10 MLB Veterans Making a Case for Their First All-Star Appearance

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJune 7, 2013

10 MLB Veterans Making a Case for Their First All-Star Appearance

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    Both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were 20 years old when they made the All-Star team in 2012.

    Manny Machado will likely be an AL All-Star a week after celebrating his 21st birthday. A 22-year-old Shelby Miller and 23-year-old Jean Segura will probably join him on the NL side of the field this July and for many years to come.

    Elsewhere, there are aging veterans who are hoping they'll get their first chance to play in the Midsummer Classic.

    The following 10 guys have:

    A) Never gone to an All-Star Game,

    B) At least 2,500 career plate appearances or 800 career innings pitched, and

    C) A WAR of at least 1.0 in 2013 (according to FanGraphs)

    Perhaps this will finally be their year.

    *All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and FanGraphs.com and are accurate through the start of play on Thursday, June 6.

Coco Crisp

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    Career Stats: 5072 PA, .274/.332/.410, 92 HR, 269 SB, 26.8 WAR

    2013 Stats: .290/.388/.491, 6 HR, 39 R, 12 SB, 1.5 WAR

    In both 2004 and 2005, Coco Crisp batted at least .297 while hitting at least 15 home runs, stealing at least 15 bases and playing the best outfield defense in the American League. Using WAR as a barometer, he was the fifth-best outfielder in the AL for those two years.

    Didn't matter. He never got enough votes.

    Here we are eight years later. He's batting .290 and on pace for 16 home runs and 32 stolen bases, yet he's 13th in the voting for AL outfielders.

    In general, Oakland fans should be ashamed of themselves. Jed Lowrie is currently fourth in the shortstop voting, but that's probably mostly due to fans in Boston spitefully voting for their old flame rather than Stephen Drew. Josh Donaldson is having an amazing season, and he's nowhere to be found in the hierarchy of third basemen receiving votes.

    At this point, it would take a monumental comeback for Crisp to make the team as a starter, but let's at least hope Jim Leyland puts him on the roster as a reserve. He's done more than enough over his 12-year career and during this 2013 season to deserve it.

Anibal Sanchez

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    Career Stats: 947.0 IP, 54-56 W/L, 3.66 ERA, 7.90 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 17.6 WAR

    2013 Stats: 78.0 IP, 6-5 W/L, 2.65 ERA, 11.31 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 3.4 WAR

    Did you know Anibal Sanchez is leading the American League in WAR? Or that he's a fraction of a fraction of a point behind Adam Wainwright for the lowest FIP in the majors?

    It certainly surprised me to see his name on top of those lists a month ago, but he's making a prolonged push for the AL Cy Young award.

    The crazy thing about his success is that his BABIP is 24 points worse than his career average. So, even though he has greatly improved his strikeout rate, he has actually been unluckier than usual when balls are put in play.

    There have been 48 instances over the past 10 years of a pitcher submitting a WAR of 6.0 or better—a number that Sanchez certainly appears destined to reach. The average BABIP for those pitchers was .287. None finished the season higher than .319.

    The question is whether you think his high BABIP means his high WAR will drop or vice versa. But there's no question about whether or not Sanchez deserves to make a trip to the All-Star game for the first time in his career.

    I would personally argue that as of this moment he should be given the honor of starting the game.

Max Scherzer

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    Career Stats: 881.0 IP, 59-42 W/L, 3.84 ERA, 9.40 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 17.6 WAR

    2013 Stats: 76.1 IP, 7-0 W/L, 3.42 ERA, 10.73 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 2.6 WAR

    And thus we move from one underappreciated Tiger starting pitcher to another. We would have needed to find room for Doug Fister as well if he had met the minimum innings pitched requirement (he only has 687).

    I'm sure one of them will end up bowing out of the roster because they pitch on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, but wouldn't it be cool if four different Tigers pitched the first four innings of the game? (Calm down, Yu Darvish fan club. He can strike out the side in the fifth inning.)

    It's definitely plausible for all non-Porcello members of their rotation to make the team. They've got the merit by all being among the top eight in WAR in the American League, and they've got the connections since Jim Leyland will be the manager selecting the pitching staff.

