The recent struggles of the Baltimore Orioles has made the MLB season a bit of a drag in Charm City. No, the team is not quite as awful as the pre-2012 Birds. But the 2017 iteration of the O’s may be stuck in a similar situation to those teams when it comes to the All-Star Game.
A rule remains in place for the Midsummer Classic that says all 30 major league teams must be represented across the two rosters, whether they truly deserve it or not. In the past, that meant the Orioles sent the likes of George Sherrill, Tony Batista and Ty Wiggington as lone representatives of a then-sorry franchise. Since 2011, the team has consistently sent at least two All-Stars with Adam Jones and Manny Machado the most common attendees. But it is looking increasingly likely that these O’s will have to settle for a single All-Star.
On Monday, MLB released the latest update on fan voting, which is used to determine the nine starting hitters. Unsurprisingly, the struggling Orioles are far from earning a spot in the starting lineup. Welington Castillo has the fourth most votes at catcher, and Machado is fifth among third basemen. No one else even notched a mention.
But the team will be sending someone to Miami on July 11 to don the orange and black and be the token Orioles player. The options are limited, but these are the most likely Birds to make the trip.
While Jones is the face of the franchise, Machado is the organization’s top player. The problem is that the Miami native has had an atrocious season at the plate by his high standards. That .228/.299/.446 batting line is nasty, and his 15 home runs and 38 RBI are both slightly disappointing totals.
Even still, he has the star power and the reputation to earn the nod. His defense remains outstanding and, despite some on field theatrics, Machado is a well-respected talent throughout the league. When it comes to the non-starters, it is up to the players and coaches. That could mean a big name like Machado is the preferred option.
As bad as Machado has been, his buddy Schoop has been equally as fantastic. Among qualified hitters, Schoop leads the Orioles in batting average (.295), hits, (79), doubles (22), on base percentage (.352), home runs (15, with Machado) and RBI (48). And according to Fangraphs, his 1.8 WAR is 0.1 better than Machado.
The trouble for Schoop is his position. It’s possible that second base is the most-stacked spot on the diamond in the American League. Jose Altuve is an MVP candidate. Starlin Castro has been a standout for the Yankees. And Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are well-established veterans. Only two or three guys are gonna make the team.
The Dominican catcher has been a pleasant surprise behind the plate for the O’s. Those that were worried about a drop in production with the departure of Matt Wieters in the winter have been silenced. Castillo’s 105 OPS+ dwarfs his predecessor’s 78. Across the board, the backstop’s numbers are solid: .284/.316/.462 with eight home runs and 25 RBI while fighting through two DL stints.
But apart from his batting average, he is not a top-five qualifier in any major offensive categories. He’s too far back in the voting to win a starting spot. That means he will be fighting the likes of Gary Sanchez and Brian McCann for the backup place. Castillo’s biggest tool is his bat, and he doesn’t out-hit those two.
In a non-Aaron Judge year, Mancini would be grabbing a lot more headlines as the leader for Rookie of the Year. But as long as the Yankees right fielder stays healthy, it is his award to win. Heck, he might even take home the MVP trophy too.
Despite only playing in 61 games, Mancini has 14 home runs and 43 RBI. Not to mention, his .321 batting average would lead the team if he had enough at-bats to qualify for league leaderboards.
Chris Davis’ injury has paved the way for Mancini to take over first base for the time being and really thrive at the plate. His performance has kept some talented major league players (like Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard) on the bench. But it is tough to make the All-Star Game as a rookie not name Judge. Plus, his jumping around of positions (left field, right field, DH and first base) makes him hard to peg.
AJ has become synonymous with the Orioles. The 31-year-old’s play on the field is clearly deteriorating, but he continues to be the heart and sole of the O’s. Jim Leyland had glowing things to say about the veteran after managing him in the World Baseball Classic in March. If the coaches get to pick a player or two by hand, Jones could easily be the choice.
That said, his numbers are no better now than they were a season ago, when he was also denied a spot on the All-Star team. He has improved his work with the leather by playing deeper, but centerfield is a competitive position and Jones may just be at that point in his career where he is a touch over the hill.
How funny would it be if the Orioles only representative was a pitcher? Of course, it’s a bullpen guy, not one of the starters. But Brach certainly deserves consideration. He was an All-Star last summer, but did not get a chance to pitch in the game.
Although it has been bumpy at times, Brach has been a solid substitute to Zach Britton this season by saving 13 games in 16 chances. Both Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier sport better ERAs than Brach’s 2.43 mark, but his 0.87 WHIP is sparkling, as is his .167 batting average against.
Things can get dicey in the bullpen for All-Star games. This is where a lot of bad teams squeeze in their lone representative. Teams will little star power elsewhere on the roster can usually provide a steady reliever. The Orioles have big names in other spots on the roster, which may overshadow Brach.
Even still, Brach is the most likely option to make the trip to Miami. He is a rock solid bullpen arm on an underachieving team. That can be a useful commodity in an All Star Game. In a perfect world, Schoop or Mancini would earn some well-deserved recognition, but things don't always work out the way they should.
Who will represent the Orioles in the 2017 All Star Game?
This poll is closed
other (Comment below!)