A player’s first trip to the All-Star Game is always special.
Some guys might downplay the experience because, y’know, they’re trying to be cool and all, but being selected by either the fans, their peers or a manager is a rewarding feeling. Some guys get there all the time; others not so much (did you know Corey Kluber didn’t make his first All-Star team until two years after he won his Cy Young award?). It’s such an imperfect selection process, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.
What we’re going to do is try to pick potential first-time All-Stars for each team. We’re doing the American League squads this time, and we’ll follow up with the NL next time. The All-Star Game, of course, is on July 11 at Marlins Park.
Let’s get going, shall we?
Angels: SS Andrelton Simmons
Why him? Feels like Simmons should have made an All-Star Game already, right? I mean, he’s had the reputation as baseball’s best defensive shortstop pretty much from the moment he became Atlanta’s full-time starter in 2013, his Age 23 season, but he’s yet to play in the midseason showcase. Maybe this is his year, now that he’s 27. Through seven games with the Angels, he already has a homer and a stolen base (and is hitting .400) and maybe more of those counting stats (homers, stolen bases) will help his case when it comes to a much-deserved spot on the All-Star team.
Or maybe this guy: RF Kole Calhoun. He has a Gold Glove, but no All-Star spot.
Astros: CF George Springer
Why him? He’s certainly made a loud impact to start this season, hasn’t he? Springer has four home runs alreadythrough Houston’s first eight games. I’ve said this before, but it just feels like Springer is the kind of player who has a couple of monster seasons ahead of him, the kind of seasons that bump him into the MVP conversation. Maybe this is the first one of those. He still needs to cut down on the strikeouts a bit (178 last year), but he’s coming off a season with 29 homers and a 4.3 rWAR and is poised to improve on both numbers in his Age 27 season.
Or maybe this guy: SS Carlos Correa. The biggest question with Correa is how many All-Star nods he’ll get in his career, not “when will he get his first?”
Athletics: LF Khris Davis
Why him? Davis finally gained national attention last year, when he hit 11 home runs in May and never really slowed down, finishing with 42 in his first season with the A’s. Maybe it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, though, considering he’d hit 49 total in 2014-15 with the Brewers. Anyway, it’s highly doubtful he’ll earn a starting spot with the popular vote, but if the 29-year-old repeats last year’s power production (he already has four homers), expect him to get a spot on the bench with the AL squad.
Or maybe this guy: SP Kendall Gravemen. The A’s gave him the openingday nod, and he’s been pretty darn good in his first two starts.
Blue Jays: SP Marcus Stroman
Why him? Did you watch him in the World Baseball Classic final? He was brilliant. But, really, Blue Jays fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Stroman as the staff ace for a while. He’s made five postseason starts with mixed results (4.40 ERA) and was good-not-great in his first full healthy season in the bigs last year (32 starts, 4.37 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 1.5 rWAR). But there’s no denying his talent or passion or drive for excellence, and you won’t find many baseball people out there who expect him to fall short of his goals. Stroman turns 26 on May 1.
Or maybe this guy: 2B Devon Travis. In two injury-shortened seasons, Travis produced a .301 average and .811 OPS, with 19 homers and 85 RBIs in 163 games. That’s an All-Star, folks.
Indians: SP Carlos Carrasco
Why him? Carrasco has dealt with more than his fair share of setbacks during his career, but he’s healthy to start 2017. And if he stays that way, expect him in Miami for the All-Star Game. He made 55 starts for Cleveland in 2015-16and produced a 3.49 ERA/3.23 FIP, with very healthy ratios of 10.0 K/9 and 4.75 K/BB. He really should have made it last year — he had a 2.47 ERA at the break — but maybe this year he gets his deserved recognition.
Or maybe this guy: 3B Jose Ramirez. An All-Star nod would go nicely with his new long-term deal.
Mariners: RP Edwin Diaz
Why him? The right-hander with nasty stuff was outstanding as a rookie, earning the closer job and finishing 2016 with 18 saves and 88 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings (no, really), and then he was brilliant in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico. Yeah, he had an early hiccup against the Angels, but that was an odd situation and we’ll have long forgotten about that by the time he’s throwing up zero after zero heading into the break.
Or maybe this guy: SP James Paxton. Truthfully, Mariners fans would just be happy to have him healthy enough to make 30 starts. Two starts into his 2017 campaign, he has 13 strikeouts and still hasn't allowed an earned run.
