The subject of All-Stars has become a sore one for Oakland A's fans. Last year, the A's had six players named to the AL squad and they acquired a seventh from the NL team before the game was played; five of those seven players have since been traded. An All-Star berth feels like a kiss of death to the green and gold adventures of our favorite players.
But let's not worry about that. The 2015 A's have the players they have, and so far Billy Beane has made it clear that he's not ready to take this roster apart. All we can do is enjoy who we get to watch right now, and do our best to recognize greatness when we see it. The good news is, despite the A's poor record, there is plenty of greatness in Oakland.
As things lie right now, I believe the A's will have three All-Stars. There are two other players who I think have chances, but only slim ones. Here they are, in order of likelihood, with the reminder that voting continues through all of June and things can change in that time.
Stats: 11 starts, 74 innings, 1.82 ERA, 66 Ks, 20 BB, 6-2 record
Sonny is a lock so far. The only question surrounding his current candidacy is whether he should be the starter for the AL team. Using a mix of newer metrics (fWAR) and traditional stats (W-L, ERA, IP, K:BB), I think there is a pretty clear-cut top-six right now among AL starters, in no particular order: Sonny, Felix, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Michael Pineda, and Chris Archer. Perhaps you could fit Jake Odorizzi or David Price onto that list too, but I'm sticking with those six for now. Kluber is the reigning Cy Young, Felix is a perennial Cy candidate, Pineda is a successful Yankee, Sonny and Keuchel have spent all year jockeying for the league lead in ERA, and Archer just passed Kluber for the lead in strikeouts.
If the All-Star Game were tomorrow, Keuchel would almost certainly get the nod. He's got the edge in ERA and the better record, he's thrown more innings than Sonny has, and he's the ace of the league's hot new heavyweight. Sonny's path to taking over that crown probably lies in separating himself in the ERA battle. The current leaders:
As far as W-L records, which are likely to play at least some role in determining the starter, Sonny is at least on the short list:
And if you prefer something a bit newer, the fWAR rankings:
(no one else above 1.6)
Unless something goes really wrong in June, Sonny will be an All-Star. I think that at this moment he's battling Keuchel for the starting nod, though there's plenty of time for someone else to join that fight or for one of them to drop out. It would really help his case if, five weeks from now, he was the ace of the surging third-place A's rather than the cellar-dwelling A's.
Current Status: Lock, possible starter
Stats: .314/.405/.595, 178 OPS+, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 26 BB, 28 Ks, 25 runs, 2 triples
Let's get something straight to begin with. Vogt isn't just one of the best catchers in the AL so far this year, he's been one of the best overall players in the AL. He's a catcher whose OPS (1.000) ranks third behind a DH and a first baseman, and the next three on the list are corner infielders. He's fourth in fWAR (2.5), sixth in bWAR (2.6), and fifth in RBI (38). Meanwhile, he also rates universally as a quality defender behind the plate, and has become not only a fan favorite but something of a legend in his home market. He has a whole following of believers. He is an NBA referee. He is the Everything Bagel.
Among AL catchers, the competition seems to be Salvador Perez of the Royals and Russell Martin of the Blue Jays. Vogt dominates both of them (and all other backstops) at the plate, with a lead of nearly 200 in OPS over Martin (.825) and nearly 300 over Perez (.729). In fact, he leads all AL catchers in homers, triples, RBI, average, OBP, and slugging, and it's not even close in most of those categories.
Perez really isn't hitting much this year, but he's an absolutely brilliant defender, he's the incumbent starter and, in the single most important metric, he's got a lead of more than a million votes over Vogt (2.6M to 1.4M). Royals fans are absolutely stuffing the ballot this year, taking the mantle held by Orioles fans the last couple years, and so Perez will probably get the nod even though I'd rank him third at the moment. You could also make a compelling case for Martin, who has the right blend of elite defense and strong offense, but he's too far behind in the voting to have a chance. Brian McCann and Jason Castro are the only two other guys with even a prayer of breaking into this field.
Vogt is pretty clearly the top dog right now. It's unlikely to earn him the start, but it will almost certainly earn him his first bid as a reserve. The AL and NL teams have carried three catchers apiece in each of the past two years, a starter and two reserves. I expect Perez will be the starter, while Vogt and Martin are the current favorites to be the reserves.
Current Status: Lock, outside chance of starting
Stats: .297/.376/.494, 143 OPS+, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 22 BB, 19 Ks, 3 triples, 4 OF assists
I think Reddick got snubbed in 2012. He had a great first half, but the AL outfield was loaded and the small-market, no-name A's were relegated to a token bullpen entry in Ryan Cook. Coincidentally, the spot Reddick should have had went to now-teammate Billy Butler, who was having his career year and whose team was hosting the game. It's hard to be mad when you look at it like that, even though Butler was the third DH on the roster.
