Every year we predict the Indians who we at BurningRiverBaseball.com think will make the All-Star team and those who are deserving but will not make it and there has never been such a clear cut answer. Even so, we will still go over the two players who almost certainly make the team and a couple others who have made cases for stardom, but will likely be left behind.
Most Likely to be an American League All-Star
There has been one player that been outstanding for the Tribe year. Just a single player who has carried the offense from Opening Day through the half way point in the season without a single lull in production and that man is Michael Brantley. Brantley leads the Indians in almost every single stat worth recording, including home runs, RBI and steals, but has done more than that, earning comparisons with the greatest players in baseball. He currently ranks 11th in the AL in WAR among all players, coming in fifth among outfielders. As of the last update, Brantley is only about 310,000 votes away from the starting third outfield start, but the first two are well secured by the top two overall vote gainers, Jose Bautista and Mike Trout.
It is difficult to compare Brantley to the remaining outfielders as there are really none other than Trout who can do what he has been doing. There are powerful, middle of the line-up type outfielders, like Cruz, Springer and Cespedes and their are speedy lead off hitters, like Crisp and Cabrera. Brantley’s combination of the two skills in unmatched in the American League except by Trout, who has brought it to another level entirely. One thing the above list has in common is that almost all are fantastic defensively as well as on offense. Along with Brantley, Bautista, Gordon, Springer and Cabrera are all in the top ten in AL outfield assists.
If comparing the lower eight players listed above is difficult, picking just two will be even harder. While some of the selections may depend on the rest of the roster and which teams need a representative, for now we will ignore all that and try to find the best three or four to go along with Trout and Bautista. To start, a few players can be eliminated. With the influx of outfield talent, it is hard to imagine Cabrera or Crisp breaking through the leaders. Of the rest, it would be almost impossible to not include Cespedes, who doesn’t have the offensive numbers of some of the others, but has been a mainstay on highlight reels all season. After him, it would seem Brantley is the next obvious choice. While Cabrera and Jones are also ahead of him in the voting, that is mostly because the majority of ballots are filled by AL East fans who pick the best player they know. He leads all other players in average and is second to just Cruz in RBI. Along with this, his speed has lead to 19 doubles and nine steals, just two doubles and one steal short of Trout. Along with those two, the remaining spots will likely be filled by Cruz, who is the top power outfielder remaining and either Springer or Gordon who have been bright spots in less than spectacular offenses.
Slightly Less Likely to be an American League All-Star
On the pitching side, the Indians have one pitcher who has stood out as well, leading the team in innings, strike outs and ERA. Corey Kluber is the only Indians starter to induce confidence when he takes the mound that if his team scored even a couple runs, they will probably win. He has a much tougher group to break through than Brantley, however as their are multiple starters announcing their candidacy for the 2014 Cy Young Award.
Since fan voting is out of consideration for pitchers, the best will most likely be selected. Four to six of those listed above should make the team and if you have an ERA above 3.00, you need not apply. Hernandez, who one hit the Indians through eight innings on Sunday is an obvious pick, as are Darvish and Tanaka, who have far made up for Daisuke Matsuzaka, increasing the confidence in Japanese imports.
After this, things get a little more blurry. While the starter will likely be chosen from the three listed above, Buehrle, Keuchel and Sale, despite missing three starts with injury, are all great candidates to fill out the roster. The worst ERA among those six pitchers belongs to Keuchel, who has just a 2.78, while Sale, Tanaka and Hernandez all sit 2.30 or below. With little room for others, this really shows the extreme depth of the AL starting pitching pool as both great Tigers starters, Scherzer and Sanchez as well as Kluber, could be left on the outside. While in previous years, a starter with nine wins, 132 K’s and a 3.64 ERA would been good enough to start the Mid-Summer Classic, it might not be enough to even break through this year. At this, Kluber is likely to be a snub, although deserving of the honor. Of course, since pitchers are not allowed to be on the roster if they start the game before the break, it is possible one or two of the Central Division starters could make it.
Unlikely, But Deserving of Credit
Josh Donaldson will be the AL’s starting third baseman after an MVP run in 2013 with either Kyle Seager (who will be a huge snub if he doesn’t make it) and/or Adrien Beltre taking the reserve role. Obviously, these players are the most deserving, but the fourth best AL third baseman by WAR is in fact, Cleveland’s own Lonnie Chisenhall. His 36 RBI are second among 3B with less than 250 at bats and he leads all league third basemen with at least 200 at bats in average, OBP, slugging percent and OPS. If he had been allowed to start regularly in April, Chisenhall would likely deserve the starting spot, but without those at bats, his argument for even a bench spot is greatly weakened. Also making things difficult is that the Indians named Carlos Santana their primary third baseman with Jason Giambi at DH, leaving Chisenhall off the ballot. This makes voting for him this year similar to voting for Ross Perot.
While Terry Francona believes that Yan Gomes is deserving of a spot, Salvador Perez and Derrik Norris are incredibly better options as Gomes doesn’t have the offensive production to deserve a spot. Instead, the last player who deserves consideration is the Tribe’s new closer, Cody Allen. There are 15 AL relievers with more saves than Allen, including one on the Indians, but like Chisenhall, this has much to do with opportunities. Compared to those with 15 saves, Allen is sixth in ERA (2.60) and strike outs (44) and speaking of opportunities, has only blown one for a save. Although not as strong as the starting group, Allen will likely be on the outside with Koji Uehara, Zach Britton and Chad Qualls deserving guaranteed spots and many other deserving consideration, including Fernando Rodney, Greg Holland and Joakim Soria.
There is just one day left to vote, so make sure to head to MLB.com and give Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes your support.