B/R MLB Featured Columnist Poll: Who Should Be the All-Star Starters for the AL?
Hard though it may be to believe, we are already more than halfway to the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.
Of course, the All-Star Game would be a lot better if the most deserving players were the ones who got to play. But the fans cast their ballots for the biggest names, the players pick guys they like watching, and the managers take as many of their own players as humanly possible. Hence the annual snubbing of some of the game's best players, like Ryan Zimmerman, Kelly Johnson and Francisco Liriano in 2010.
Luckily, there is one group who dares to challenge the Midsummer Classic's reputation as a popularity contest: Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists.
Last week, 33 of B/R's top baseball writers held a mock All-Star vote to see who really deserves to start in the Midsummer Classic. Today, we take a look at the results for the American League (NL to come Friday).
In this slideshow are the vote totals at each position, along with commentary from the writers explaining why they made their picks.
Be sure to let us know who we got wrong!
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
1. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS—70 percent
2. Miguel Cabrera, DET—21 percent
3. Paul Konerko, CWS—6 percent
4. Mark Teixeira, NYY—3 percent
On Gonzalez (by Jeffrey Brown)
Gonzalez has been everything the Boston Red Sox could have hoped for—and more. He is among a handful of players who have a legitimate claim to AL MVP over the first two months of the season. And, with apologies to Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko, he is the unequivocal All-Star first baseman thus far.
He leads all of baseball in runs batted in, leads all AL first basemen in batting average, is second among AL first basemen in runs scored and is third among AL first basemen in home runs.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees; and Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
T1. Robinson Cano, NYY—36 percent
T1. Ben Zobrist, TB—36 percent
3. Howie Kendrick, LAA—24 percent
4. Orlando Cabrera, CLE—3 percent
On Cano (by Shaun McPartlin)
Robinson Cano has been compared to the great Rod Carew. His swing is fluid and effortless and he makes plays in the field that some could only dream about.
While the rest of the Yankees have stumbled at times, Cano has proven to be a constant thorn in the opposition's side day in and day out. His skill set makes him a lock to be a name thrown around each year during MVP conversations.
That is what makes a player an All-Star and that is exactly what Robinson Cano is to the Yankees—irreplaceable.
On Zobrist (by Jordan Schwartz)
Entering Monday night's action, Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist leads all American League second baseman with 31 runs scored, 28 RBIs, 14 doubles and two triples. He's also second with 24 walks, eight home runs, a .509 slugging percentage and an .858 OPS.
The Rays have exceeded most expectations so far this year and Zobrist, who leads the team in runs, RBIs and long balls, is one of the main reasons why.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE—80 percent
2. Jhonny Peralta, DET—12 percent
T3. Elvis Andrus, BOS—4 percent
T3. Jed Lowrie, BOS—4 percent
Note: Maicer Izturis (LAA) received a large number of votes, but they were not counted because he is listed as a third baseman on the ballot. Either way, Cabrera would have won.
On Cabrera (by Barrett Hansen)
The 25-year-old shortstop is a big, and largely unheralded reason for Cleveland’s surprising start in 2011. His average, OBP and slugging percentage are all team highs. His 33 runs and 34 RBI are both best for AL shortstops and top five in the AL overall. He provides nice pop from the two-hole—his 10 home runs, .548 slugging percentage and .919 OPS lead AL shortstops.
Cabrera’s incredibly cool first name, all-around excellence and integral role on the major-league-best Cleveland Indians make him a clear All-Star in 2011.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
1. Adrian Beltre, TEX—68 percent
T2. Alex Rodriguez, NYY—13 percent
T2. Kevin Youkilis, BOS—13 percent
T4. Alberto Callaspo, LAA—3 percent
T4. Maicer Izturis, LAA—3 percent
On Beltre (by Jeremiah Graves)
Although his .257/.306/.480 batting line doesn’t appear overly impressive on the surface, his .787 OPS ranks fourth overall behind Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and Wilson Betemit. This despite Beltre’s .234 BABIP, which is dragging down his otherwise very solid counting stats that have been accompanied by his usual stellar glove. The aforementioned third basemen all have BABIPs of .314, .327 and .392, respectively.
