We're finishing our posts on the Beyond the Box Score All-Star Game picks with the American League reserves! These players have submitted the finest performances of the 2015 season, and we (as a group) are pleased to consider them worth of All-Star status.
First, let's recap our AL All-Star starters.
Not so bad! Four players are repeat starters from last season (Cabrera, Donaldson, Trout, and Bautista), and none of these selections look bad in hindsight. To read more, check out the post on our starters here.
To recap, here's our process for deciding on the reserves:
That's it. So let's get to it — our American League position player All-Star reserves!
Here's a rundown on each of the players who've made the team.
Stephen Vogt - C
This All-Star team's backup catcher is, well, unexpected. When the A's dealt Derek Norris to the Padres this offseason, they obviously had a plan in place. But I doubt in Bill Beane's wildest dreams he imagined that Stephen Vogt would step up in the way that he has. FanGraphs tells us that Vogt has hit 49 percent better than league average, which is the same offensive load Jose Bautista is carrying. His .385 on-base percentage and .510 slugging percentage is a far sight better than his last three partial seasons.
Vogt's a true 2015 breakout star. If he keeps up this combination of power and patience for a little while, he'll make the Athletics look awfully sharp -- at least in this regard! (The Donaldson trade still looks pretty awful, though.)
Albert Pujols - 1B
He's back! Albert is having his best offensive season since leaving St. Louis. We're not talking vintage Pujols here -- at 35 the best we can realistically hope for is this spike in power (24 homers) and an OBP that won't embarrass him. Given that his BABIP is .224 -- low even for him -- this may be the last gasp of an all-time great ... or there could be a couple more seasons of offensive milestones and solid performance in his future.
Brian Dozier - 2B
If it weren't for Jason Kipnis's career year, maybe we'd be paying even more attention to Brian Dozier's rise. Dozier has spiked his power since last year (16 homers so far), and other than that he's still playing average defense and running wild on the basepaths. For all the talk about the thrilling young prospects in the Minnesota system, Dozier might be the best young star to suit up with the Twins since Joe Mauer -- and he may be their best player for the next several years.
Logan Forsythe - 2B
So, this happened. No, I don't know how. Somehow, Logan Forsythe has done a phenomenal job of replacing Ben Zobrist, reaching base like crazy (.368 OBP) and filling in at a couple of infield positions, but mainly second base. He's only had a half-season of plate appearances in any of his previous big-league campaigns, so it'll be interesting to see if Logan can maintain this over a full year. But given his (unexpected) excellence during the first half of 2015, he's certainly deserving of a place on this team of stars.
Xander Bogaerts - SS
X marks the spot -- for a Red Sox player, at least. Xander emerges from a weak AL shortstop crop, but he's been playing a respectable six all season long. The metrics like UZR speak much more highly of his defense than ever before, and his offense has risen to better-than-league-average levels.
In truth, I'm a little bummed out that our team couldn't find room for Carlos Correa on this team. He's off to a blazing start to his big league career, and I voted for him as a wild card selection for this team. I do have a feeling he'll find his way onto an All-Star team or two before his career is over.
Manny Machado - 3B
For the last two years, people have been saying this about Machado: "The power will come." This year? It's coming. He already has 18 dingers at the time of this writing, and he's moved from a defense-focused star to a superstar who happens to be a brilliant defender. Machado is carrying the offensive load for his team ... and the defensive load. He's a franchise-changing superstar. And he's 23 years old, as of yesterday. Nice!
George Springer - RF
There are a few ways that George Springer and I are alike. We're both currently suffering fro wrist injuries that our robbing our employers of our usual level of performance. Okay, I lied. That's the only way George Springer and I are alike. Springer is an astonishingly talented 25-year-old with a penchant for taking massive cuts at the plate. I'm an astonishingly average 32-year-old with a penchant for bagels. George Springer is walking 13 percent of the time, which offsets his high strikeout rate and keeps him a productive hitter. I am walking more than 13 percent of the time, but not in a baseball sense, and it offsets the time I spend working at a desk and keeps me of dying of heart disease.
What I'm trying to say here is that in all the ways most of us are average, George Springer is exceptional. A speedy recovery to him ... and congrats on his second straight BtBS All-Star selection.
J.D. Martinez - RF
J.D. Martinez used to be a punchline and, worse, an Astro. (You may not remember this, but the Astros used to be awful.) He broke out in a big way last season, and instead of doing the honorable thing and regressing to the mean, he's teaching us that this is his new mean. He's gone from league-average with the bat to about 50 percent better than league average over 2014 and 2015. He's already up to 23 homers this season -- the same amount he had in all of 2014 -- and though his BABIP is way down from last year, his improved power makes him an offensive force.
