It's the beginning of July and time for All-Star talk again. The Indians have been pretty good as a team this year (currently first in the AL Central) and have had stand outs among hitters, starters and relief pitchers. With the current state of voting, as usual, the Indians will not have a voted in starter in this years game (the last was Juan Gonzalez in 2001). This means their representative will have to be selected by the players or manager. For two straight years Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez have represented the Indians in the All-Star Game, but due to injuries and other set backs, neither player will be returning this season. The Indians do have quite a few players at the top of their position in the American League and here we will make their cases, starting with the most likely.
There's no such thing as a sure thing in the All-Star game as rosters are manipulated to make sure each team has at least one member and there are often great players snubbed and average players invited. The Indians have a couple players, however, that stand high above the others and would be considered a major snub if not invited to the mid-summer classic.
Justin Masterson: The Indians ace has been their best pitcher to this point in the season and currently leads the AL in innings pitched and is third in strike outs. Masterson's biggest issue is going to be the large amount of competition at starting pitcher in the league this year. Yu Darvish should almost certainly be the starting pitcher for the AL squad and two Tigers pitchers not named Verlander also deserve a nod (Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer). Perennial great, Felix Hernandez is still great and newcomer Chris Sale is also dominating the first half of the season. One possible entrance for Masterson would be if Clay Buchholz were to be invited, but unable to participate due to injury. Another plus for the Indians ace is that he threw a complete game shut out (his league leading third of the season) against the White Sox in his final start before the decision will be made. The Indians have had a pitcher represent the team in eight of the past ten seasons and Masterson is definitely the best on this year's roster.
Stats (AL SP Rank): 18 starts (1st), 10 W (4th), 3.48 ERA (16th), 124 IP (1st), 125 K (3rd), .223 BAA (7th), 3 CG/SHO (1st), 144 GO (1st)
Jason Kipnis: As always, a Yankee or Red Sox player having a good season will automatically get voted into the game and this year that player is Robinson Cano. Excluding Cano, Kipnis is first among second basemen in home runs, steals and triples and RBI. He has raised his batting average over .100 points since his slow start and now has to be considered among the top two second basemen in the American League. Kipnis has the kind of talent that he could be an perennial All-Star for years to come and 2013 should be his first year in the spot light. If the Indians only have one All-Star this year, it will almost certainly be Kipnis.
Stats (AL 2B Rank): .299 AVG (4th), 22 2B (1st), 12 HR (2nd), 51 RBI (1st), 19 SB (1st), .917 OPS (1st)
Carlos Santana: Despite his defensive lapses and his recent cold spell, Santana remains one of the top catchers in the Majors and is one of two Indians that have been considered in the actual fan voting for the All-Star game (the other is Mark Reynolds, who no longer deserves the trip). Santana ranks in the top four among AL catchers in doubles, runs scored, RBI, home runs and ranks first in walks. Joe Mauer currently ranks first among catchers in voting and deservedly so as he ranks first in all three slash stats and runs scored. In fact, the voting is pretty fair all around in the AL, with no injured players or undeserving veterans (Yankees) leading at their positions. In addition to Mauer, Salvador Perez (KC) and Jason Castro (HOU) deserve consideration for the team, giving the AL four strong candidates for two catching positions.
Stats (AL C Rank): 10 HR (3rd), 20 2B (3rd), 37 R (2nd), 34 RBI (4th), 46 BB (1st), .458 SLG (3rd)
Deserving, But Won't Be Going
Cody Allen & Joe Smith: As always, there are a plethora of tremendous relievers (both closers and set-up men) that are deserving of a trip to New York this July and the Indians have two of them. Both pitchers are currently holding an ERA around two and Allen has been particularly fantastic with a K/9 of over 11. However, this position is usually used more than others to make sure each team has a representative, so if Kipnis or Masterson make the team it would probably be enough to keep these two off. A few other non-closing relievers that deserve a spot on an unbiased All-Star team include Steve Delabar (TOR), Jesse Crain (CWS), Darren O'Day (BAL) and Koji Uehara (BOS). This year hasn't been a great season for closers (with a few exceptions), so these players absolutely deserve a shot at the game. Of course Mariano Rivera is a guarantee for the game in his final Major League season.
Cody Allen: 33.1 IP, 2.16 ERA, 40 K, .202 BAA
Joe Smith: 30.1, 2.08 ERA, 29 K, .198 BAA