Deserving 2014 MLB All-Star Starters Who Will Be Snubbed by the Fan Vote
As long as MLB All-Star Game voting is done by the fans, there will always be cases where popularity wins out over production—and this year is no different.
While the game does mean something these days with home-field advantage in the World Series at stake, it is still very much an exhibition for the fans, and they certainly have the right to elect the starter they want to see play.
Whether it is one fan base in particular stuffing the ballot box, a veteran superstar earning a start solely upon name recognition alone or a small-market star being overlooked in favor of a big-market counterpart, there are always deserving starters that wind up as reserves or being snubbed altogether.
Here is a look at six guys who are deserving of a starting spot in this year's Midsummer Classic but look to be well on their way to getting snubbed by the fan vote.
Current American League Starting Lineup
C: Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2B: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
3B: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
OF: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
OF: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays
Latest AL voting results can be found here. Italics indicate leader vote getter in question.
AL Catcher: Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics
*Among AL catchers with at least 100 plate appearances (18 total).
Considering that Matt Wieters has not played since May 10 and may very well end up needing season-ending shoulder surgery, it's fair to say he doesn't deserve to be the leading vote-getter among AL catchers.
That being said, Wieters was off to a great start before he went down with the injury, and the catcher position in the American League may be the thinnest position in either league right now.
Derek Norris actually opened the season in a platoon role for the Oakland Athletics, but he has seen his playing time expand as he's continued to hit. The 25-year-old hit .246/.345/.409 in 264 at-bats last year and this season has been a coming out party for him so far.
Norris is currently third in the voting behind Wieters and New York's Brian McCann (.226 BA, .642 OPS), but he's the deserving starter by a decent margin and should wind up with a reserve spot.
AL Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
*Among qualified AL shortstops (12 total).
It's no surprise to see Derek Jeter leading the AL voting at shortstop, and a start in the Midsummer Classic seems like a fitting stop on his farewell tour. From a statistical standpoint, though, the Yankees star has no business even being on the roster, let alone starting.
While the National League shortstop field is fairly deep, led by Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki, there is no slam-dunk superstar fielding the position in the American League these days.
A consistent producer, year in and year out, Alexei Ramirez is putting up the best offensive numbers of his seven-year career right now, and he's been one of the better defenders in the league to boot.
Ramirez has cooled off somewhat after hitting .351/.375/.535 over the first month of the season, but he remains the deserving starter, and it would be a major snub if he did not at least wind up with a reserve spot.
AL Outfield: Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
*Among qualified AL outfielders (29 total).
Jose Bautista and Mike Trout currently rank as the two leading vote-getters among AL outfielders, and rightfully so, but an argument can certainly be made for a handful of guys over Melky Cabrera for the third starting spot.
Not that Cabrera is not having a solid year, as he has turned things around nicely in his second season with the Toronto Blue Jays. But there are guys having better seasons, and chief among them is underrated Cleveland Indians star Michael Brantley.
After quietly putting together back-to-back solid performances in 2012 and 2013, the Indians handed Brantley a four-year, $25 million extension this past offseason and he has rewarded them with a breakout year.
He's already matched his home-run total from last season, raising his OPS by an impressive 157 points in the process. The Indians have a pair of very deserving All-Star candidates in Brantley and starter Corey Kluber, but one of those guys may very well wind up being snubbed.
Current National League Starting Lineup
C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
2B: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
3B: David Wright, New York Mets
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
OF: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
OF: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Latest NL voting results can be found here.
NL Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
*Among NL catchers with 100-plus plate appearances (19 total).
If I'm starting a team from scratch right now, Yadier Molina would be my No. 1 target among catchers. But as far as 2014 production is concerned, Jonathan Lucroy has him bested across the board.
The 27-year-old Lucroy may very well be the most underrated player in the game today, and while he has taken his game to another level this year, he was no slouch in 2013, either, when he hit .280/.340/.455 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI.
On top of his offensive contributions, Lucroy also leads all NL catchers with five defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, and he has done a terrific job of handling a vastly-improved Milwaukee Brewers staff.
Molina currently leads the voting, with San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey not far behind, but it would be a huge snub if Lucroy does not find his way onto the NL roster.
NL First Baseman: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
*Among qualified NL first basemen (11 total).
There are a handful of players you could argue are deserving of the start at first base for the National League, with Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman and Adam LaRoche all having good seasons.
Not among that group is the current leading vote-getter Adrian Gonzalez, who has seen his power numbers bounce back this year (12 HR) but ranks seventh among qualified NL first basemen in OPS (.777) and is hitting just .246.
Goldschmidt has been the best of the aforementioned deserving group, as he currently leads the NL in hits (83), doubles (27) and total bases (149). The runner-up for NL MVP honors last season, Goldschmidt led the NL in home runs and RBI last season.
He had to settle for a backup spot behind Joey Votto in his first All-Star appearance last year, and he may find himself among the reserves once again. However, of the six players mentioned here, he probably has the best chance of rallying in the voting process. He trailed Gonzalez by just 104,880 votes in the latest update.
NL Third Baseman: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
*Among qualified NL third basemen (10 total).
Todd Frazier came out of nowhere with a terrific rookie season in 2012, posting an .829 OPS with 19 home runs and 67 RBI to finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. However, he saw that OPS fall to .721 last season, as he was one of the bigger disappointments in the National League.
The 28-year-old has bounced back in a big way this season, though, leading the Cincinnati Reds offense with Jay Bruce and Joey Votto both missing significant time.
Colorado Rockies young star Nolan Arenado was in the middle of a breakout season when he went down with an injury, and he has since been overtaken by David Wright for the voting lead at the position.
Meanwhile, Frazier did not even crack the top-five in terms of voting at the position despite leading NL third basemen in home runs (14), slugging percentage (.511) and WAR (2.3) while playing terrific defense at the hot corner. Oakland's Josh Donaldson was the biggest All-Star snub in 2013, and it could again be a third baseman to earn that dubious honor in 2014 if Frazier is left off the NL roster.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. Stats are current through June 12.
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