Ranking Toronto Blue Jays' Best All-Star Game Candidates
Halfway into the 2014 MLB season, the Toronto Blue Jays (45-39) hold the top spot in the American League East. This record wouldn’t be possible if several players on the team hadn’t stepped up and delivered All-Star-caliber performances.
This makes the Blue Jays one of the few teams in the league to boast multiple players that could make a successful case to be selected to represent the American League during the upcoming All-Star game in Minnesota.
Indeed, Toronto already has two players that are favorites to be starters at the Midsummer Classic and two more players that should probably get in as reserves.
Let’s take a look at each of the Blue Jays’ All-Star Game candidates.
All stats are from MLB.com.
4. Melky Cabrera, Outfielder
After having an injury-plagued season in 2013, Melky Cabrera has bounced back this season and regained his status as one of the top outfielders in baseball.
While he may not have much speed or above-average power, Cabrera is a pure hitter and has the ability to make solid contact with the ball anywhere in the strike zone.
Batting second in Toronto’s lineup, Cabrera has hit .299/.344/.465 with 11 home runs, 42 RBI and 52 runs scored. The switch-hitter also leads all American League outfielders with 103 hits.
It appears that Cabrera’s resurgent season has been noticed by baseball fans across the league. The 29-year-old is currently ranked third in voting among AL outfielders and is set to start at the All-Star game.
3. Jose Bautista, Outfielder
It’s shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone to see Jose Bautista’s name here. After all, the outfielder has represented Toronto at the All-Star Game for the past four seasons.
Bautista’s numbers in 2014 leave no doubt that he’ll be running that streak to five years. The 33-year-old is hitting .304 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI and 54 runs scored in 78 games. His .432 OBP leads all qualified outfielders in baseball.
After predominantly being a pull hitter in the past, Bautista has become more of a balanced hitter this season by starting to hit the ball to right field in order to beat defensive shifts. This approach also lets him take advantage of opposing pitchers who decide to pitch him away.
Ever since his breakout year in 2010, when he hit 54 home runs, Bautista has become one of the most popular players in baseball. He led the league in All-Star voting in 2011 and currently has the most votes this season as well.
2. Mark Buehrle, Pitcher
In the midst of a career year at the age of 35, Mark Buehrle has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. The southpaw has a 10-5 record with a 2.50 ERA in 115.1 innings pitched.
The most astonishing fact about Buehrle’s performance this year is that he’s doing it without possessing the dominant stuff that most aces usually have.
With a fastball that tops out at 85 mph and an assortment of soft offspeed offerings, Buehrle relies more on pinpoint control to make quality pitches rather than trying to overpower batters.
That approach has made him successful throughout his career. This season marks the 14th straight year in which he has reached 10 wins.
With the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez both having dominant seasons this year, it appears unlikely that Buehrle will start the All-Star Game. But he has a very strong chance of being named a reserve.
1. Edwin Encarnacion, 1st Baseman/Designated Hitter
While Bautista and Cabrera have both turned in All-Star-level performances this season, Edwin Encarnacion has arguably been the most valuable player in the Blue Jays lineup in 2014.
Toronto’s first baseman/DH is hitting .278/.365/.594 with 25 home runs, 65 RBI and 55 runs scored. He’s tied for first in the league in home runs and is second in RBI.
Following his breakout year in 2012, Encarnacion hasn’t looked back and has continued to mature as a hitter. Like Bautista, he has also started to use the whole field to hit instead of always trying to pull the ball.
Despite the gaudy numbers this season, Encarnacion hasn’t been getting much All-Star consideration from voters. Listed as a DH on the ballot, he ranked fourth at the position during the last vote count. Even if the fans don’t vote him in, it’s very likely that he’ll still make the All-Star team as a reserve.