Later today, the rosters for the 2013 MLB All-Star Game in New York will be announced and for the first time in nearly a decade, the Royals have a legitimate shot at being represented by more than one player.
With a team that had preseason buzz behind it and currently sits just a shade under .500 (okay, that’s still not good, but it’s better), the performances, obviously, have been better than in seasons past. In my mind, I can see seven players with some likelihood of making the team.
By that I don’t mean that all seven will make it, just that there are seven players with a reasonable case to be made, even if it’s a longshot in some cases. Below are my candidates and a carefully calculated scientific percentage* chance that they’ll be selected to this year’s All-Star team.
*completely made up
Jun 7, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won the game 4-2. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
RP Greg Holland
Holland currently leads the American League with 14.91 K/9 and a ridiculous 42.4% strikeout rate. He’s allowed just 31 baserunners in 32 innings and his ERA (1.97) is excellent. Even better are his FIP (1.60) and xFIP (1.67), suggesting he’s been slightly unlucky statistically.
He’s allowed just two runs in the last two months and his last blown save was in the first week of May. While many All-Star selections will pop up one year and never be heard from again, Holland has a couple years of strong performance behind him, which will start to establish him as a name when discussing top closers in the league. As it is right now, he has the third highest fWAR among relief pitchers (tied with Joe Nathan at 1.3), but with the fewest innings of the top names.
Plus, when the Royals don’t have good hitters or starters, it’s usually a reliever who gets selected. The token pick was usually Joakim Soria in years past with a random Aaron Crow selection in 2011. This year, Holland is a near-lock in my eyes.
Likelihood of selection: 99.9%
Jun 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Despite some rocky starts recently, Shields is the big name in the rotation. The Royals acquisition of him made headlines and still gets discussed among baseball writers today.
And he’s been good, so he’s worthy of a selection. He’s thrown the fourth most innings in the AL and sits in seventh place among the strikeout leaders. He’s been considered an ace by some and his reputation is for those big moments.
These days, the pitcher win is recognized as a faulty way to evaluate pitchers, and his win-loss record shouldn’t hinder his chances. Also, when you consider that some selections are made by the players, Shields stands out over fellow starter Ervin Santana. He’s highly regarded among other players and up front in community affairs, so he’s well-liked and well-known. That counts in these sorts of things. Shields last made the All-Star team in 2011.
Likelihood of selection: 55%
Jun 8, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) delivers a pitch in the 3rd inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 7-2, giving Santana his 100th career win. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
SP Ervin Santana
For as solid as Shields has been, Santana has been even better.
That’s surprising after his 2012 season where he got rocked all season long, but this year, he’s been strong every time out. He’s gone six innings in every start this year and, after getting past his first start of the year, his ERA has never gone higher than 3.33. For comparison’s sake, Shields, who I think has a better chance of being selected, currently has a 3.23 ERA. Santana hasn’t been in that territory in almost six weeks.
He’s not walking people (just 5% of batters faced have gotten a free pass) and still striking batters out and it’s made his WHIP look great at 1.036.
Like Shields, he’s well-known, having been in the league since 2005, and he’s having a better year. Santana made the All-Star team in 2008.
Likelihood of selection: 45%
Jun 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) drives in a run with a single in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Scouts, opposing teams, writers – they all rave about Salvador Perez.
With a combination of defensive ability and offensive performance, it’s easy to see why. A lot of catchers are solid defenders. Some are solid hitters. Few are both.
To this point, Perez has hit .309/.336/.455 through 185 big league games. His power numbers are low compared to Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters, but they’re still relatively good. He’s fourth in the AL in fWAR among AL catchers and third in bWAR.
Perez often draws comparisons to Yadier Molina, who made his first All-Star team in 2009. That year, Molina hit .280/.352/.383 with five homers and 30 RBI in the first half. Perez is hitting .306/.331/.426 this year heading into Saturday’s game. And he’s four years younger than Molina was in that first All-Star year.
Likelihood of selection: 40%
April 25, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) hits a grand slam home run in the tenth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
OF Alex Gordon
If Gordon could omit June from his numbers, he’d be a lock. Even with a terrible month, Gordon ranks seventh in the AL in bWAR and sixth in fWAR.
He should have made the 2011 team and could have had a case last year, too, and with the national recognition of two straight Gold Gloves, he’s a known commodity. He was among some of the leading names in voting for outfielders, but this being Kansas City, he’d have needed a remarkable first half to be voted in.
As it is, he’s having a good year, but still not as good as the previous two. And still, he’s an All-Star caliber player.
Outfield is a tough spot to crack, but it’s still an area where there are more taken to the game, and that may give Gordon a chance to hit the field.
Likelihood of selection: 30%
Jun 26, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) connects for a one run single in the third inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
DH Billy Butler
Probably chief among the obstacles for Butler’s potential for a repeat selection is that the game is in New York’s Citi Field and will play under National League rules. That leaves Butler out of the picture.
He’s still among the top offensive performers overall because he gets on base and hits for a good average, plus he’s had years of solid production behind him and an All-Star Game under his belt already. Based on the merits of his season so far, though, he doesn’t have All-Star numbers. They’re good, but they’re not good enough to crack a tough field of first basemen.
Likelihood of selection: 15%
April 25, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) hits a single in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
1B Eric Hosmer
Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have even had Hosmer in mind, but he’s been so hot at the plate lately that he crept back into consideration.
But believe it or not, Hosmer is second in bWAR (2.2) among AL players who play first base 50% of the time. He’s fifth in fWAR among AL first basemen (1.3) and while first base is a big power position, Hosmer sits in the middle of the pack with his nine homers. A little bit more pop in the first two months of the year and Hosmer could have found himself in a position to be getting some bigger recognition.
As it stands now, though, he’s probably an injury and two declines away from being selected, though he was part of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, so he’s on the radar.
Likelihood of selection: 5%
My prediction is that Holland is definitely in with either of Shields or Santana getting put into the Final Vote after rosters are announced.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports put two Royals on his AL roster – Holland and Perez. He gave strong consideration to Gordon, Shields and Santana as well.
The last time the Royals got more than one player on the All-Star team was 2003 when Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal both earned the nod. I suppose there’s a decent chance the Royals get a second player involved, but it will take some maneuvering to happen. There are always replacements, but there are always snubs. But a non-zero chance is alright in my book.