Yeah, the All Star Game isn’t until mid-July (and, frankly, doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things), but you and I know these things are determined in the first couple months of the season. One good early-season hot streak can seep into the minds of the voting public (not to mention the fantasy baseball-playing public), and shape everyone’s opinions even if that player isn’t doing quite so hot by the time July 12th rolls around.
So, should we expect to have any Mariners on the team this year?
For starters, I think you gotta make Robinson Cano a lock. Granted, he’s coming off of a down year, but he’s been not just one of the best second basemen in the league, he’s been one of the best all-around players in the league! The early-season tear that he was on has cooled off a little bit, but he’s still 2nd in the A.L. in home runs, and tops in RBI. This is pretty much a no-brainer, even with Jose Altuve’s high batting average.
Beyond Cano, I think you can make a sound argument for Nelson Cruz as the DH. Even though the game is being played in San Diego’s Petco Park, the American League is still considered the “home team” and as such, the game will feature the DH (unless that rule has changed, and they stick with the DH regardless of who is considered the home team; in my mind, it’s home team-dependant for some reason). I think Cruz is a solid second option behind who will surely get voted in as the starter, and that’s David Ortiz. Ortiz is supposedly retiring after this year – so his sympathy vote will be off the charts – plus he’s just having the all-around best year as a designated hitter. He leads Cruz in all hitting categories (except walks), and Cruz really hasn’t had any sort of hot streak to put his name on the map. I still think Cruz makes it as a backup (because he still is one of the top power hitters in the game), but it would help his cause to have a really blistering June.
Seager has been coming on of late, but he still finds himself around 4th or 5th in most pertinent hitting categories among third basemen. The thing is, his month of May has been re-DonkeyLips, and if he were to keep that going through most of June, he might hit his way back into the conversation. Otherwise, there are a couple guys in Baltimore and Detroit with something to say.
That’s pretty much it, as far as hitters go. Ketel Marte would’ve been an interesting argument before he went on the DL, as he was starting to play himself into more national recognition. But, there are so many really good short stops in the league, Marte is probably a year or two away from really getting the sort of attention he needs. Leonys Martin is another, what with his power numbers, but he’s never going to supplant a healthy Mike Trout, and I just think there are too many other big names out there for him to become a reserve. He’d have to somehow maintain this hot stretch – maybe start batting in the .270s overall – and continue out-playing his career power number norms for him to make a dent. It also wouldn’t hurt for the Mariners to keep winning. Teams that lead the league in wins tend to have among the most All Star representatives (see: 2001 Mariners, with 8).
On the pitching side, I know a lot of fans are down on him, but Felix Hernandez is currently third among qualified starters in ERA. It hasn’t been totally pretty, but he’s been getting the job done, and figures to be as close to a lock as there is among starting pitchers on this team.
Walker might have an outside chance, but he’s going to need to start putting up more zeroes, and start pitching more innings. Iwakuma and Miley are both non-starters. Indeed, if you want a REAL dark horse, Nathan Karns is currently 17th among American League starters in ERA. He’s in a similar boat as Walker – and probably a year behind him from a national recognition standpoint – but that might be someone to keep an eye on over the next month.
As far as relievers go, it’s a little too soon to properly rate and compare among the league leaders. I will say that Steve Cishek is tied for the A.L. lead in saves, and we all know closers are WAY more likely to make an All Star team than non-closers. Cishek is also tied for 2nd in the league in blown saves, so that could be trouble. If he can keep his blown saves under 5 or 6, keep his ERA below or right around 3.00, and be among the top two or three in saves, he should get in there. Again, the more the Mariners win, the more it’ll help someone like Cishek.
And, the more it might help any relievers behind Cishek. Like I just said, it’s really hard for a non-closer to make it. You kinda need numbers that will blow everyone else away. Like, an ERA under 1.00, or a fuckload of strikeouts or something. I know Nuno has the better ERA, but if I’m making an argument for any other reliever besides Cishek, it would be Nick Vincent. Don’t get me wrong, there’s almost nothing Vincent can do to be an All Star this year, aside from strike out literally every batter he faces between now and the end of June (or whenever voting ends for the ASG). But, he’s got an ERA under 1.50, he’s pitched a lot of innings, he’s being used in higher-leverage situations, and he’s striking out WELL over a batter per inning. For a guy like Vincent to make the team, we’d have to be looking at a crop of very mediocre relievers around the rest of the A.L. and I just don’t see that being the case.
In tl;dr, look for Cano to be a starter, look for Felix to be one of the top starters (but likely won’t actually start the game as long as Chris Sale has anything to say about it), look for Cruz to probably be a reserve DH after Ortiz, look for Cishek to be one of the top closers selected, and probably figure everyone else has too long of a shot to make it.
Still, that’s probably four Mariners in the All Star Game this year. When was the last time we could say THAT?
(2014. It was 2014. Felix, Seager, Cano, and Fernando Rodney. God Bless America)