MLB's All-Overlooked Team: 10 Top Players Being Ignored in ASG Fan Vote
I'll let you in on a little secret: When it comes to the voting for the MLB All-Star Game, fans tend to vote for the most popular players rather than the best players.
Yeah, I know. Shocking. Tragic, even, as it means really good players are going to miss out on well-deserved recognition every summer.
It's happening again this year. You can look at the latest voting updates released this week and see the names of plenty of deserving All-Stars but not the names of all deserving All-Stars.
There are cases where a certain player deserves to rank higher in the voting at a given position, but even worse are the cases where guys worthy of All-Star votes aren't among the leaders at all.
That list includes 10 guys I'd like to tell you about, ranked according to who deserves missing votes the most.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted/linked and current as of the start of play on Wednesday, June 18.
10. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
This, admittedly, is a tricky one. Anthony Rendon is listed on the ballot as a second baseman, but the young Nationals star has played mostly third base in 2014. That might have some fans confused.
We can say this much, though: Based strictly on his numbers, Rendon does deserve a spot among the NL's top five second basemen in the All-Star voting.
Though he's cooled since a red-hot April, Rendon entered Wednesday batting .270 with a solid .787 OPS. According to FanGraphs, only four qualified NL second basemen are doing better than that.
Any second base votes cast for Rendon may technically be going to a third baseman, but he's still a better option than some of the second basemen fans are voting for over him.
9. Luis Valbuena, 3B, Chicago Cubs
There aren't many names on the NL ballot that are easier to dismiss than Luis Valbuena. He did enter 2014 with just a .654 career OPS to his name, after all.
Anyone who ventures to take a closer look at Valbuena, however, will see a guy in the middle of a breakout season.
Valbuena entered Wednesday hitting .292 with an .861 OPS through 62 games. According to FanGraphs, there's only one qualified NL third baseman with a better OPS, and none is doing better than Valbuena's .391 on-base percentage.
True, the lefty-swinging Valbuena has been helped by a platoon role against right-handed pitching, against which his OPS is .880. However, he's held his own with a .739 OPS against southpaws.
There's another third baseman on the NL ballot who deserves All-Star attention even more than Valbuena, but he's at least earned a spot among the leaders with the season he's having.
8. Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels
The shortstop voting in the American League has turned into a deathmatch between Derek Jeter and Alexei Ramirez, but there are two deserving shortstops elsewhere who aren't even in the top five.
One is Erick Aybar. After posting just a .683 OPS in 2013, the Angels veteran is enjoying a nice bounce-back season with a .769 OPS through 68 games.
As of Wednesday, that put Aybar just nine points off Ramirez's pace among AL shortstops, and it should be noted that he has had to rack up his offensive production in a much less hitter-friendly park than U.S. Cellular Field.
Aybar's glove has also been solid. They didn't like him last year, but he is rated as an above-average defender at short according to Defensive Runs Saved and the Ultimate Zone Rating.
After a down year, Aybar's back to being one of the AL's top all-around shortstops.
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Here's the other American League shortstop who's not getting the attention he deserves in the All-Star voting.
Playing in his first full MLB season, Bogaerts carried a .278 average and a .787 OPS into Wednesday's action. That OPS puts the 21-year-old Red Sox rookie on top of all other qualified AL shortstops.
Bogaerts has since moved to the hot corner to make way for Stephen Drew. And truth be told, that was addition by subtraction for Boston defensively, as nobody's going to be mistaking Bogaerts for Ozzie Smith any time soon.
But that doesn't change the fact that he's been the AL's best offensive shortstop for much of the season. Considering the scarcity of offense at the position, that's worth something.
6. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
While the NL has Jonathan Lucroy, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Evan Gattis to choose from, the catcher voting in the AL is more complicated. There's no easy choice.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez, however, is a better choice than many people apparently realize.
For one, no AL catcher has been busier than Perez this season, as he entered Wednesday's action with an AL-high 61 games behind the dish. He's been productive, too, posting a .773 OPS with seven home runs, tied for second-most among AL catchers.
Then there's Perez's defense. He's been one of the best defensive catchers in the American League for several years and is still among the best in 2014.
Sounds like a guy who deserves to be in the top five of the AL catcher voting rather than off the list completely.
5. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
Oakland A's third baseman Josh Donaldson is running away with the American League voting at third base, and that's OK. With the season he's having, he's earned it.
But the guy who should arguably be behind Donaldson in the voting isn't in the top five at all. He plays for the Mariners, and his name is Kyle Seager.
Seager entered Wednesday with an .810 OPS, good for third among AL third basemen behind Adrian Beltre and Donaldson. Add 10 homers, and you get pretty solid production for a Safeco Field inhabitant.
Seager can also pick it at the hot corner, rating as an above-average defender in the eyes of both DRS and UZR.
The 26-year-old has quietly been one of the AL's top two-way third basemen over the last couple of years. To this end, nothing's changed with Seager in 2014.
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington Nationals
There's plenty of talent at first base in the National League, but it's not all represented in the top five of the voting.
One guy who's missing is Nationals veteran Adam LaRoche, who's having a big-time bounce-back season after posting just a .735 OPS in 2013.
LaRoche has upped his OPS to .901 through 52 games, second only to leading vote-getter Paul Goldschmidt among NL first basemen. This is largely thanks to LaRoche's .415 OBP, which is tops among NL first basemen by a sizable margin.
It was easy to lose sight of LaRoche as he struggled through 2013. Now's a good time to gain sight of him again.
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Judging by the fact that he's not among the NL's top five first basemen in the All-Star voting, I'm getting the sense that fans still view Anthony Rizzo as that guy who disappointed in his first full year in 2013.
If so, well, fans should know he's not that guy anymore.
Rizzo's been terrific in 2014, batting .272 with an .887 OPS and 14 home runs. Only Paul Goldschmidt and Adam LaRoche have him beat in OPS among NL first basemen. Only LaRoche is topping Rizzo's .397 OBP, and only Goldschmidt is topping Rizzo's 14 homers.
"The first basemen in this league, they're all All-Stars," Rizzo, apparently ever the realist, told MLB.com. "I'll just keep playing my game and not let it affect me. If the time comes and I make it, great. That's one of the things you dream of is being an All-Star."
The NL first base voting is indeed a tough nut to crack this year, but Rizzo's done enough to be a lot closer to realizing his dream than he is.
2. Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Leading the National League voting at third base at the moment is David Wright. Because when your name is David Wright, it's easy for people to overlook how lousy of a season you've having.
Not having a lousy season, on the other hand, is Reds third baseman Todd Frazier.
Frazier's quietly been a force at the plate in 2014, batting .276 with an .872 OPS that ranks first among qualified NL third basemen. His 16 home runs are also tops among his peers.
He's not just the best NL third baseman not getting All-Star support. He's also been the NL's best third baseman in 2014, period.
1. Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals
The AL's projected All-Star starting outfield actually works pretty well, as it features a center fielder in Mike Trout, a right fielder in Jose Bautista and a left fielder in Melky Cabrera.
A better option than Cabrera, however, would be Kansas City's Alex Gordon.
In addition to his .831 OPS being more than 40 points higher than Cabrera's, Gordon's also the better baserunner and by far the better defender in left field.
In fact, the great Joe Posnanski noticed that Gordon is the most valuable defensive player in baseball by a long shot.
And yet Gordon's not even among the top 15 in the voting among American League outfielders. It's as if the voters want to perpetuate his status as one of baseball's most underrated players.
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