Thursday, June 29, 2017

My AL All-Star Picks

Houston's double-play combo deserves to start the All-Star Game (
All-Star voting ends at midnight tonight, which means it's time to cast those last-minute votes for the Midsummer Classic if you haven't already. Here are mine, with all stats through June 28:

C Alex Avila
Gary Sanchez is a bigger star, Salvador Perez has larger counting stats, and Brian McCann is having a vintage season, but Avila has been the American League's top catcher in the first half with a .321/.435/.597 slash line (174 wRC+) in 191 plate appearances (only 14 fewer than Sanchez). He's been the best-hitting backstop in baseball this year and leads AL receivers in fWAR with 2.4 (nobody else has more than 1.9), making him a fairly easy choice.

The only problem is Avila's not on the ballot, so I have to write him in. This is the problem with starting All-Star voting in April, as James McCann was Detroit's primary catcher at the time with Avila relegated to backup duties. Their roles have flipped, however, due to McCann's slow start and
Avila's monstrous performance.

Avila's resurgence has been one of the biggest surprises of the first half given that he'd batted just .222/.337/.362 from 2012-2016, making his 2011 All-Star nod look like a fluke and distant memory. Now 30, he's looking like a Comeback Player of the Year candidate after playing fewer than 70 games in a backup role each of the past two seasons.

1B Logan Morrison
Tough call here between LoMo, Yonder Alonso and Justin Smoak, since all three have almost identical batting lines. I immediately eliminated Smoak on the basis of his home park being much friendlier, then give Morrison the edge over Alonso for sustaining his performance over an additional 50 plate appearances (roughly 1/6 of the season thus far). It's also a point in Morrison's favor that his 22 dingers are tops for an AL first-sacker.

2B Jose Altuve
Altuve enjoys a comfortable lead in fWAR at the position with 3.5 -- more than a win higher than anyone else. His traditional stats back it up, as he's slashing .328/.402/.527 (150 wRC+ -- the highest for a qualified second baseman) with 11 homers and 14 steals.

3B Jose Ramirez
Miguel Sano should have been the pick here, but a .167/.242/.333 slump since June 9 has caused his OPS to fall more than 100 points, allowing the surging Ramirez to edge ahead:

Ramirez: .322/.377/.557 145 wRC+ .391 wOBA 2.9 fWAR
Sano:      .274/.375/.548 140 wRC+ .384 wOBA 2.3 fWAR

Ramirez is also a superior fielder and has maintained his numbers over 25 more PA's, so Sano would need to have a significant offensive lead to wrestle the spot away. This is a good example of why you should wait until the last possible moment to vote, as a few good or bad weeks can dramatically alter a player's candidacy.

SS Carlos Correa
Francisco Lindor jumped out to an early lead and Xander Bogaerts isn't far behind, but Correa's recovered from a slow start to lead AL shortstops in a host of categories, including counting stats like fWAR (2.8), homers (14, tied with Lindor), runs (52) and RBIs (49), as well as rate stats such as slugging (.514), OPS (.900), wRC+ (141), and wOBA (.380).

OF Aaron Judge

OF Mike Trout
Hasn't played in a month, but he was so good during his first two months that he still deserves a spot. He's been an All-Star every year since 2012, so let's preserve the streak.

OF George Springer
Has as many fWAR as Trout, albeit in 27 more games and 126 additional plate appearances. Still, it's not too often he'll be able to say that. There's a pretty big drop-off from Judge and Trout to Springer, but then there's another big drop-off from Springer, making him an easy choice for the third spot.

DH Corey Dickerson
Dickerson's rate stats are almost identical to Springer's. He's batting a robust .333/.373/.583 (154 wRC+) with a league-leading 103 hits, including 17 homers. He's producing like he did at Coors Field, except now he plays his home games in Tampa Bay's hitter's graveyard. The DH field is wide open this year without David Ortiz, and Edwin Encarnacion is still digging himself out from a miserable start. Dickerson's .381 BABIP suggests he won't necessarily be an All-Star in the second half, but right now he's the obvious choice.

If fans got to pick the starting pitcher, my vote would go to Chris Sale.

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