Most Deserving All-Star Candidate From Each American League Team
Most Deserving All-Star Candidate From Each Team: AL Edition
Baltimore: Manny Machado
While Mark Trumbo is enjoying a bounce back season and currently leading the American League in homers, Manny Machado has been one of the best players in the MLB this season. He’s hitting .325, good for fourth in the American League, and slugging a ridiculous .609, second in the AL behind a certain retiring slugger from Boston. He’s once again been an extra base machine, leading the AL in total bases with 176. He’s also been playing his usual stellar defense at both shortstop and third base, ranking fifth in the AL in range factor per game among shortstops with a minimum of 40 games played and first in the same stat among third basemen with a minimum of 25 games played (via Baesball-Reference.com)
Boston: David Ortiz
The Red Sox certainly have a number of deserving candidates. Steven Wright leads the AL with a 2.18 ERA. A healthy Dustin Pedroia is hitting above .300 and has seen his power come back. The “killer B’s” have all enjoyed great seasons: Xander Bogaerts is hitting .343, Mookie Betts is in the top five in the AL in RBI, runs, hits, and total bases, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. had a 29 game hit streak earlier this year. But in his final campaign in the big leagues, Big Papi is having arguably the best season of his illustrious career. The 40-year-old slugger is third in the AL with a .335 average, first in the AL with a .431 OBP, and first in the Majors with a .667 slugging percentage (Machado is a distant second—by 68 points). He has a legitimate chance to win the AL Triple Crown, with 18 long balls and 62 RBI to go along with his great slash line. Considering it’s his last season he probably would’ve made the team regardless of his numbers, but swan song or not, Ortiz has been one of the best offensive players in baseball so far this season (stats via ESPN.com).
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale
Sale has once again been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. He leads the junior circuit in wins with 13 despite the White Sox’ tank job after a 17-8 month of April. His 2.79 ERA ranks third in the AL and his 109 strikeouts are good for second. He checks in with a 0.98 WHIP, also good for first in the AL. He has been consistently good in an up-and-down pitching rotation, ranking third in all of baseball with 113.0 innings pitched. We’ve come to expect excellence from the Chicago southpaw, but that doesn’t mean we can’t marvel at his otherworldly stats (stats via ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com).
Cleveland: Francisco Lindor
The Indians have been one of the biggest surprises in 2016 so far, so it’s not surprising that they’ve got a few players deserving of All-Star spots. Danny Salazar ranks in the top ten in the AL in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Former Cy Young winner Cory Kluber is fifth in strikeouts and third in WHIP. Josh Tomlin has a .900 winning percentage and has a microscopic BB/9 with a 0.81 rate. And Jason Kipnis is bringing his usual combination of power, speed, and defense. But it’s budding superstar Francisco Lindor who gets the nod here. Lindor is hitting .314/.373/.477 and is one of only six players in the junior circuit with double digits in steals and home runs. He has also lived up to his reputation as an incredible defender with a .988 fielding percentage in 74 games at shortstop, good for second among players with a minimum of 18 starts. At the age of 22, Lindor has the potential to develop into a 30-30 player down the road, although he is already one of the most complete players in the big leagues (stats via ESPN.com, MLB Stat Cast, Baseball-Reference.com).
Detroit: Ian Kinsler
This pick may come as a surprise to some. Miguel Cabrera is hitting .296/.370/.522 with 16 home runs, Michael Fulmer is enjoying a great rookie year, and Victor Martinez is hitting .319/.365/.531 with 14 home runs, but it’s Ian Kinsler who is the Tiger most deserving of an All-Star bid so far this year. Kinsler is fifth among AL second baseman with a .293 average, tied for second with 14 dingers, and second in RBI with 47 (more than Miggy), and second with eight stolen bases. He ranks t-third in the AL with 59 runs at the top of the potent Detroit offense and is t-ninth in the AL with 90 hits. His defense has also been terrific, to the tune of a .992 fielding percentage through 72 games at second. He leads all Major League second basemen with 162 putouts (stats via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com).
