Can Royals' All-Star surge carry Infante, too?
The All-Star game is still a month away, but it could be a historic occasion for the defending American League champions.
As of Monday, the Kansas City Royals had eight players on track to start this year's game in Cincinnati on July 14. Kansas City's dominance in the online vote has gotten plenty of attention. Some view it as a mockery of the process, while others offer a tip of the hat to what is clearly an energized fan base.
The Royals in line to start are catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas, designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. Where the voting has been a bit extreme is at second base. In baseball's version of the coattail effect, Kansas City's Omar Infante is leading at that position.
Infante is hitting .204 with an OPS of .496. If he starts the All-Star game with numbers like that, it would be unprecedented.
Here are the six lowest-rated hitters in terms of OPS to start an All-Star game, according to STATS. Each player's All-Star break OPS is in parentheses.
Ozzie Smith, SS, 1983 (.526)
Davey Lopes, 2B, 1981 (.538)
Luis Aparicio, SS, 1971 (.559)
Sandy Alomar Jr., C, 1991 (.592)
Bobby Richardson, 2B, 1964 (.594)
Cal Ripken, SS, 2001 (.594)
Smith was a defensive standout, and Richardson's reputation with the glove helped him as well. Aparicio and Ripken were nearing the end of Hall of Fame careers, and Lopes was an All-Star regular when he started in '81. Alomar was the AL rookie of the year in 1990, which helps explain his All-Star appearance the following year.
Infante made the All-Star team in 2010, when he went on to hit .321 for the Atlanta Braves. This year, he's struggling - but he's playing for the right team at the right time.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
ON A TEAR
Toronto has won 11 in a row, and the Blue Jays are now a game out of first place in the AL East. That streak includes a three-game sweep at Boston that left the Red Sox eight games out of first.
Boston now has the second-worst record in the AL.
FEAST OR FAMINE
Seattle beat Cleveland 9-3 on Wednesday, snapping a streak of 13 games in which the Mariners failed to score more than three runs. After that apparent breakout, Seattle was shut out three times in its next four games - winning the other one 8-1
Nelson Cruz has 18 homers on the season, but none this month. Seattle's team on-base percentage is a woeful .296.
So the wait is over. Minnesota's Byron Buxton, Houston's Carlos Correa and Cleveland's Francisco Lindor have all made it to the majors. Since defense doesn't matter much in fantasy baseball, Lindor probably lags a bit behind the other two in terms of value. Correa's power potential is particularly enticing for a shortstop.
LINE OF THE WEEK
This one is a fascinating debate. Max Scherzer struck out 16 in Washington's 4-0 win over Milwaukee on Sunday, walking one and allowing one broken-bat hit. San Francisco's Chris Heston, of course, threw a no-hitter Tuesday against the New York Mets. He didn't walk anyone, but he did hit three batters and had five fewer strikeouts than Scherzer. Call it a tie.