Orioles: SP Dylan Bundy
Why him? It’s weird to say that Bundy’s time has finally arrived — he’s only 24 — but Orioles fans have been waiting for him to be the staff ace from the time he was drafted as a high-school phenom way back in 2011. He moved into Baltimore’s rotation in the second half of last season and showed flashes of being a shut-down starter (five starts of 0 or 1 runs allowed), but he had some hiccups, too (four starts of five runs allowed). It was all about gaining experience for Bundy, though, and he looked outstanding in his first start of 2017, striking out eight in seven innings and allowing just four his (and zero walks) against the Blue Jays.
Or maybe this guy: 2B Jonathan Schoop. Honestly, I originally had Schoop, an All-Star caliber player, in the top spot, but 2B in the AL is jam-packed (Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis, Roughned Odor, to name a few) and that crushes Schoop’s chances.
Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor
Why him? Odor hit 33 homers last year and already has three this season. His biggest problem is the same thing that will probably keep Jonathan Schoop out of the classic — second base is packed with star players (see above). If he keeps up his hot start and improves on last year’s numbers, though, it might be impossible to keep him away from Miami.
Or maybe this guy: RF Noman Mazara. He hit 20 homers as a rookie and is off to a fine start this season.
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermaier
Why him? Kiermaier is an elite defensive center fielder. You know this, of course, but he's turning into a pretty good offensive force, too. Kiermaier is healthy and ready to improve on his injury-shortened 2016 season, where he still posted a 5.5 rWAR despite playing in only 105 games, with 12 homers and 21 stolen bases.
Or maybe this guy: SP Alex Cobb. In 49 starts in 2013-14, Cobb posted a 2.82 ERA, but elbow issues caused him to miss all of 2015 and most of 2016. He’s healthy again and the Rays are hoping for big things.
Red Sox: LF Andrew Benintendi
Why him? Yeah, this one’s an easy choice. Nobody would be surprised if everybody’s AL Rookie of the Year choice makes the All-Star Game on his way to the postseason award (and, heck, the actual postseason, too). He hit .295 with a .834 OPS in his 34-game trial last season.
Or maybe this guy: C Sandy Leon. Don’t bet against this guy, ever.
Royals: SP Danny Duffy
Why him? Duffy’s had an interesting ride in his baseball career, to say the least. He had a breakthrough after he moved from the bullpen to the rotation midway through last season; in a 16-start stretch from the beginning of June through late August, the lefty had a 2.50 ERA and struck out 113 in 108 innings. The club rewarded him with a five-year, $65 million extension in January, and big things are expected going forward for Duffy, who turned 28 last Dec.21.
Or maybe this guy: SP Ian Kennedy. He’s had a couple of very good years (he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young vote in 2011), but never an All-Star nod.
Tigers: 3B Nicholas Castellanos
Why him? No, not just because he goes by Nicholas now after going by just Nick his first few years in the bigs. Castellanos has learned on the job in the majors, improving a bit more every season, at the plate and with the glove. He’s ready to take another big jump forward, and four extra-base hits in his first sixgames (two homers, a triple and a double) is a darn good start.
Or maybe this guy: SP Michael Fulmer. Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year is a star.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano
Why him? Because he mashes the baseball on a regular basis. Yes, he strikes out too much and, yes, he’s a work in progress defensively. But it’s not outlandish to think Sano could have 18-22 homers by the break, and that’s worth consideration. Problem is, third base is packed with superstars in the AL — a list starting with Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre and Kyle Seager makes it toughSano to find a spot.
Or maybe this guy: RP Brandon Kintzler. Hey, a 30-something reliever finally getting a chance to close games and turning that into an All-Star nod would at least make a good story.
White Sox: RF Avisail Garcia
Why him? Because maybe, finally, this is the year he puts it all together. He’s immensely talented, but he’s been frustrating for White Sox fans to watchwith his lack of production (a result of a lack of patience and discipline at the plate). Thing is, he’s still only 25 years old and he’s off to a strong start to the season. Hope springs eternal and stuff.
Or maybe this guy: 2B Tyler Saladino. Mostly because we want to see the player with baseball’s best mustache on the big stage.
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird
Why him? Yeah, he’s had a slow start to the season. But this kid has all kinds of power (he hit eight homers this spring) and one solid week will make everyone forget about the first week (also, super small sample sizes are overrated). He’s seeing his first round of big-league pitchers since 2015, after missing 2016 with a shoulder injury. Let’s give him a moment, eh?
Or maybe this guy: RP Adam Warren. He’s been excellent out of the pen, and chances are he’ll get a shot in the rotation sooner or later.