With the 2015 MLB All-Star Game's roster announcements approaching, fans can soon resume America's favorite pastime: bickering about baseball.
There are never enough spots to go around, which means a few deserving candidates always get snubbed. While those exclusions are occasionally caused by poor decisions, some guys simply lose out to other stars.
That gives everyone a week to argue over the results, but why not start the outrage early? The updated American League and National League voting provide a clear blueprint to each side's starting lineup, and the players and managers often fall victim to predictable logical fallacies when wrapping up the rosters.
These guys are in the most danger of getting shafted out of an All-Star bid.
Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
It took Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly over a year to realize what he had in Justin Turner. What are the odds the players or National League All-Star Game manager Bruce Bochy catches on quicker?
Once an unassuming utility man for the New York Mets with no power, the 30-year-old has already clubbed a career-high 11 homers through 218 plate appearances. Hitting .314/.390/.567 with a 3.0 fWAR, Turner forced his way from irregular starter to frequent cleanup hitter.
A guy like Turner may never get another chance to make the Midsummer Classic, and he'd make a great weapon off the bench. Bochy could fill a hole anywhere in the infield with a man who has seen time everywhere but catcher and the outfield this season.
Yet his primary position, third base, features Todd Frazier, Matt Carpenter, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant. Holding the final two position-player choices in his hands, the San Francisco Giants skipper is more likely to make sure his infielders, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, don't get left behind.
When making their NL selections on ESPN.com, Buster Olney and David Schoenfield both designated Turner as their last man cut off that roster. That's the unfortunate fate he'll likely face.
Jason Hammel, SP, Chicago Cubs
Assemble the NL's crowd of big-name aces: Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels. Now throw in Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Jake Arrieta, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Matt Harvey among the young studs with ERAs below 3.00 and Cy Young aspirations in the distance.
That makes it all the tougher for Jason Hammel to garner everyone's attention.
The Chicago Cubs cleared their budget to snag Jon Lester during the offseason, but Hammel has been their best signing by a wide margin. The 32-year-old righty has notched a 2.57 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 3.09 fielding independent pitching (FIP).
Through 102.2 marvelous innings, he has registered 104 strikeouts and 18 walks. That gives him a 21.1 strikeouts-minus-walks percentage, which ranks third among qualified NL starters behind Scherzer and Kershaw.
|NL K-BB % Leaders|
|1||Max Scherzer, WAS||27.7|
|2||Clayton Kershaw, LAD||26.4|
|3||Jason Hammel, CHC||21.1|
|4||Jake Arrieta, CHC||20.9|
|5||Madison Bumgarner, SF||20.8|
Yet a journeyman with a career 4.46 ERA doesn't carry the buzz of an established stud or electric young hurler. While he'll have a tough time cracking the original roster, keep in mind that several pitchers always back out of the game.
Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees
How many allies does Alex Rodriguez have left around the league?
As long as he keeps hitting, New York Yankees fans will happily forgive his past transgressions. And boy is he hitting, brandishing a .281/.388/.506 slash line with 15 homers. While most 14-time All-Stars don't need any more validation, Rodriguez admitted his desire to continue his comeback tour with a trip to Cincinnati, per ESPN.com's Andrew Marchand.
"From where I came from just a year ago, I mean it’s every player’s dream to make the All-Star Game," Rodriguez said. "I’m not exception to that. Especially with all that I’ve been through, to be able to be included in something like that, it would be incredibly special."
Here's when things get interesting. The players vote for the initial wave of reserves, and Rodriguez recently sued the Players Association. Even if they don't resent him, there's still the matter of beating out Prince Fielder, a more deserving choice as the second-string designated hitter.
With the game in an NL stadium, rostering another DH seems like overkill. After all, such a move could take a spot away from teammate Mark Teixeira. Rodriguez would give the summer showcase some star power and spectacle, but he'll have a hard time sneaking into the fold.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Kevin Kiermaier isn't making the All-Star team. Outfielders hitting .254/.287/.415 with four homers simply won't receive any consideration from traditional thinkers.
Yet he deserves recognition on defense alone. The center fielder has saved the Tampa Bay Rays 20 runs this season. Lorenzo Cain, a Gold Glove winner on track to land a starting spot, ranks second in the AL with 10 defensive runs saved (DRS).
|AL Defensive Runs Saved Leaders|
|1||OF Kevin Kiermaier, TB||20|
|2||OF Lorenzo Cain, KC||10|
|3||3B Manny Machado, BAL||9|
|4||2B Ian Kinsler, DET||9|
|5||OF Mookie Betts, BOS||9|
Rays manager Kevin Cash praised his defensive magician, per MLB.com's Richard Justice:
Richard Justice @richardjustice
"He covers more ground than any center fielder I’ve ever seen."-- Kevin Cash on Kevin Kiermaier. @RaysBaseball6/28/2015, 12:10:09 PM
Kiermaier marks one of Tampa Bay's hidden gems keeping it alive in the American League East despite trading David Price last summer and losing Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly to injuries early this season. As he explained to ESPN.com's Mark Simon, he sees his fieldwork as a way to stand out.
"I tell people that I'm not afraid to put my body on the line," Kiermaier said. "I've been doing it [my] whole life. I always feels good making a big-time play for my pitcher or my team. It gets the momentum going. This is a part of the game where I can separate myself from others."
Despite his below-average offense, Kiermaier's league-best defense had led him to a 2.9 fWAR. J.D. Martinez, a much more likely inclusion, sports a 2.2 fWAR with a .547 slugging percentage. Value comes in all different packages, but coaches and owners don't always tend to take notice.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs.