Five deserving candidates, but only one can represent the NL 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 National League are: 1B Justin Bour (Marlins), 3B Kris Bryant (Cubs), 3B Anthony Rendon (Nationals), 1B Mark Reynolds (Rockies) and 3B Justin Turner (Dodgers).
Let’s take a look at the case for each Final Vote candidate and figure out who ultimately should be suiting up in Miami.
Bour is enjoying a breakout campaign in his fourth season with the Marlins. Already with 18 home runs and 53 RBIs — good for third and second on the team, respectively — in 2017, his left-handed power bat sits right in the middle of Miami’s lineup. With a 1.098 OPS vs. left-handed pitching, he has dramatically improved against southpaws (career .747 OPS vs. LHP) to keep his bat in the lineup. Bour’s numbers are definitely worthy of being considered for his first All-Star selection, but this season the field at first base was extremely loaded with plenty of deserving candidates.
Coming off a magical World Series run a season ago, Bryant is having a productive season, though not up to par with his first two as a Cub. His current batting average sits nearly 30 percentage points lower than his .292 that closed 2016, but his 16 home runs are good for second on the team. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Bryant’s campaign for his third consecutive All-Star selection was the face that he at one point led Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado in the fan vote, only to ultimately be overtaken in the end. Now, the reigning NL MVP hopes the fans vote him in as a reserve and the only Cubs position player on the team.
Rendon, whose performance resides under the shadow of teammates Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, has had a solid season in his own right. His batting average hovers right around .300 and, like Bryant, he has clubbed 16 home runs with 51 RBIs. In search of his first All-Star selection, Rendon can be recognized not only for his statistical performance but also for his ability to protect Harper in the Nationals’ lineup. Now he hopes the same fan base that helped make Harper the leading vote-getter in the NL has one more push in it.
Reynolds, who represents the other non-third baseman of the five NL Final Vote candidates, is on a power surge right now. Helped by playing his home games at Coors Field, his 19 home runs and 61 RBIs land him in the top 10 and top 20 of the NL leaders, respectively. His 90 strikeouts stand out as a bit alarming, but the reward is definitely worth the risk with Reynolds’ offense. Fighting for his first All-Star nomination, Reynolds is part of the tightly packed field at first base hoping to get the call.
If you think you’re experiencing déjà vu by reading about another third baseman, you aren’t. This year, of the top five third basemen in All-Star Game balloting, two were selected (Arenado and Arizona’s Jake Lamb) and the other three (Bryant, Rendon and Turner) are duking it out as three of the five Final Vote finalists in the NL. Turner rounds out the talented cast of third baseman and will look to join infield partner Corey Seager on the NL roster. Turner has missed some time with injury and currently doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. However, his .382 batting average and .472 on-base percentage would both lead the league and his his 1.029 slugging percenage would be third if he qualified.
My pick to represent the National League in Miami is the hometown slugger, Bour. The Marlins' fan base rallied the troops to give OF Marcell Ozuna his second straight selection, and there's no reason to believe that they can't repeat the effort for Bour. Sure, there's more name recognition with Bryant and Rendon, but ultimately the type of season Bour has put together and his improvement in hitting for power against lefties gives him the slight edge. After all, when local radio shows bestow the nickname of Bourtobello Crushroom on a certain player, that's certainly a sign he is worthy of an All-Star selection. (I mean, who wouldn't want to hear Joe Buck say that during the telecast?)
Voting can be done online or via text message by sending one of the following codes to 89269: Bour (N1), Bryant (N2), Rendon (N3), Reynolds (N4), Turner (N5). For those who want to get involved on social media (starting at 10:00 a.m. Thursday), the official Twitter hashtags for voting are: #VoteBour, #VoteKB, #VoteRendon, #BeLikeMark and #VoteJT. 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.