The Billpen is Stuffing the Ballots

Header photo: Sporting News

Most of the news around baseball the past few days has been about Bryce Harper, Hunter Strickland, and the 80’s hair band brawl that the Nationals and Giants had a few days ago in San Francisco. I get that. It was big news, and Bryce’s helmet throw was also big news. Let’s not forget that the first round of All-Star voting updates was released this week as well and the leaders aren’t really surprising.  It’s better than a few years ago when all of the Royals were the leaders when voting opened on Memorial Day, but I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and offer my voting pattern for the All-Star Game.

American League

Catcher: Salvador Perez

Since Ivan Rodriguez, there hasn’t been a great offensive and defensive catcher, so there isn’t a no-brainer choice outside of Salvador Perez, who started last year for the AL and hit a dinger to boot. He’s got the most home runs against AL catchers and though the advanced offensive metrics say he is only slightly above league average, he’s still the best defender, too, which is what you want when you’re catching 3 or 4 of the best pitchers in a glorified exhibition game. Alex Avila is off to a red-hot start, but with a 30.4 K%, there’s no way he can hover around 175 wRC+ the entire season.

First Base: Jose Abreu

As badly as I want Miguel Cabrera to start another ASG, Abreu has been the best one in the league in 2017. Justin Smoak is having himself a nice season up in Toronto, but like I mentioned with Avila, he’s a candidate for regression; his career track record indicates he will not maintain this level. Jose Abreu will, and has been only fractionally behind Smoak in most categories; his 131 wRC+, .510 slugging, and .857 OPS are 3rd in the AL.

Second Base: Jose Altuve

Highest OBP, OPS, and wRC+ of any 2nd baseman in the AL. He’ll get his MVP one day. Next argument.

Shortstop: Carlos Correa

This one was tough. The young shortstops around the league are all so talented, it’s nearly impossible to pick just one to start. Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts is tearing the cover off the ball and is getting on base at an incredible .396 rate, Indians SS Francisco Lindor leads all AL shortstops in slugging percentage and ISO, but Correa is combining a high on-base mark (.386) with a high slugging percentage (.508) for a league best 144 wRC+. As always, I wouldn’t mind seeing Andrelton Simmons start just so I could watch him take ground balls for 6 innings.

Third Base: Miguel Sano

The usual suspects at third base in the AL have not been up to snuff this season. Machado has an OPS of .708, Kyle Seager is the third base version of the color beige, Alex Bregman isn’t just at league average, he IS league average, and Josh Donaldson and Adrian Beltre JUST came off of the DL. When their seasons grow older, they might the leaders but for right now, it’s Miguel Sano. Even though he strikes out like a fiend (38% K% is even higher than Joey Gallo), his .996 OPS and 165 wRC+ are best in the American League among third basemen.

Left Field: Corey Dickerson

This signing was a sneaky good pick-up by the Rays this offseason. He was always great for the Rockies but could never stay on the field because of injury concerns. Now that he is playing every day for the Rays and is the premiere bat in their lineup, he’s getting a chance to shine: 172 wRC+, .615 slugging percentage, and .390 OBP all lead the American League left fielders.

Center Field: Not Mike Trout

Because he’s hurt. Not because he doesn’t deserve it. After him, who? Leury Garcia? Nah. George Springer. Even though the wRC+ and OPS+ indicate he is only slightly above league average, there is nothing about his power that is average. Although – like Simmons in the SS category, I wouldn’t mind having Pillar start and just have him chase down flyballs from the pitching machine.

Right Field: Aaron Judge

Just because I want to see the home run statue at Marlins Park break from so much activity.

Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale

As long as the uniforms aren’t throwbacks (zing!). Sale has the best K/9, BB/9, lowest FIP by a considerable margin, and 3rd lowest WHIP. I would love to see him bring 96 mph at Bryce Harper basically from first base.

Closer: Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel has allowed 2 runs and only 6 hits in 23 innings pitched (and nothing since April 20) this season, walking 3 and striking out 42. That’s fine.

National League

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal

It should be Posey. But I’m human and hold grudges.

First Base: Not Freddie Freeman

Like Trout, not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because he’s injured. Instead, it’s between Ryan Zimmerman (who is flying a little too close to the sun) and Paul Goldschmidt (who has proven that he is the nationally most underappreciated first baseman in the game). If Zimmerman can keep up this crazy onslaught of .371/.412/.702 and a 189 wRC+, then I’ll vote for him. Yes, Eric Thames is still a thing.

Second Base: Daniel Murphy

Josh Harrison is a compelling choice, but Daniel Murphy is the only one slugging over .500 and has the highest wRC+, ISO, and home run total of anyone in the NL.

Shortstop: Zack Cozart

The Reds deserve some love! They don’t suck! Cozart is off to an incredible start, one of only 9 players in MLB with an OPS greater than 1. As solid as Corey Seager is, Cozart’s numbers are too gaudy to ignore, much like Zimmerman at first base. Whether they make it to July in this fashion is questionable, but for the first of June, you can’t ignore it.

Third Base:  Jake Lamb

Hot take alert! Kris Bryant is still the gold standard of third basemen in the game today, but Jake Lamb is comparable so far this season. His OPS is one point lower than Bryant’s, the difference in defense is negligible, and his slugging and ISO are the best!

Left Field: Michael Conforto

After so many years of hype, it appears Conforto has put it together. There are plenty of good NL left fielders out there, but like Cozart and Zimmerman, Conforto is slugging over 1.o00, putting him in elite company with the rest of the league, making him impossible to pass over. I almost had Marcell Ozuna here.

Center Field: Charlie Blackmon

Only NL center fielder that has a wRC+ above league average. He’s the best and it isn’t close.

Right Field: Bryce Harper

He’s too good to pass up. He’s still so early in his career that we don’t know whether his 2015 MVP campaign was the rule or the exception – fine, it’s the rule, but I still don’t have to like him. He gets on base with the best of them, hits majestic home runs, controls his strike outs, and defends…well enough.

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

If you’ve ever visited this blog more than once, you’ll know that I think the world of Kershaw. He would have to lose his left arm for me to not consider him the NL ASG starter.

Closing Pitcher: Kenley Jansen

Jansen is the NL’s elite closer now that Kimbrel has moved to Boston. He has a .651 WHIP, best in the league (and somehow double Kimbrel’s) – and has not walked a batter yet this season.

With 6 weeks until the All-Star break, these names will most likely change. 50 games into the season, these are my votes and many of the players on this list might not be able to sustain their success, so they will likely change, but here you have it!

Thanks for reading.

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