It's All-Star game voting time, and despite leading the American League East, the Rays are unlikely to have any position players elected. This is nothing new for Rays fans who know that their team is never again going to be the media darlings they were after the magical 2008 run, but it can still get a little bit frustrating.
As a minority, then, Rays fans need to organize if they want their voices to be heard. We should vote as a block.
With that in mind, let us now caucus and decide on an official DRaysBay ballot. My 35 votes will go to whatever is decided, and I urge y'all to do the same.
Here are the factors that should go into constructing the ballot of the conscientious Rays fan, considered in this order.
- If you can make an argument that a Rays player should make the All-Star team, vote for him.
- If you can make an argument that a former Ray who Rays fans still like should make the All-Star team, vote for him.
- If there is no past or present Rays player with a valid argument, look to see if a Red Sox or a Yankees player is in danger of winning. Vote for whoever else has the best chance of beating the Red Sock or the Yankee, because there are a ton of fake baseball fans who only know Boston and New York, and who need to be counterbalanced for the sake.
- If there is no ulterior agenda that needs to be pushed, just vote for the best player or the player having the best year. Sometimes it's okay to help justice along.
- What's the NL?
With those guidelines in mind, let's get to the categories. The current vote totals are available here. Below is my analysis of each position. Take it as a recommendation. The choice is yours.
So this one is easy. I don't think any Rays fans are going to Vogt for Rene Rivera, and I think that only one Rays fan is writing in Bobby Wilson as his Vogt. But there is one catcher who is both clearly deserving of an All-Star spot, and something of a Rays cult hero, and he should have our Vogts.
That man is, of course, Stephen Vogt. He's currently behind the Royals' Salvador Perez by over a million Vogts, but there's a strong case to be made that he's been the best catcher in baseball. While Perez has been a league-average bat this season (99 wRC+), Vogt has been an absurd 80% above average, with a .322/.411/.611 slash line and 11 home runs.
He doesn't have Perez's strong arm, but Vogt has caught a third of the runners who have tried to steal on him, and by the catcher framing and pitch blocking metrics on Baseball Prospectus, he's actually been better than Perez (both of them are a bit below average).
This man deserves your Vogt. Give it to him.
Mark Teixeira and Eric Hosmer are both having fine seasons, with a 144 wRC+ and a 146 wRC+ respectively. Prince Fielder has been better than each of them, offensively, with a 169 wRC+, but he's not really a first baseman, having played only 80 innings there this season.
There's another player, though, who is so clearly better than all of them as to make this a simple choice (since it's impossible to argue that James Loney should nab a spot). Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter of his generation, and at 32 shows no signs of slowing down. His .333/.441/.579 slash line is 78% above average.
Cabrera is the the only legitimate choice for a neutral fan, and he should easily hold off Texeira. Keep it simple.
This is where the choice becomes more complicated.
Jason Kipnis, on the last-place-in-attendance Cleveland Indians is having a monster season. He is head and shoulders above everyone else in the field. His current slash line of .340/.411/.529 comes out to a 165 wRC+, or sixty-five percent above average. He's produced 1.3 WAR more than the second-most-valuable second baseman.
If the world were just, Kipnis would win this voting going away, but the world is not just. He's in a dead heat with Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia, is a million votes behind Omar Infante (a replacement-level player), and a million and a half votes behind Jose Altuve.
Let's get back to that second-most-valuable second baseman, though, because that's Logan Forsythe, who's 1.8 WAR just barely nudges Brian Dozier. That WAR isn't coming from the defensive side for Forsythe, either, as he sports a 141 wRC+, behind only Kipnis.
So should Rays fans vote for their guy, who will not win, and probably will not crack the top five list, despite being second-best, or should they throw their vote behind another small-market star, who is clearly the best option in an attempt to Do The Right Thing?
Here is a similar setup for Rays fans. Our guy, Evan Longoria, currently ranks third in WAR for third basemen, but is not among the top five vote-getters. That's good enough to get him into the conversation, but is that good enough that there's a real case to be made for Longo?
The Red Sox Pablo Sandoval is lurking in third place with just under a half-million votes, but he's unlikely to overtake Josh Donaldson, who is having the best year overall or Mike Moustakas, who is having the second-best year overall and is buoyed by the Royals' ballot-box-stuffing machine.
The decision between Moustakas and Donaldson is clear. They're both hitting over .300, but Moustakas is riding a .340 BABIP. Their on base percentages are both in the .370s, but Donaldson's slugging percentage (.604) is over 100 points better than that of Moustakas (.480).
So should Rays fans vote for our man Longoria, or for the guy who should clearly win and needs our help?
Like at the catcher position, I am assuming that no Rays fans will vote for Asdrubal Cabrera, but unlike the catcher spot, there are no former Rays making strong cases for themselves. Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox is safely in fifth place, nearly two million votes behind the leader, so I think that the anti-Sox vote is not in play, and while Jed Lowrie has had quite the year, he's on the 60-day disabled list, so I'm going to skip over him.
That leaves Alcides Escobar of the Royals (currently leading), Jose Iglesias of the Tigers (a million votes behind him) and Marcus Semien of the Athletics (1.6 million votes back). I happen to think Iglesias is the choice here. Yes, his isolated power is pitiful, and he's riding a high BABIP, but he walks 7.3% of the time and only strikes out 7.9% of the time. That gives him a .338/.396/.426 line that is 32% above average (Semien is more powerful, but currently only 18% above average, and Escobar has actually been 10% below average with the bat.
Moreover, I think Iglesias is the slickest-fielding shortstop in baseball. He has my vote. You agree?
Okay, so it's funny to look at the current vote totals and see Mike Trout in second place. But just for fun, click on over to the outfield fWAR rankings. Unlike other Royals vote-getters, Lorenzo Cain actually deserves the All-Star Game spot he's going to win. He's no one's idea of an on-base machine, and his BABIP is going to regress some, but he hits the ball hard, runs like the wind, and plays incredible defense in center field. I haven't got a problem with this one.
The funny thing here, though, is that there's actually a long-shot argument for each of the three Rays outfielders. Kevin Kiermaier is the best defender in baseball, if UZR is to be believed, and that brings his fWAR total 1.4, even with Jacoby Ellsbury (who's lurking in eighth place in the All-Star voting right now).
Steven Souza, despite all the strikeouts and the poor defending, is not far behind, and David DeJesus, who would have to be a write-in candidate, may be the best of the bunch.
I'm not sure which of those three, if any to vote for. If the choice is to vote for none, then throwing Tampa Bay's weight behind either Alex Gordon or Adam Jones, both of whom are excellent players having excellent seasons, will help make sure that Ellsbury doesn't creep in.
Did Nelson Cruz use steroids? Yes. Is he going to beat David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez (both of whom also used steroids) out for the All-Star spot? Yes.
Good enough for me.
Also, he's the best. Slash line: .335/.392/.660.
So here's the deal. We're going to run this like the offseason community prospect lists. First answer the survey question (which is legally binding), and then vote by placing a "+1" below the name of the player for whichyou think the DRaysBay Bloc should vote. Discuss below in the discussion section. Feel free to add any players you feel I have omitted from the voting possibilities.
Voting will close in one week.