Ranking Cincinnati Reds' Best All-Star Game Candidates
The Cincinnati Reds' season hasn't quite gone the way the team and fans had hoped, but even despite having a losing record, the 2015 MLB All-Star Game hosts have several players who have made a strong bid to play in the Midsummer Classic.
No Cincinnati position player is in line to start this year's All-Star Game. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't a deserving candidate, like third baseman Todd Frazier.
Regardless of whether or not the Reds have a starter in the game shouldn't matter. The team is guaranteed to have at least one player selected to the National League team, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the hosts get three players on the squad.
Keep reading to find out which Reds players have made the best case to represent Cincinnati at the Midsummer Classic.
*All stats are via MLB.com. On Monday, the Reds tweeted out the latest NL voting update.
Honorable Mention: SS Zack Cozart
2015 stats: 53 G, .258/.310/.459, 9 HR, 10 2B, 1 3B, 28 RBI, 3 SB
Had it not been for an unfortunate injury, Zack Cozart could very well be in the conversation to be the starting shortstop for the NL.
There's no denying that Cozart struggled at the plate in 2014, but this season, the 29-year-old was putting up some strong numbers. His batting average started to tail off a bit and go back toward his career average (.245), but a .260 hitter who has some pop isn't too shabby for a shortstop.
Cozart's season ended on June 10 when he tore up his right knee while running out an infield grounder. Obviously his numbers no longer look great when compared to other shortstops, but he was on pace for some pretty big numbers.
The knee injury will cost him what could have been his first All-Star selection. Reds fans are just hoping that he can bounce back from the rough injury and be in the conversation this time next year.
5. 2B Brandon Phillips
2015 stats: 66 G, .287/.321/.382, 5 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B, 30 RBI, 11 SB
Despite dealing with numerous injuries—turf toe, a groin injury and hand injuries—this season, Brandon Phillips is putting together a great season.
The power numbers are no longer there, but at the same time, they don't have to be. Phillips is hitting at the top of the lineup, which means getting on base is all that matters. The 34-year-old is hitting near the .290 mark, which has helped the offense get going in recent weeks.
Before this season, there was a lot of talk that Phillips was "in decline." Well, he has responded to that criticism and is showing that age is just a number.
The three-time All-Star is facing stiff competition at his position. The Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon is having a phenomenal season, and then there are a couple of players, like the St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong and the San Francisco Giants' Joe Panik, who have put up very similar offensive numbers to Phillips.
Phillips is the best defensive second baseman in the game, so he does have that edge on his competition. However, that's probably not going to matter when it comes time to picking the squad.
There's no denying that Phillips has been having a very good season. The only problem is that there are plenty of other second basemen in the NL who are also having good years.
4. 1B Joey Votto
2015 stats: 73 G, .284/.394/.504, 14 HR, 13 2B, 2 3B, 36 RBI, 48 BB, 5 SB
After missing 100 games with a quad injury last season, Joey Votto is back and looking very similar to the player who won the 2010 NL Most Valuable Player Award.
Many were wondering how Votto would respond to his injury. He quickly showed that his power is still there and that he is capable of performing at the high standard that he has set throughout his career.
Votto has been streakier this season than he has been in years past. He hit seven home runs in April, two in May and five so far in June. As for his monthly average, it has gone from .317 to .253 to .286. The Votto that Reds fans have come to know has usually been fairly consistent—just not this year.
The 31-year-old first baseman has had a very good year, both offensively and defensively. When it comes to whether he deserves a trip to the All-Star Game, fans need to look at how other first basemen are doing this year. As usual, it's a loaded position.
The Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt has earned the starting spot with an outstanding first half (.349 average, 20 home runs and 62 RBI). After Goldschmidt, Votto has comparable numbers to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, the Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo and the Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman.
A stronger May would have given Votto a more legitimate case to make the NL team. That down month has hurt his overall numbers and will likely cost him a fifth All-Star selection.
3. SP Johnny Cueto
2015 stats: 14 GS, 96.2 IP, 4-5, 2.98 ERA, 72 H (11 HR), 92 K/19 BB, 0.941 WHIP
Johnny Cueto is once again pitching like Johnny Cueto.
