Fixing the AL's All-Royals All-Star team: Vote for these players instead
If this year’s All-Star voting had ended on Monday, seven of the nine members of the American League’s starting lineup would be Royals. I’ve previously encouraged fans to place their votes (each fan can submit up to 35 ballots on MLB.com) until as close to that final day as possible so as to get as full a picture as possible of each player’s season. But more than nine million ballots have already been cast, which means at least a quarter-million people have ignored my sage advice, and we’re only three weeks away from the conclusion of the voting. It seems the time has come issue a corrective to the AL’s Royal problem.
Look through the All-Star voting results, and you'll see an awful lot of Royals—most of whom don't deserve the support. Omar Infante, who has the lowest OPS+ this season among qualified players currently in the majors, is within 160,000 votes of Jose Altuve for the starting second base spot. Kansas City players occupy two of the three starting spots in the outfield voting, with Alex Rios, who has spent most of the first half on the disabled list, in fourth. Mike Trout, the one current starter who unquestionably deserves to be there, isn’t even the top vote getter among outfielders, trailing the Royals' Lorenzo Cain by more than a half-million votes.
What's happened to the AL team? This is clearly a ballot-stuffing issue. But for those seeking to correct this situation, here are the non-K.C. players who deserve your support.
All statistics and vote counts through Monday, June 9.
1. Salvador Perez, Royals (4,419,620 votes)
Season Stats: .277/.291/.455, 8 HR, 27 RBIs, 105 OPS+, 1.3 bWAR
Vote for: Vogt, Martin
Vogt has been the best catcher in the majors to this point in the season, but I can understand if some fans are hesitant to select him, since he's a relatively unknown 30-year-old. But if you need a familiar name, throw your support to Martin, a three-time All-Star having an excellent season. He is in the third year of a strong run as one of the best catchers in baseball but hasn’t made an All-Star team since 2011.
Perez, whose vote total is the highest in the league, is a fine player who made the last two All-Star Games and deservedly started last year’s game in place of the injured and erroneously elected Matt Wieters. But Perez has been outplayed this year and should be no higher than third on this list. Instead, he has more than double Vogt’s second-place vote total and more than five times Martin’s.
1. Eric Hosmer, Royals (3,551,005)
Season Stats: .306/.378/.490, 7 HR, 35 RBIs, 142 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR
Vote for: Cabrera
Hosmer is having a legitimate breakout season at age 25, so you could reasonably argue that he should make the All-Star team. But there’s no way he should be starting over Cabrera when the latter is having one of his typically great seasons. Cabrera is such an obvious choice here that I am confident this result will change by July 2, but it will take some work: He is already more than 600,000 votes behind Hosmer.
1. Jose Altuve, Astros (2,809,731)
Season Stats: .300/.340/.409, 5 HR, 27 RBIs, 17 SB, 112 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR
2. Omar Infante, Royals (2,650,416)
Season Stats: .216/.225/.301, 0 HR, 17 RBIs, 0 SB, 45 OPS+, 0.0 bWAR
Vote for: Kipnis; Brian Dozier, Twins
Based on 2015 performance alone, Kipnis is the obvious choice. Given his brutal 2014 campaign and poor April, however, I could be talked into Dozier. The Twins' second baseman, who isn't currently in the top five in votes, had a breakout season last year and has been even better so far this year (.268/.344/.527, 11 HR, 28 RBIs, 138 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR). He is also leading the majors in runs scored and is tied with Kipnis for the AL lead in doubles. However you slice it, Infante clearly doesn’t belong. Even the Altuve pick is erroneous, though it’s much more difficult to complain about that one given that he’s one of just two non-Royals currently in a starting spot and is a productive and entertaining player in his own right.
1. Alcides Escobar, Royals (3,928,985)
Season Stats: .263/.296/.353, 2 HR, 18 RBIs, 4 SB, 81 OPS+, 0.7 bWAR
2. Jose Iglesias, Tigers (1,819,764)
Season Stats: .331/.382/.413, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 7 SB, 122 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR
Vote for: Iglesias
It might be time to stop being surprised Jose Iglesias can hit in the majors. The Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2013 has now hit .312/.359/.394 (108 OPS+) in 557 plate appearances since the start of that season despite missing all of '14 due to stress fractures in both shins. There’s no question about the quality of his fielding, and he’s 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts this season to boot.
