*** We will be doing daily ASG commentaries until 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
While celebrating the Royals, let's pause to consider one of the hottest teams this month and why it has been winning.
That would be the Blue Jays, of course, and the left side of their infield.
Donaldson would be the AL MVP Award winner if the vote was taken today. He'll look right at home as an All-Star regular. And what about Jose Reyes?
Glad you asked.
After starting the season 18-24, the Blue Jays have climbed from the bottom of the AL East to provide a serious challenge to the Rays and the Yankees at the top. They've done this after Reyes recovered from the rib he cracked in April, going 15-4 from May 24 through Sunday.
With Reyes and Donaldson on their games, the Blue Jays are a two-way force. They score runs and make it tough for teams to get hits through the left side of the infield.
It's still tough to understand why the A's decided to trade Donaldson, as he's clearly the best third baseman in the AL. He's hitting .305 with 17 homers, 45 RBIs and 52 runs scored. Project those numbers out over a full season and he'd have 42 homers, 112 RBIs and 130 runs scored. Imagine if he only ran a little better.
There's nothing wrong with Donaldson's quickness, of course. He probably makes too many throwing errors to join the Gold Glove Award rotation -- there have been four winners in the AL in the last five years, including Kyle Seager, Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre (twice) and Evan Longoria - but Donaldson is currently credited with six Defensive Runs Saved, behind only Lonnie Chisenhall, Machado and Beltre; and Donaldson trails only Beltre and Longoria in UZR.
Donaldson is the total package and is thriving as the No. 2 hitter in a lineup that generally has Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin behind him. Donaldson's .342 on-base percentage last season was largely the result of taking his walks when he was pitched around; his .361 on-base percentage this season is accompanied by a .5557 slugging average, compared to .456 last year. The difference is as much him doing damage as it is the more favorable hitting conditions in Rogers Centre than O.co Coliseum .
Only Donaldson and outfielder Kevin Pillar have been true fixtures in manager John Gibbons' lineup. Bautista and Encarnacion have been banged up at times, and both Reyes and highly productive rookie Devon Travis hit the disabled list.
Yes, Reyes has missed time, as he has throughout his career. But he's made more of a difference when he's played than any shortstop in the AL. If he's healthy on July 14, he should be in Ned Yost's starting lineup -- as much as the Royals skipper would probably want his own Alcides Escobar to start.
Reyes has proven to be a risky investment for the long term. But he is still a difference-maker, as you can tell when watching the Blue Jays with him and without him.
They're 22-13 with Reyes, a .629 winning percentage, and 12-19 without him. You can do that math if you care.
Sure, it's a small sample size, and no one player is all that important in baseball, except maybe the starting pitcher. We get that. We also understand that Reyes' slash line -- .289/.316/.389 -- doesn't scream All-Star. But with apologies to Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts, who have the best metrics among shortstops, this remains a transition era for AL shortstops.
We know there are other shortstops who should be in this discussion, including the Royals' Escobar. But Reyes is the guy who has made his team a winner. If the Blue Jays keep winning, the case for him to join Donaldson in the starting lineup will only get stronger.
You can vote for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online.
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Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities.
The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.