MLB's All-Overlooked Team: 10 Top Players Being Ignored in 2016 ASG Fan Vote
For the most part, MLB fans are voting deserving starters into the 2016 All-Star Game.
Per MLB.com's Mark Newman, the league released updated American League and National League results earlier in the week. Every current AL starter deserves an All-Star bid, and a couple of NL gaffes are close enough to fix before voting ends Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
It's a good thing fans only decide the starters. Otherwise, the rosters would be a mess in a game that actually still matters for some stupid reason. Kansas City Royals fans are succeeding in sending Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer to San Diego, but they have also stuffed the ballots for the rest of their injured and mediocre position players.
In the NL, Chicago Cubs fans have flooded the ballots. Fortunately, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Dexter Fowler have all earned their starting designations on more than fan loyalty. Their allegiance, however, also has Addison Russell in the lineup and Jason Heyward as the runner-up outfielder.
Voters have recognized most of the true superstars, but several studs are either buried at the bottom of the latest update or absent altogether. Some skills receive less national attention, and others have recently staked their claims after early-rising fans already submitted their ballots.
Note that this isn't a list of the best players without a starting spot. Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson and Mark Trumbo currently must settle for a bench slot, but they're not getting ignored as runners-up with over a million votes each.
Despite stellar starts, these guys will all need the managers and players to elect them into this year's Midsummer Classic.
Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
He hit .423/.453/.732 in April, but Aledmys Diaz isn't even listed on the ballot. At least voters can elect Erick Aybar or Freddy Galvis as the National League's starting shortstop, a seat currently occupied by the offensively limited Russell.
Adam Duvall, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Adam Duvall is a one-dimensional player, but that one dimension is exquisite. Getting his first crack at regular playing time, the 27-year-old outfielder has clobbered 21 home runs. Although the .289 on-base percentage is ugly, the .583 slugging percentage trails only David Ortiz, Manny Machado, Arenado and Murphy.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano are the rightful second-base front-runners, and Dustin Pedroia also has the credentials for a reserve spot. Despite hitting .297/.352/.495 with 14 homers, eight steals and 59 runs scored, Ian Kinsler has received less votes than Omar Infante.
Infante is now a free agent after clearing waivers. Altuve deserves to start, but seeing Kinsler's name below Infante feels wrong.
Michael Saunders, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
After hitting three home runs on June 17, Michael Saunders could vault into the top 10 of American League outfielders. He currently trails 11 peers with over half-a-million votes—a tame tally given his .959 OPS.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
The Houston Astros haven't sustained last year's meteoric rises, but George Springer continues his climb to stardom. He's hitting .261/.351/.466 with 16 homers while carrying over 2015's strikeout plunge.
10. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
2016 Stats: 286 PA, .309/.399/.476, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 35 R, 4 SB, 2.2 WAR
Is the entire Miami Marlins outfield getting punished for Giancarlo Stanton's struggles, or did fans forget that the Marlins exist?
No Marlins hitter is listed among the top vote-getters, but two of them could join Jose Fernandez in San Diego. Christian Yelich isn't nearly as egregious a snub as his teammate—who will appear much later—but he at least warrants a slither of notoriety.
Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, many onlookers still judge power solely on home runs. He doesn't clear many fences, but he has brandished terrific gap power with 19 doubles and two triples.
Add his superb contact skills and an 12.2 walk percentage, and you get a potent offensive contributor despite the waning home run output. His 138 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) matches Nelson Cruz, who has crushed 18 homers.
He also has two extra-base hits over his last 14 games, so he'll need to reignite his pop to make the final cut.
9. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox
2016 Stats: 341 PA, .282/.366/.412, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 38 R, 7 SB, 2.8 WAR
Apparently voters don't dig defense.
Looking solely at the stat line above, some readers will wonder what Adam Eaton is doing here. Also, why is his WAR so high? There must be a glitch in all those fancy nerd computers.
Twenty years ago, writers and fans would have patronized the 5'8" outfielder as a scrappy gamer with the heart of a champion. Now there are defensive metrics to praise him instead.
After stumbling in center field last year, Eaton leads everyone with 16 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a 15.5 ultimate zone rating (UZR) playing right field. Advanced defensive stats aren't perfect—especially in small sample sizes—but it's tough to fake being the best.
