MLB All Star Game: The rise of the middle infielders

I recently went to MLB.com to start to conjure whom I will give my votes to for this season’s All Star Game. It was not as easy as I thought, but for an entirely new reason.

There is no denying that past All Star Games have had many snubs. Most of them revolve around the fact that there has been an abundance of exciting sluggers at first base and a bevy of exciting “five-tool” superstars in the outfield. Occasionally the hot corner would provide some depth that would prove difficult in selecting the right player for the Midsummer Classic.

Not anymore. Now, the depth at shortstop and second base, two of baseball’s traditionally light hitting, unattractive positions has changed the All Star ballot game.

Today, we take a look at the American League second basemen.

You would think that the American League pick at second base would be a no-brainer. Jose Altuve has quickly become one of the most underrated superstars in all of MLB. You don’t often associate a superstar with second base, but it is time to accept the fact that Altuve is one baseball best players anywhere in the field.

Simply put, Altuve is a hit machine. He’s paced the league with hits the past two seasons, combining for 425 altogether.

Standing at just 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds, you would think he would be an Ichiro-type slap hitter, but Altuve’s power has increased each season. Last season he raked 15 home runs, doubling his career best, and didn’t lose out in any other aspect of his game as most hitters do when they find a sudden power surge. He has more than 40 doubles in each of the past two seasons and has led the league in stolen bases  the past two years as well.

Oh yea, he’s also amazing on defense.

Currently, Altuve is slashing .321/.404/.641 with an insane 1.045 OPS. He leads both the AL and NL with 31 runs, 15 doubles and 13 stolen bases. It’s nearly impossible to not make him a unanimous pick, I mean would anyone not vote for Mike Trout?

But there is a problem. And his name is Robinson Cano.

Heading into the 2016 season, we took a look at Cano’s second half of 2015 and talked about how he could be back to elite level, possibly even competing for an MVP Award. Turns out, we weren’t lying.

Robbie is back to being Robbie, thriving in the heart of a much improved Seattle Mariners lineup and team. He is slashing .307/.354/.613 and leading the MLB in home runs (12) and RBI (33). Surely, you can’t not vote for a one-time Home Run Derby Champion who is actually leading the league in home runs, right?

Well, if you’re a Texas Rangers fan you won’t be voting for Cano.  The Rangers have built an arsenal of highly-touted middle infield prospects over the past few seasons, and it looks like one is reaching his potential. Rougned Odor is shining in Arlington, having the year he has been teasing us with for the past two seasons.

Odor — now just 22-years old — has played well the past two years, but has also shown inconsistencies. His first season showed glimpses of that power and speed combo — belting nine home runs to go with seven triples — but he was a nightmare on the base paths going 4-for-11 in stolen bases. He made a jump last year, blasting 16 home runs and nine triples, while going 6-for-13 in stolen bases. He hasn’t shown that he is willing to take a walk — a good quality in someone who profiles with his type of speed — yet he has always kept his strikeout rate in check, which is amazing for the type of hitter he has become.

This season, he has thrown it all together. He is slashing .309/.338/.551 with seven home runs and successfully stealing bases at an 80-percent lick. Furthermore, he has become one of the more fun defensive second baseman in the league to watch, whose range may be second to none. He’ll make a few errors, but there too he has shown improvement.

It’s tough to decide between one of those three, isn’t it? Then perhaps we shouldn’t bring up that Dustin Pedroia is off to his best start in quite some time (.307/.349/.486 with five homers and 18 RBI) for one of baseball’s most potent offenses. Or that Ian Kinsler refuses to get older as he is on pace to have yet another solid year (.299/.340/.478 with six home runs and 17 RBI). Even Logan Forsythe in Tampa is having an All Star caliber season, hitting .308/.398/.523 with four home runs and 12 RBI.

It’s no easy choice in the American League. Wait until tomorrow when we take a look at the National League.

So, who’s your vote?

 

 

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