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Written By Tom Schreier (ZoneCoverage.com)
Photo Credit: Brian Curski
The Minnesota Twins have not had more than three All-Stars since avoiding contraction and winning the AL Central in 2002. This year they have a player receiving votes at every position, and could potentially have more than three players representing them at the Midsummer Classic in Cleveland given how poor many teams in the American League are playing.
- Jorge Polanco leads all shortstops in voting.
- C.J. Cron is second behind Luke Voit of the Yankees at first base.
- Nelson Cruz is the No. 3 DH behind J.D. Martinez and Hunter Pence.
- Jonathan Schoop and Jason Castro are No. 4 at second and catcher, respectively.
- Eddie Rosario (6), Max Kepler (10) and Byron Buxton (11) all received outfield votes.
Pitchers and reserves will be announced Sunday, June 30, and Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers should all be considered. Brandon and I discussed potential Twins All-Stars here.
Polanco deserves his first All-Star nod
Polanco, who is hitting .332/.395/.557, leads the junior circuit in average, hits (90) and doubles (21). He had a 14-game hitting streak earlier this season and has held his own a short.
After brief call-ups in 2014 and 2015, at ages 20 and 21, he hit .282/.332/.424 in 2016 and played his first complete season in 2017.
An 80-game PED suspension kept him out of All-Star consideration last year, but he hit .288/.345/.427 in 77 games. This year he’s been productive in the 2-hole and plays a premium position up the middle. He should represent the Twins in Cleveland this year.
Who goes from the outfield?
Rosario was a snub last season after hitting .311/.353/.537 with 19 home runs in the first half. But he cooled off in the second half, batting .240/.262/.361 with only five homers and had trouble on the basepaths and with his routes in the outfield all year long.
Still, he’s hit .289/.326/.493 the past two seasons, and has continued his offensive surge this season (.262/.297/.517, 19 homers) while improving defensively and as a baserunner. He deserves to make it.
Buxton should too, even though he’s been injured recently. He’s hitting .266/.324/.527 from the 9-hole, leads the AL with 21 doubles and remains one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. If he doesn’t get the nod this year, it’s because defense is discounted in All-Star voting.
Kepler is an interesting case. He’s provided power as the leadoff man against righties, has hit .286/.333/.492 against lefties and stepped in as the center fielder when Buxton is hurt. If he makes the All-Star team this year, it’s a testament to his development as a player from Berlin, Germany — not necessarily a baseball hotbed.
Gonzalez is interesting at third
Gonzalez has played 36 games at third base this year and 34 games in the outfield, meaning he’s essentially been the team’s fourth outfielder after covering for Miguel Sano while he was recovering from injury early this season.
But he’s truly a utilityman, as he’s also played at first, second and short.
He was not an All-Star in 2017, despite hitting .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs for the World Series champion Houston Astros. His current line of .262/.331/.431 is deceiving, since he had a slow start after signing late, hitting .167/.244/.256.
Sano, an All-Star in 2017, struggled last year and began the year on the injured list. He’s hitting .253/.341/.608 with seven bombs, but has struck out 33 times in 91 plate appearances this season.
Cron and Cruz have helped power the Bombas
Cron has stepped in nicely for Joe Mauer, playing solid defense at first while hitting .271/.332/.533 with 15 home runs — essentially trading power for on-base percentage. Not bad for a player the Tampa Bay Rays let go in the offseason.
Cruz was a big pickup in the offseason and has delivered as Minnesota’s primary DH. The six-time All-Star is hitting .281/.366/.575 with 13 homers, showing no signs of slowing down at age 38. In fact, from his age 33 to age 37 seasons he’s hit .281/.356/.541 with an average of 41 home runs during that time period.
Rogers has been steady in the bullpen, Odorizzi-Berrios a 1-2 punch in the rotation
The Twins bullpen has been an area of focus this season, given the handful of meltdowns Minnesota has endured already. But Taylor Rogers has been a reliable lefty for Rocco Baldelli this season, and owns a 2.10 ERA (216 ERA+), 1.200 WHIP and 5.43 strikeout to walk ratio.
If Berrios, an All-Star last year, is an example of a good use of the international draft — he, Polanco and Kepler all joined the Twins the same year — Odorizzi is a patented Derek Falvey reclamation project.
The Cleveland Indians built a rotation around players they acquired from organizations, and Odorizzi, the Milwaukee Brewers’ first round selection in 2008 who spent the last five years with the Tampa Bay Rays, has dominated this season. His 2.24 ERA (201 ERA+), 1.009 WHIP and 3.54 strikeout to walk ratio are All-Star worthy.
Berrios hasn’t been as hard to hit by comparison, but has been a good complement to Odorizzi. His 3.01 ERA (149 ERA+), 1.104 WHIP and 4.94 strikeout to walk ratio are all better than last year.
In another year Schoop or Castro would be in
Schoop, an All-Star with Baltimore two years ago, was looking to rebound after struggling following his trade to the Milwaukee Brewers last year when he hit .202/.246/.331 in 46 games for the playoff-bound Brew Crew.
He’s done so nicely, hitting .257/.309/.482 with 12 home runs this season. He may not get into the All-Star Game, but he’ll probably get a nice contract next year.
Castro and Mitch Garver been a productive catching tandem this year. Castro, an All-Star with the Astros in 2013, is hitting .255/.350/.549 while playing solid defense and remaining one of the better pitch-framers in the game. Garver is hitting .310/.394/.664 in 35 games and has improved as a framer.
If you could send a catching tandem to Cleveland, these two would deserve it. Individually, however, Castro probably won’t garner enough votes.
It’s a tough choice, and my selections could change by the time voting ends. If I get four, I send Polanco, Rosario, Buxton and Odorizzi. If I get a fifth, I’m leaning Berrios, but Rogers is deserving as well.
Polanco and Rosario are locks to me, given their play. Buxton should be too, given how incredible he is defensively, and Odorizzi has been a bonafide ace. Knowing how well this team has played, and how bad the AL is, they should get more than four choices. But that would be more than double last time Minnesota dominated the Central, presenting a difficult decision — and yet another first-world problem for the Twins.