Beltre is the best of the bunch and deserves the start over his far more brittle (and lucky) contemporaries.
Catcher: Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
Leon Halip/Getty Images
1. Alex Avila, DET—52 percent
2. Russell Martin, NYY—33 percent
T3. Carlos Santana, CLE—6 percent
T3. Matt Wieters, BAL—6 percent
5. Kurt Suzuki, OAK—3 percent
On Avila (by Sean Zerillo)
Do you know that Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers current paces all major league backstops in OPS, with a mark of .870? His triple slash line is a sound .286/.354/.516 with nine doubles, six homers and a couple of steals, and he’s tied for third in caught stealing percentage; gunning down 38.5 percent of base runners.
Avila has been a big help towards getting the Tigers over .500. If he stays on this pace, he should be starting in Arizona in July.
Designated Hitter—Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians; Michael Young, Texas Rangers
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
T1. Travis Hafner, CLE—39 percent
T1. Michael Young, TEX—39 percent
3. David Ortiz, BOS—13 percent
4. Victor Martinez, DET—6 percent
5. Jason Kubel, MIN—3 percent
On Hafner (by Lewie Pollis)
There’s something exciting going on in Pronkville. Travis Hafner is on pace for his best season in five years, with a scorching .345/.409/.549 slashline (166 wRC+). In 32 games, he’s popped five homers and 22 RBI for the best-in-baseball Cleveland Indians.
Despite playing in 15 fewer games, Hafner is within 0.1 WAR of DH leader Michael Young, and his OPS is 70 points higher. So what if he’s gotten a bit lucky? A DH’s job is to hit, and no one’s done that better than Pronk.
On Young (by Evan Bruschini)
After offseason turmoil, Michael Young has once again emerged as one of the premier hitters in the American League, no matter what position he plays. Young has been a force as the new DH.
He's currently leading the league in doubles (16) and is third in triples (3). He is fourth in the league in batting average (.348). He currently ranks either first or second among designated hitters in average, OBP, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, triples, runs, and RBI.
Outfielder No. 1: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
1. Jose Bautista, TOR—33 percent
2. Curtis Granderson, NYY—25 percent
3. Matt Joyce, TB—15 percent
T4. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS—9 percent
T4. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA—9 percent
6. Jeff Francoeur, KC—3 percent
T7. Michael Brantley, CLE—2 percent
T7. Alex Gordon, KC—2 percent
9. Carlos Quentin, CWS—1 percent
On Bautista (by Brent Nault)
In the offseason, critics reflected upon Bautista's magical 2010 season and essentially called it a fluke; predicting he would never again post such numbers. Bautista has been even better this season than he was last year.
Bautista is hitting a ridiculous .353 with a major league leading 19 home runs and has driven in 32 runs. The great leadership he provides on and off the field and his sensational numbers make him extraordinarily deserving of an All-Star spot.
Outfielder No. 2: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
Michael Heiman/Getty Images
On Granderson (by Anthony Lifrieri)
Curtis Granderson is playing with a purpose, and is one of the biggest reasons the Yankees are in contention. Granderson is playing complete baseball, bringing it offensively and defensively. Take a look at these stats: second in the league in homers (16), fourth in RBIs (34), second in runs (35), third in SLG (.607) and sixth in OPS (.942).
Granderson is also playing a stellar centerfield, and also has 4 stolen bases. Granderson is a true centerfielder, and possibly the best in the game right now, making him an obvious choice for the Midsummer Classic.
Outfielder No. 3: Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays
On Joyce (by Zachary Ball)
Sometimes all a player needs is a chance.
Like Jose Bautista circa 2010, Tampa's Matt Joyce has flourished with regular playing time for the first time in his career. First, the 26-year old hit .321 in April, chipping in with some timely hits, a few home runs and a couple of steals. He elevated his play in May, to the tune of a .411/.478/.804 line. He has five home runs and 14 RBI for the month, giving him seven and 23 for the season.
Joyce has been the Rays’ most consistent force on offense.