We are three weeks away from baseball’s All-Star Game, and it’s time for me to make a confession: I am an All-Star junkie. I love baseball’s midsummer classic, and I won’t apologize for that. There’s just something about the idea of getting all the best players in baseball together that appeals to my sense of what’s fun about this great game. It’s still as entertaining a spectacle as it must have been back in 1933 at the very first contest, featuring names such as Ruth, Gehrig, and Hubbell.
Much of what I loved about the All-Star Game as a kid centered around the opportunity to watch our Reds strut their stuff before a national audience. For example, who can forget Chris Sabo’s All-Star appearance as a rookie, in which he stole a base to the delight of the hometown fans? Sabo was our little secret at the time, and as a kid I was thrilled by the fact that he was on the same field as Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs, and Dwight Gooden.
From the beginning, my favorite moment every year has always been the introduction of the players, when we got to see our Reds singled out. I always got a little thrill out of seeing them stand alongside the greats of the game. That was even true when Cincinnati’s representatives weren’t exactly franchise legends: Roberto Kelly (1993), Felipe Lopez (2005), Arthur Rhodes (2010), or Alfredo Simon (2014).
Even now, I make a point of watching those introductions with my son every single year. Part of the fun, as well, is speculating in the weeks before the game about which Reds will actually be standing there for those introductions. There are a number of intriguing candidates this season.
Each team, of course, must have at least one representative chosen for the team. Because we’re Cincinnati sports fans who have grown accustomed to a lack of respect on the national scene, it’s easy to assume that only one Reds player will be selected. But remember, three Reds (Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, and Scooter Gennett) made the National League club last year even though Cincinnati was the worst team in the league during the season’s first half.
So, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that the Reds will get a couple of players on the NL roster. And let’s also stipulate that zero Reds will be selected to start the game. MLB introduced a new procedure for fan voting this year in which there are two voting periods. The first, called The Primary (sounds important, right?), ends later this week. The top three vote-getters at each position will then advance on to the (clumsily-named) Starters Election. The victor in that phase will be the starter at each position.
With The Primary coming to a close, there’s no chance whatsoever that any Cincinnati player will finish in the top three and advance to the next round. In fact, Jose Iglesias is the only Reds player to appear in the top 10 in voting at any position, and he barely snuck in at No. 10 among NL shortstops.
The remainder of the All-Star team will be chosen from voting conducted among coaches, managers, and players, while the final spots will be filled by the manager for each respective team (Boston’s Alex Cora and Los Angeles’ Dave Roberts). One particular Cincinnati player is a near-lock to be chosen at that time: Luis Castillo.
Castillo, of course, has emerged as Cincinnati’s ace pitcher and has quickly established himself as one of the top hurlers in the league. He’s 7-1 with a 2.26 ERA, which currently ranks as the third-best mark in the NL. Castillo’s 103 strikeouts are fourth-best in the league, too. He has been nothing short of brilliant and, barring injury, can go ahead and plan on heading up to Cleveland during the All-Star break.
If the Reds only get one representative, it’ll obviously be Castillo. But if Cincinnati gets two, there are a number of candidates, some of whom have interesting arguments for inclusion. We’ll begin with Amir Garrett.
The player voting will determine eight pitchers who will be on the roster; three of those are required to be relievers. The manager can select more relief pitchers, but we know for certain that at least three will be on the final roster when announced. Garrett has as good a resume as anyone. He doesn’t have any saves—the traditional metric by while relievers were measured—but he’s 3-1 in 35 appearances with a dazzling 1.47 ERA. Only two pitchers have appeared in more games and only two have a better ERA.
Plus, Garrett is a demonstrative presence on the mound, known for having a little fun out there. Other players, coaches, and managers are sure to have noticed—though I’m sure the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t vote for him, because they don’t like fun. Combine that with his sterling statistics, and Garrett is looking like a pretty good bet to make his first All-Star appearance.
Who else? Suarez was a first-time All-Star one year ago, and he’s having another decent season, but seems unlikely to get the nod again. Given his recent struggles, it’s difficult to make the case that Suarez is even one of the top five third basemen in the league this year; that’s a particularly stacked position. Curt Casali is having a fine season (.288/.353/.471), but I don’t think I can make the case that he’s a legitimate candidate, especially since he’s only played 44 games to this point.
As far as I can tell, only two other Reds have a fighting chance: Derek Dietrich and Iglesias. Dietrich is probably the most interesting man in baseball and the game is in his hometown, so it would be nice to see him gain a little recognition based on his wonderful first half. He has 18 homers, which sounds like a lot, but it’s only 11th-best in the league, and his numbers have dropped after hitting .135/.256/.189 so far in June. His All-Star chances once looked decent, but they appear to be dwindling.
Which brings us to the only Red to appear on the fan voting leaderboards. Signed to a minor league deal before the season, like Dietrich, Iglesias was the beneficiary of Gennett’s untimely injury as he slid right into the starting lineup and has been pretty good since day one (Iglesias was 2-for-3 with a double, RBI, and run scored on Opening Day). He’s hit .289/.332/.413, decent though not spectacular numbers for a shortstop, but his calling card has been his defense. I suppose there’s a chance that the players select him based on his solid glove work, but it’s hard to see him being a better All-Star candidate than guys like Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, or Paul DeJong.
So, after closer examination, Cincinnati appears to have two very strong candidates for the All-Star team, Castillo and Garrett, and a handful of probably-nots. That’s appropriate considering the quality of the pitching we’ve seen this year (and the singular horror that is the Reds offense). I’ll be watching closely to see who’s standing on the first base line during introductions next month and doffing a cap to me when their name is announced. Don’t let me down, guys.
Chad Dotson authors Reds coverage at Cincinnati Magazine and hosts a long-running Reds podcast, Redleg Nation Radio. He wrote about the 1970s Reds as part of the magazine’s “10 Events That Shaped Cincinnati” package. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available in bookstores and online.