He rates ever higher on Baseball-Reference.com, which credits him with a 3.6 WAR that places seventh among all position players. If the All-Star Game must count, rostering an elite defender to employ late would help the American League.
It's not fair to lambaste voters for not appreciating defense, as Kevin Pillar has received over 635,000 votes for his stellar work in center field. His limited power doesn't help, but White Sox fans not voting as much as Royals and Toronto Blue Jays supporters also explains his absence from the leaderboard.
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
2016 Stats: 278 PA, .296/.356/.496, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 37 R, 2 SB, 2.1 WAR
Four National League catchers with at least 150 plate appearances have a wRC+ over 100, so Jonathan Lucroy's fifth-place standing doesn't say much.
Lucroy's 123 wRC+ ranks second behind Wilson Ramos' 153, but the former is a more decorated pitch-framer and less of a speed bump on the basepaths.
Trailing Ramos and Buster Posey is reasonable, but Yadier Molina is slated to start in spite of his .341 slugging percentage. Anybody siding with the St. Louis Cardinals veteran is ignoring his .202 batting average since the end of April.
Lucroy, meanwhile, engineered nine homers in May, which is more than Molina has compiled in a single season since 2013. His comeback story should also captivate fans more, as he has enhanced last year's .717 OPS to .852.
If Molina fends off Posey in the league's tightest race, at least one deserving catcher (Posey, Ramos or Lucroy) will get squeezed out of a roster bid.
7. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
2016 Stats: 309 PA, .270/.327/.528, 18 HR, 43 RBI, 41 R, 2.7 WAR
Isn't the fan vote supposed to be a popularity contest? That usually bodes well for a marquee name like Evan Longoria, who has quietly impeded his gradual power decline.
The Tampa Bay Rays third baseman never fell far enough to consider this year a rebound, but he's enjoying his best offensive production since 2013. Over the past two years, he notched 22 and 21 homers with wRC+ rates of 105 and 110, respectively. Less than midway through 2016, he has belted 18 long balls with a 127 wRC+.
As is the dilemma with most occupants of this list, voters cast their ballots far too early. They've taken too long to acknowledge the veteran's nine-homer June, instead paying closer attention to sizzling starts from Nick Castellanos and the injured Mike Moustakas.
Everyone is ultimately on the right track, as Machado and Donaldson will rightfully spar for starting honors at the hot corner. Longoria's scorching June doesn't put him in the same tier as those two studs, but he at least deserves top-five recognition.
6. Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2016 Stats: 278 PA, .290/.367/.580, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 38 R, 3 SB, 2.8 WAR
The National League hosts a heated two-man race at third base between Bryant and Arenado. Without the backing of Chicago ballot-stuffers, the Colorado Rockies third baseman will likely have to settle for a reserve role.
A distant third, Matt Carpenter leads the position with a 161 wRC+, making him another probable backup choice. This means Jake Lamb is in grave danger of getting overlooked by the players and managers as well.
After hitting six homers all of last year, the 25-year-old old has recorded seven this month. He's making smoldering contact with a 41.4 hard-hit rate.
Yet despite notching a .946 OPS for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he resides behind Matt Duffy and David Wright on the ballot.
Lamb must navigate a crowded crop of corner infielders to earn his first All-Star nod. A relatively unknown player until this year whose success is limited to righties, he'll have a difficult time punching a ticket to San Diego.
5. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 Stats: 300 PA, .298/.378/.519, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 47 R, 9 SB, 2.9 WAR
Gregory Polanco is at least on the leaderboard, but just barely. The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder trails Heyward, Jorge Soler, Hunter Pence and 10 others.
He also lags behind teammate Andrew McCutchen, who has struggled to get on track with a .243/.320/.423 slash line. If only the former MVP could donate those misguided votes to the 24-year-old, who is finally harnessing his untapped potential with a career-high 10 homers and 12.0 walk rate.
Polanco always showed promise, but his power didn't materialize until this season. The career .261 hitter is also making harder contact, upping his line-drive rate from 19.7 to 26.4 while producing less ground balls.
Throw in solid defense, and he has solidified his positioning as Pittsburgh's new all-around outfield stud. Soon enough, fans will catch on to his superstar ascension.
4. Wil Myers, 1B, San Diego Padres
2016 Stats: 320 PA, .286/.341/.528, 17 HR, 50 RBI, 49 R, 10 SB, 2.9 WAR
Oh, so this is why critics disliked the Wil Myers-James Shields trade that ended up working well for Kansas City.
