Inside the Numbers: Royals All-Star candidates

The Royals are in the midst of one of their best stretches of the season, sadly at just 5-4 in their last nine. However, at 27-52, they have the second-worst record in baseball, including the worst road record (11-27), are off to one of their worst 79-game starts in franchise history (third worst), and have won just four series in 2019. Such a season would lead one to think that the team may not have a legit All-Star candidate, like in year’s past. Not this year. The Royals have some position players deserving for the All-Star Game – as they have MLB leaders in hits, triples and stolen bases – but due to their poor overall season, they’ll likely get just one in. Let’s dive in.

Major League Baseball tweaked the selection process this year. The ballot includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star Game starters: the Primary and the Starters Election. The previous voting process had the top vote-getter at each position during a single voting period advance to the All-Star starting lineup. Now, the top three vote-getters at each position in the American and National League (and top nine in the outfield) advance from the Primary round to the Starters Election.

On that list is Hunter Dozier, who maintained his third place spot on the ballot during his recent stay on the 10-Day Injured List. He will now go against the Astros Alex Bregman and the Yankees Gio Urshella in the 28-hour voting “The Starters Election” period, beginning 11 AM Wednesday and ending 3 PM on Thursday. The winner at each position (including three outfielders per League) will be named a starting position player for the 2019 Midsummer Classic. The winners of the Starters Election will be revealed Thursday at 6 PM on ESPN.

The full All-Star rosters will be announced Sunday, June 30 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN.

***

While Dozier is higher in the voting, Whit Merrifield, who surprisingly did not make the final cut, while Dozier did, as he is a more established name, is the Royals most-likely candidate to represent the Royals. He has “done it” for a few years, now, and was deserving to make it last year, where he ended up as only the second player since World War II to lead the league in hits and steals (his second straight year as steals leader).

This year, he’s the MLB hits leader (100), and ranks fourth in the AL in runs (56), 10th in batting average (.303) and eighth in SB (11), and he ranks 24th overall in the MLB Player Power Rankings.

Merrifield’s versatility could provide a little extra value for AL Manager Alex Cora (Boston), as he has played four positions this year.

wHIT has played right field one more time (36) than he has played second base (35) this season, but he is on the ballot as a second basemen, so we will compare him there.

While he ranks fifth among the 11 qualified (which does not include finalist Jose Altuve, who was recently on the IL so does not have the required minimum in plate appearances) in HR (11), he ranks:

  • 1st: Runs (56)
  • 2nd: AVG (.303), OBP (.350), SLUG (.506), SB (11)
  • 3rd: OPS (.856)
  • 4th: RBI (40), WAR (2.0)

Altuve just returned from injury and is easily having the worst year of his career (.251/.330/.479, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB) and is competing with the Angels Tommy LaStella (.297/.350/.498, 15 HR, 43 SB) and Yankees DJ LeMahieu (.331/.380/.495, 10 HR, 51 RBI) for the starting nod. If Altuve doesn’t win the vote, he shouldn’t make it, leaving the other loser, the Rays Brandon Lowe (.282/.341/.533, 15 HR, 46 RBI) and Merrifield as candidates for an All-Star reserve. Merrifield, one of the game’s most underrated players, would be a worthy candidate…and he wouldn’t even have to play second, if Cora chose to go with three at the position.

SS Adalberto Mondesi

Mondesi is the MLB leader in stolen bases (27) and triples (8), second on the team in WAR (2.2), and has a rare combination of speed, power and defense. Prior to his trip to the IL (groin), he was on pace for a 60-stolen base, 100-RBI, 20-triple season. No big deal, it hasn’t happened since Ty Cobb in 1911, and only one other time – Jake Stenzel in 1894. While he is striking out a lot (27.2% rate) and is lacking at getting on base (.302 OBP), what he has done this year has been impressive and with his defense, he ranks as one of the best shortstops in the American League.

While he only has 6 homers on the year, he ranks in the top half of AL SS’s (out of 13 qualified) in the following:

  • 1st: SB (27)
  • 4th: RBI (44)
  • 4th: WAR (2.1)
  • 6th: R (40)
  • 7th: SLUG (.441)

However, he probably hasn’t done enough to make the All-Star Game. His future, however, is still bright.

3B Hunter Dozier  

Dozier’s stint on the IL slowed his pace, but it did not hurt him on the ballot. He has two hitless games out of the four games he’s played since his return (3-14, .214), but he has two extra base hits and five runs knocked in, including a 3-run DONG (12).

Dozier has come out of nowhere this season, going from a guy that was looked at it as not an everyday player to a dude who is having a great offensive season. He is a former first round pick, so it’s not shocking, but nothing he did in the minor leagues indicated he would do this. He did lead the Royals in hard-hit rate last year, however, and is again this year

Due to his IL stint and missing a few other games due to the same back injury, he is no longer qualified (neither is one of the other three All-Star finalists at the position, Gio Urshella), but if he was his AL 3B banks ranks would be:

  • 1st: OBP (.391), SLUG (.580), OPS (.971), ISO (.275)
  • 3rd: AVG (.305)
  • 4th: HR (12)
  • 5th: WAR (2.3)
  • 6th: RBI (38)

Dozier faces an uphill battle to win the fan vote, as he is facing off against the No. 1 and No. 4 markets, but if he did somehow win it, he would be worthy. If he doesn’t get it, he probably doesn’t get it, as it’ll go to Merrifield. However, he would be a solid candidate, if he does make it.

 He won’t be an All-Star, nor should be even be considered with his .239/.306 line and 28.7% K-rate, BUT, Jorge Soler’s #SOLERPOWER should be on display in the HR Derby. Only four dudes will represent the American League in the annual showcase of power, but Soler fits the mold. He is big and strong, and hits MAMMOTH dongs (415-foot average, which ranks second among those who have hit at least 10 HR). He is in a current 3-17 slump (.176), where his only extra base hit is a long ball, dropping him to fourth in the AL in HR (21) and fifth in RBI (53). He also ranks third in the AL in extra base hits (38) and his 11 HR since May 22 are the most in the American League. He is on pace for a 40-HR season – which would be be the first one in franchise history and break Mike Moustakas’ record from 2017.

Wild Card: RP Ian Kennedy

All-Star roster construction is a tough thing to do, so sometimes a player makes it due to a positional need. If a pitcher is needed, and the Royals only get one rep, it’s possible Ian Kennedy could be the guy Cora turns to. He only has nine saves, but he has has a 3.48 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 38:5 K/BB rate in less than 32 innings and is ranked as a Top 30 reliever in MLB this season, and 9th overall in June. I’ve seen worse selections.

When it comes down to it, Merrifield is the most deserving player on the roster, and with the flexibility to play him at second or outfield, it ought to only increase his chances, if Dozier doesn’t get voted it.

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