The All-Star Game is coming! MLB skipped this process last year during the pandemic, despite continuing with every other type of award and honor they usually bestow in a full season, but the popularity contest is back for 2021. The game will be played July 13.
That’s less than three weeks away, and the fan voting process is already well underway to decide the starting lineups. Obviously no Oakland A’s will be factors in the national fan voting, but several players deserve serious consideration for reserve roles. The following eight players have numbers that can’t be ignored:
- C Sean Murphy
- 1B Matt Olson
- 2B Tony Kemp
- OF Mark Canha
- OF Ramon Laureano
- SP Chris Bassitt
- SP Sean Manaea
- RP Lou Trivino
How many of them might make the All-Star squad? We’ll get a better idea of the landscape when the starters are officially announced, but let’s take a closer look for now. (Based on the latest voting, the AL starters most likely include DH Ohtani, C Perez, 1B Vlad Jr, 2B Semien, 3B Devers, SS Bogaerts, and outfielders Trout and Judge plus one more OF spot too close to call yet.)
Catcher: Sean Murphy
Murphy leads AL catchers in fWAR, and ranks second in bWAR. Salvador Perez leads the voting, which is fine because he’s an automatic lock anyway so he may as well get in that way, and he’s also the bWAR leader.
Beyond Perez, a few others have Murphy matched in terms of overall offense. But Murphy has the combination of double-digit homers, batting over the Mendoza Line, and high defensive value, including some of the best pitch-framing metrics in the majors.
Verdict: Right now Murphy 100% deserves to make it, and if he’s left out it will be a snub.
Competition: With Perez likely starting, that leaves Yasmani Grandal (CHW) and Gary Sanchez (NYY) as popular stars with notable stats, and Mike Zunino (TBR) and Max Stassi (LAA) also having good years.
First base: Matt Olson
If the season ended today then Olson would be Top 5 in MVP voting. Unfortunately, he has no chance to start at 1B because Vlad Guerrero Jr is one of the few players having an even better year, on top of being the super popular son of a Hall of Famer. Even A’s fans can agree that Vlad Jr deserves it, and he’s currently the overall voting leader at any position in both leagues.
Otherwise it’s difficult to imagine who else could challenge Olson’s 20 homers, .302 average, 167 wRC+, and Gold Glove caliber defense. The homers rank third among all AL hitters, and the wRC+ is second behind only Vlad. Reigning MVP Jose Abreu is having a mediocre follow-up, and after that are a couple more strong candidates who simply don’t measure up to Olson.
Verdict: Olson should be an absolute lock, and if he’s left out then it will be the biggest snub of the year including all sports and the Oscars and Grammys.
Competition: With Vlad Jr likely starting, that leaves Yuli Gurriel (HOU), Jared Walsh (LAA), and the name-power of Jose Abreu (CHW), plus a spot could go to Trey Mancini (BAL) who returned from cancer this season and is putting up good numbers.
Second base: Tony Kemp
Was anybody expecting Kemp to make this list? He’s having an incredible breakout year, reaching base at a mammoth clip to fuel a 148 wRC+ that leads all AL second basemen.
But Marcus Semien will certainly start, and Jose Altuve will get a reserve spot, and both deserve it, so the question really comes down to how many 2B spots there will even be on the roster. If they need room for an extra 1B or SS then there might not be space at the keystone, and if even if there is space then somebody might need a lone rep like Jonathan Schoop of the Tigers.
Two factors could work in Kemp’s favor. First, sometimes the manager wants a utilityman spot, for a multi-positional player like 2B/LF Kemp. Second, some of the spots are determined by players voting for their peers, and that seems like an area where the highly respected Kemp could do well.
Verdict: If I had to guess I’d say Kemp doesn’t make it, but he does have the numbers to merit a spot, and it’s not impossible.
Competition: With Semien likely starting, that leaves Jose Altuve (HOU) as a lock, plus Whit Merrifield (KCR), Brandon Lowe (TBR), and Jorge Polanco (MIN) as notable names having fine years, and Jonathan Schoop (DET) as a lone rep candidate.
Outfield: Mark Canha
Among AL outfielders, Canha is third in fWAR and fourth in bWAR. However, he still somehow isn’t nationally recognized as a star, as MLB Trade Rumors showed today when they referred to him as “underrated A’s outfielder” in their tweet about his hip injury. Also, that injury might end his chance, as he’s out at least half of the remaining time leading up to the All-Star break and who knows if he’ll even be back by mid-July.
