2015 MLB All Star Game: Evaluations on the AL Starters
To envision a perfect MLB All-Star game lineup for both the American League and the National League is simply wishful thinking. That dream will never materialize into an actual reality, as fans once again fail to prove they know what’s best with their vote. Both starting lineups will be evaluated below on whether or not their performance warrants this prestigious honor.
Meet your American League starters:
First Baseman – Miguel Cabrera (DET): Why not vote him in? I have absolutely no issue with this selection, as the nine time All-Star continues to build his hall of fame resume with another spectacular year, leading the league with a .350 batting average. Despite a lengthy career of being at the top, Cabrera keeps delivering for his team, whether it’s his 54 RBI, 15 home runs, or a league-leading .456 OBP. It’s unfortunate that the slugging Tiger won’t be sauntering his way up to the plate in Cincinnati come July 14, as Cabrera succumbed to a nagging calf strain that will be keeping him out the next six weeks.
Second Baseman – Jose Altuve (HOU): Here is where the voting results don’t correlate with the reality of who has actually been the best at their position. Altuve was phenomenal last year, leading the league in average and hits with .341 and 225 respectively. He also finished second in stolen bases with 56. Altuve has been All-Star caliber this year, but nowhere near the dominant level he exhibited in last year’s campaign. Hitting .303 with 24 stolen bases thus far, Altuve hasn’t exactly lived up to the expectations in evolving even more from his elite form in 2014. Don’t misinterpret this, as Altuve is having a very respectable year, especially as a leader on the AL West leading Astros, but are we forgetting about Jason Kipnis? Kipnis, of the Cleveland Indians, is hitting .341 on the year and is leading the league in doubles right now, despite the pressure of delivering for an AL Central fourth place team. Altuve’s big name shouldn’t blind others from really evaluating who is producing more, as Kipnis is clearly the right candidate for the selection.
Shortstop – Alcides Escobar (KC): Another swing and a miss with the All-Star voting, as the American League leading Royals have packed a lot of players onto the final voting process, with four starters. Escobar is one I am failing to understand why he made the final lineup, as the first time All-Star has a .276 batting average with a measly two home runs, 28 RBI and five stolen bases. Escobar is definitely a contributor, with what he has done in elevating the Royals’ level of play going back to last year’s World Series campaign. The team is on pace to continuing that campaign on into next year, but his role in that is far more minimal than one would deem all-star worthy.
Third Baseman – Josh Donaldson (TOR): Donaldson was a selection worth noting, because it was the right call to make. Donaldson’s heroics are not to be dismissed, as the second time All-Star has notched 20 home runs, 56 RBI, and is sporting a .296 average thus far. His defensive play has also been dominant, as he ranks among the top twenty in defensive WAR this year. A play to epitomize Donaldson’s efforts as a third baseman is his diving catch into the stands against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 24. What ultimately sets Donaldson apart from the field his overall contribution to his team, where the star ranks ninth in the MLB in WAR with a 4.3 mark. The versatility that comes with a Donaldson – hitting for power and average while fielding efficiently – is quite a rarity and it’s not as apparent to the respected competition. Donaldson has been a legitimate reason for a multitude of Blue Jay victories, which is why he deserves the honor.
Outfielder – Mike Trout (LAA): Mike Trout is on pace to posting yet another elite year, with 21 home runs, 45 RBIs, 60 runs, and a .299 batting average. The reigning American League MVP has clearly established himself as the future of the MLB and has not disappointed in living up to those expectations. Aiming for the lead, while now second, in the highly competitive AL West, Trout’s value to the team is paramount, and they’ll only gain an edge on the Astros, if Trout is both healthy and consistent in his game. Ranking third in MLB WAR, with a 4.92, Trout is a serious candidate to win the MVP again, and if his Angels can climb up and settle into first place in the AL West, he may end up being the recipient again.
Outfielder – Lorenzo Cain (KC): Cain is absolutely suitable for this election, as the star is taking the diamond by storm both offensively and defensively. Cain is the Royals most valuable offensive player, hitting .305 on the year with 36 RBI and 16 stolen bases. His contribution to the team has ultimately made him a leader and one that teammates can admire and emulate as a hitter and as the defensive star he has become (currently 12th in defensive WAR).
Outfielder – Alex Gordon (KC): Again, the overstuffing of ballots to get half of a team’s offensive lineup on the starting All-Star Game lineup is simply farcical. Gordon is another selection that just doesn’t stand tall marking a .262 average with 10 home runs and a .380 OBP. There is simply nothing impressive about how Gordon has played this year, as the left fielder was nowhere near as efficient as he was last year, especially when you factor in his defensive absence. Instead of Gordon, the young, prodigious JD Martinez of the Detroit Tigers should be starting instead. Martinez is hitting .285 on the year with 23 home runs and 56 RBIs. Martinez may not just be the snub of the All-Star game voting this year, but may be the snub of public attention whatsoever on the diamond. He has been absolutely phenomenal thus far this year, and it’s fair to expect he’ll hold down the fort for when Cabrera is out on the disabled list.
Catcher – Salvador Perez (KC): Another Royal that I did not think deserved to be starting in the All Star game is Perez. I respect his game, as the catcher has hit 13 home runs on the year with a .263 batting average. He’s a solid fielder as well, and I would not mind him representing the American League on the roster, but as the starter? Perez has been nothing more than a good American League catcher this year, but he doesn’t even lead MLB catchers, let alone American League catchers, in anything this year. The spot should be given to Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics, who has belted 13 home runs, while hitting .290 this year. Vogt has filled in impressively at the catcher spot, despite All-Star Derek Norris’ departure from the Athletics this year. The all-star reserve leads all catchers in OBP, triples, and slugging percentage.
Designated Hitter – Nelson Cruz (SEA): While the Mariners may not be contenders for the AL West, they at least have obtained bragging rights for the best designated hitter in the Majors. Cruz is on pace to delivering another spectacular season, having swatted 21 home runs on the year while hitting .304. Coming off of a horrific slump in June, in which he hit only one home run the entire month, while his average dropped almost 30 points, Cruz still remains second in batting average for designated hitters and first in home runs. A gloomy outlook on the Mariners’ season isn’t enough to suppress this slugger from consistently producing, as the hitter ranks 10th in the MLB in slugging percentage.