Balloting continues for Major League Baseball's 85th All-Star Game on July 15 at Target Field in Minnesota, and fans can cast their votes using the 2014 All-Star Game Ballot Sponsored by Experian. Deciding who should get voted into the starting lineup can be challenging. Today, Anthony Castrovince and Doug Miller discuss American League catchers.
Castrovince: Matt Wieters might be that rare bird who visited Dr. James Andrews and didn't find out he needed elbow surgery. But he's on the disabled list all the same, and so any thought that he might be a slam-dunk selection to start behind the plate for the American League in the All-Star Game -- by virtue of his .308/.339/.500 slash line, five homers and 18 RBIs -- has been rendered moot.
But even when healthy, Wieters' case was a complicated one. Catcher is, in my eyes, one particular position where defensive contributions ought to carry a substantial amount of weight, and Wieters had some struggles on that front before he got hurt (or perhaps as a result of being hurt). He had thrown out just one of 12 would-be basestealers.
Now that Wieters is on the pine, who do you think voters should be leaning toward?
Miller: I think you're spot-on with your assessment of Wieters. I also agree that we have to take defense into consideration when it comes to All-Star Game voting -- more on that later. But hold the phone here for a minute and take a look at what Derek Norris is doing in Oakland.
This guy is not only the most likely Major Leaguer to earn a spot as a cast member on "Duck Dynasty," he's emerging as a real force behind the plate for the A's, who are back in first place in the American League West after winning that division each of the past two years.
Don't let all that facial and head hair hide his numbers. After Sunday's two-homer, six-RBI bonanza against the Nationals, Norris has four homers and 19 RBIs, a .385 average and 1.070 OPS, even though he didn't get all the starting reps until recently, which explains the fact that he has 78 at-bats compared to Wieters' 104. He's also done well leading a pitching staff that has absorbed two huge losses to injury in Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin but keeps ticking along.
Anybody else you can come up with?
Castrovince: Well, we've got to give some love to Salvador Perez, who, like many of the Royals, has been a little slow out the chute on the offensive end (.260/.317/.420, three homers, 11 RBIs through Sunday) but is a game-changer behind the plate. Entering the week, he had thrown out 32 percent of basestealers, and FanGraphs was giving him a slightly higher defensive rating than Yadier Molina.
Perez is big -- 6-foot-3, 240 pounds -- athletic and young but he's mature. He was a first-time All-Star in 2013 and even got some down-ballot MVP votes. Something tells me we're going to get used to seeing him on the Midsummer stage.
The Rays' Ryan Hanigan also merits consideration. He's in a slightly more limited role, in that he shares time with Jose Molina, but he has an adjusted OPS significantly better than league average at the position, he'd driven in 18 runs, he'd thrown out 46.2 percent of basestealers and he's generally regarded as one of the best pitch-framers in the sport.
For me, it's a close call between Wieters, Norris, Perez and Hanigan at this early stage. I guess because Wieters, Hanigan and Norris are not behind the plate on an everyday basis, I'd give the nod to Perez right now.
Miller: I'd go with Norris right now, but you've brought up some points that are convincing me that this particular decision is a lot more difficult than I thought.
For example, it's easy to disregard Brian McCann and his .589 OPS, but he does have four homers, he's the best defender at his position in the AL right now, according to FanGraphs, and he also has what the rest of these guys can only hope to have someday: seven mAll-Star Games on his resume.
I know our lovely game is increasingly one of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, but a well-earned reputation has to count for something, and the natural adjustment to a new league after all those years in Atlanta, a new city where the pressure is heaped on a couple dollops thicker, and a new policy of having to get rid of his customary beard might somehow be conspiring to keep McCann's numbers down. I suspect that won't be the case for long.
Oh yeah, and Mike Zunino of the Mariners (five homers, 16 RBIs), Kurt Suzuki of the Twins (.300 average, 24 RBIs) and A.J. Pierzynski of the Red Sox (.277, 18 RBIs) might want to have a few words with us about this, too. Come to think of it, when doesn't A.J. want to have a few words about anything?
Castrovince: Well, let's put our words to rest and let the voters take it from here, because they've got plenty to chew on.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.