Only Shooting Stars Break the Mold




At this point, we know where the Reds stack up against the competition. The home team is four games under .500, in fourth place, 12.5 games back of first. (The Cardinals are in first, which just makes it worse though, doesn’t it?) The Reds are only six games out of the second Wild Card, but they will have to climb over six different teams just to get in that particular mix.

If you want to look at the math, Cincinnati supposedly has a 0.8% chance of winning one of those Wild Card slots, and precisely 0.0% odds of winning the National League Central. Not bad, eh?

So, okay, we have some idea of where the team stands, but what about the individual players? Let me preface this discussion by saying that I’m an All-Star Game junkie. I love the discussion of who should be starting and, after the rosters are announced, who got snubbed. I even get a kick out of the pushes to get out and vote for certain players. It’s all mostly irrelevant and just an exhibition (no matter what Bud says), but I have loved debates over the All-Star Game and the Hall of Fame since I was a child. I’ll probably always enjoy it.

Around this time of year, I like to see where the Redlegs stand up against the competition, not just in the ASG balloting, but in actual production. Sure, when I was nine years old, I punched out the little holes next to all the Reds on the paper ballot they handed out at Riverfront Stadium, whether they were deserving or not. Today, you can click, click, click to your heart’s content. But are any Reds actually deserving of All-Star consideration? I’m sure you already know the answer to that one, but let’s delve into it anyway.

First things first: in the latest results released by MLB, five Reds appear in the top five for their position (top 15 for outfield). That’s mostly thanks to a big push recently by the Reds organization, asking for fans to vote and vote often. Before the most recent vote totals were announced this week, only two Reds had ranked in the top five in balloting for their position; Todd Frazier was third among 3Bs (behind St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter and Chicago’s rookie sensation Kris Bryant), and injured shortstop Zack Cozart was in fifth place (St. Louis’ Jhonny Peralta was atop the leaderboard).

Move along; not much to see here. Cincinnati had an All-Star here last year in Devin Mesoraco, but as you know, he has been injured all season. Brayan Pena has actually been serviceable in Mesoraco’s absence, hitting .292/.365/.339, but he only ranks tenth among NL catchers in fWAR. Despite having only played 20 games, Tucker Barnhart ranks 16th, and he has accumulated half of Pena’s WAR total, thanks to some nifty defense. Neither are 2015 All-Stars, however.

Former Red Yasmani Grandal is fourth in balloting among catchers, and he’s second to Buster Posey in fWAR. He has a good chance of being selected.

First Base
Joey Votto, hitting .296/.402/.539, is third among NL first basemen in fWAR (2.5) behind Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo. He’s third in homers, wRC+, and wOBA, as well; it’s pretty clear he’s been the third-best 1B, and should stand a pretty good shot of being named to the roster as a substitute. Goldschmidt in particular is having nothing short of a spectacular season.

Votto moved into third place in the latest voting results, his first appearance among the top-five vote-getters.

Second Base
Brandon Phillips is a three-time All-Star, but 2015 has seen the soon-to-be 34-year old continue a slow decline. His defense is still good, if not quite as good as it was at his best. Offensively, BP ranks seventh among qualified second-baseman in the National League in fWAR (0.7, roughly as many wins above replacement as Brayan Pena). He’s behind guys like DJ LeMahieu, Jace Peterson, and Danny Espinosa.

While BP’s slash line numbers (.284/.321/.349) look a little better than last year in some respects, his OPS+ (86) is well below-average thanks to a serious decline in his power. It would be surprising to see him on the National League roster. On the other hand, Phillips has continued to make the occasional highlight-reel play, and his batting average is fourth-best among NL 2Bs. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’d sneak his way onto the roster, even if it would be undeserved.

Like Votto, Phillips just made his first appearance among the top vote-getters at 2B; he’s fourth at the moment.

