One man’s Triple-A All-Star ballot: IL edition
By Sam Dykstra
This is always a fun one. The arguments that start around the water cooler usually are, even if they aren’t necessarily on the tip of the tongues of everyone in your office.
Who should start the All-Star Game?
It’s a question that seems objective in nature, but the answer is always subjective. If your ballot isn’t based around your favorite team, it depends on what stats you favor. Time and time again, Player X has a higher batting average, but Player Y has more homers and RBIs. Eventually, you go on down the line on each’s stats page until you believe there’s a clear winner. (Or if you’re a certain writer’s sibling, you just punched whatever name you recognized or sounded the funniest on the physical ballots at the ballpark. Not pointing any fingers, of course.)
Anyways, what I’m saying is everyone’s ballot will look different, everyone has his or her reasons for why the looks a certain way, and that’s where the debate comes in.
So for your consideration, I’ve taken a look at the Triple-A ballot and decided whom I think should be starting at each position in Reno on July 17. Let’s start with the International League.
Catcher, Josh Phegley, Charlotte – Not too difficult of a pick here. The No. 15 White Sox prospect is enjoying a breakout season — his third straight campaign with the Knights — and leads IL catchers in average (.314), homers (12), RBIs (35) and OPS (.980). (Fan vote leader: Phegley)
First baseman, Chris Colabello, Rochester – Another slam dunk. He ranks first in the circuit in average (.369), slugging (.664) and OPS (1.094). The 29-year-old first baseman, who signed with the Twins last year after being named MVP of the independent Can-Am Association, is an early candidate for IL MVP as well, if he plays out the string at the Triple-A level. He returned to the Red Wings two weeks ago after a six-game Major League stint that saw him go 2-for-15 at the dish. Toledo’s Jordan Lennerton deserves mention for a 47-game on-base streak. (Fan vote leader: Colabello)
Second baseman, Jim Negrych, Buffalo – The western New York native appears to be enjoying his return home with the Bisons. He’s third in the IL with a .344 average through 47 games — his highest mark since he batted .359 during the 2008 season split between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona in the Pirates system. Gwinnett’s Tim Pastornicky is the closest second baseman on the ballot with a .313 average. Negrych also leads the second-base crew with 38 runs scored. (Fan vote leader: Negrych)
Shortstop, Josh Harrison, Indianapolis – The Indians shortstop, who has had three different stints with the Pirates this season, may not possess much pop, but he is a threat on the basepaths. He’s tied for seventh in the circuit with 16 steals, and his .302 average and 37 runs scored are best among IL shortstops. (Fan vote leader: Tim Beckham, Durham)
Third baseman, Andy LaRoche, Buffalo – This was the toughest pick thus far, although perhaps not for the right reasons. None of the listed candidates truly stand out from their hot-corner peers in any of the major categories. I gave LaRoche the nod for being consistently near the top of the group in most stats. He leads in OPS (.819), ranks second in average (.283) and third in homers (seven). (Fan vote leader: LaRoche)
Outfielder, Wil Myers, Durham – There was a time when this wasn’t a given. The Rays’ top prospect went through a mid-to-late-May lull that saw his OPS drop to as low as .712. He’s torn the cover off the ball ever since. His OPS is up to .876, and he leads ballot-eligible outfielders with 14 homers and 57 RBIs. He was called up to the Majors on Sunday, but if balloting ended today, he would have earned the right to at least decline his invitation. (Fan vote leader: Myers)
Jeff Kobernus, Syracuse – The Nationals’ No. 16 prospect has proven to be a valuable utilityman in his first season with the Chiefs. Playing second, third, center and left, he’s managed a .333/.378/.420 slash line with 21 steals. The Nats took notice and promoted him when Danny Espinosa’s broken wrist became an issue. But he’s listed as an outfielder on the Triple-A ballot and would provide a nice presence at the top of the IL lineup come middle of July, if Washington isn’t keeping him otherwise occupied. (Fan vote leader: Bryce Brentz, Pawtucket)
Joey Terdoslavich, Gwinnett – I debated over the Braves’ No. 14 prospect and Norfolk outfielder Jason Pridie for the last spot, given that the two are close in a host of categories. But Terdoslavich gets the nod because of his clear advantage in power. His 14 homers tie Myers for most among IL outfielders and his .559 slugging percentage tops Pridie (.539) and Myers (.520). (Fan vote leader: Nick Castellanos, Toledo)
Designated hitter, Luis Jimenez, Buffalo – This brings me back to the easier decisions. Jimenez owns a .341/.416/.582 slash line with 13 homers and 54 RBIs in 60 games for the Bisons. Those numbers don’t belong in an All-Star Game — they belong in a video game. (Fan vote leader: Jimenez)
Starting pitchers, Tony Cingrani, Louisville – Because of promotions, Cingrani’s time in the IL has been limited, but it has definitely been memorable. No starter comes close to touching his 1.15 ERA, and though his 49 strikeouts don’t top the category, his 14.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate certainly does. (Fan vote leader: Cingrani)
Jose Alvarez, Toledo: I called Alvarez the most surprising pitcher in the IL a few weeks back, and now I’m back to call him an All-Star. He leads the circuit in WHIP (1.02) and strikeouts (84) and ranks third in ERA (2.78). Detroit fans got to see a slice of that success when the 24-year-old southpaw allowed just one run on three hits in his Major League debut on June 9. (Fan vote leader: Alvarez)
Relief pitchers, Bruce Rondon, Toledo: When it comes to voting for relievers, common sense dictates that you sort the stats page by saves, find whoever is first and vote for him. Sorry, I can’t do it. The stat is too fickle. I’d much rather reward someone who has been dominant in other areas while still earning his fair share of saves. Rondon fits that bill. He’s held down a 1.05 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.6 K/9 while earning 13 saves in 26 appearances for the Mud Hens this season. Those 13 saves are three behind category leader Preston Guilmet of Columbus (2.67 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.7 K/9), who happens to be the fan vote leader.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, Pawtucket: I wanted to give this spot to Ryan Reid (0.52 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, one save) or Neil Wagner (0.89 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 13 saves), but both have taken their talents to the Major Leagues. But Sam, you ask, why reward Myers, Kobernus and Cingrani even though they’re in the Majors and not Reid and Wagner? Because I couldn’t justify another outfielder or starting pitcher over those like I can with the left-handed Rowland-Smith. His 0.70 WHIP for the PawSox leads all IL relievers, and his 0.70 ERA is second. Sure, he’s only earned one save, but I’m not going to be the one to dock him for doing his job extremely well. Leave the saves leaders to the managerial selections. (Fan vote leader: Wagner)