Friday, June 13, 2014

Identifying which Reds players are having All-Star worthy seasons

Despite being three games below .500 and eight games out of first place, the Cincinnati Reds have a relatively large crop of players who could potentially garner All-Star nods.

The most obvious candidate for All-Star consideration is right-handed ace Johnny Cueto. Entering Friday, Cueto ranked first among all starting pitchers in innings pitched (102), BAA (.160), and WHIP (0.77), was second in ERA (1.85) and strikeouts, and fifth in WAR (3.4). We have seen Cueto display dominance in the past, but injuries have had a habit of derailing otherwise sensational individual campaigns. When healthy, it's fair to peg Cueto as one of the best starters in baseball right now. And the world could get to see that first-hand if he's tabbed to start the All-Star game for the National League.

Aside from Cueto, the Reds also have several pitchers on the brink of All-Star status. Alfredo Simon has been nothing short of amazing while filling in for the injured Mat Latos. Who would have believed at this point in the season that Simon would be tied for the league lead in wins (9) while sporting a WHIP of 1.09 and ERA of 2.95? Not me and I'd assume none of you either.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Broxton has been absolutely lights out in 21 relief appearances. Through 20.2 innings of work, the big guy has allowed just one run en route to racking up five saves and nine holds. His propensity to stifle opposing bats has led to a tidy 0.68 WHIP and 0.44 ERA, both of which are hard to ignore.

Despite missing significant time due to a scary injury sustained in spring training, Aroldis Chapman has been just as effective as he has always been. The Cuban southpaw has struckout 29 in 15 innings pitched while posting 10 saves and an ERA of 1.20. Only five hits and four base on balls have been mustered against the relentless closer. If Chapman isn't one of the best closers in the game right now, I'm not sure who is.

The Reds don't have nearly the number of players on the borderline of All-Star consideration offensively-speaking as they do from the pitching side of things. After all, the club does rank second-to-last in runs scored as an offensive unit. But Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have definitely made strong cases to be All-Stars so far.

Frazier currently leads the Reds in both home runs (14) and RBI (34) and is among the league leaders at third base for each of the major categories. It goes without saying, but Frazier has been the primary run producer in an otherwise lackluster batting lineup for Bryan Price's club. And the New Jersey guy has seemingly emerged as one of the leaders in the clubhouse as well. To be fair, he has committed seven errors defensively though, which will be looked over as long as he continues to rake.

After beginning the year on a torrid pace, Mesoraco has cooled off tremendously, but the Pennsylvania native still ranks among the best at his position in several categories. Mesoraco leads all National League catchers in OPS (.962), is second in home runs (9), and third in average (.311). Furthermore, he's thrown at 5 of 17 potential base stealers while notching a defensive WAR of 0.4.

When compiling a roster to compete for the right to hold homefield advantage in the World Series, the National League may also give some consideration to the likes of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Cases can be made for Phillips and Votto to be included based on merit. But neither are having seasons that rank among the top three at their respective positions at the moment so it's safe to assume there are other candidates who are more deserving.

All in all, it appears the Reds could potentially send as many as five players to Citi Field come mid-July or they could also send as little as two. One would have to assume that Cueto is a virtual lock to at least make the roster barring injury or a string of awful starts between now and then. The same goes for Chapman whose arm would be a huge asset for the National League out of the bullpen if available. As for the rest of the gang, namely Broxton, Simon, Frazier and Mesoraco, they can solidify their odds of making the Midsummer Classic by continuing to outperform their peers.

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