Alright, fans, one league down and one more to go. So far, in the NL at least, the polls look good, with fans voting for the players worthy of starting the All-Star Game rather than picking their favorites or guys getting the most media attention. A little over three weeks remain for fans to vote before the polls close, and now is the time to help players increase or shrink any gaps in the polls.
If the voting were to end today, the NL would have an exceptionally scary lineup for the AL to have to face, minus Scooter Gennett, who’s in third place among the second baseman behind Ozzie Albies and Javier Baez. After looking at the NL, it’s time to look and see how the AL lineups would look today if the voting ended and grade how the fans are doing overall.
1 Catcher: Gary Sanchez
New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez may not be leading the polls by a lot but the fact he’s even in the conversation to be in the All-Star Game is the biggest joke ever. What first appeared to be a slow start for Sanchez has turned into how much longer before manager Aaron Boone benches his lazy catcher, who is once again proving to be a defensive liability, and sticks with backup Austin Romine for regular plate duties. He’s hitting .190 on the year and is 4 for 78 since May 21. Yes, 4 for 78 in the last three weeks. A lot of that has to do with bad luck, as his BABIP is a lowly .197, but that's not the point.
How Sanchez leads the polls among catchers amazes me and to put things into perspective, of the 159 players that qualify for the batting title, Sanchez is the sixth worst hitter in all of baseball and fourth worst in the AL. It’s an embarrassment that Sanchez is even in the All-Star Game conversation and if fans continue to put his name in over a guy like Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, who’s hitting .285 and lead all AL catchers in hitting, it will prove my point that allowing the fans to vote needs to be revisited.
2 First Base: Jose Abreu
I know I said Jose Abreu is the most deserving first baseman in the AL to start the All-Star Game, but Mitch Moreland of the Boston Red Sox is continuing to show why he deserves the nod. It’s good to see Abreu, who plays for a 22-42 Chicago White Sox club leading the way in the votes. His .286 batting average and 10 home runs are very respectful and one can only imagine that those numbers will go up, but Abreu hasn’t gotten off to a great start in June, hitting .256 with one home run since June 1.
Moreland, however, has looked like an All-Star for most of the year and now that Hanley Ramirez is out of the picture, Moreland is getting the chance to play every day for a Red Sox team looking to win their third consecutive AL East title. Moreland isn’t a qualifier in hitting for the AL yet, but he has the third-best batting average among first baseman at .287 and the 32-year-old is still looking for his first career All-Star Game appearance.
Abreu and Moreland are worthy choices to start for the AL and as of now, it’s a toss-up, meaning voting for either player wouldn’t make a fan right or wrong, although Moreland might have the slight advantage over Abreu.
3 Second Base: Jose Altuve
This shouldn’t shock anybody who watches baseball. Jose Altuve is the greatest second baseman in the game right now and like Mike Trout, as long as he’s wearing a uniform, he should always be considered a participant in the All-Star Game. His .336 batting average ranks third in the AL and best among all second baseman. The Astros are still very much in the mix for the AL West and another postseason berth, which would be their third in four years.
Altuve doesn’t have a lot of competition to work within the polls either, and his 701,000-plus votes aren’t even the most for a player so far this year. Altuve is 422,000 votes ahead of Yankees rookie phenom Gleyber Torres, who is really the only player worth considering, just to the slightest degree, to start over Altuve in the All-Star Game. Altuve’s 400,000 plus more votes over Torres should make him an easy lock to start the All-Star Game for the fifth year in a row.
4 Shortstop: Manny Machado
Manny Machado may play for the worst team in baseball in the Baltimore Orioles, but nobody deserves to start the All-Star Game more than a guy who’s riding out the storm for a terrible team. After hitting .259 last year Machado has had an incredible bounce back 2018 campaign, hitting .311 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI, which is second behind JD Martinez.
Machado isn’t a lock at this point to start, as he is only 110,000 votes ahead of Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is also just as worthy of starting the All-Star Game. Voting for Lindor isn’t the worst option for fans either but going by the numbers, Machado has been the better player overall. Like I’ve said before, a team’s place in the standings means nothing with picking starters for the All-Star Game.
