As June begins I am starting to think about All-Stars despite the fact that I almost never watch any of the actual game. The Royals have had some pretty terrible All-Star selections through the years due to the every team gets a player rule. It was seriously embarrassing to send the likes of Ken Harvey and Mark Redman as our lone representative in the past. Over the last couple of years the Royal sent has been of better quality, but it would be nice to have more than one All-Star. It is possible this year since both James Shields and Ervin Santana should be in the conversation, but we can’t vote for them. Of the position players (and DH) that we can vote for, the Royals only have one worthy candidate. Alex Gordon deserves to be an All-Star this year. We should be supporting (vote here) him as much as possible and here is why:
Gordon has had two very good years leading up to 2013, and has established himself as one of the best outfielders in the game. If you look at hitting production here is how he ranks among American League outfielders (min. 150 PAs) so far this year.
OPS – 8th (.851)
OPS+ – 7th (131)
wOBA – tied for 7th (.368)
wRC+ – tied for 8th (131)
How about traditional stats?
AVG – 1st (.326)
R – tied for 5th (35)
HR – tied for 20th (6)
RBI – tied for 9th (31)
There is only one thing that Alex is not doing really well in, and that is home runs, which also may make it much harder for a typical fan to realize how good he has been. A lot of the players that are ranked ahead of him consistently in the OPS+ and wOBA type stats have some issues that in my mind make Gordon a better selection. Matt Joyce has played quite a bit less and is only hitting .266 and is not a particularly good defender. Coco Crisp hits for less power and average, and he has not played nearly as much as Gordon. Kelly Johnson has spent a significant amount of time at other positions and was not an every day player until recently. Daniel Nava hits very poorly against left handed pitching and has never shown this ability before and is a bad defender.
With all of that there are two outfielders clearly ahead of Alex right now. Mike Trout is one and is just other worldly good, and no one is as complete a player in the outfield in baseball right now. The other is Jose Bautista who got off to a slow start
but is now raking and has a track record over the last 3+ years that makes him an All-Star in my opinion. So that leaves the third starting outfield position open to a handful of candidates that I think Gordon can beat.
Mark Trumbo is raw power, but I think Gordon’s on-base skills and defense are enough to beat him out. Alex Rios got off to a great start and has faded to where he is statistically behind. Then you have the Nelson Cruz, Michael Morse, and Chris Carter‘s of the world that really only have power as a skill and nothing else. Once you get past all of these there is only one player that I think you could make an argument for, Adam Jones. He does a lot of things well, and hits for a little more power than Gordon including 11 homers. Jones does not walk at all and is not a gold glover, but he plays center instead of left so I would probably not hold Gordon’s defense above Jones. I could be talked into either guy as number three and the other as fourth.
Here is the rub. I think Alex Gordon is the third or fourth best outfielder in the American League this year, and has proven over the past few years that he should be in this group. What I think doesn’t matter though, and fan voting will not be in his favor. Fans vote for their market, and Gordon’s KC market is too small. Also, fans don’t care about defense which is one of Gordon’s best attributes. Lastly, the fan voters care a lot about home runs which is his weakest point. My guess is that Royals fans will only have one representative to watch yet again, and that it will be James Shields. So far in the voting Gordon is 8th among AL outfielders. He is even behind three players I didn’t even consider. Torii Hunter who is slugging .427 with 2 HR, Nate McLouth who is similarly power challenged and has a track record of awful play, and who is behind Gordon in average on-base, and slugging are all ahead of Alex.