As the MLB season enters mid-June and the build-up towards the MLB All-Star Game mounts, several deserving players will receive a spot on the roster for the Midsummer Classic. Several players will also end up in Washington DC based on their reputation and performance in prior seasons. Additionally, several players have played close to an All-Star level of performance or should play in this year’s game, but will not. Next year, however, is a different story.
Thus, let’s take a look at a few of those players who are close and will more than likely appear at the 2019 All-Star Game as representatives for the American League team.
1 Teoscar Hernandez
Before getting to Teoscar Hernandez’s scary good batted ball profile, take a moment to imagine a Houston Astros lineup with Teoscar Hernandez in it. The Astros already have one of the scariest lineups in baseball, and they could have started Hernandez in left-field if they had not traded him away at the deadline last year. The Astros traded away one of the best young bats in the game, and they still have one of the best lineups and one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.
Regarding hitting the ball well, Hernandez is already one of the best in the league. According to the Statcast data at Baseball Savant, he has hit a barrel, a batted ball that historically has at least a .500 batting average and a 1.500 slugging percent, in 12.6% of his plate appearances. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, Hernandez is fourth in the majors behind Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, and Max Muncy, and just ahead of Mike Trout, Joey Gallo, John Ryan Murphy, and Brandon Belt. Hernandez already has a 124 wRC+, so if he strikes out less and walks more, he could become one of the best hitters in the game.
2 Matt Chapman
Defensively, the A’s have another Nolan Arenado. Seriously, look at some of these plays.
From a statistical perspective, has already proven himself as one of the best defenders in the game. He has the second highest UZR/150 among third basemen, saving 14.5 more runs than an average third baseman would save per 150 defensive games. DRS comes to a similar conclusion about his defensive prowess as he leads all players in the majors with 18 Defensive Runs Saved. Even though defensive stats need three seasons to show a player’s true defensive ability, faking and lucking into this level of performance is nearly impossible. This version of Matt Chapman more than likely resembles the average version of Matt Chapman.
While Chapman’s bat does not quite match the level of his glove, Chapman is not an offensive sinkhole. Although he does not provide lots of hits with a .254 batting average this season, Chapman has above-average power. In 2018, he has a .454 SLG and a .200 ISO compared to the .413 SLG and .161 ISO for the average AL hitter. Chapman’s power also has room to grow. His hard-hit rate, or batted balls with an exit velocity great than 95 miles per hour, sits at 45.6%, ranking him 35th among all hitters with at least 100 batted ball events. And like Muncy, Chapman has demonstrated exceptional patience at the plate. In the minors, he recorded a BB% great than 10.5% at every single level past High-A, and he has continued that trend with an 11.3% BB% this season.
Chapman deserves to play in the All-Star Game, but he did not appear in the initial vote tallies for the AL in the voting update this past Sunday. If he does not get the opportunity this July, he will more than likely get to play in July 2019.
3 Jeimer Candelario
The Detroit Tigers looked poised for a massive rebuild, but they have put together more than respectable performance and Jeimer Candelario has contributed significantly to the Tigers' success. He currently leads the Tigers in WAR with a mark of 2.0, so he also should get a look into the All-Star game this season. Still, Nick Castellanos or Leonys Martin will more than likely represent Detroit at the Midsummer Classic next month.
At the dish, Candelario has been the Tigers’ most productive hitter with a 130 wRC+. He also leads the team with 10 home runs, .239 ISO, and .498 SLG, though those numbers might decline. His expected slugging percentage, which assigns a slugging percentage to a batted ball based on previous batted balls exit velocity and launch angles, currently sits 59 points below his actual slugging percentage. His hard rate of 38.0% does not strike fear into opponents, while his average exit velocity of 87.6 MPH sits below the league average of 88.1 MPH.
But while he has outperformed his power numbers slightly, he has shown patience at the plate. He has a BB% of 10.3% and a 27.8% swing rate at pitches outside of the zone. Regarding defense, he has shown an average to above average ability at third base with a 3.9 UZR/150 and a 0 DRS.
Candelario might not currently have the same stat line as Chapman, but Candelario is younger than Chapman. The two of them, along with Miguel Andujar, should battle for the third base spot in the All-Star Game for years to come.
4 Yoan Moncada
As the centerpiece of the Chris Sale trade and a player who received a 70-grade prospect rating, Moncada should expect to find himself on this list. Fortunately for the White Sox, Moncada has lived up to expectations so far.
Moncada has a low .232 BA and K% of 35.4, fourth in the AL, which might discourage a few White Sox fans, but Moncada plays in the present day where striking out does not matter as much. And like other hitters, he makes up for the lack of hits and loads of strikeouts with his power and his ability to draw walks. His average exit velocity of 92.1 MPH and his hard hit rate of 47.1% rank 21st and 24th in the majors among all hitters with at least 100 batted ball events. His walk rate currently sits at 9.3%, a full one percent above the AL average, and he has had a walk rate above 11.5% at every stop in the minors, he has the tools to be a productive hitter for years to come.
5 Eduardo Rodriguez
The Red Sox’s fourth starter has quietly constructed a quality season up to this point. He sports a 3.64 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 3.67 xFIP, all very solid numbers. Over the last three seasons, Rodriguez has incrementally improved his strikeout rate from 21.8% in 2016 to 26.6% in 2018. Both his changeup and his fastball generate a tremendous amount of swings and misses. Hitters whiff on 37.8% of their swings at his changeup, good enough for 30th in the majors among pitchers who had generated at least 50 swings at changeups.
As for his fastball, which Statcast (Baseball Savant) data classified as a two-seamer but Pitchf/x (Brooks Baseball) and Baseball Info Solutions (FanGraphs) data classified as a four-seamer, it generates whiffs on 30.6% of swings. That whiff rate ranked first in the entire majors among pitchers who generated at least 100 swings at two-seamers. Rodriguez has slowly developed into a quality starter, and he could break out into a dominant starting pitching worthy of an All-Star Game appearance by July 2019.
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