Third Base
Now we’re having some fun. Todd Frazier (.292/.356/.636) has been, far and away, the best third baseman in the National League this season. He leads his contemporaries in fWAR (3.9), homers (23), wRC+ (169), wOBA (.421), and a bunch of other categories. Only Bryce Harper and Goldschmidt have been more productive among all hitters. If Frazier isn’t an All-Star, they need to just cancel the game. Hopefully, the franchise’s push to get him some votes will see results.

A reminder: this guy should be the biggest star in town. Or at least, a bigger one than he is.

Poor Zack Cozart. We already know about his outstanding defense, and during the first half of the season, Cozart was actually the third most-productive offensive shortstop in the league (behind the Giants’ Brandon Crawford and Peralta). When he sustained that horrific season-ending injury, Cozart was hitting .258/.310/.459 with 9 home runs and 1.5 fWAR. Despite the injury, Cozart remains in fifth place in the balloting.

He’s too far behind in the voting for any kind of push that would get him to the number one spot, and with the injury, that’s Cozart’s only avenue of getting a selection. That’s a shame. I would have loved to see him on the first base line when the rosters are announced at Great American Ball Park later this summer.

For some reason, MLB still lumps all the outfielders into one big pool for All-Star Game voting purposes. No Reds had appeared in the top 15 of the balloting until this week, when Jay Bruce made an appearance at number 12. Washington’s Harper, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, and St. Louis’ Matt Holliday are the top three. Including Bruce, only two Reds are worth discussing here, and even then, they are barely worth mentioning.

Bruce, after a recent hot stretch, is hitting .234/.338/.437 with 11 homers. If you take the season as a whole, he’s been above-average offensively, and ranks fifth among right fielders in fWAR. That’s something, I guess, but you’d have to squint pretty hard to convince yourself Bruce deserves to be an All-Star this year.

Billy Hamilton is actually fifth in fWAR among NL center fielders, but that’s almost entirely due to his great defensive work; most measures have Hamilton’s glove as clearly the best in the league. He has no shot to get his first All-Star selection, however, thanks to a complete lack of offensive production. He’s “hitting” .222/.267/.300, with an ugly OPS+ of 57. He does lead the league in stolen bases, and his baserunning has been excellent. He’s helping the club, but not in ways that are easily measured, and thus, he won’t be an All-Star.

Among all National League outfielders, Hamilton ranks 9th and Bruce is 18th in fWAR. If we go further, we’ll see that the next Cincinnati “outfielder” in wins above replacement would be Ivan DeJesus, Jr., ranking 50th. Marlon Byrd is 60th, with exactly replacement level production in his 50 games for the Redlegs.

Starting Pitchers
You have to believe that Johnny Cueto is the only Red with a shot here, and I think he’ll make it onto the roster after his incredible 2014 season. This year, Cueto is 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA; he’s only ninth in fWAR, but everyone ahead of him has started more games. He hasn’t been Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, but Cueto is in the next grouping of outstanding pitchers. He has a fighter’s chance of getting selected.

Anthony DeSclafani has been the next most-productive Reds starter, but he’ll be watching the Mid-Summer Classic from home.

Relief Pitchers
You may be surprised to learn that Kevin Gregg is probably not going to be an All-Star. Aroldis Chapman probably will be on his fourth consecutive NL roster, however. Chapman is 3-3 with a 2.01 ERA, 15 saves, and more fWAR than any other reliever (for what it’s worth). I can’t imagine that the results of the players’ ballot won’t include Chapman’s name.

I wish J.J. Hoover would get some play in these discussions, since he’s been so good this year: 5-0, 1.44 ERA. Hard to see him making the team, though.

Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman. Maybe Joey Votto. Those are your best bets. Though I’m also awaiting an answer to the following, more pressing question: What team’s uniform will these guys be wearing on the night of the All-Star Game? Cincinnati’s red-and-white, or something else?

Chad Dotson is a Nuxhall Way contributor. He is also the founder of Redleg Nation and a contributor to ESPN’s SweetSpot blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @dotsonc.

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