We’re currently about a month and a half away from MLB’s Midsummer Classic, and Major League Baseball put out their second update of voting leaders this week. As is the case every year, the fans are giving us a few head-scratchers amongst the leaderboard.
So, I have taken it upon myself to name myself the “Czar of All Star Voting” and I will be here to grade you, America, on this most serious of responsibilities as fans: the election of players (who probably won’t play) to MLB’s most (read: least) exciting game of the year! Remember! This time it counts! We’ll start with the AL. (Stats through Mon, June 1)
First Base: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera through 51 games is currently slashing .333/.441/.579, and his 1.020 OPS leads any qualified first baseman in the American League. In fact, Cabrera ranks in the top 5 among first baseman in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and runs scored. Miggy’s track record is very well known, and it’s hard to argue with the fans on this one.
However, look out for Prince Fielder. Even though he has played the vast majority of his games at DH, Fielder is still listed as a first baseman on the ballot. After a relatively slow start to his 2015 campaign, Prince has shown that he is fully recovered from last season’s neck surgery and he is back to his old form. For the month of May, Prince had 9 HRs, and 28 RBIs, while slashing.377/.430/.656. Prince leads the American league in batting average (.359) and hits (74) and is second in RBI’s (38). Fielder, who was not in the top-5 when the first ballot update was released last week, has made up some ground and is currently third in votes but is trailing Miggy by a substantial margin.
Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals was second in the voting, trailing Cabrera by about 70,000 votes. Hosmer is currently enjoying the best season of his young career, however, first base is a crowded field, and he trails Miggy and Prince (and a few others) in a lot of the major offensive categories. Rounding out the top-5 is Mark Teixeira and Albert Pujols.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 2,123,752
2. Eric Hosmer, Royals: 2,053,237
3. Prince Fielder, Rangers: 580,739
4. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 525,935
5. Albert Pujols, Angels: 351,945
Second Base: Jose Altuve
Altuve enjoyed a fantastic 2014 season, winning the batting title and leading the league in hits. His 2015 is much more in line with his career numbers, though. Which isn’t to say that he is a bad player by any means. Altuve is still hitting .296 with 5 HRs, 25 RBIs, and 15 SBs, and he leads his next closest competitor by almost 600,000 votes. Altuve’s 25 RBI’s are tied with the Twins Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis for the lead among qualified players at the keystone, and his 15 steals are the most for any player in the American League regardless of position.
One oddity in the early season voting is who currently trails Altuve: Omar Infante. Clearly, the Royals must have had a serious “Get Out the Vote” campaign because there are Royals players in the top-2 in votes for every position (including 3 of the top-5 outfielders). Infante is the most curious, though, because he ranks at or near the bottom in almost every offensive category among qualified second basemen. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jason Kipnis who, like Prince Fielder, was outside the top-5 at the time of the first update is fourth in votes. Kipnis’s .940 OPS is almost 100 points higher than any other second baseman, and his 70 hits are second most in the entire league, behind the aforementioned Fielder. His 3.4 WAR leads all position players in the AL, and only trails Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel for the overall league lead. The rest of the top-5 is Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia.
1. Jose Altuve, Astros: 2,020,143
2. Omar Infante, Royals: 1,442,990
3. Ian Kinsler, Tigers: 537,849
4. Jason Kipnis, Indians: 504,909
5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 503,821
Third Base: Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas, leading all AL third basemen in voting by almost a million votes, is another Royal who is currently enjoying the best season of his young career. Moustakas has, ahem, turned a corner in his young career by learning how to take the ball the other way. After pulling the ball at a career-high 50.5% clip last season, Moustakas has cut his pull rate to 35.7% and almost every percentage point he shaved from his pull rate has gone to hitting the ball the opposite way. His opposite field rate has gone up from 21.4% last year to 35% this year. Not surprisingly, Moustakas’s batting average has seen a significant boost because of this new approach. Moose leads all AL third basemen in batting average (.320) and OBP (.375).
Josh Donaldson trails Moustakas by roughly 900,000 votes, but is having a much better season than Moustakas by most measurements. Donaldson leads Moustakas in both Baseball Reference WAR (3.2 to 2.4) and FanGraphs WAR (3.2 to 2.0), and his .976 OPS is 121 points higher than the Royals’ third baseman. Donaldson, who just won AL player of the week, is enjoying his move to the Rodgers Centre. At home, Donaldson is hitting .375 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI’s. On the road, his numbers drop precipitously, to a .245 average and 5 homers and 16 RBI’s in nearly as many plate appearances. While it’s highly unlikely that the average voter knows these statistics, it is definitely worth mentioning.
Pablo Sandoval, Manny Machado, and Adrian Beltre round out the top-5. Curiously, though, is the absence of Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe. Plouffe’s .841 OPS is third best in the league for qualified players at the hot corner, and his 29 RBI’s trail only Donaldson. One might initially chalk it up to Plouffe playing on a bad team in a small market, and while the small market part of that argument is correct, the Twins have been surging in the month of May and are currently in first place in the AL Central division. If he keeps this up, Plouffe definitely deserves to be a part of the festivities in Cincinnati.
1. Mike Moustakas, Royals: 2,385,024
2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 1,496,065
3. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox: 483,807
4. Manny Machado, Orioles: 419,979
5. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 412,404
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Escobar is having a decent enough season, for a shortstop. He’s hitting .276 with 45 hits, 2 home runs, 17 RBIs, and 3 steals in 39 games. Meh…. If Jose Iglesias was qualified for the batting average title, he would actually be third in the AL with his .338 average, and his .396 OBP would place him 6th on the junior circuit.
Third in votes is A’s rookie Marcus Semien. Semien’s defensive woes have been widely publicized, But his offensive production at the position can’t be ignored. His .283/.326/.444 slash line are all tops among qualified shortstops, as are his 6 home runs and 26 runs. He even has 7 stolen bases, to boot. Jed Lowrie and Xander Bogaerts round out the top-5. Shortstop, in the AL, is a pretty unexciting position….
1. Alcides Escobar, Royals: 2,269,046
2. Jose Iglesias, Tigers: 1,277,655
3. Marcus Semien, A’s: 630,167
4. Jed Lowrie, Astros: 511,714
5. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: 327,682
Catcher: Salvador Perez
The Royals backstop leads all vote getters at his position by almost 1.3 million votes despite having the lowest OPS and FanGraphs WAR of any qualified player at his position. Granted, there are only 4 “qualified” players at catcher, but it certainly does bear mentioning. Perez has a .281/.291/.439 slash line, along with 6 home runs and 25 RBI’s.
The A’s Stephen Vogt, who is enjoying a breakout 2015 campaign, is currently in second place in the voting. Vogt leads all catchers (besides the O’s Steve Clevinger, who has played in 2 games) with a .322 average, .411 OBP and a 1.022 OPS. Vogt also leads all AL catchers with 11 homers and 38 RBI’s, and he even has 2 triples on the year. His 2.7 BRef WAR is also the 5th highest among all AL position players. If Vogt isn’t voted in (and he should be), he most certainly will be on the AL squad.
Third in the voting is Russell Martin — another Blue Jay who is enjoying his new home stadium (though, not to the extent that Josh Donaldson is), with a .922 OPS at home that’s 133 points higher than when he is on the road. Overall, his .855 OPS is second highest among catchers who have played more than 5 games The aforementioned Clevinger (2 games), and Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (5) have higher, but they don’t (and shouldn’t) count towards this exercise. Brian McCann and the Orioles’ Caleb Joseph round out the top-5.
1. Salvador Perez, Royals: 2,681,063
2. Stephen Vogt, A’s: 1,401,747
3. Russell Martin, Blue Jays: 607,610
4. Brian McCann, Yankees: 529,364
5. Caleb Joseph, Orioles: 309,609
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz
In spite of playing only 18 of his 50 total games at the position, the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz is listed on the ballot as a DH. Cruz is showing no ill effects from moving to Safeco Field, and is leading the American League in home runs (18), slugging percentage (.660), and OPS (1.015) among other categories. Cruz’s .335 average, and 38 RBI’s are the most by any player listed as a DH on the ballot, and his 2.5 BRef WAR is the 6th highest on the junior circuit.
Kansas City Royals DH Kendrys Morales trails Cruz by about 300,000 votes, and is having a good season in his own right. Morales is hitting .306 with 6 home runs, and his 37 RBIs are second only to Cruz among players listed on the ballot as a DH. Third in the voting is Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is playing well, despite missing all of last season due to a suspension. A-Rod is slashing .282/.372/.541 and has 11 home runs and 27 RBIs on the young season. Rodriguez, though, trails Morales by about 1.3 million votes. It will be interesting to see if A-Rod can continue this kind of production and force his way on to the AL squad, which would make for an interesting few days in Cincinnati. Rounding out the top-5 are David Ortiz, who is struggling mightily this season, and the injured Victor Martinez.
1.Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 2,108,584
2. Kendrys Morales, Royals: 1,827,730
3. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 563,288
4. David Ortiz, Red Sox: 507,712
5. Victor Martinez, Tigers: 391,538
Outfield: Lorenzo Cain, Mike Trout, Alex Gordon
Lorenzo Cain has more votes than Mike Trout. I repeat, Lorenzo Cain has more all star votes than Mike Trout. Cain, and Gordon, seem to also be benefiting from a Royals “Get out the vote” campaign. Cain doesn’t show up in the top 5 among qualified AL outfielders in batting average, OBP, or stolen bases. He does have the second most runs scored, however, with 35 (trailing only Mike Trout in that category), and his 51 hits are tied for fifth most among AL outfielders. It should also be noted that he is tied with Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier for the league lead in defensive WAR, according to Baseball Reference, with 1.4.
Gordon is slashing .273/.376/.461 and his .837 OPS is the 6th highest among AL outfielders. That’s about all that needs to be said about Gordon’s candidacy. He isn’t doing anything exceptionally well. That leaves Mr. Trout. The reigning AL MVP is having another “Troutian” season, hitting .294 with a .933 OPS. Trout also has 13 home runs, which would put him on pace for a career high 41 for the season. He also has the third most runs scored in the league, with 39, and his 3.3 WAR is second highest on the junior circuit, just 0.1 behind Jason Kipnis. Additionally, Trout has been stealing bases again, which was something he stopped doing last year. His 8 steals on the campaign are good for 10th best in the AL. Trout continues to be the best all-around player in the majors, and he will undoubtedly be in Cincinnati in July.
The rest of the top-10 are Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Brantley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, and Josh Reddick. Jones is having a fairly decent season, with 6 home runs, 26 RBIs and a .791 OPS, but he ranks outside of the top-10 in homers, OPS, runs scored, and hits. He is, though, probably the most popular member of the Baltimore Orioles team after the departure of fan favorite Nick Markakis this past offsesason. So, there’s that.
Alex Rios has played in 8 games this season. 8 games. And he’s 5th in voting for AL outfielders. Yeah… Michael Brantley ranks in the top-5 among qualified outfielders in hits (51), RBIs (30), average (.302), and OBP (.379). Cespedes is having the best season since his rookie campaign, hitting .283 with 7 home runs and 28 RBIs, but his .316 OBP puts him 20th among qualified AL outfielders.
The injured Jacoby Ellsbury is having a very good season, and is among the top-5 in the entire league in average (.324), OBP (.411), and stolen bases (14). Bautista is having a down year this season, hitting only .242 with 7 home runs and 30 RBIs. Josh Reddick is having, by far, the best season of his career and is slashing .302/.379/.503. His .882 OPS is second only to Mike Trout among outfielders, and he has the third highest OBP among qualified outfielders on the ballot.
1. Lorenzo Cain, Royals: 2,506,859
2. Mike Trout, Angels: 2,371,435
3. Alex Gordon, Royals: 1,917,834
4. Adam Jones, Orioles: 1,514,836
5. Alex Rios, Royals: 1,249,073
6. Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers: 1,024,346
7. Michael Brantley, Indians: 906,788
8. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: 888,192
9. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 792,897
10. Josh Reddick, A’s: 650,756
11. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox: 644,212
12. Carlos Beltran, Yankees: 471,929
13. Brett Gardner, Yankees: 458,849
14. Torii Hunter, Twins: 386,847
15. J.D. Martinez, Tigers: 378,075
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