Major League Baseball is set to announce the rosters for the Mid-Summer classic at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and the Royals have several players in the mix for inclusion. This time the Royals will land an All-Star nod for someone who actually deserves it and not just another Mark Redman or Ken Harvey.
By my count the Royals have five players who should be in the discussion to being added to the American League roster. There is no chance a player will receive enough votes to start the All-Star game so whoever is going to make the team is going to have to do it as a manager or player selection. Here are the five guys I think have the best shot at making the team in reverse order.
5. Alex Gordon
Gordon’s chances of making the team suffered a serious blow after suffering a head and hip injury July 3rd while chasing after a fly ball in right field. In addition to the injury Gordon was also working his way out of a three-week slump that had killed how batting average and power numbers – both being things managers take into account when selecting players.
Still, Gordon has a very strong case to be selected to the team anyway. Even with the slump he is batting .292/.351/.426 on the season, leads the team in runs scored (45), tied for the team lead in RBI (46), and is second on the team in home runs (8). He’s in the mix for his third-straight Gold Glove Award and should be considered the team MVP through the first half of the season.
Passing on Gordon will be very difficult.
Arguably the Royals best starting pitcher, Santana has made a tremendous statistical case he should be the Royals All-Star selection. He leads all Royals starters in ERA (2.84), ERA+ (144), and WHIP (1.036). He is striking out batters almost as frequently as he is giving up hits (93 hits, 89 strikeouts) and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4:1. His start on Saturday against Oakland may be the determining factor if he moves up ahead of James Shields.
The problem for Santana is there are not a lot of spots open for starting pitchers in the All-Star game. Because of the roster restrictions, the need to win the game as it determines home field advantage in the World Series, and the importance of one inning relievers in the All-Star game, Santana could get pushed out just because of the numbers game.
Additionally, Santana has just a 5-5 record this year in 16 starts. While his lack of wins and five losses are mostly not his fault because of a terrible offense it will still not play well when it comes to his selection. This is also a problem Shields will have when his resume is reviewed.
While the lack of roster spots are an issue for Santana it may be the main reason Perez gets a nod for the All-Star game.
It is quite clear who are the top four catchers in the AL: Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters, and Perez. Perez is one of the better hitting catchers in the American League with his .307 batting average being behind Mauer. While his power numbers are not as good as Santana, Perez is a better defender behind the plate. Wieters has more home runs and RBI than Perez but Weiters is also batting just .225 and has an OPS under .700.
There will be two determining factors in whether or not Perez makes the team: Where does Jim Leyland rank Perez amongst the top four catchers and will he carry three catchers?
If Leyland decides to go with three catchers than the chances Perez goes to the All-Star game increases significantly. There is little doubt Perez is having at least a top three season in the American League amongst catchers so he should beat out Wieters. But if Leyland goes with just two catchers than I think it will be difficult for him to justify selecting Perez over Santana even though there is a good case to be made in favor of Perez. This will be one of the more interesting spots to dissect after the rosters are announced.
2. James Shields
The key offseason addition for the Royals have been precisely as advertized so far this season.
Shields suffered his worst start of the season yesterday after allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision to Cleveland which bumped his season ERA over 3. But don’t let the ERA and record (3-6) fool you as Shields has been very good for the Royals this year as he leads the team in strikeouts and innings pitched while finishing in a close second to Santana in the other categories.
Santana has statistically been the better pitcher so it wouldn’t be surprising if he leaps over Shields. But Shields name value and value to the team could mean Leyland selects him over Santana.
However, one more good start from Santana tonight and he could very easily leapfrog over Shields.
1. Greg Holland
Outside of Mariano Rivera there as been almost no other closer as dominant in the AL as Holland has been this season. He’s 2-1 with 19 saves, 1.97 ERA, 0.969 WHIP, 4.82 K:BB, and a 14.9 K/9 in 32 innings.
And those numbers are inflated because of a bad first week of the season. Since April 9 he has been nearly perfect saving 18 of 19 games (2-0 record) with a 0.90 ERA, .767 WHIP, and a .460 OPS against. 50 of the 90 outs he recorded in that span were via the strikeout.
Holland has been absolute nails and should be a sure fire lock for the All-Star game.