Unlike his teammate Perez, Escobar is no perennial All-Star. In fact, he’s never made the team. Maybe he should have last year, when Derek Jeter got the start for sentimental reasons, but not this year. The good news here is that the deserving player is second in the voting. The bad news is that he has less than half of Escobar’s total.
1. Mike Moustakas, Royals (4,046,726)
Season Stats: .322/.373/.465, 5 HR, 18 RBIs, 134 OPS+, 2.5 bWAR
2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (2,329,742)
Season Stats: .310/.367/.582, 16 HR, 43 RBIs, 163 OPS+, 3.5 bWAR
Vote for: Donaldson
Much like the voting at first base, this pits a former top Royals pick having a legitimate breakout season against a player having an outstanding season who should be the default pick at the position. Moustakas deserves to make the All-Star team this year, but Donaldson, who started last year’s game, should be running away with this vote. Instead, he’s more than 1.7 million votes behind.
1. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (4,211,472)
Season Stats: .282/.336/.405, 4 HR, 23 RBIs, 9 SB, 107 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR
2. Mike Trout, Angels (3,668,577)
Season Stats: .283/.373/.561, 16 HR, 33 RBIs, 8 SB, 166 OPS+, 3.5 bWAR
3. Alex Gordon, Royals (3,393,134)
Season Stats: .253/.364/.425, 6 HR, 25 RBIs, 0 SB, 121 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR
4. Alex Rios, Royals (2,311,122)
Season Stats: .235/.278/.333, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 14 G, 71 OPS+, -0.2 bWAR
I’ll be honest: I could live with Cain, Trout, and Gordon as the starting outfield. Cain gets a huge boost in value from his defense, but he is nonetheless second in the AL to Trout in bWAR among outfielders and emerged as a true star in last year’s playoffs. Gordon, meanwhile, is perennially among the best outfielders in the league.
The only thing that alarms me is Rios’s position on this list. Rios has played just 14 games all season and has been below replacement level in that small sample. He also hasn’t played at a star level since 2012. It doesn’t appear that there’s much risk of him moving into the top three here, however, as I can only assume every Royals fan on earth has already submitted their maximum 35 ballots.
Still, there are more deserving players than Gordon this season. Consider Reddick (.305/.380/.511, 8 HR, 32 RBIs, 150 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR; 10th in voting), Cespedes (.300/.332/.500, 8 HR, 30 RBIs, 129 OPS+, 2.5 bWAR; seventh in voting) and Jones (.311/.348/.509, 9 HR, 30 RBIs, 138 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR; fifth in voting). They have been better thus far, but for Reddick, it’s a small-sample performance from a player who has been less than a star to this point in his career, while Cespedes and Jones are hardly blowing Gordon away with their performance. Therefore, any combination of Cain, Gordon, Reddick, Jones and Cespedes to go with Trout would be fine by me.
1. Kendrys Morales, Royals (3,269,634)
Season Stats: .292/.352/.478, 7 HR, 41 RBIs, 131 OPS+, 1.2 bWAR
Vote for: Cruz
Morales is having a fine comeback season for the Royals (as expected), but there’s no reason he should be ahead of Cruz here. Fortunately, the voting at DH is closer than at any other position, so I’m confident Cruz, who was leading a week ago, will return to the top spot.
A few things to note here: Cruz has played more games in rightfield (36) than at DH (21) but is listed at the latter on the ballot, which is why he factors in here and not the outfield voting. Similarly, the Rangers' Prince Fielder, who has made 46 of his 56 starts at DH, is listed at first base, which is why his .356/.414/.547 (168 OPS+) performance is not a factor here. So who is in third place in the voting? None other than the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who may be more than 2.3 million votes behind Cruz, but who has nonetheless been named on nearly 800,000 ballots by no less than 22,530 fans.