Houston: Jose Altuve
No surprise here. Altuve is leading the AL with .348 average, is second with a .425 OBP, and ranks seventh with a .560 slugging percentage. His speed has always been a weapon; he ranks second in the AL with 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts, and he has also developed a power swing mashing 13 home runs. His career high for a season is 15 in 638 at bats, so it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll surpass that—maybe even before the halfway point of the season. After winning his first Gold Glove last season, Altuve has continued to play solid defense, with a .990 fielding percentage, tied for third with perennial Gold Glove candidate Dustin Pedroia. Still only 26 years old, Altuve has already developed into one of the game’s best all around players.
Kansas City: Salvador Perez
The defending World Series champs have a few players deserving of All-Star appearances. Wade Davis has once again been one of the best relievers in baseball, amassing a 0.99 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP, and a .161 opponent batting average through 27.1 innings pitched. Eric Hosmer is hitting .310/.369/.500 with 12 homers and 48 RBI and playing his usual terrific defense. Lorenzo Cain is also playing stellar defense and hovering around a .300 batting average. But it’s catcher Salvador Perez who gets the nod. Perez is hitting .297/.330/.520 with 12 long balls and 37 RBI, all of which are first or tied for first among qualified Major League catchers, and leads all catchers with a DWAR of 1.4.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout
Once again, Mike Trout is making his case for best player on Earth. He’s sixth in the AL in average at .319 and third with a slugging percentage of .572. He ranks fourth in the Majors with an OBP of .415. He has once again displayed his combination of power and speed with 17 dingers and ten stolen bases in 11 attempts. Combine his offense with solid defense in center and it’s no wonder Trout leads all of baseball with a 4.5 WAR so far. Once again, Trout is putting up video game numbers despite batting in the middle of a shaky-at-best Angels lineup. For the time-being at least, the title of best position player in baseball deserves to stay with Trout.
Minnesota: Eduardo Nunez
Nunez has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball so far this year and has been one of the lone bright spots for the lowly Twins. His .312 average ranks ninth in the AL, while his slugging percentage of .473 is 69 points higher than his career average; in fact, he has already doubled his previous career high with 10 dingers. He has stolen 17 bases, good for third in the AL. He ranks in the top 10 among Major League shortstops in hits, runs, average, homers, steals, slugging percentage, and OPS. He also provides versatility defensively, already logging time at second, third, and short, and in previous seasons has played both corner outfield spots. One can only imagine what his numbers would look like if he had any sort of protection in the lineup.
New York Yankees: Tie: C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Beltran
The big man is in the midst of a surprising bounce back season. After finishing with an ERA above 4.70 in the past three seasons, the 35-year-old Sabathia has compiled a 2.71 ERA through 12 starts this year. One of the reasons for the massive drop in ERA has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard; he has given up just three homers so far this year after giving up 28 last season. He has provided stability to an inconsistent Yankees rotation. Also putting together a somewhat-surprising season is 39-year-old Carlos Beltran. Beltran is hitting .294 with a .333 OBP and ranks fourth in the AL with a slugging percentage of .569. He’s in a three-way-tie for fourth in the AL in long balls with 19, a total that took him 478 at bats to reach last season. He has reached a few career milestones already this season, blasting his 400th career homer and collecting his 2,500 hit in the month of May. He will likely surpass the 1,500 career RBI mark before the All-Star break, giving him a compelling case for the Hall of Fame once his career concludes.
Oakland: Danny Valencia
Rich Hill was doing a fine job of continuing his career resurgence before leaving his May 29th start with a groin strain, compiling a 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and .207 opponent average, while striking out 74 in just 64.0 innings pitched. Jed Lowrie has also enjoyed a fine season thus far, hitting .295/.347/.353. However, it’s third baseman Danny Valencia who is the most deserving Athletic. While he did miss some time with a strained hamstring, Valencia has been slugging baseballs since his return to the lineup. After being activated from the DL on May 6th, Valencia hit .359/.386/.692 with eight home runs and 19 RBI, including a three-homer game against Tampa Bay on May 15th. On the season he’s hitting .335/.386/.545 with 11 homers, 30 RBI, and a .931 OPS. Were he able to qualify statistically, his average would place him in a tie for third and his slugging percentage would be good for seventh. Barring another injury, Valencia should continue to mash in the middle of a powerful Oakland lineup.
