Who Should Play Shortstop for the American League in the 2015 All-Star Game?
While Kansas City Royals fans may have legitimacy in voting Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon into the All-Star game, it doesn't mean a Kansas City Royal should be at every position on the diamond -- whether starting or as a reserve -- for the 2015 All-Star game.
We looked at the American League roster as a whole last week, but with another voting update out, it's time to dig into one position that may be the most ridiculous to have a Royal on the roster.
The position in question is shortstop. Granted, the American League doesn't really boast a lot of great shortstops, and it may even be the weakest position offensively for the American League as a whole.
Below are the latest top-five shortstops in the public's eyes.
Does anyone see anything wrong with this? No? Then let's insert some logic into this argument with some stats. We'll narrow down the two most deserving shortstops, as only two shortstops have made the American League All-Star roster in six of the last 10 years.
Finding the Contenders
Jose Iglesias being the second-highest in fan votes is probably the one thing I can't be angry about here. He's likely to get a roster spot being that high in the voting. Plus he is having an amazing bounce-back year after struggling with shin splints that kept him out for the 2014 season.
But let's do a quick numbers check for the rest of the American League shortstops.
|Xander Bogaerts||Red Sox||67||30||4||13.6%||.292/.329/.404||.321||101||1.8|
|Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||42||23||9||13.8%||.284/.312/.403||.311||95||0.9|
Oh, look, Jed Lowrie is fifth in the above table thanks to a 1.0 fWAR. Sure, let's give him over a million votes for having just 74 plate appearances over 18 games so far this season. Granted, he has the best wOBA, wRC+ and SLG% among the shortstops in the table, but by that logic, shouldn't we be giving Eduardo Nunez more votes? Next!
Reyes hasn't made the All-Star team since 2011 and is having his worst year since joining the Toronto Blue Jays. In his worst season since 2009, Reyes is still bringing value to the table defensively but has been slightly below-average offensively.
If we go off of the "qualified" shortstops (according to FanGraphs), the top-five shortstops in the American League include Iglesias and Bogaerts first and second, followed by Brad Miller, Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera. So while Escobar is a clear fan favorite, arguments could be made for Miller or even Cabrera to take a roster spot over Escobar.
Cabrera may be a stretch in one sense, but his value comes defensively. He is rated slightly higher than Bogaerts defensively among qualified shortstops. His offense is lackluster, but he has hit four home runs, the second most behind Miller. Miller is slightly better offensively than Escobar and beats him out defensively too despite the same exact fWAR. However, in the last week, Escobar has increased his wOBA and wRC+ while Miller's has slipped.
So, yes, Escobar does belong in the conversation of being on the American League's All-Star roster. However, he is outmatched in many areas by both Iglesias and Bogaerts. Escobar isn't as strikeout prone to Bogaerts and has a few more RBI than Iglesias but is at a disadvantage in when comparing each player's slash line, wOBA and wRC+.
Statistically speaking, Iglesias and Bogaerts should be the front-runners to be the shortstops on the American League All-Star roster -- but which one deserves to be the starter?
Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias both spent time in the Red Sox farm system, but it was Iglesias who was jettisoned off to the Tigers due to playing the same position. Now these two are intrinsically linked and both have a bunch of similarities so far this year.
Bogaerts is leading -- and is projected to finish higher -- in the counting stats right now, but Iglesias holds the edge in wOBA and wRC+, a better measurement of each player's production. But while they are mirrors of each other offensively, Iglesias has the upper hand defensively.
With similarities across the board making it hard to distinguish the true leader between the two, let's turn to how they've improved this season compared to past seasons. Iglesias has the nice story by coming back from his injury while we can measure the improvement from Bogaerts since last season at this time.
Through 88 games last year in the first half of the season, Bogaerts had 6 home runs and 22 RBI but just 2 stolen bases. Despite playing in 21 fewer games so far this season, Bogaerts has eight more RBI and has doubled his stolen bases. He has also show an impressive improvement in his slash line, wOBA and wRC+ and is even striking out at almost half the rate he was last year.
From a statisical standpoint, you're splitting hairs trying to debate the better shortstop between Bogaerts and Iglesias this year. If you want a defensive shortstop (and the feel-good story), Iglesais should be the start All-Star Game shortstop. If you want a guy who has remarkably improved upon last year's numbers, then Bogaerts is the man to look to.
No matter how good stats look though, fans will keep voting for their favorites. It will cause Iglesias to at least be in consideration for a roster spot, but if fans continue to have their way, Xander Bogaerts could end up being one of the bigger snubs from the American League All-Star roster.