If early returns are any indication, the 2017 MLB All-Star game is going to stuffed with Cleveland Indians players.
MLB released their first vote update yesterday via Twitter, and the results should make every Indians fan smile just a bit. Nine Indians players make the list at their various positions, including three of the top 15 outfielders — Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Abraham Almonte. Other positions are listed as top five, and the Indians have a player in the top-5 of each:
- First base: Carlos Santana, No. 3
- Second base: Jason Kipnis, No. 3
- Third base: Jose Ramirez, No. 3
- Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, No. 1
- Catcher: Yan Gomes, No. 5
- Designated hitter: Edwin Encarnacion, No. 2
Lindor is obviously the biggest story here, as the leading vote-getter to be the American League’s starting shortstop. Not only is he leading, but he is leading by a ton. He has the third-most votes of any position player in the AL, behind Mike Trout and Aaron Judge, and his 348,720 lead over the second-place Carlos Correa is the highest gap of any position battle.
This isn’t some kind Omar Infante circa 2015 ballot stuffing, either. Xander Bogaerts, who is third on the ballot, has the highest FanGraphs WAR among AL shortstops, but most of that is based around his baserunning. He has a lower wRC+ (131 to Lindor’s 133), and his defense has been a tad worse if you want to trust small sample defensive metrics. No one comes even close to Frankie’s power this season, though, which is probably the biggest factor in his dramatic lead. Lindor’s 12 home run lead all shortstops; the next closest is Correa with nine. Among all players in baseball, 12 home runs is good enough to be tied for fifth overall.
It’s a perfect storm for Lindor to be the first Indians All-Star starter since Juan Gonzalez was voted in in 2001. He’s coming off a World Series appearance, he signed a huge marketing deal with New Balance in the offseason, he has an outgoing personality, and he’s hitting for power from a traditionally power-starved position. Boston Red Sox fans seeing Bogaearts at No. 3 might inspire them to start voting more and win by sheer numbers, but right now Lindor deserves to be the starter.
The other Indians in top-5 spots make sense, and I would expect Yan Gomes to slowly creep up higher if he can avoid another prolonged slump. It’s hard to remember it now, but he actually started this season slowly and didn’t really kick into gear until a couple weeks in.
Edwin Encarnacion at No. 2 as a designated hitter is a bit of a surprise, but nothing too shocking. He’s fifth in wRC+ among AL designated hitters (110 wRC+), and his 10 home runs are tied for third among the same group. He might stay in the top two or three until voting concludes, but there’s no way he outpaces Nelson Cruz or even Corey Dickerson if his ridiculous streak continues.
The fact that Abraham Almonte is ninth among AL outfielders is kind of hilarious, and part of me wonders if 200,000 of his 202,999 votes were our own Merritt Rohlfing botting, clicking, and voting his heart out. Lonnie Chisenhall is equally a long-shot as a platoon outfielder, but Michael Brantley is an intriguing possibility. He’s 15th in FanGraphs WAR among AL outfielders, which doesn’t bode well, but he has the benefit of being a comeback story. He’ll be one of the leading contenders for Comeback Player of the Year once the season ends (along with teammate Yan Gomes), and people love good stories like that. Maybe enough to close the gap between him and the slew of other good outfielders in the American League.
There’s still a lot of time for votes to shift, and a lot of time for fanbases to get angry and start voting irrationally for their players, but right now the All-Star game looks like it might be a treat for Tribe fans. Keep voting!