On Monday, MLB announced its rosters for the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati on July 14. Much has been made in recent weeks about the voting process in which players are chosen. The starters for both the American and National League are voted upon by the fans — which makes the prize for the All-Star game winner (home-field advantage in the World Series for the winning league) completely fraudulent.
The reserves are selected by player votes and then the rest of the two teams are filled out by All-Star managers – this year being Ned Yost (Royals) and Bruce Bochy (Giants). But of the teams’ 34 roster spots, only 33 player names were released. The final roster spot for each league is left to the fans in what MLB calls “Final Vote” (eyes continue to roll).
Each league has five players vying for the “Final Vote.” In the American League, the candidates are: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox, SS), Yoenis Cespedes (Tigers, OF), Brian Dozier (Twins, 2B), Brett Gardner (Yankees, OF), and Mike Moustakas (Royals, 3B).
Bogaerts has been one of the few bright spots this season for the last-place Red Sox. The 22-year-old Aruba native is easily putting together his best season in the bigs with a slash line of .304/.341/.418. But the youngster is lacking in power and hasn't done too much on the base paths for his superior athletic ability. The AL is lacking any true All-Star shortstops in the long run, and while Bogaerts won't make the roster this year, there is no doubt he will be in the Midsummer Classic in the near future.
Cespedes has a strong case to make it as the “Final Vote” winner. The Cuban import is having his best year to date, not only at the plate but defensively as well. Cespedes was an All-Star last year in his third season, but is hitting 32 points higher this year, and is on pace for 20-plus home runs and 90 RBIs. In his first three seasons, Cespedes was a less than average outfielder in terms of runs saved, but thus far in 2015 he has improved and finds himself on the plus side of that category.
Dozier, just like his Twins, has been one of the more pleasant surprises so far this season. He is tied for 11th in the AL in home runs (17), is top 20 in OPS (.843, 16th) and his 43 RBIs lead all second basemen. Dozier’s downfall is his batting average (.258), which is 78 points below reserve second baseman Jason Kipnis (.336) and 41 below starter Jose Alutve (.299).
Moustakas is the victim of a loaded third base class in his league, a group headlined by overall top vote-getter Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays and the Orioles’ Manny Machado, both of whom are in the top 10 in all of baseball in WAR. Moustakas is putting together his best season as a pro, and just 26 he figures to have plenty of opportunity to earn an invite to the All-Star Game in the near future. Moustakas could very well set new career highs in RBIs, doubles, triples, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and total bases — it just isn’t enough to top his peers at the hot corner.
Instead it’s Gardner, the Yankees’ Mr. Do Everything, who gets my “Final Vote” for the AL. Gardner will never have eye-popping numbers that seem to appeal to voters, but his play this season is surely All-Star-worthy. Gardner is easily the best pure hitter in the Yanks’ lineup, hitting .296/.373/.478, and is the biggest offensive reason they are still leading the way in the AL East. Gardner is in the top 10 in the AL in steals (15), WAR (3.2), doubles (21), on-base percentage (.373), and is flirting with a .900 OPS.
Switching to the National League and the ballot may be a little more difficult to figure out — at least from where I’m sitting. The Senior Circuit’s “Final Vote” candidates are: Johnny Cueto (Reds, P), Jeurys Familia (Mets, P), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers, P), Carlos Martinez (Cardinals, P), and Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies, SS).
For starters, Martinez, Familia, and Tulowitzki are putting together very nice seasons for their respective clubs. Martinez has been a pleasant surprise for the injury-ravaged Cardinals, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and ranking in the top 10 in most NL pitching categories. The only problem is that the guys ahead of him are already on the NL’s All-Star team. Familia has been the anchor of the Mets’ bullpen, but the recent struggles for his team, and the constant limelight on the starting rotation, just aren’t helping his cause.
Tulowitzki is having a fantastic rebound season after injuries ruined his MVP chances in 2014. While the home run numbers are down from a year ago, the bat is still there for Tulo as he’s hitting .320/.357/.486 with 45 RBIs, 19 doubles, and nine home runs. Tulo’s strikeout numbers have risen and his walk rate has declined along with his defensive metrics thanks to his many injuries over the years. Tulo is simply the victim of fan voting and a poor Rockies team, as the Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta and Giants’ Brandon Crawford were named the starter and reserve at shortstop for the NL.
For my money, Cueto making what could possibly his last appearance in a Reds uniform during a “home” All-Star Game would be a unique sight and a fond farewell for one of the best pitchers in Cincinnati history, as a trade for the veteran ace seems inevitable. Again, Cueto, while he might be having an All-Star season, won't get the necessary love for the “Final Vote” because of the body of work of pitchers who have already been named to the team like the Braves’ Shelby Miller, Pirates’ Gerrit Cole, and Cardinals’ Michael Wacha.
Not surprisingly, one name stands alone on the NL’s “Final Vote” ballot — Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw isn’t having the same season he had in 2014, which was historically great, how can he, the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP, not make the roster? If anything, Kershaw is a “victim” of his own success and the fact that there are several pitchers who are simply having better seasons. Looking at the NL’s All-Star pitching staff and it’s hard to argue with the players’ and Bochy’s selections of Max Scherzer, Zach Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, A.J. Burnett, Wacha, Miller, and Cole. But that doesn’t mean that Kershaw isn’t an All-Star either, even if his inclusion is due more to his resume than his 2015 performance to date.
To put it another way, how is the most dominant pitcher of a generation, the winner of three Cy Young Awards and the 2014 NL MVP not in the All-Star Game — especially when his numbers are just as comparable to that of those who are already on the team? Let’s do the right thing here, America. Vote Kershaw.
(Note: Statistics as of July 7)
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.