Lorenzo Cain - CF
2014 may have been Lorenzo Cain's national coming out party, but 2015 is all about showing that a healthy Cain is able to play at an elite level. We all know that Cain is a special defender, but his offense is rising to meet the level of his defense. This year, he's improved in almost every aspect of his game. His UZR and UBR are on pace to top last year's, his strikeout rate is down, and his power and walk rate are up. He looks every bit the prototypical center field All-Star, and he's a Royal who actually deserves an All-Star nod.
Kevin Kiermaier - CF
All hail the new king of center field defense. Kevin Kiermaier may be a one-trick pony, but that trick is AWESOME. Last year, Kiermaier emerged as a critical cog in the Rays' baseball machine thanks to incredible outfield range and surprising power. This year, the power has faded some and his OBP (.289) reflects that of a glove-first catcher or shortstop, not an outfielder.
But the defense is even more outstanding than ever -- UZR allots Kiermaier about 15 runs of value in half a season of work, while DRS gives him 19 runs. This puts him on pace to have one of those defensive seasons that change a player's career ... and when you pair that with just-okay offense, that's still an All-Star combination.
Brett Gardner - CF
Boy, those Beyond the Box Score writers sure love their speed-and-defense center fielders, right? Except here's the thing: Gardner can really hit too. This year he's stroking the ball like he's Clarence Carter, with career-high marks in OBP (.373) and slugging (.481). His trademark speed is still making him a factor on the basepaths, despite Gardner being on pace for fewer than 40 steals this season.
He's done an good job manning center with Jacoby Ellsbury on the shelf. Though FanGraphs' UZR metric doesn't love his season so far, he carries the reputation of an elite defensive player still. Though those abilities may be diminishing with time, it's nice to see the peretually-overlooked Gardner amp up the offense to compensate.
Alex Gordon - LF
It's strange, but with all the fuss and bustle that has come along with the Royals' recent resurgence, it almost seems like their perennial All-Star has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. But all Gordon has done in 2015 is what he's always done since his move to the outfield: succeed. He's a well-rounded offensive threat, hitting for some power (10 homers so far) while providing a great on-base percentage (.380). Historically, he's been a good-to-great baserunner and defender, and that appears to be playing out as per usual.
Gordon's only crime is steady, even consistency -- the punishment will be selection to another ASG and a big contract in the offseason.
Nelson Cruz - DH
I'll be honest, I was fooled. After 2013, his final season in Texas, I thought Cruz was on the downslope of his career, ready to move into a platoon role. He simply couldn't hit breaking stuff, and was a hilarious liability on defense. Well, those two things are still mostly true -- but his power is astonishing, even when confined to SafeCo. He's on pace for a second consecutive 40-homer season, and while he's not as hot as he was to kick off 2015, he's still a serious offensive threat.
(His defense is still ridiculous.)
Prince Fielder - DH
This is what I wrote last year, about Ian Kinsler on his selection to our version of the AL All-Star team:
|Name||2014 fWAR||Years Remaining on Contract||$$ Remaining on Contract|
|Ian Kinsler||3.7||5||$92 million|
|Prince Fielder||-0.4||7||$138 million|
"Yep. I think the Tigers won that trade so far."
Kinsler is still playing well, even though his speed and power have gone MIA. But the Fresh Prince of Arlington is raking in his return from injury. Sure, he's a huge negative on defense and the basepaths, but he's hitting about as well as he ever has. His 156 wRC+ is above his 140 career mark, and he's getting on base at a .413 clip. He was a given as the Rangers' representative.
Alex Rodriguez - DH
So this is happening. Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players off all time, and now he's aging like one. After a year off the field, he's posting a wRC+ of 149. To be sure, he's having his best offensive season since 2008. He's up to 670 career homers after 16 so far this season, and the move to DH seems to have revitalized his bat. Basically, he's playing like Alex Rodriguez from seven years ago, and that means the embattled star gets the All-Star nod from our team.
(Note: Rodriguez tied with three other players in our final round of voting, with three slots open. Two of those players were pitchers, an under-represented group, so they were moved onto our team. The other player -- Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox -- did not receive the nod over A-Rod due to Rodriguez's long and storied history in baseball. Consider Betts the first alternate, if you like, and an injury replacement for George Springer if you must.)
Now, it's on to the pitchers!
Chris Archer - SP
All hail the prince of the slider! Duchess has transformed from a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 into a real, live ace. Only a few players received unanimous votes in our first round of All-Star reserve voting, and Archer was one of those players. Today, Archer is straight dealing, and only Chris Sale's inhuman run keeps him from being the top starter in the junior circuit.
2.18 ERA. 2.46 FIP. And a 12.9 swinging strike rate thanks to his not-safe-for-work slide piece. All that, and he's one of the brightest and -- by all accounts -- kindest players in the big leagues today. Seriously, check out what he does for charity after you're done gawking at the movement on his pitches. Couldn't happen to a better guy.
