Ranking Seattle Mariners' Best All-Star Game Candidates
For the first time since 2010, the Seattle Mariners will have a position player representative at the All-Star Game.
Robinson Cano will be making the trip to Minnesota on July 15 to play in his fifth consecutive All-Star contest. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will join teammate Felix Hernandez, who would be making his fourth straight appearance.
Cano and Hernandez have been virtual locks since the beginning of the season, but they may not be Seattle’s only representatives. The Mariners have two other players who have an outside chance of making the team.
After that, nobody else is realistically in the picture. But based on their season numbers, competition at their respective positions and voting results, four Mariners are candidates for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.
4. Fernando Rodney, CL
You’re never going to completely trust Rodney in a close game, but he has gotten the job done for the Mariners so far in 2014.
Rodney owns a 2.23 ERA (2.41 FIP) and is tied with Greg Holland for the American League lead in saves with 23. He has only blown two saves—one of which was the fault of his defense—and has a high strikeout rate, but also tends to allow a ton of baserunners.
Rodney finished the Cleveland Indians on Sunday to record his 17th consecutive save. He has improved his command from April and May, only walking two batters in that stretch.
That high save total might get Rodney a look, but he’s a long shot to make the roster. There are limited spots for relievers on the All-Star roster and Dellin Betances, Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and Holland are all among the more deserving candidates.
Rodney has a slim chance, but falls well below the Mariners’ top three candidates due to the competition at his position.
3. Kyle Seager, 3B
At first glance, Seager’s numbers appear to be strong yet just a little short of All-Star level. With closer examination, it becomes apparent that Seager is having the best season of any American League third baseman not named Josh Donaldson.
Seager is hitting .274/.345/.483, good for a wRC+ of 131. He trails only Donaldson and Todd Frazier in WAR among third basemen at 3.1.
Those strong numbers come despite a horrendous April for Seager. According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, manager Lloyd McClendon believes Seager is only going to get better over the rest of the season:
I think there's big room for improvement, and he's doing a nice job and he's swinging the bat, he's hitting some home runs, he's driving in some runs, but I've been around the game a long time and Kyle Seager is not a .260 hitter. There has to be some more progress and some more steps to take and that's my responsibility to get it out of him.
A big mark of progress would be for Seager to be named to his first All-Star team. Donaldson deservedly has the vote wrapped up, likely leaving just one more spot for a third baseman on the roster.
Seager has a shot, but that spot could go to Adrian Beltre, who has a better triple slash line and name recognition. While Seager is a good candidate, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez are ahead of Seager as virtual locks.
2. Robinson Cano, 2B
As of Monday morning, Cano was approaching a lead of nearly 1,000,000 votes over Ian Kinsler. Barring a collapse, he will be starting at second base for the A.L. on July 15.
Power aside, Cano has the numbers to warrant a selection, with a .320/.378/.441 line. Cano is one of the main reasons the Mariners have been transformed into a winning ballclub and has the name recognition to win an All-Star vote.
While there is concern over Cano's lack of power, he is beginning to show his home run stroke.
Cano has homered in two straight games, including the impressive opposite-field shot (video above) on Monday against the Houston Astros.
If voting didn’t determine the starter, things at second base would be more interesting. Kinsler, Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve all have serious claims to an All-Star selection. It’s hard to argue against Altuve as the starter, as he leads Cano in nearly every major offensive category.
While Cano will be on the team, even his strong season can’t match that of Felix Hernandez, who is Seattle’s top All-Star candidate.
1. Felix Hernandez, SP
Hernandez is putting together the best season of his career and is a lock to make the All-Star team. The only question to be settled is if he will start the game for the American League.
The biggest difference for Hernandez in 2014 has been the effectiveness of his off-speed pitches, particularly his changeup.
Catcher Mike Zunino told Curtis Crabtree of the Associated Press that Hernandez had all four of his pitches working in last Sunday’s domination of the Cleveland Indians, as he has all season:
He threw his breaking ball and his changeup early in the count and was able to throw that fastball late. It's just tough when you've got four pitches and guys have to respect it, you're not always going to pick right. He's doing a good job of mixing up and then making the pitch, too.
John Farrell’s starting pitcher decision will come down to Hernandez and Masahiro Tanaka. The two are dead even in ERA at 2.10, with Tanaka having the slightest of advantages in strikeout and walk rates.
Hernandez’s FIP is nearly a full point lower and he has a huge WAR of 4.8, easily the best in baseball among pitchers. Those stats won’t necessarily factor into Farrell’s choice and Tanaka is an electric rookie pitcher who will surely be tempting.
If the Yankees' rotation holds, Tanaka is also scheduled to start the Sunday before the All-Star Game, which would rule him out. Things could still change before then.
Both Tanaka and Hernandez should get at least two more starts before July 15, and the results of those could break the deadlock.
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.