Five deserving candidates, but only one can represent the AL in Miami
On Sunday, MLB announced the American League and National League rosters for the 2017 All-Star Game, the 88th edition of the Midsummer Classic. The game, set for Tuesday, July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami, will be packed with the brightest stars in the game on one stage. In a sizable switch from previous years, this year’s game will not determine home-field advantage in the World Series, which will now be awarded to the team with the best regular-season record.
The starters for the All-Star Game were selected by a fan vote, with the player vote and selections of the Commissioner's Office filling out the reserves. The All-Star Game managers, Cleveland’s Terry Francona (AL) and Chicago’s Joe Maddon (NL), selected the pitchers for their respective sides. However, one spot for each league has been left vacant for the “Final Vote.” Fans will have the opportunity to vote online or via text for one of five players in each league — candidates for which were also announced Sunday night — to be the final representative for his respective league.
In alphabetical order, the finalists for the American League are: SS Elvis Andrus (Rangers), SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), SS Didi Gregorius (Yankees), 1B Logan Morrison (Rays) and 3B Mike Moustakas (Royals).
Let’s take a look at the case for each AL Final Vote candidate and figure out who ultimately should be suiting up in Miami.
Andrus is nearing the 100-hit mark for 2017, and his .300-plus batting average is notable for one distinct reason. Andrus stands tied atop the AL in at-bats, so his ability to keep getting hits as he registers more at-bats than all but two other players is impressive, especially since he has yet to hit leadoff in 2017. He has added 11 home runs and 50 RBIs, and also is a threat on the base paths with 20 steals. Andrus brings a balanced offensive attack to the plate as he campaigns for his third career All-Star selection and first since 2012.
Speaking of all-around offense, Bogaerts epitomizes consistency at the plate. The fifth-year shortstop is fifth in the AL in hits (one spot behind Andrus) and sits ninth with a .314 batting average. While he tries to become a more sure-fielding defender, his presence at the plate (ninth in offensive WAR) is his current calling card. Bogaerts was a first-time All-Star and got the start at shortstop. This year he's looking to join teammates Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel in Miami.
It is awfully hard to make any sort of headlines when outfielder and Rookie of the Year candidate Aaron Judge is taking the baseball world by storm. But Gregorius is quietly putting together a very nice season for the Bronx Bombers, who are in the thick of an exciting AL East race. He has missed a bit of time this season, but has hit 10 home runs with 36 RBIs. The glove is Gregorius’ specialty, though, as his .991 fielding percentage is his highest in his career. Gregorius has never made an All-Star team, but his productivity has him in decent position to earn his first invite.
Morrison has been a tremendous success story for the Rays, as he has already blasted a career-high 24 home runs in just 80 games this season (previous high was 23 in 2011 with the Marlins). His .579 slugging percentage is fourth best in the AL and his 47 walks in 2017 are good enough for a tie for third in the league. It would be very exciting for Morrison to play in his first All-Star Game in the same state as his current employer, but it also would be great for fans to witness his power in the Home Run Derby that takes place the day before.
While his batting average may not be a career best to this point, Moustakas’ slugging percentage (.547) and OPS (.853) are each at least 45 percentage points higher than any single season. His 22 home runs place him fifth in the AL and he hovers right around the top 20 in RBIs (49), which deserves notice since he routinely bats near the top of the order and thus has fewer chances to drive in runs than those behind him. An All-Star in 2015 en route to the Royals’ improbable World Series run, Moustakas will look to capitalize on a strong offensive season to represent the AL in Miami.
My decision as to who would represent the American League in Miami was a very tough one, but ultimately I'm going with Bogaerts. His productivity in the middle of Boston's lineup deserves recognition and, while his numbers are very similar to those of Andrus, Bogaerts' Red Sox are in the middle of a tight pennant race, unlike Andrus and the Rangers. It could be argued that Francona doesn't need another middle infielder — already two second basemen and a shortstop are on the AL bench — but Bogaerts' versatility lends itself to the All-Star format where defensive changes occur nearly every inning.
Voting can be done online or via text message by sending one of the following codes to 89269: Andrus (A1), Bogaerts (A2), Gregorius (A3), Morrison (A4), Moustakas (A5). For those who want to get involved on social media (starting at 10:00 a.m. Thursday), the official Twitter hashtags for voting are: #ElectElvis, #VoteX, #SirDidi4Sure, #GoLoMo and #VoteMoose. Voting of all forms closes Thursday, July 6, at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Note: Stats are updated through games completed on July 2. Photos courtesy of MLB.com.