Who Should Start for the American League in the All-Star Game?
Yes, it's a joke.
While the Kansas City Royals are a very good baseball team and are one of the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series this year, it is ridiculous that a Royals player leads the balloting in eight of the nine available positions, as voted on by the "fans."
If the All Star Game were to start today, the Angels' Mike Trout would be the only non-Royal to start for the American League. Thankfully, we still have a full month until the Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati, plenty of time for voters to hit MLB.com in droves, or for the league to figure out if there is some kind of rigging system going on here.
But whom to vote for? Below are the players who should make the start in the All Star Game for the American League next month.
First Base - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
At first base, Hosmer is the current leader in votes, but clearly the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera should be the starter. His fWAR of 2.9 is more than a full win above replacement better than Hosmer's and is tops at the position.
Hosmer is having a very nice season and should probably make the squad as a reserve, but Cabrera deserves the starting nod.
Second Base - Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2.3||.365||133||9||1|
The current vote leader at this position, Omar Infante, has an fWAR of -0.4. He has a batting average of .210. His on-base percentage is .219. His slugging percentage is .292 and his weighted runs created (wRC+), of which 100 is considered league average as a run producer, is 35. Stop the madness.
Instead, may we suggest Jason Kipnis as your representative, he of the 160 wRC+, .335/.409/.504 slash line? Literally anyone would be better than Infante.
Yes, I'm growing more resigned to this whole All-Star voting thing being rigged.
Third Base - Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
|Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||3.9||.397||156||17||3|
His 17 home runs are tops among all qualified third basemen, as is his 156 wRC+ and his weighted on base average (wOBA) of .397. And it's nice to see the Orioles' Manny Machado make his way back from his knee injuries to have a very solid 2015 so far, hitting .282/.341/.477 with 11 homers and 9 stolen bases.
Shortstop - Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
|Xander Bogaerts||Red Sox||1.7||.321||102||3||4|
Here we arrive at the veritable junkyard of the American League. Frankly, if you really wanted to vote a Royals player into the starting lineup, Alcides Escobar is nearly as good a choice as any. Defensively, he's been solid, but offensively, he's far below average, with a wRC+ just 77 and a wOBA of .280. But as you look down the list, there is no superstar here.
Boston's Xander Bogaerts has the highest fWAR among all AL shortstops at 1.7, but that's not saying much. Seattle's Brad Miller is second at 1.4, but both are barely better than league average run producers. Frankly, Houston's Carlos Correa is already probably the best shortstop in the American League, but he hasn't played enough to warrant inclusion. I don't blame the fans for their apathy at this position.
Outfield - Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, Josh Reddick, Oakland A's, Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||2.2||.389||151||13||3|
Listen, two of the three Kansas City outfielders are very good, and you can make the argument that Cain should be a starter. While he has the fourth-highest fWAR, at 2.5, it's just one-tenth of a win less than Tampa's Kevin Kiermaier, and two-tenths below Detroit's Yoenis Cespedes. Frankly, an outfield of Cain, Mike Trout and Alex Gordon wouldn't look as outrageous if the Royals weren't hogging up every other position as well.
Kiermaier doesn't have the offensive numbers to be a starter, as much of his fWAR is based on outstanding defense. Cespedes is having an outstanding season, batting .310/.344/.508 with 9 homers and a wRC+ of 135. Oakland's Josh Reddick (wRC+ 156), Jose Bautista (wRC+ 151), and George Springer (wRC+141) also deserve consideration.
At this position, I wouldn't go by fWAR alone. Therefore, my starting three would be Trout, Reddick, and Bautista, with Cain and Gordon among the outfield reserves. I like an offensive outfielder for the All-Star Game, and none of those guys is embarrassing on defense to boot.
Catcher - Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
|Russell Martin||Blue Jays||2.9||.384||147||10||3|
Salvador Perez is having a fine season as the Kansas City receiver but not nearly as good as the re-born Russell Martin, whose 2.9 fWAR is tops among catchers. He's hitting .284/.368/.521 with 10 home runs and a wRC+ of 147. Oakland's Stephen Vogt has to be on the team as the back-up: he's hitting .281/.385/.526 with 12 longballs and a wRC+ of 153. If a third catcher is needed, it's a toss-up between Brian McCann and Perez.
Designated Hitter - Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners