Which MLB Studs Will Be Snubbed When All-Star Rosters Are Announced?
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The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is in a little over a month, and as usual there will be players deserving of the trip that will not be able to go.
Some players will not make the cut because they are cursed with being on a team full of stars. Other players fly under the radar. And others will just be plain unlucky.
Here are eight players who are—despite their talent—unlikely to suit up at Citi Field come the second week of July.
Yes, he's still around. And hitting for power. At Safeco Field (well-known to be a pitcher's park), no less.
We all remember the broken ankle walk-off, but we forget that although he was sidelined through the 2011 season with nagging problems related to the injury, Morales is an all-star caliber player. This is a guy that finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2009—his first full season in the majors—after batting .306 with a .924 OPS, 34 homers and 108 RBI. His 2012 was less than stellar, as he batted .273 with a .787 OPS.
This past off-season, Morales was traded to the Seattle Mariners from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Safeco's dimensions were changed this year, but the move still could've been the kiss of death for Morales' power. This proved to not be the case, as he is currently batting .299 with an .855 OPS and eight homers. He is easily the best hitter on the Mariners—on average, they are batting .237 with a .694 OPS. Morales currently leads the team in batting average, OPS, RBI (34), and hits (64), and has been on a hot streak of late.
Sportsfeedia.com tweeted this yesterday:
#Mariners Kendrys Morales had an RBI double, and is batting .400 (24 for 60) with 15 RBIs in his last 14 games— Sportsfeedia.com (@sportsfeedia) June 4, 2013
According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, 2010 was the last time that a position player from the Mariners reached the All-Star Game, and that Morales is Seattle's best chance at ending the drought.
However, as is usually the case, first base is a stacked position this year. Baltimore's Chris Davis will get the fan vote—Morales didn't even crack the top five in the early results. After Davis, Tampa Bay's James Loney (batting .326 with a .919 OPS) and Detroit's Prince Fielder (other than just being Prince Fielder, he's getting on base nearly 40 percent of the time and sports an .890 OPS with 11 homers) are both more likely to make the team.
Outside of his position, Morales' competition is also stiff in the rest of the field. The talent at third base—think Miggy/Machado/Beltre/Longoria—will overshadow a guy like Morales who's been keeping Seattle afloat but not necessarily relevant.
As seen above, Freddie Freeman is a Master of the Moonshots. In his last 11 games, he is hitting .400 with four jacks and 12 RBI.
Many people predicted that 2013 would be Freeman's breakout season, ESPN's Ben Jedlovec being one of them:
At age 22, Freeman jumped from 3.7 seconds to 4.3 seconds on fly balls without a change in fly ball distance, similar to Bautista's 2009 jump. While teammate Jason Heyward took a step forward in the power department in 2012, scouts suggest that Freeman also has more power potential than he's displayed in his two full MLB seasons thus far. Freeman is primed for a breakout in the power department in 2013.
Like Morales, Freeman is debatably his team's best hitter. Justin Upton—who currently leads all outfielders in the fan voting—has made a splash in his first season with the Atlanta Braves because of his superb power numbers (14 homers and an .886 OPS). But Freeman leads in most other categories: batting average (.314), RBI (38), OBP (.376) and hits (54). And this is with a DL stint.
Unfortunately for Freeman, his situation is quite similar to that of Morales—but even more extreme. Powerhouses Joey Votto (batting .336 with a .460 on-base percentage, a .993 OPS and 72 hits), Paul Goldschmidt (batting .330 with a .414 OBP, a 1.005 OPS and 68 hits), and Adrian Gonzalez (batting .326 with a .383 OBP, an .897 OPS and 60 hits) have all performed better than Freeman in 2013.
Four third basemen did make the NL All-Star roster in 2012 so it's not completely out of the question that this type of thing could happen with first base, but it's quite unlikely seeing as 2013's crop of NL outfielders is ridiculously talented (more on this later).
Let's first get past the fact that Elvis Andrus and J.J. Hardy are currently one-two in the fan voting for shortstop. That's all I have to say on that matter.
Jed Lowrie is an interesting case because this is his sixth season in the majors, but he's yet to stay healthy for an entire year. In 2010 it was mono. In 2012 there were ankle and knee injuries from a double play-attempt mishap. Even this year he missed three games with a foot injury. But other than those three games, he has been standout. Just two weeks ago, Peter Gammons tweeted this:
Jed Lowrie leads AL SS in OBP(.385), slugging and OPS(.870)— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 21, 2013
Lowrie is now batting .317 with a .397 OBP, 66 hits and an .844 OPS. In his first five years, Lowrie averaged a .250 batting average with 57 hits and a .743 OPS in an average of 71 games per season. He now has nine more hits in 17 fewer games. 2013 has been his best and (thus far) healthiest season, but he will not go to the Classic—for several reasons.
Firstly, there is Josh Donaldson, Oakland's best player this year. Donaldson is batting .321 and slugging .526 with a .392 OBP and a .917 OPS. Neither Lowrie nor Donaldson will get the fan vote (we already covered shortstop here and need I say Miggy again?), but between the two Athletics, Donaldson is more likely to get the nod from AL manager Jim Leyland. Why? That's a perfect segue into my second point.
There's been a lot of debate about Jhonny Peralta and if he's All-Star material this year. Like Lowrie, he's having his best season to date. Their numbers are very similar, the slight edge going to Peralta. Peralta is batting .332 with a .378 OBP, 66 hits and an .865 OPS. And guess who knows better than anyone how well Peralta has played this season. His manager, Jim Leyland.
Playing on a team with Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki has its perks. It also has a downside: The chances of the third-best player on the Colorado Rockies getting an all-star nod are slim to none.
Fowler, who's likely in the beginning stages of his peak at age 27, is batting .286 with a .390 OBP, 10 homers and an .875 OPS. Last season Fowler had 13 homers in nearly three times as many games. Fowler has been both hot and patient of late—a lethal combination—as illustrated by MLB's tweet yesterday:
Dexter Fowler is first @rockies player to have a multi-homer, multi-walk game from the leadoff spot.— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) June 3, 2013
However, CarGo (batting .309 with 14 homers and a .977 OPS) and Tulowitzki (batting .333 with 12 homers and an 1.003 OPS) are tearing the cover off of the ball. Three Rockies going to the Classic is unlikely, especially with the rest of the outfield talent in the NL. Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Braun* are currently leading all NL outfielders in fan voting. Others like Shin-Soo Choo (.438 OBP and a .929 OPS), Domonic Brown (sports a league-leading 17 homers with a .519 average in his last seven days), and Carlos Gomez (leads NL outfielders in batting average at .323 and has 65 hits with a .944 OPS) have outperformed Fowler as well and so are better bets.
*Might be suspended based on recent reports
See Dexter Fowler Syndrome just with the Detroit Tigers instead of the Rockies and pitchers instead of position players. This is the one instance in which being on the Tigers can be to a player's detriment.
Anibal Sanchez is having an unbelievable year.
For starters (no pun intended), he's both made history and nearly made history several times this year. As shown above, Sanchez set a franchise record with the Tigers when he fanned 17 (naturally it was a career-high for him as well) Atlanta Braves on April 26. Jay Jaffe of SI.com expanded on why this performance was especially notable:
Of the 16 previous times a pitcher has notched at least 17 strikeouts since the 1993 expansion, only four did so with fewer pitches, with [Johan] Santana’s 112-pitch outing the lowest.
In 2013, Sanchez is 5-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 89 strikeouts, a 4.94:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.13 WHIP in 71 innings pitched. He has never had better numbers. Among AL pitchers, Sanchez is tenth in ERA, 15th in WHIP and third in strikeouts. Right on the cusp.
Scherzer is a perfect 7-0 with a 3.42 ERA, 91 strikeouts, a .89 WHIP and a 5.01 strikeout-to-walk ratio. From that comparison, Scherzer clearly comes out on top. Then there's the curious case of Justin Verlander. Verlander has had a disappointing year. He's 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 87 strikeouts. But he will make the team because he's Justin freaking Verlander. Considering Miggy, Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta, Scherzer and Verlander all range from most likely to indubitably going to the Classic, Sanchez's uniform and borderline stats will keep him from joining them.
Daniel Nava is one of the unsung heroes of the Boston Red Sox. Unless you play fantasy baseball, there's a good chance you haven't heard of him even though he's the third-best hitter on the team this year.
His stats are more than solid. Nava is batting .297 (third-best on the team) with a .397 OBP (also third-best), an .880 OPS (second to David Ortiz) and eight homers (third-best on the team). Debuting with the Red Sox in 2010, Nava bounced around between the majors and minors for the past three seasons. Before this year, his highest batting average in the majors was .243. In an interview with Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, Red Sox Manager John Farrell noted how impressive Nava has been.
“Almost like a different player,” manager John Farrell said, recalling when he first saw the switch-hitting outfielder play three years ago. “More than anything, over time, he’s probably gained some confidence that he belongs here and is a very good major league hitter.”
As far as offense goes, Nava’s approach is so well-rounded that it doesn’t matter where Farrell slots him in. He’s done a nice job of setting the table out of the two-hole, he’s provided pop and run production out of the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, and, now, we’re learning that he’s more than capable of handling the leadoff duties in Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence. The ability to get on base—something Nava has a knack for—plays well regardless of the lineup spot, but he’s shown an uncanny ability to adapt to the lineup’s needs.
Why won't he make the team? He'll be overlooked. Mike Trout, Adam Jones, and Torii Hunter are leading the pack of AL outfielders in fan voting, and Nava didn't even make the top 15. High-profile outfielders like Jose Bautista (batting .268 with an .896 OPS and 12 homers) and Nelson Cruz (batting .267 with an .823 OPS and 13 homers) are more likely to get a bid.
Named Rookie of the Month for both April and May, 26-year-old Evan Gattis has become what Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports calls "the Chuck Norris of baseball." It's true to some extent. It seems like he's superhuman. He can do no wrong. The injured Brian McCann momentarily left our radars. But now McCann is back, and is on the ballot instead of Gattis.
Gattis should not be thought of as just a placeholder for McCann. Currently, Gattis is batting .269, slugging .593 with a .922 OPS and 12 homers in 43 games. That's a better OPS and home run count than both Yadier Molina's (.869, four) and Buster Posey's (.902, seven).
But Gattis isn't a crowd favorite solely because of his numbers. On April 19, Ray Glier for the New York Times wrote an article that shed light on why Gattis is on the older side for a rookie.
His self-diagnosis was that he was “looking for something,” so he put down his baseball bat and glove for three and a half years and went on a personal journey.
Glier also mentions that "Gattis was a non-roster invitee to spring training this year, and he expected to land no higher than Class AA when the regular season started."
So Gattis has won America's hearts, he hit .303 and slugged .683 in the month of May, and earned this tweet from Buster Olney:
Somebody needs to check that baseball for damage after it hit Evan Gattis in the arm.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 1, 2013
But he likely won't make the trip to Citi Field. Posey and Molina both lead Gattis in batting average, hits, and OBP, and McCann has started out of the gates fast since his return—he's batting .280 with a .941 OPS and seven homers in just 22 games. Plus, the only way Gattis gets in is with the final fan vote. With all of those fantastic and more seasoned outfielders I mentioned earlier, the rookie's chances don't look good.
Nick Markakis has been Mr. Consistency for eight years, and he is yet another case of the Dexter Fowler Syndrome.
Markakis is a career .296/.364/.454 hitter and averages 16.7 home runs a season. Thus far, his line is .305/.355/.445 with seven homers in 57 games. He's on track to hit around 20 bombs this season so things are looking a smidge better in that department. Maybe Chris Davis is rubbing off on him. Overall, Markakis is pretty much the same player he was when he debuted in 2006. But he's never made an all-star game.
Fans are noticing Markakis' solid season. He's currently sixth among AL outfielders in the voting, just ahead of teammate Nate McLouth. Markakis has the fourth-best batting average of the outfielders in the AL, has the sixth-most RBI (33) and the third-most hits (72). He's relevant.
But like Daniel Nava, he flies under the radar. And like Dexter Fowler, he is overshadowed by his teammates. Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones are all shoo-ins for the Classic, so Markakis will be the deserving Oriole left behind.
This tweet explains it all:
Nick Markakis is most under appreciated player in baseball. Sad that he may never be an All-Star. Has been most consistent RF in the majors.— Joe Papparotto (@JoePappa) June 3, 2013