5 Third Base: Jose Ramirez
Jose Ramirez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball this year, hitting .290 with 19 home runs. He’s also upped his walks while cutting down his strikeouts this year and has kept an underachieving Cleveland Indians team in first place in a weak AL Central. The switch-hitting third baseman has been a force in the lineup, posting a WAR of 4.4 this year.
Ramirez started his first ever All-Star Game last year, and he’s an early favorite once again according to the polls, leading by over 224,000 votes to the second place Miguel Andujar. As long as Ramirez is still producing with the bat and helping the Indians win, he should continue to be every fan's first choice at third base.
6 Left Field: Aaron Judge
Though Aaron Judge isn’t the best player in the AL outfield that should start the All-Star Game, he’s also a player that can’t get overlooked. It’s hard to blame the fans for voting in last year’s Home Run Derby champion over someone like Eddie Rosario, who’s a disappointing 14th in voting and playing for a small market Minnesota Twins team. Fans could still do a better job in giving Rosario more votes but if Judge ends up starting the All-Star Game, which seems likely as he leads fourth place Michael Brantley by over 303,000 votes, it wouldn’t be a disappointment.
Judge has had his fair share of struggles this year, setting a league record in strikeouts in a doubleheader with eight and striking out in 30 percent of his at-bats, but he’s also done things that are All-Star worthy. He’s hit 18 home runs this year and appears to be on pace to hit at least 40 and he’s posted a .396 OBP with a .271 batting average. Judge may strike out a lot, but he also takes his fair share of walks, posting a walk rate of 16.8% this year. With that said, fans voting for Judge is a good option, even though there are players more deserving of starting over him.
7 Center Field: Mike Trout
I’ll keep this one short because the fans already know what will be said. As long as Mike Trout is playing, one should always consider him a starter if they cast their vote in the All-Star Game ballot. Trout hit his MLB-leading 22nd and 23rd home runs last night and is hitting .310 on the year to go along with a .438 OBP.
Trout missed last year’s game even though fans voted him in to start, but the six-time All-Star is about to start his sixth All-Star Game in seven appearances and he’ll also be looking to win his third All-Star MVP Award.
8 Right Field: Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts leads all players in the league in votes with nearly 750,000 after a week-and-a-half of voting. Even with a two-week stint on the DL that ended Monday, Betts is still the best hitter in baseball with a .354 batting average and .431 OBP. Betts had a rough season last year in which he only hit .264, but he’s found his offensive stroke once again and also looks like a heavy favorite for the AL MVP Award.
Betts’s 17 home runs are tied for seventh in the league and he’s five home runs away from 100 for his career. He also hit three home runs in one game not once but twice already this season, and it’s not the first time he’s accomplished that feat twice in the same season either, also doing it in 2016. With Betts looking better than ever in his young career, it’s only fitting that fans give him the most love. Barring injury or suspension it’s a sure bet that Betts will be the starting right fielder in Washington DC next month.
9 Designated Hitter: JD Martinez
JD Martinez has arguably been the best power hitter in the league since 2015 in terms of ability to hit and get on base. He’s left off from where he finished last season when he hit 29 home runs in a 10-week stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks, which added to the 16 he hit with the Detroit Tigers to start the year and sits second behind Trout in home runs with 21. Martinez has been the answer to the power issues the Red Sox had last season and he’s also shown his ability to get on base and hit.
Martinez is hitting .313 on the year and has posted a .381 OBP while leading the league in RBI with 54. Since 2015, Martinez has a .298 batting average with 126 home runs and an OBP of .365. Like most power hitters, his strikeout rate is high at 25.8% and his walk rate is lower than some might like at 9.5%, but Martinez routinely gets on base when he makes contact, posting a .346 BABIP in his career. Martinez has made an impact with the Red Sox and throughout the league, and he couldn’t be more deserving to start his first ever All-Star Game in his second selection.
Overall Grade: B
Unlike the NL fans, AL fans haven’t given those players worthy of starting the All-Star Game enough love to earn an A. It would be a different story if Gary Sanchez wasn’t leading AL catchers in the polls but it’s okay, fans have plenty of time to make things right. There are many positions that cases could be heard for multiple players to start at different positions, which is awesome to see, but fans will surely be tested over the next few weeks with voting in the right player to start the Midsummer Classic next month. AL fans, not a bad job so far, but take advantage of the time that’s left to get those who deserve to be in the All-Star Game in the game.
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