Major League Baseball does so many things right by its fans, especially when it comes to putting on a show, but the one mystery the people running the sport have never figured out is the All-Star Game.
The fan voting is an integral part of the process, as it should be. Despite what Bud Selig might have you believe, the game doesn't really count; it's just a fun way to get the biggest stars on one field to market the game.
However, the problems come when the rest of the rosters get filled out. Too often, we look just at the first three months of the year as the definitive word on who should be in these games, which is how you end up with Bryan LaHair and Jeff Locke being included.
Instead of simply looking at three months of stats, we wanted to give kudos to established players and youngsters with high upside—they are the future of MLB, after all—who have earned the right to be All-Stars in 2014 and will need help to get there.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
The diminutive second baseman is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to All-Star voting because he plays the same position as marquee names like Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia, all of whom were above Jose Altuve in All-Star voting on MLB.com's last update.
If we put Altuve's numbers this season up against the three players ahead of him, the voting makes less sense:
|AL Second Basemen Stats|
These numbers are hardly a fluke for the Houston second baseman, who has hit .290 and .283 in his first two MLB seasons. His home run numbers can't match Kinsler's, but 30 extra-base hits is more than Cano and Pedroia, and Altuve adds a dimension on the bases that Detroit's slugger can't match.
The other problem Altuve has is playing in Houston. The Astros are better this season than they have been in a long time, but there's still not enough national attention around the team. George Springer is the Astros' best-known player because of his power output (16 homers in 68 games).
It's unfortunate that there's not more attention coming Altuve's way, because not only is he worthy of starting for the American League in the All-Star Game, but he is one of the best and most valuable players in baseball.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
At last check, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was leading the NL vote for starting backstop at the All-Star Game. No one will ever argue that he isn't worthy of that role, but this year, there happens to be someone better in the same division.
Jonathan Lucroy has flown under the national radar for three years, racking up 11 FanGraphs wins above replacement through July 3, yet he hasn't made an All-Star team in the process. He's a rare breed as a catcher who can play defense at a high level and hit.
In fact, there isn't a better hitting catcher in the National League than Lucroy. He's hitting a robust .331/.399/.511 with 38 extra-base hits this season. No other NL catcher who qualifies for the batting title has an average higher than .287 or a slugging percentage over .422.
There's little doubt that Lucroy will make the roster when it's announced Sunday, but no catcher in either league has been better or more valuable than Milwaukee's backstop. He deserves to stand alongside the other starters in his league.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
For our final selection, we go back to the National League Central. Todd Frazier has always been a player with tremendous power, dating back to his days as a prospect in the minors. But he struggled to show it off because his hit tool wasn't well developed.
In 2012-2013, Frazier had 228 strikeouts and 86 walks in 953 at-bats. This year hasn't been drastically different in that regard—73 strikeouts, 30 walks in 318 at-bats—but the walk rate is slightly higher (8.5 percent) and the strikeout rate (20.6 percent) is the best of his career.
As a result, the Reds third baseman has nearly tied his career high in homers already with 17 and leads all NL players at the position with a .503 slugging percentage. He's also one of the best defenders at the hot corner with five runs saved (tied for fourth in the NL) and an ultimate zone rating of 4.4 (second in NL).
It would take a small miracle for Frazier to be named the starting third baseman in the NL since he trailed four players in the updated vote, more than 565,000 votes behind Aramis Ramirez, who has only played in 60 games thus far due to injuries.
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