899) and wRC+ (152). And, his 41 RBI are 2nd by just 1 RBI. This vote will come down to Molina and . . .
RESERVES: Buster Posey (SF) – .307, 8 HR, 42 RBI, .871 OPS and 144 wRC+. Worth mentioning as a possible back-up is Russell Martin (PIT) – .257, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .784 OPS and 124 wRC+. Martin is also arguably the only catcher in the NL having a better year behind the plate than Molina, throwing out nearly 46% of baserunners, and has yet to commit an error.
FIRST BASE: Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – he leads all NL 1B in HR (19) RBI (65 – best in all the NL), XBH (36) and SLG (.572), and is second in OPS by just .001 (.956). He’s also 2nd in wRC+ (157), and 4th in avg. (.306). It’s a close race right now, but I give Goldschmidt the edge, because he’s doing all this while playing for a team that traded away the best protection Goldschmidt had in this lineup over the offseason (Young & Upton).
RESERVES: Joey Votto (CIN) – the main competition for Goldschmidt right now, leading all NL 1B in avg. (.326), OBP (.440), OPS (.957) and wRC+ (163). He’s also 2nd in HR (13) and SLG (.517), and 4th in XBH (28). Worth mentioning, is Adrian Gonzalez (LAD): .301, 10 HR, 47 RBI, .836 OPS, 132 wRC+.
SECOND BASE: Matt Carpenter (STL) – he’s not at the top when it comes to the more recognized numbers (6 HR, 27 RBI), but he leads all NL 2B when it comes to XBH (29), OBP (.403), SLG (.472), OPS (.875), and wRC+ (149). He’s also 2nd in batting (.322).
RESERVES: Marco Scutaro (SF) – again, not big power numbers (2 HR, 18 RBI), but he leads all NL 2B in batting (.332), and is second only to Carpenter in OBP (.386), OPS (.823), and wRC+ (136). Brandon Phillips (CIN – .265, 11 HR, 60 RBI, .743 OPS, 100 wRC+) has bigger power numbers and is worth mentioning, but lacks a lot in the overall production area.
SHORTSTOP: Troy Tulowitzki (COL) – very easy choice. Leads all NL SS in batting (.347), HR (16), RBI (51), OBP (.413), SLG (.635), OPS (1.048 – best in all the NL) and wRC+ (173 – also the best at any position in the NL). If the Rockies can stay competitive in a tight NL West race, I’d say Tulo has a good shot at an MVP year.
RESERVES: Jean Segura (MIL) – too bad Tulowitzki is having such a great year, because it’s overshadowing how good Segura is: .336, 11 HR, 31 RBI, .897 OPS, 148 wRC+ and 23 SB. Everth Cabrera (SD) is also worth consideration on the team, though not as a starter – .305, 4 HR, 24 RBI, .800 OPS, 134 wRC+ and 31 SB.
THIRD BASE: David Wright (NYM) – the only thing he doesn’t lead NL 3B in is HR (12) and RBI (41). Every other offensive stat (.309/.390/.533/.923, 159 wRC+, 12 SB, 32 XBH) he owns. Oh, and those 12 HR & 41 RBI are good enough for 2nd among NL 3B. He’s not having the best year in the field, but his offense is dominating everyone else at this position.
RESERVES: Pedro Alvarez (PIT) is the lone offensive chink in an otherwise spotless armor for Wright. Alvarez has Wright beat in HR (19) and RBI (51). He’s also 2nd to Wright in SLG (.513), & OPS (.815), and 3rd in wRC+ (122). Ryan Zimmerman (WSH – .269/.350/.463/.813, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 125 wRC+) is also worth mention.
OUTFIELD: 1. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – leads all NL OFers in HR (21), RBI (57), SLG (.621), OPS (.992) and wRC+ (157). 2. Carlos Gomez (MIL) – batting .313 (3rd), with 12 HR (6th), 37 RBI (9th), .570 SLG (3rd), .925 OPS (3rd), 15 SB (3rd) and a 152 wRC+ (t-2nd), as well as the top RF (range factor) among all NL OF. 3. Domonic Brown (PHI) – batting .276 (15th), with 19 HR (2nd), 50 RBI (3rd), 33 XBH (5th), .544 SLG (4th), .865 OPS (7th), 8 SB (12th), and a 133 wRC+ (7th). Brown was definitely the hardest choice of these three. Once you get past Car-Go and Gomez, the numbers start fluctuating a lot from one category to the next. Brown’s batting average is his worst stat, but it’s still respectable. It was tough choosing between Brown and . . .
RESERVES: Carlos Beltran (STL) – batting .305 (4th), with 17 HR (4th), 46 RBI (4th), 26 XBH (11th), .534 SLG (6th), .879 OPS (6th), 1 SB (51st), and a 145 wRC+ (5th). The gap between Brown & Beltran is minuscule, so you might want to hold off voting until closer to the deadline, to see if either makes a surge. But, I also gave Brown a slight edge because of the fact that he’s on a team with maybe 2 or 3 legit offensive threats (himself included), while Beltran is in the mix with 5 or 6 guys in the lineup that can protect him. But, if Beltran makes a surge these last couple weeks, how cool would it be to have an all-Carlos NL outfield? Other names worth mentioning include: Michael Cuddyer (COL – .339, 11 HR, 43 RBI, .968 OPS), and Jay Bruce (CIN – .282, 18 HR, 54 RBI, .866 OPS).
One of the rules I despise about the All-Star game is that every team must be represented. There are too many years in which there actually are teams that don’t have an All-Star caliber player (and, trust me, there have been plenty of years where my own favorite team would have been excluded from the game were this rule not in place). But, I digress. In light of the rules as they stand, here are the names of the players on teams that I have not already mentioned that I think should be included in the Mid-Summer Classic:
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Craig Kimbrel (ATL – 2-1, 1.59 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 21 SV, 41 K’s, 13.09 K/9); Nate Schierholtz (CHC – .296, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .905 OPS, 143 wRC+); and Giancarlo Stanton (MIA – .252, 7 HR, 19 RBI, .805 OPS – perfect example of why not every team should be represented in the All-Star game if this is the best Miami has to offer; especially when the NL OF is already crowded with talent).