This year, though, Reddick has elevated himself up the league's depth chart. He ranks fourth among AL outfielders in both versions of WAR and third in OPS, and right now I see him as a part of a top-five group in the league. One of those five is Nelson Cruz, who is conveniently classified as a DH on the ballot and so therefore isn't part of the outfield discussion. That leaves three more, and the good news is that they happen to be the current voting leaders: Lorenzo Cain, Mike Trout, and Alex Gordon, in order of votes. That's good news because it means that all of the truly more-deserving candidates are already taken care of, giving Reddick a better shot at a reserve spot. Adam Jones is fourth in voting right now, and so help me if he steals another starting nod and gets Reddick snubbed because of it. Jones is good but, based on sheer quantity of awards and accolades and general fame, he might be the most overrated player in MLB. And his TV ad (narrated by Harold Reynolds) might be the worst piece of film in human history and that should absolutely count against him.
There are plenty of other names for Reddick to contend with, though. Michael Brantley and Yoenis Cespedes are probably near locks, and Hanley Ramirez could make it on home runs and name power alone. Torii Hunter is a big name having a decent year for a first-place team, Brandon Moss is heating up, Jose Bautista can get hot at a moment's notice, and Jacoby Ellsbury has a shot if he returns promptly from the DL. Reddick isn't a lock like Sonny and Vogt currently are, but I would label him as a current favorite in the race for the reserve spots.
Current Status: Likely reserve
Stats: .282/.324/.440, 113 OPS+, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 27 runs, 3 triples, 7-for-8 steals, 18 errors
Before you laugh, remember that Dan Uggla is a three-time All-Star second baseman and that he once started the game. Leaving aside real-world team needs, embarrassing defense is not a dealbreaker for All-Star worthiness if you hit well enough to make up for it. And by the numbers, Semien has done that.
It's not hard to distinguish Semien from the field on offense. He leads AL shortstops in homers with six, and Seattle's Brad Miller is the only other with more than two. He leads in runs, hits, triples, and slugging, ranks second in OPS and stolen bases, and third in walks. More importantly, he ranks around different guys in all those categories, making him the most complete offensive player at the position. Of course, he gives a lot of that value back with his glove, and that drops him to fourth on both WAR scales.
Kansas City's Alcides Escobar leads the fan voting and isn't an awful choice due to his strong defense, but I think we can all agree that guy sucks and doesn't belong in the All-Star game, amirite? Detroit's Jose Iglesias, who ranks second in the voting, is clearly the best shortstop in the league -- he's the only one with a higher OPS than Semien, and he's also arguably the best defender as well. Brad Miller also has a shot, as a power hitter with a strong glove. There have been six middle infield spots on the AL roster the last two years, and two years ago a logjam at second base caused there to be only one reserve shortstop. That logjam still exists, with names like Altuve, Kipnis, Pedroia, Forsythe, Kinsler, and Dozier demanding attention. Escobar and Iglesias are probably locks, but if the AL rolls with a third shortstop then it could come down to Miller vs. Semien.
Current status: Outside chance of making it as reserve
Stats: 12 games (8 starts), 59⅔ innings, 2.11 ERA, 51 Ks, 15 BB, 2-5 record, 1 save
Without checking, I'm fairly certain that Chavez leads AL starters in saves. Versatility! Unfortunately, the fact that he didn't start the year in the rotation could make it tough for him to put up big enough numbers to grab a spot. It also hasn't helped that the A's lineup has disappeared when he's taken the mound, leaving him dead last in MLB in run support -- perhaps if he had a 5-2 record right now it would help make up for his low innings total.
Nevertheless, Chavez quietly ranks among the best starters in the league right now. In Sonny's section, I showed a list of the leaders in fWAR and said no one else had more than 1.6; Chavez was that guy with 1.6, along with Price and Odorizzi. I cut off the ERA list after Archer's 2.01; Nick Martinez of the Rangers is next at 2.03, followed by Chavez. On the bWAR scale, he ranks ninth, behind a bunch of names I've already mentioned and a couple of Twins who are probably a bit over their heads. Chavez is in that next tier just below the guys fighting for the starting nod, but it takes a nearly flawless resume to make it as a starting pitcher. He'll need to continue his huge performance to make up for his brutal W-L record and his relatively low innings total -- even though neither are his fault in the slightest.
(For the record, I think Chavez is more deserving than Semien, but Semien has way less competition at his position and so I think he has a better chance.)
Current status: Outside chance of making it as a reserve
As for the rest of the team, Scott Kazmir is the most notable omission here. He was a monster in April but struggled with his control in May, and now he's missed a start too. If he comes back from his extra rest and regains his April form then he could reenter this conversation, but right now he's on the outside looking in. Billy Burns is doing great, but he just hasn't played enough to compete with the kinds of superstars who will claim the outfield spots. Ben Zobrist missed too much time and hasn't put up any serious numbers yet anyway. After careful consideration, I don't think any of Oakland's relievers are worthy of All-Star bids. (Though all jokes aside, props to Evan Scribner on a 2.05 ERA and 35 strikeouts to two walks; he's basically this year's Sean Doolittle.)
A lot can change in June, but right now the A's appear all but guaranteed to send two All-Stars, with a good chance at a third. Hopefully by that point they will be representing a winning team.
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