Does anything else really need to be said?
The 29-year-old is likely entering his final handful of starts in a Reds uniform, especially since he is pitching like a pitcher who wants to get paid at the end of the season. While he may not be quite as dominant as he was last year, he is still pitching very, very well.
Cueto has gone at least six innings in all but one start this season, with 10 of those starts lasting at least seven innings. He's had a few rough starts, but he is human.
Cincinnati will eventually face a tough decision on what to do with Cueto. They can trade him and get something back for him, or they can hold onto him for the rest of the season and risk only getting a draft pick for him. Regardless of what the club does, it's likely that no decision will be made until after the Midsummer Classic.
The Reds would love to have Cueto make the squad and be in the conversation to start the All-Star Game. Realistically, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer is probably the favorite to start the game. Even if he doesn't, there are a list of pitchers who have a case as good as, if not better than, Cueto.
It's fun to wonder whether Cueto might start the All-Star Game. The truth is, he's no lock to even make the squad. He's having a great year, no doubt. There are just a ton of pitchers who are also deserving to be selected to the team.
2. Closer Aroldis Chapman
2015 stats: 33 G, 32.1 IP, 3-3, 15 Saves, 1.95 ERA, 23 H (1 HR), 56 K/19 BB, 1.299 WHIP
When home-field advantage in the World Series is on the line, a manager wants the best reliever in the game to come in and face the best the other league has to offer.
For the National League, that's the Cuban Missile.
Aroldis Chapman, outside of a rough May in which he suffered three defeats, has once again been one of the best relievers in baseball. There's no doubt that his stuff is as good as ever.
There are a quite a few relievers who have put together statistically strong seasons. St. Louis' Trevor Rosenthal and the New York Mets' Jeurys Familia are among the relievers who are having great seasons. Even Chapman's teammate J.J. Hoover is putting up All-Star-caliber numbers.
Even though there are plenty of relievers who are putting up great numbers, there aren't many left-handers who can match Chapman's stats—or stuff.
Unless Chapman is hurt or just can't throw strikes in a given season, a manager would be crazy not to include the southpaw on the All-Star roster. Especially this year, when the game is in Cincinnati. Chapman has allowed just three earned runs in 20.2 innings at Great American Ball Park this season.
It would be pretty surprising to see Chapman left off the NL squad. The eye test says that he is the best reliever in baseball. If the NL needs to close out a victory, bringing in Chapman would be the best pitcher to do the job, and the stadium would be rocking.
1. 3B Todd Frazier
2015 stats: 73 G, .290/.353/.625, 25 HR, 21 2B, 1 3B, 53 RBI, 8 SB
If the Reds were in control of a playoff spot, Todd Frazier would be in the NL MVP conversation. The team is not in contention, and in turn, Frazier is not even the All-Star Game fan vote at his position.
Frazier currently sits first in extra-base hits, second in home runs, fifth in RBI and seventh in doubles. That's out of every player in the majors, not just NL third basemen. The Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado (.293 average, 24 home runs, 68 RBI) is having just as good of a season as Frazier, but he's not the one projected to start for NL at third base.
The St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter (.280/.378/.461, eight home runs, 20 doubles and one triple) is currently winning the fan vote. While Carpenter is having another good season, his numbers don't compare to either Frazier or Arenado.
Frazier is not currently in line to start the All-Star Game, but if he doesn't win the fan vote, there is always the chance that he is the NL's designated hitter. It would just be a shame if he doesn't wind up being the starting third baseman and giving the hometown crowd someone to cheer for from the start.
Frazier, an All-Star Game ambassador, is a virtual lock to make the team. Not only that, the 2014 Home Run Derby runner-up will also (barring injury) be taking part in this year's derby. With injuries to the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton and the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper (and his father), it would be interesting to see if Frazier would ask either Votto or Jay Bruce to join him in the Derby.
There's no doubt that Frazier is going to be a big part of All-Star Weekend. However, it's up to the fans to make sure Frazier is rewarded for a big first half by voting him into the starting lineup.