    As far as the case for Scherzer is concerned, he's third in the AL in FIP and tied for third in the majors in K/9. His career K/9 ranks third among active starters.

    It's kind of dumbfounding that he hasn't yet made it to an all-star game in his career, but I suppose it's hard to stand out from the rest of the league when you've been overshadowed on your own team by Justin Verlander for the past three years.

James Loney

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    Career Stats: 3695 PA, .285/.342/.425, 80 HR, 31 SB, 8.1 WAR

    2013 Stats: .324/.390/.516, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB, 1.9 WAR

    Let's start this one out by putting an end to the myth that James Loney is playing completely over his head and is inevitably headed towards some horrendous regression over the final four months of the season.

    It's easy to forget because of how poorly he played in 2012, but Loney batted at least .280 in five of his first six seasons in the majors. From 2006-11, he averaged a home run for every 45 plate appearances, so it isn't completely crazy that he's averaging one for every 30 plate appearances this season.

    It's not like he transformed from Ozzie Smith to Barry Bonds at the plate. He's merely an improved version of a younger Loney, and that's good enough to be the most valuable first baseman in the American League not named Chris Davis.

    Have All-Star voters shown any love to Loney? Heavens no. With Davis mashing home runs and Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols still breathing, Loney would be lucky to crack the top 10 in the votes for AL 1B, but that doesn't mean he couldn't make the team as one of the reserves.

Edwin Encarnacion

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    Career Stats: 3982 PA, .264/.344/.474, 176 HR, 45 SB, 13.4 WAR

    2013 Stats: .265/.342/.522, 17 HR, 48 RBI, 3 SB, 1.6 WAR

    Speaking of quality AL first basemen that aren't getting anywhere near a proper level of respect in the balloting, Edwin Encarnacion is tied with Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez for the third-most home runs in the majors.

    Let's just briefly compare Encarnacion to Prince Fielder.

    Both sluggers conveniently have 61 hits and 48 RBI in 260 plate appearances. Fielder has a slightly higher batting average and on-base percentage thanks to nine more walks and four more HBPs, but Encarnacion has 18 fewer strikeouts, five more home runs, six more runs scored, three more stolen bases and has a 1.6 WAR compared to Fielder's 1.0 WAR.

    Yet, Fielder is at least 687,000 votes ahead of Encarnacion at first base in the American League. No fair.

    Chris Davis deserves the starting job, but Encarnacion needs to be coming off the bench for the second half of the game.

Ricky Nolasco

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    Career Stats: 1195.2 IP, 79-70 W/L, 4.43 ERA, 7.36 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 18.1 WAR

    2013 Stats: 82.1 IP, 3-6 W/L, 3.61 ERA, 7.32 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 1.2 WAR

    Pray tell, if not Ricky Nolasco, who is going to represent the Marlins at the 2013 All-Star game?

    Among their batters, only Marcell Ozuna and Justin Ruggiano have a higher WAR than 0.2. The former has only been in the big leagues for a little over a month and has but one home run to his name. The latter is batting .210 and has a wRC+ of 87, meaning he's a below-average source of run production.

    Among their pitchers, you could maybe make a case for Jose Fernandez instead of Nolasco, but Nolasco has worked 23 more innings and isn't nearly as prone to walking a batter in a silly game that actually means something.

    My guess is that Bruce Bochy goes with Mike Dunn for an extra left-handed reliever should the late-inning situation arise for one, but Nolasco at least has a strong chance at making an all-star game—even if it's the ineptitude of the rest of Miami's roster that is making the case for him.

Alex Gordon

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    Career Stats: 3302 PA, .273/.349/.441, 88 HR, 57 SB, 18.7 WAR

    2013 Stats: .316/.361/.468, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, 1.8 WAR

    If you feel like Alex Gordon just got called up two weeks ago and can't possibly qualify for the minimum plate appearances criterion to be on this list, you aren't alone. How in the world has he been in the league for seven years?

    2011 was Gordon's breakout party. He finally batted better than .260 in a season and showed off the fabled combination of power and speed that we had been waiting for years to see. Thanks in part to some stellar numbers in the fielding metrics, Gordon had the fourth-highest WAR among all batters from the start of 2011 through the end of 2012.

