Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Danny Espinosa, other deserving All-Stars
By David Schoenfield
The All-Star rosters will be announced Sunday, and here are five guys I'd like to see make the All-Star Game, but might get left out.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals: Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips are neck-and-neck in the fan voting and the other will undoubtedly be named as the backup. Weeks is the deserving starter, but Espinosa has a strong argument over Phillips. He's only hitting .239, but his overall line of .239/.323/.468 with 15 home runs makes him a better offensive player than Phillips (.298/.351/.416, six home runs), especially when you factor in Phillips' home park. The defensive metrics back up Espinosa's growing reputation as a standout defender as well. All three are deserving All-Stars -- FanGraphs ranks all three in the top 15 among NL position players in WAR (wins above replacement), but there might not be room for three second basemen, unless Espinosa gets the nods as the Nationals' rep (more likely to be closer Drew Storen).
Shane Victorino, CF, Phillies: Ryan Braun, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are leading the fan vote. Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen are automatics. Hunter Pence (or maybe Michael Bourn) makes it as the Astros' lone representative. Justin Upton is probably the most deserving Diamondbacks player, although catcher Miguel Montero and starter Ian Kennedy have good cases. The NL had four reserve outfielders a year ago (plus Jason Heyward, who was injured at the time), so Victorino could get squeezed even though he's fourth in FanGraphs' WAR among NL position players, behind only Jose Reyes, Kemp and McCutchen.
Ben Zobrist, 2B, Rays: Robinson Cano has a large lead in the fan vote, even though he ranks just fifth among AL second basemen in WAR. Dustin Pedroia is the likely backup, likely leaving Zobrist's all-around brilliance -- .268/.347/.475, 52 runs, nine home runs, superb defense -- watching from home. Howie Kendrick is another second baseman deserving of a short at a crowded position. Zobrist's best chance is if Ron Washington likes his ability to play multiple positions, but with James Shields an All-Star lock (and David Price, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce possibilities), the Rays have other strong candidates.
Felix Hernandez, P, Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki has been an All-Star all 10 of his previous major league seasons, but he's way back in the fan voting this year and his numbers don't come close to warranting a selection. But the Mariners need a rep. Michael Pineda has a better ERA than Hernandez (2.65 to 3.19), and might get the nod because of that. But Hernandez should be the All-Star, not a rookie who has had three good months. (Hernandez also drew the short straw last year; somehow, 17 different AL pitchers made the squad or were named as replacements, but the eventual Cy Young winner wasn't one of them. Jose Valverde, Phil Hughes, Matt Thornton, Fausto Carmona, Andrew Bailey and Andy Pettitte, however, were All-Stars.) Even if you think Felix is a lock, so many AL starters are having good seasons that a few will get shut out (C.J. Wilson? Dan Haren? Price?). In fact, Mariano Rivera is really the only AL reliever deserving of a selection. The AL roster should be 12 starters and Rivera, but we'll still see four or five relievers.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers: Derek Jeter will win the fan vote and Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is the likely backup. That might not leave room for Peralta -- .310/.358/.527, 12 home runs, 46 RBI -- especially with Miguel Cabrera and catcher Alex Avila likely picks from the Tigers. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez is another strong candidate who might get squeezed. And that doesn't even factor in if Washington picks his own guy, Elvis Andrus.
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