Seattle: Robinson Cano
King Felix has continued to prove those who criticize his drop in velocity wrong with a 2.86 ERA and a .217 opponent average, Taijuan Walker is finally beginning to realize his massive potential, and Nelson Cruz remains among baseball’s best sluggers with a .285/.368/.530 slash line to go along with 19 blasts and 51 driven in, but Robinson Cano is the obvious choice here. After seeing his power numbers drop after moving to the spacious Safeco Field, Cano has rebounded in a big way. He’s tied for fourth in the AL with 19 homers, tied for fifth with 53 RBI, second in total bases with 171, and tenth in slugging percentage at .546. Defensively, he ranks fifth among Major League second baseman with a 0.7 DWAR and seventh in putouts with 128. Baseball fans everywhere should be happy to know that Cano’s sweet swing isn’t broken quite yet.
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria
Logan Forsythe has put together a solid season despite missing some time with a hairline fracture in his shoulder, and Alex Colome has emerged as one of the game’s premier closers with a 1.76 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP while picking up 19 saves in 19 opportunities. But it’s longtime face-of-the-franchise Evan Longoria who is most deserving of an All-Star nod. After experiencing a couple of down seasons in which he hit a combined .262/.324/.420 with 43 home runs, Longoria has rebounded in a big way in 2016. He’s hitting .275 and his slugging percentage is way up to .526. His 18 blasts put him in a five-way tie for seventh in the AL. He’s on pace for 93 RBI, which would be his highest total since 2011, and 41 doubles, which would be his highest total since 2010. Always a stud with the glove, Longo ranks ninth among Major League third baseman with a range factor of 2.67 and fifth with an ultimate zone rating/150 chances of 13.2 according to FanGraphs.
Texas: Tie: Cole Hamels, Ian Desmond
The Rangers have been the best team in the American League so far, so narrowing down the most deserving All-Star candidate proved to be very difficult. The ageless Adrian Beltre is once again doing it with the bat and glove. Nomar Mazara has broken onto the scene in a big way, hitting .286/.339/.435 with 11 homers, and has shown off a strong arm with four outfield assists through 56 games in right field. Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman both have sub-3.00 ERAs and sub 1.00 WHIPs out of the bullpen. And Colby Lewis has been a very pleasant surprise with a 3.21 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. But it’s Hamels and Desmond who are the winners here. Hamels has long been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, and this year has been no different. He’s tied for seventh with eight wins, fourth with a 2.79 ERA, and ninth with 95 strikeouts. He’s also projected by ESPN.com to surpass 200 innings pitched for the seventh season in a row. Where Hamel’s success should come as a surprise to no one, Desmond’s success is likely a surprise to many. After his career was declared over by some “experts” after he failed to draw a multi-year contract from any team, the Rangers took a chance on him with a one year, $8 million dollar deal. Safe to say they made a good investment. His .321 average is sixth best in the AL, his .373 OBP is tied for eighth, and his .905 OPS is eighth. He’s tied for tenth with 51 RBI to go along with 14 homers. He’s also tied for fourth in the AL in steals with 13. Defensively, he provides value because of his arm. A former shortstop, Desmond is able to control the running game with his arm strength, compiling five outfield assists already in left and center. Not only is Desmond deserving of an All-Star spot, but he should be on the short list for Comeback Player of the Year.
Toronto: Tie: Michael Saunders, Josh Donaldson
A popular World Series pick before the season, the Blue Jays have started to come alive after a slow start. Roberto Osuna has been dominant out of the bullpen, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and J.A. Happ have both been great so far in a surprisingly successful starting rotation that ranks second in the AL in batting average against, third in ERA and WHIP, and fourth in wins, and Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista continue to be some of baseball’s best run producers. But Saunders and Donaldson are the most deserving Jays. Saunders is having a breakout year, ranking sixth in the AL with a .563 slugging percentage and 20 doubles. His batting average is currently 53 points higher than his career average, while his OBP is currently 57 points above career. Saunders should compete with Desmond for Comeback Player of the Year. Donaldson has continued where he left off his 2015 AL MVP campaign. He’s hitting .288/.396/.558 and currently ranks in the top 10 in the junior circuit in OBP (fourth), slugging percentage (eighth), OPS (fifth), triples (t-fourth), and runs (second). He’s still one of the most powerful bats in the Majors with 17 homers and 48 RBI. Add all this up and you have another potential MVP season for Donaldson.
(All stats via Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs, or ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted).