If 2017 was the year of the third baseman, 2018 might be the year of the shortstop, especially in the American League. The depth at this position is incredible, with guys like Carlos Correa of the Astros, Francisco Lindor of the Indians, Manny Machado of the Orioles, and Andrelton Simmons of the Angels. They are all hoping to represent the American League at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., this summer at the All-Star Game, and possibly only two of them will make the roster. But which two?
The Case for Correa
Correa is enjoying a solid season. He has yet to make an error, and has shown that he is possibly the best defensive shortstop in the league. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is 2.2, good for fourth in the league at shortstop. However, many think that he has underperformed at the plate. He is hitting .263/.347/.469 and has also hit 10 homers and driven in 39. That makes him sixth in batting average and fifth in home runs among AL shortstops. One thing he does have working in his favor is that he’s on a team with a large fan base. After winning the World Series, more fans have come over to the Astros, and those fans will place their votes for him.
Lindor is also playing well. He is hitting .305/.379/.565 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs. He hasn’t quite been the perfect fielder; his .965 fielding percentage is a mere 22nd in the league. His batting may make up for it, though: He’s second in home runs, second in slugging, and fourth in batting average. His WAR is 3.7, first at his position and fourth in the American League. Lindor is a fan favorite—they call him Mr. Smile for a reason—and could definitely end up in D.C. in July.
Machado might be a lock to represent the American League. He leads AL shortstops with 18 homers and 47 RBIs. His impressive batting line of .327/.398/.633 ranks third, first, and first among his AL shortstop peers, which could single-handedly get him the starting job. He has only played O.K. defensively, with a .980 fielding percentage (13th among AL shortstops), but this matters much less in terms of getting votes than batting stats. His WAR is at 2.5, which puts him third, behind Simmons and Lindor, and fans will likely take this and vote for him based on his incredible season at the plate.
Simmons is one of the most underrated players in the league. His batting average of .330 is the best out of all shortstops and seventh in the majors, and his overall batting line of .330/.397/.460 puts him second, second, and seventh among AL shortstops. He isn't much of a long-ball threat—he’s hit four home runs and driven in 34—but his WAR of 3.2 is second in the AL at his position. He’s looked decent in the field, where his .984 fielding percentage gets him eighth at his position in the AL. All in all, he has put together a very good start to the season; right now he is a dark-horse candidate to earn a spot.
All of these players have done well so far, but Machado should get the most votes and start in the All-Star Game. His combination of power and contact, with 18 home runs and a .327 batting average, is spectacular.
For the reserve spot, it comes down to Lindor vs. Simmons. Fans vote for this, and Lindor should win for two reasons. The first is that his stats, aside from batting average, are very similar to Simmons’s, but Lindor has hit eight more home runs. Lots of fans care more about big plays, such as homers, than the small plays that can bump up an average. The second reason is that fans like to vote on the bigger names, and Lindor is a much more well-known player than Simmons. The All-Star Game voting is entirely based on fans, and if they haven't heard of a player, they won't vote for them.
Voting closes on July 5, and the game is on July 17. This race will be an interesting one!
Photographs by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos/Getty Images (Correa); Ron Schwane/Getty Images (Lindor); Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images (Machado); John McCoy/Getty Images (Simmons)