Does Houston Astros Ace Deserve First All-Star Nod?

Does Houston Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco deserve to be an All-Star?
Jun 16, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) reacts to a catch.
Jun 16, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) reacts to a catch. / Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
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In recent years, the Houston Astros have often resembled an All-Star team, stocking their roster with stars all over the diamond. Many of them were homegrown, too, emerging as elite major leaguers after being drafted and developed by the Astros.

That isn't the case this year, unfortunately, especially with so much of Houston's talent languishing on the injured list. But just because the Astros haven't been very good this year doesn't mean they don't have good players.

There are the usual suspects like Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and Justin Verlander. But there's also been a surprising pitcher who's come out of nowhere, emerging as Houston's ace and a potential All-Star.

Blanco was at his best on Sunday, twirling seven hitless innings in a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. He walked three and fanned eight, throwing 65 of his 94 pitches for strikes before manager Joe Espada denied him a chance at history.

The 30-year-old righty has been nothing short of sensational for the Astros this season. Pressed into the rotation by injuries, he no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays in his season debut on April 1 and hasn't looked back.

Blanco has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts, going 7-2 with a 2.43 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, 2.5 WAR and nearly a strikeout per inning. Houston is 10-3 when he pitches and 23-36 when he doesn't.

The breakout righty has flourished in his first full season as a starter, emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Entering play on Monday, he ranked top 10 in the American League in numerous categories, including ERA (seventh), pitcher WAR (eighth), wins (seventh), WHIP (seventh) and hit rate (second). He's been utterly dominant.

Assuming he doesn't fall apart or get hurt between now and next month's Midsummer Classic in Arlington, Blanco absolutely deserves his first All-Star nod. His case keeps getting stronger with each passing start, and he's starting to look like the real deal rather than just an early-season fluke.

Fans can't vote for pitchers in the All-Star voting, unfortunately, but hopefully his excellent first half is rewarded with the recognition it deserves.

Blanco has a tough assignment in his next scheduled start this weekend against the Baltimore Orioles -- one of the best teams in baseball. If he can neutralize their potent lineup, his All-Star credentials will look even better.


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Tyler Maher

TYLER MAHER

Tyler grew up in Massachusetts and is a huge Boston sports fan, especially the Red Sox. He went to Tufts University and played club baseball for the Jumbos. Since graduating, he has worked for MLB.com, The Game Day, FanDuel and Forbes. When he's not writing about baseball, he enjoys running, traveling, and playing fetch with his golden retriever.