Remember way back in April when Will Middlebrooks of the Boston Red Sox hit three home runs in a game? Everyone was ready to proclaim him the next big superstar in the American League East at third base. Even going so far as to try to convince themselves that another young star at the same position was “overrated” and “inferior” to Middlebrooks.
**During the writing of this the aforementioned Middlebrooks was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket**
Well Middlebrooks is currently hitting .192 with an OPS of .617 and an even more embarrassing strikeout-to-walk ratio.
That “other” guy? That would be Baltimore Orioles Third Basemen Manny Machado. And he should be an All-Star in 2013.
The 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star game is three weeks away and with fan voting for the game ending on July fourth, the process of picking reserves is usually the more controversial of all. So I’m offering my services (somewhat) to Bruce Bochy, Jim Leyland, and the players as they make their selections and encourage them not to overlook these players when building the roster for the game July, 16th in New York. Here are ten players that shouldn’t be overlooked (that very well could be).
- Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles, 3B (5 HR, 38 RBI, .825 OPS): Spectacular on defense, better overall in many categories than Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (GASP!). I wrote in passing back in April to stop comparing Middlebrooks to Machado because in all honesty there isn’t a comparison to be made. Now we see that, and so should a national audience in New York.
- Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates, P (6-1, 2.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP): Seems to have figured it out in 2013. While the Pirates Bullpen and Andrew McCutchen will get most of the attention (deservedly so), credit should be given to Locke for breaking out in impressive fashion.
- Kris Medlen (4-7, 2.96 ERA, 71 K’s/25 BB) and Mike Minor (8-3, 2.89 ERA, 91 K’s/20 BB), Atlanta Braves, P: Last season Mike Minor put everything together from the All-Star break forward; then proceeded to carry that momentum over into 2013. His rotation mate, Kris Medlen, stole the show once he was plugged into the rotation and went 10-1 (while the Braves won 23-consecutive games he started dating back to before his Tommy John surgery. Both have been great in 2013, but Medlen has fallen victim to lack of run support. While Minor will get the attention for his record and numbers, both should be considered if we’re talking best in show.
- Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks, P (9-0, 2.19 ERA, 1.00 WHIP): I don’t think there has been a more pleasant development in Arizona than Corbin. The second year left-hander has been nothing short of sensational since being plugged into the Diamondbacks rotation and is as important a part of their three-game lead as anyone.
- Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, C (10 HR, 32 RBI, .276 BA, .385 OBP): Better control of the strike zone has allowed Santana to establish himself as a top-5 catcher in baseball. It also helps that he is healthy behind the plate.
- Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians, 2B (9 HR, 41 RBI, .282 BA, .846 OPS): Anyone notice Kipnis has a higher average than Robinson Cano and is second among American League second basemen in RBI’s? If not take notice.
- Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics, SS (4 HR, 30 RBI, .304 BA, .379 OBP): Second highest OPS and On-Base percentage among shortstops in the American League. Worthy reserve candidate to represent the Oakland Athletics
- Dominic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies, OF(19 HR, 50 RBI, .274 BA, 13 SB): Power and speed are on display nightly with Brown. Despite his high strikeout rate and low on-base percentage he gets the nod for a solid first half in Philadelphia.
- Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers, OF (7 HR, 14 RBI, .442 BA, 1.229 OPS): Yes he has only played 20 games in Los Angeles. I know there is this whole “you have to earn it” narrative that goes with small sample/big number players. But seriously, after 20 games the guy is still showcasing all five of his tools nightly and for that, he is worthy of a spot.
- Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres, SS (.305 BA, .382 OBP, 31 SB, .800 OPS): Leading the National League in steals and is second at his position in on-base percentage, Cabrera is leading the charge for the rejuvenated friars in San Diego.
- Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres, P (5-3, 3.34 ERA): Another key to San Diego’s turnaround, I watched him pitch in San Francisco last week and go pitch-for-pitch with the Giants Matt Cain. Exciting young arm to build around.
- Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds, P (7-1, 3.05 ERA, 100 K’s, 28 BB): A season three years in the making, Latos is pitching like the ace San Diego envisioned only in Cincinnati. The Reds will happily take that following a season in which he went 14-4.
- Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, P (4-4, 3.05 ERA, 81 K’s): At 20-years old, I wrote at the beginning it was a mistake to put this talented kid in the rotation so soon (especially if it was only for the sake of convincing people to come watch the rest of your roster). But all Fernandez has done as pitch as advertised. His record sits at 4-4, but credit that more to the cast than him. His ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP through 14 starts have made him a top-15 pitcher in the National League.
- James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays, 1B (.304 BA, 9 HR, 39 RBI, .835 OPS): Exaggerated leg kick? Gone. Long swing? History. Couple that with a career .284 hitter who already had good command of the strike zone as a hitter and you get the breakout party (finally) for Loney. Without the flaws mentioned earlier, the doubles and triples are turning into home runs in Tampa. He has always been a plus defender, so now we’re looking at a player who has become this generations version of Jon Olerud.
- (Honorable Mention) Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves, 1B (7 HR, 48 RBI, .304 BA, .822 OPS): This guy isn’t new to this now, although his age (23) might make him seem like it. Last season, he debunked the sophomore slump talk and hit 23 home runs while driving in 94 runs. He wasn’t too happy about the regression of his batting average, so he’s taken pains this season to make sure his swing selection matches his production. What does this all mean? Put him in the game, Boch!
- (Honorable Mention #2) Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B (6 HR, 58 RBI, .312 BA, .354 OBP): Because there are always debates, I had to include one more player on my list for two reasons. 1.) how many players can say they replaced a legend so well fans are okay with the thought he is no longer there? 2.) Craig’s season so far has put him in a production class with some of the top run-producers in baseball.
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