Corey Kluber - SP
The reigning AL Cy Young winner is dropping the hammer, logging mute-strikeout games of the highest order and flirting with history. He threw down one of the greatest games in baseball history -- an 18-strikeout, one-hit, no-walk performance that has set the standard for excellence in modern pitching. His ERA is still a little high (3.62), but his FIP is basement-low (2.45), and he remains the gold standard for excellence in starting pitching. Another no-brainer for our staff.
Sonny Gray - SP
He looks young, but Sonny Gray's pitching like a veteran. The A's ace has ascended -- say that five times fast -- on the strength of three good pitches: fastball, curve, and slider. The result is a pitcher who's kind of a jack-of-all-trades, posting good, but not dynamic, strikeout and walk rates, a limited number of home runs, and a healthy dose of ground ball outs. Pretty much everything has broken in Gray's favor so far this season, and that leads us to the big number: his 2.20 ERA. That will get you an All-Star berth, no matter how your team performs.
Dallas Keuchel - SP
The Astros' ground-ball wizard is continuing his 2014 magic, and anchoring the league's most surprising team. The worm-burner is posting a 63.5 percent ground-ball rate -- a number more in line with Brad Ziegler than with a starting pitcher -- and he continues to supplement those dirt balls with healthy peripherals. A 21.7 percent strikeout rate and a 6.3 percent walk rate are the peripherals of a mid-rotation starter before you factor in those grounders and DK's .252 BABIP.
Keuchel is a legit star now, with a non-traditional skill set in this time of sky-high strikeout rates -- he's the classic rock to the rest of the league's ... I dunno, what's cool with the kids these days? EDM?
David Price - SP
Blink and you'll miss it, but David Price might be having the best season of his career right now. That's right. His FIP is up from last year's season -- where Price had a positively nuts strikeout-rate-minus-walk-rate of 23.1 percent -- but his ERA is down to 2.54, a career best. His xFIP is high due to his low HR rate -- 7.1 percent HR/FB is his lowest since 2010 -- but he's pitching to the best results of his career.
Clay Buchholz - SP
There's something a little odd about selecting a Red Sox pitcher to the All-Star team, given how bad the pitching staff has been as a unit. At the same time, Buchholz has been kind of the inverse to David Price. His reasonably good ERA (3.27) belies a fantastic FIP (2.54) over 110 innings of work. This year, he's been the elusive Good Clay, the version of Buchholz who showed up in 2010 and 2013. Good Clay is a pretty special pitcher, so let's hope he sticks around for more than one season this time.
Michael Pineda - SP
Pineda tied in voting with Buchholz, A-Rod, and Mookie Betts -- and he's just as deserving or more than any of those players. He's in the same position as Buchholz -- high ERA, low FIP -- but he's also throwing out a wildly low walk rate of 3.2 percent this season. Pineda is earning a reputation for amazing control paired with a nice strikeout rate since returning from the wilderness of injury. If he could continue to reduce his home run rate, which is a tough task in Yankee Stadium, he'd be the total package.
Dellin Betances - RP
Another New York Yankee! Betances was a unanimous choice for the team at BtBS, as he's been just about the best relief pitcher in baseball this season. A wild strikeout rate should be par for the course for any relief ace these days, but Betances is elite even among star relievers. A 41.7 percent strikeout rate is awesome, even if it's not a peak-Kimbrel move. And Dellin continues to be used a bit more frequently than your average reliever (42 innings so far), which is part of what made him such a weapon in '14.
Wade Davis - RP
Ugh, another Royal. Of course, Davis deserves this spot, just like Gordon and Cain before him. This year, Davis's strikeout rate has plummeted (29.3 percent), but given how high it was in 2014 (39.1 percent), that's almost to be expected. The tricky tightrope that Davis is walking this year, though? It's a 0.24 ERA -- no, that's not a typo -- buoyed by no homers allowed and a strand rate of 96.8 percent. If Davis comes in with a runner on base, or allows one, that runner hasn't scored but once this season. Is that sustainable? Uh, probably not. But you've gotta reward a guy for what he's done, and Davis has done an awesome job of resisting runs.
Zach Britton - RP
Did somebody order the saves? Zach B. is serving up a steaming hot tray of them for Baltimore, with a nice little side of shutdowns (SD). Shutdowns are a great metric to review late-inning performance, and Britton has 14 of them, compared to a single meltdown. In case you're wondering, that's very good. He also has the requisite ERA (1.77) and FIP (1.82) to call the performance somewhat sustainable. Both of those rate stats are 55 percent better than the league average.
While personally, I'd prefer a Glen Perkins or Andrew Miller on this team, Britton is a deserving All-Star for the season that he's had. Bonus Oriole!
All of our ballots through both phases of the voting can be found in a Google Doc here.
In the comments below, we want to hear from our readers. Who is the biggest omission on our AL team? Would you have voted the same way as any of our contributors? Leave us a comment below, and we'll be happy to respond.
. . .