    Fans are slowly catching on, as he currently sits at eighth among AL outfielders in All-Star voting.

    (Though, there certainly appears to be a lot of ballot stuffing taking place in Baltimore. Brian Roberts has more than 290,000 votes? Really? If not for all those homer picks, Gordon would probably be fifth or sixth among AL outfielders right now.)

    Considering he has nine home runs against Detroit in the past four seasons, I think Jim Leyland may have noticed his recent improvements.

Justin Masterson

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    Career Stats: 908.1 IP, 47-57 W/L, 4.11 ERA, 7.25 K/9, 3.57 BB/9, 12.4 WAR

    2013 Stats: 88.1 IP, 8-4 W/L, 3.57 ERA, 8.97 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 1.5 WAR

    As a rule, no one has ever wanted to hear about your fantasy team/draft, but this might be an exception.

    In one of my drafts this past March, I took Vance Worley with the 300th overall pick and Justin Masterson with the 301st pick. Both picks were made solely under the theory that each guy is at the top of his team's starting rotation for a reason, and could result in a respectable number of quality starts.

    (Also, both picks came 48 picks after I took Vinnie Pestano and Trevor Bauer with back-to-back picks, so there's some context for where Masterson was valued three months ago.)

    As it turns out, Worley was at the top of the rotation because he was the least awful Opening Day option from a terrible pitching staff. On the other end of the spectrum, Masterson might actually be a bonafide ace this season.

    One year removed from having the worst ERA among pitchers who logged at least 200 innings, Masterson has settled into a 3.57 ERA that could be much worse given the number of times he has faced the Yankees and Red Sox already this season. [Strangely enough, no games yet against Detroit, but that will change this weekend.]

    If his increased strikeout rate is for real and not a product of a still-small sample size, this could be a legitimate turning point in Masterson's career, potentially making this year his first of several All-Star appearances.

Shin-Soo Choo

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    Career Stats: 3242 PA, .288/.385/.467, 93 HR, 90 SB, 20.6 WAR

    2013 Stats: .276/.431/.484, 10 HR, 42 R, 5 SB, 2.3 WAR

    This should come as no surprise, since I've spent the bulk of the past five weeks heralding Choo's name in many of my articles.

    Although, he has cooled off pretty considerably since I first started banging the Choo drum. After batting .337 in April, he's hitting just .224 in May and June. He has stolen only one base in the past 25 days, and has homered just once since May 15.

    Despite that slump, he's still second in the National League in on-base percentage and trails only Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez in WAR among NL outfielders.

    If he can quickly turn the clock back to April and start batting closer to .300, not only would he likely make his first all-star roster, but Choo could legitimately emerge as a candidate for the NL MVP. 

A.J. Burnett

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    Career Stats: 2243.2 IP, 140-127 W/L, 4.02 ERA, 8.28 K/9, 3.69 BB/9, 34.7 WAR

    2013 Stats: 81.0 IP, 3-6 W/L, 3.22 ERA, 10.44 K/9, 3.56 BB/9, 1.3 WAR

    I'll leave it up to you to decide which of these two things is more shocking.

    This is A.J. Burnett's 15th season in the majors and he has never been to an All-Star game.

    The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates are 5-8 in games started by A.J. Burnett and 30-17 in their other games.

    The second factoid is caused by some horrendous run support, but how is that first one even possible? He threw a no-hitter in 2001 (albeit while walking nine batters) and led the American League in strikeouts in 2008 while winning 18 games.

    You would think one of those things would be good enough for him to sneak onto an All-Star roster at some point in his career. On the contrary, Burnett is the active pitcher with the most innings pitched without ever going to an All-Star game. Kyle Lohse is the next-closest on the list, and he's more than 200 innings behind Burnett.

    Perhaps this will be finally be the year he gets to cross that achievement off his bucket list. Burnett has the highest K/9 in the National League, and while he may not have the infinitesimal ERA of a Shelby Miller or a Clayton Kershaw, 3.22 is nothing to scoff at.

    If he keeps pitching well and if the Pirates are still 10 games over .500 when the All-Star rosters are finalized, there's a pretty good chance Burnett will make the cut.