Once a top prospect, Myers stumbled through two ineffective, injury-plagued years after a promising beginning in 2013. Before reaping the rewards of their earlier swap, the Tampa Bay Rays exchanged him in a three-team deal in which the Washington Nationals instead received Joe Ross and Trea Turner from the San Diego Padres.
With a clean bill of health and move to first base, the 25-year-old has belted a career-high 17 homers—10 in June. He has cut his strikeout percentage to 19.7 while elevating his contact rate.
Rizzo isn't as obvious a choice as his cavernous lead over Brandon Belt and Paul Goldschmidt suggests, but he wields the highest OPS (.965) among all qualified first basemen. Nevertheless, FanGraphs grades Myers with a superior WAR due to his baserunning and defensive advantages.
It's close enough to still justify Rizzo as the more deserving choice, but Myers is nowhere to be found on the leaderboard. He certainly warrants more consideration than Adrian Gonzalez, whose power has vanished with six homers and a .372 slugging percentage.
3. Ian Desmond, OF, Texas Rangers
2016 Stats: 318 PA, .322/.371/.527, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 53 R, 13 SB, 3.7 WAR
Nobody wanted Ian Desmond last winter, so he settled for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Texas Rangers in late February. Now he's a borderline MVP candidate.
Despite his stellar play, the converted outfielder has garnered less than half the votes of Mookie Betts, who recently attained the American League's third outfield spot. The former shortstop also trails the entire Royals outfield.
Somebody should alert fans of Desmond's career-best .371 on-base percentage and 135 wRC+ for the red-hot Rangers, who have accumulated an AL-best 48 victories. Or maybe just trade him to Kansas City so his vote tally doubles in two days.
Never before a .300 hitter, his average will eventually fall once his .388 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) normalizes. Yet the All-Star Game is about honoring players who have achieved the most during a limited sample size, not predicting future results.
The players should be smart enough to take notice, especially with Texas rolling and Desmond batting .359 since the end of April.
2. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2016 Stats: 313 PA, .306/.365/.471, 10 HR, 39 RBI, 47 R, 12 SB, 3.5 WAR
It's a good thing Xander Bogaerts is running away with the vote while morphing into a viable MVP candidate. Without him fending off the other underwhelming choices, the lack of respect afforded to Francisco Lindor would look far worse.
Last year, the Cleveland Indians shortstop narrowly lost an American League Rookie of the Year award he deserved to fellow first-year superstar Carlos Correa, who sits fifth on this year's All-Star ballot despite a less impressive sophomore year.
The other guys in between Bogaerts and Correa, however, are far more embarrassing. Alcides Escobar places second despite his .584 OPS. He makes Elvis Andrus look like Alex Rodriguez with his three home runs. Troy Tulowitzki, who missed three weeks of action with a quad injury, is hitting .217/.299/.418.
Meanwhile, Lindor continues to provide exceptional offense with Gold Glove-caliber defense at a premium position. For whatever reason, he has yet to resonate as a household name despite batting .310/.358/.478 with 22 homers, 24 steals and an 8.0 WAR over 171 career games.
On the bright side, the injustice ultimately won't matter, as Bogaerts will land the deserving nod with Lindor coming off the bench as an obvious reserve selection. Hopefully the fans will take notice and remember him for next year.
1. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins
2016 Stats: 299 PA, .320/.375/.574, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 47 R, 3.4 WAR
Angel Pagan has received more votes than Marcell Ozuna, who leads all National League outfielders in WAR.
Has anybody watched baseball and/or voted since April? After a slow first month, the 25-year-old has collected 68 hits—including nine doubles, three triples and 13 homers—in 51 contests. In a streak beginning in late April, he reached base in 36 straight games.
The Marlins star has a strong case to start the Midsummer Classic, but he's not even among the top 15 outfielders. That's good news for Chris Sale or Jose Quintana if one of the Chicago White Sox southpaws earns the start; Ozuna is hitting .406/.449/.844 against left-handed pitchers.
"I came in during the offseason and just tried to work hard and get in shape," Ozuna told Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel. "I just let it ride and have fun. It would be awesome to get picked to the All-Star Game. It would be something I've dreamed about."
He's a no-brainer for the National League's bench, but garnering more votes than Pagan, Pence and Soler would still be nice.
Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.