In 2006, the Kansas City Royals were represented by former Twin Mark Redman in the annual All-Star game. The team went on to finish the season with 100 losses and without a contributor who deserved being called an All-Star (Redman finished the season with double-digit losses and a 5.71 ERA). However, due to MLB requiring a representative from each club at the midsummer classic, Mark Redman (who also gave KC a WAR value of just 1.6 that year), can forever brag to passerby that he is an MLB All-Star. On an unsurprising note, he was not called on to pitch in that game.
This year, the Twins are again hoping to avoid replicating the Royals’ 100-loss ’06 season, and I think they will. I also think they’ll send a player to Kansas City who represents the true meaning and makeup of an All-Star far better than Redman did. Below is a quick look at some of the team’s candidates for that spot (and make no mistake, a 30-43 team probably only deserves and will receive one All-Star nod):
- Josh Willingham – Arguably the team’s MVP through the first half of 2012, Willingham (he needs a nickname from the Minnesota faithful…how about “Killingham”?) is hitting .275/.388/.542 with 15 HRs and 49 RBIs. He’s easily on pace to post a 30-HR/100-RBI season, something Twins fans rarely see. He’s most deserving for his first All-Star selection.
- Joe Mauer – Probably the best hitting catcher of all time, Joseph Patrick Mauer has quietly surged to the forefront of the pack leading the league in batting average. He also owns an OPS over .850, so there could be valid arguments made for Mauer to receive his fifth career All-Star selection and back up Mike Napoli in Kansas City. Napoli’s a fan selection who statistically doesn’t deserve to start, and Matt Wieters and A.J. Pierzynski are the only other AL backstops who have had decent years so far. As I analyze these numbers and write, I’m starting to think there’s no reason Mauer and Willingham do not make the squad.
- Scott Diamond – Hands down Minnesota’s most reliable starter so far, Diamond leads the club’s starters in wins, ERA, and WHIP, and has pitched a quality start 70% of his outings. While his numbers look great on a club with horrendous starting pitching, they may not look All-Star worthy when stacked against the rest of the AL, especially since most starters have under their belts 5 or more starts than this May call-up.
- Matt Capps – Kudos to Capps for following up a rough 2011 season (when he was often a scapegoat for the team’s struggles) with a stellar half-season, in which he has converted all but one save opportunity, has an ERA under 3.50, and a miniscule WHIP, walk rate, and gopher ball rate. Still, he’s currently on the DL and a long shot for a second selection to the big game.
- Glen Perkins – Perkins is another member of a bullpen that’s performed much better than the previous year’s. His numbers are a bit down from last season’s, though his K/9 rate is up and among the top 10 among qualified AL relievers. Non-closing relievers aren’t often chosen for the AL squad, so don’t expect to see Perkins in one of those ugly “American” jerseys.
- Jared Burton – The veteran reliever has been a nice feel-good storyline in 2012, bouncing back from two injury-riddled seasons with the Reds to be a superb right-handed setup man. He has a WHIP under 1.00, an ERA under 3.00, and more than serviceable K/9 and BB/9 rates. But are they All-Star stats that will land him in KC? Probably not.
Any day now the league will unveil the full All-Star rosters and there will be a Twin on it. I hope it’s Willingham; he’s put in the work and often carried this offense and ball club on his shoulders through much of the spring and now into June. He deserves a trip to Missouri as a first-time All-Star. I also hope Mauer is chosen; it would be a positive response to the negative criticism surrounding him regarding his injury history, contract, and lack of power. Regardless of all that, he is the best pure hitting catcher in the game, if not among all position players. After horrendous team-wide pitching the first few weeks of the year, I am glad to be able to include these four pitchers on this list. With Alex Burnett and Brian Duensing also contributing, they’re a good sign that the team’s pitching can eventually turn it around.