2012 MLB All-Star Game: Josh Willingham Should Be Minnesota's Representative

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent IJune 15, 2012

Josh Willingham ought to be Minnesota's lone all-star game representative.
Josh Willingham ought to be Minnesota's lone all-star game representative.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It's that time again.

The MLB All-Star Game is right around the corner (July 10), and the debates regarding who should and should not appear in this game are about to begin.

The focus here is on the Minnesota Twins and who should be their lone representative for baseball’s summer classic.

Last season, Michael Cuddyer earned the nod for the Twins. Prior to the break, he hit .298 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI. It was Cuddyer’s first all-star appearance of his career.

But with Cuddyer now with the Colorado Rockies, it means there will definitely be a new representative in 2012.

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were all-star game mainstays from roughly 2007 to 2010, but neither is the same player now as he was then.  

Francisco Liriano is a mess (6.45 ERA, 1.68 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 51.2 innings), although he’s showing signs of growth—but not enough to warrant an all-star selection.

Those are the only three players on Minnesota’s current roster who have been all-stars as members of the Twins.

Ironically enough, the 2012 All-Star representative for the Twins ought to be Cuddyer’s “replacement,” Josh Willingham.

As of June 13, Willingham was batting .290, had driven in 44 runs (tied for eighth-most in baseball) and belted 13 home runs. He also boasted a .405 on-base percentage (seventh-best in baseball) and .575 slugging percentage (12th-best in baseball).

There hasn’t been a period this season where Willingham hasn’t been Minnesota’s best player. Yes, Willingham underwent a drought in May when he batted .220 for the month. But that only dropped his average to .276. It shows how strong his April performance was.

Considering that Minnesota won’t have any starters in the game, the selection of Willingham should be easy for Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.

The only other half-decent candidate to be Minnesota’s All-Star is Matt Capps. And he’s not having a bad year.

He’s saved 14 games (tied for ninth-most) in 15 tries, boasts a 2.96 ERA with a .99 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.

But Fernando Rodney (18 saves, 1.21 ERA, .81 WHIP and 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings), Jim Johnson (19 saves, 1.26 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 28.2 innings), Chris Perez (20 saves, 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 24.1 innings) and Joe Nathan (13 saves, 1.75 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 25.2 innings) are all having better statistical seasons than Capps.

The previous two all-star games featured a combined 18 closers, an average of 4.5 closers per team.

That puts Capps on the verge of all-star status. But given Minnesota’s poor record (25-36, worst record in the American League) and the average number of closers per all-star roster, the cards are stacked against him.

Yet Willingham’s case is strong, and he should be the lone Minnesota All-Star representative in 2012.