Even without that setback, there’s a lot of competition including some vastly different skill sets. The status of Mike Trout has an impact, because he’ll get voted in but hasn’t yet returned from the IL himself, and Byron Buxton would have been a lock but he just fractured his hand and will need to be replaced. Aaron Judge will surely start, as he should. But the list doesn’t end there.
Verdict: I have no idea. A’s fans know he should be there, but does the rest of the country get it? And does the injury get him left out?
Competition: Beyond the names already mentioned, Cedric Mullins (BAL) and Adolis Garcia (TEX) are having great years that will surely be recognized; Michael Brantley (HOU) is an annual lock; Akil Baddoo (DET) could be a lone rep; and then there’s Joey Gallo (TEX), Kyle Tucker (HOU), Randy Arozarena (TBR), Mitch Haniger (SEA), and all kinds of others. Plus another name from the A’s themselves ...
Outfield: Ramon Laureano
He’s right behind Canha on the AL outfield WAR leaderboards, 4th in fWAR and seventh in bWAR, despite already sitting out a couple weeks on the IL. He’s got the edge in power and steals and he’s the primary CF, and he has all the name power and explosive highlight reel to go with it.
Verdict: If an A’s outfielder makes it, I’ll bet it’s Laureano. But outfields are always tough to predict, so let’s say a 50/50 chance?
Competition: See list in Canha’s section, and add Canha to it.
Pitcher: Chris Bassitt
Bassitt got Cy Young votes last year, and had a big playoff moment, and now he’s great again this year. He’s ninth among AL starters in both types of WAR, his 3.25 ERA ranks sixth, and his eight wins are tied for second for what it’s worth.
Let’s not even get into the potential competition, because there are always dozens of possibilities before even getting into potential lone reps. But Bassitt has an excellent case.
Verdict: Hold on, there is another A’s starting pitcher.
Pitcher: Sean Manaea
Manaea ranks sixth in fWAR and 11th in bWAR, so, around the same as Bassitt. Perhaps Manaea gets the edge based on a superior ERA (3.01, fifth in AL), plus he’s thrown two shutouts while Bassitt “only” has one (though one of Manaea’s was a shortened game).
There’s a great case for one of Bassitt or Manaea to make it. It might be a stretch to ask for both.
Verdict: My hunch is that Bassitt leads in name power right now, especially since he began building it up last summer, though Manaea did get on the national radar years ago with his no-hitter. I’d love to see both or either make it, but right now I’ll guess just Bassitt.
Pitcher: Lou Trivino
Several closers make the roster every year, and they’re usually judged primarily in save totals. Trivino is tied for fourth in the AL in saves, and he’s also got some holds, all at a high success rate. His 2.04 ERA is lower than most of the other saves leaders. Liam Hendriks and Aroldis Chapman are presumably locks, and Matt Barnes has ridiculous numbers and Emmanuel Clase has a sub-1.00 ERA. But beyond that? There could be a chance.
Verdict: The A’s do tend to get a lot of All-Star closers, and Trivino does have the stats for it. But I wonder if he might get squeezed out because Oakland has so many even better and more famous candidates at other positions. If they needed a lone rep then Trivino would be an easy pick, but does he make it as the fifth or sixth A’s rep?
The A’s have the second-best record in the AL at the time of this writing, and they’re contending for the fourth straight year, so it’s not homerism to assume they’ll be getting at least two or three spots on the All-Star team. That’s a bare minimum, especially given the list of names they have to offer. It’s also fair to assume they’ll get at least one rep on each side of the ball.
That means Olson and a pitcher at the very least. Probably add a second hitter, maybe a third hitter and/or second pitcher. If I had to guess right now, I’d say the frontrunners are Olson, Murphy, and Bassitt, with all three highly likely, and Laureano has an edge because the AL outfield is already missing a couple injured stars. It’s not impossible to imagine five A’s making it.
(Yes, it felt really weird writing this entire article without mentioning Matt Chapman. Hopefully next year!)
Leaving aside Olson, Murphy, and Bassitt, which other Oakland A’s player will make the 2021 All-Star team?
This poll is closed