For the Arizona Diamondbacks, fresh off a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs, things are starting to look up as the MLB calendar marches toward the All-Star Game in Kansas City. The midsummer classic may be derided in some circles as a meaningless exhibition, but it is a good point to give some serious evaluation to whether or not a team should begin to contemplate the moves needed for a playoff push, or to sound the signal to retreat.
Before they can do that, there is the matter of who Arizona is sending to the game in Missouri. Considering that they are only a game out of the Wild Card spot and five games out of the division lead in the West, they have the possibility of getting two guys into the game, and they’ll obviously get one since MLB rules specify that each team must be represented.
Since the usual suspects like Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Young aren’t playing up to their usual form, the league is going to have to get a bit creative in terms of who it selects. There are four guys with the potential to make it to KC:
1B Paul Goldschmidt:
Goldschmidt started out the year ice cold, but he has begun to make his way up the ladder in terms of first basemen in the National League. A lengthy hitting streak helped matters, and he is now up to 3rd among NL first basemen in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS this season.
There are two things that would hurt his potential to be on the team. The first of those is that Paul’s early struggles likely hurt his image in the eyes of those responsible for assembling the team. The second and more important factor is that there are two guys who are likely going to make it difficult for him to make the cut. Joey Votto of the Reds is an absolute shoo-in whether he’s voted in or selected as a reserve, so that’s one spot locked down. The second guy is Bryan LaHair of the Cubs, who is likely to be the only Cub selected to the roster, and arguably the most deserving. If Starlin Castro ends up making it, then Goldschmidt could get in by default.
OF Jason Kubel:
Kubel is having a very nice season since coming over to the National League from the Twins, and Arizona’s supposedly crazy move to replace their Gold Glove left fielder with the slugging Kubel has turned out to be a wise decision in more ways than one. He is in 8th in the NL in OPS and RBI in the outfielder ranks, and he is also ninth in OBP. Add to that his remarkable effort in the assist category (he has double the assists of the next closest left fielder), and he also has zero errors, so he is a very well-deserving all-around candidate.
Unfortunately for Kubel, there are a ton of outfielders, including guys like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Ryan Braun who are going to lap him in terms of recognition among the baseball minds responsible for selecting the team, so his solid effort is going to end up getting him a pat on the back rather than a seat on the plane to Kansas City in all likelihood.
P Wade Miley:
Arguably the guy on the team with the best odds of making the All-Star Game on the Diamondbacks roster is also the guy who at the beginning of the season may have had the worst odds. Starting the season as the long relief man, he was thrust into the rotation when Daniel Hudson went down with an injury and Josh Collmenter was demoted to the bullpen, and he has been rocking and rolling ever since. He is 3rd in the National League in ERA, is sixth in WHIP, and has only walked 18 batters in 90 innings of work. Add to that his 9-3 record this season, and you have a great candidate for the All-Star squad.
Perhaps the only thing working against Miley (aside from the fact that he is a rookie) is that he doesn’t have quite the name recognition of some other pitchers on the radar for the team, but that probably won’t be an obstacle, and every indication seems to be that he will be representing the league as they try to obtain home field advantage in the World Series. Even if he doesn’t see it that way, telling the Arizona Republic:
“I’m trying to keep that out of my head as much as possible. We’ve still got two and a half weeks to go. We’ve got to focus on winning ball games.”
C Miguel Montero:
If you were to rank the four players listed here, Montero would probably be second behind Miley in terms of best odds to make the team. For starters, he has been gunning out runners at an incredibly high rate this season, so he has the defensive chops. He is also leading NL catchers in RBI, and he is also third in walks, so his plate discipline and level of respect among pitchers are clearly visible.
Even with those things working in his favor, there are still a couple of obstacles in his way, and their names are Buster Posey, Carlos Ruiz, and Yadier Molina. All three of those guys are having very solid seasons, and with Ruiz just about a shoo-in, it’s going to be a tough slog for Montero. Fortunately for him, Posey may get the boot because teammates Melky Cabrera and Matt Cain are going to take two spots, and Beltran and Holliday are going to lock down two spots for the Cardinals. With those things in mind, the Diamondbacks may just end up with a second representative after all, and Montero would be an ideal candidate.