Who will start at second base for the American League in the All-Star Game this season? It’s a tough choice with options besides Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve.
It’s a decision with few bad options, but no simple choices. With fans now able to vote for the All-Star teams earlier than ever at MLB.com, they will have 35 chances to select their favorites, or who they feel belongs on the rosters of the American League and National League.
Yes, it’s often a popularity contest.
But beyond the fan-voted starters, there is a decision to be made on the rest of the 34-man rosters, including reserves and pitchers that comes from the players’ ballots and the decision of the respective managers of both teams.
For fans, players and Royals manager Ned Yost, perhaps the easiest, yet most difficult decisions will be in determining the backup or backups for the second base spot in the American League.
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It’s not so much choosing a deserving player, but how many other equally deserving players will be left out. Few positions in baseball have the depth of talent or the strong early performances this season.
Right now, the two favorites for the starting spot come from the American League West. Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Houston’s Jose Altuve haven’t just been two of the best second baseman in baseball, but two of the best players.
After a miserable start to last season that saw him fail to make the All-Star team for the first time since 2009, Cano is off to a torrid start. He came into Saturday’s game, hitting .299 with a .943 on-base plus slugging percentage, including the league lead in homers (12) and RBI (33). Cano entered Saturday with a 12-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .426 with five doubles, four homers and nine RBI over that span.
“He’s playing like an MVP,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
Altuve might actually be having a better start to the season.
Going into Saturday, Altuve led the AL in runs scored (34), on-base percentage (.423), doubles (17), stolen bases (13), runs created (41) and was tied for first in hits with 49. He has a .338 batting average with a 1.064 OPS, second highest in the league.
“I enjoy watching him,” Cano said. “ He’s a guy that every time he swings, you know something good is going to happen. The last three years, he’s been great. Running the bases, he can fly. It’s always fun to watch other guys, especially second basemen, be so successful.”
And that’s the rub. There are plenty of other second baseman who have been successful this season besides Cano and Altuve. Beyond those two, there are at least four other second baseman having outstanding, All-Star level seasons. But just not as good as Cano and Altuve.
Perhaps, one more of them could be added to the roster. But a few others will be disappointed.
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
When healthy, the feisty Pedroia is a perennial All-Star possibility. This season, he is part of the Red Sox’s resurgent offense — the best in baseball. Pedroia is hitting .303 with an .837 OPS. His 43 hits are second only to Altuve among AL second baseman. He has eight doubles, a triple, six homers, 20 RBI and 27 runs. He has also been the best defensive second baseman per advanced fielding metrics.
Rougned Odor, Rangers
Another diminutive, but powerful second baseman in the mold of Altuve and Pedroia, Odor is a major reason for the Rangers’ success this season. He is hitting .297 with an .849 OPS that includes 42 hits, 10 doubles, a triple, seven homers, 26 runs and 21 RBI. Odor has also cleaned up his play defensively, making the routine plays with regularity and committing just three errors. He has also limited the mental mistakes in the field and on the bases that plagued him last season.
Logan Forsythe, Rays
His All-Star hopes took a serious hit when he was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a hairline fracture in his shoulder blade. Forsythe suffered the injury after getting hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez on Monday. Forsythe missed four games — all of which the Rays lost. After hitting .281 with an .804 OPS and 33 doubles, 17 homers and 68 RBI last season, Forsythe was even better in early 2016, hitting .308 with a .922 OP, including nine doubles, four homers and 12 RBI.
Starlin Castro, Yankees
The once shortstop-of-the-future for the Cubs is trying to reinvent himself in Yankee pinstripes. New York acquired him in the offseason to be their everyday shortstop and he’s been solid. Castro is hitting .298 with an .817 OPS, eight doubles, a triple, four homers and 14 RBI, hitting at the bottom of an anemic offensive attack.
Ian Kinsler, Tigers
A four-time All-Star in his career, Kinsler has been one of the few productive players for a Tigers team that has underachieved this season. Kinsler is hitting .295 with a .796 OPS. He has 43 hits, six doubles, six homers, 17 RBI and has scored 29 runs.