All-Star Game

Zack Cozart Deserves a Donkey (And Other Reds All-Star Candidates)

It’s Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of summer, and the Cincinnati Reds are 24-25, one game below .500. It’s a little surprising, given that some people predicted this team would lose 100 games in 2017. The team’s success is reflected in certain players’ individual success. It’s that individual success that has some players in prime position to be named All-Stars in Miami on July 11. Let’s look at the Reds who could be making the trip to South Beach in a month and a half.

GETTING CLOSE TO A LOCK

Zack Cozart has the best chance to make the All-Star team. He’s currently having the best season of his career, leading all National League shortstops in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, and XBH. He is in the top 10 in MLB in OBP, SLG, and OPS.

In 42 games, Cozart is hitting .350/.426/.580, with an OPS of 1.006. He has five home runs, 25 RBI, and has scored 27 runs. He has 22 extra base hits, including four triples. Cozart leads the Reds in weighted runs created (wRC+) with 161. It’s the highest of his career since 2015, when his season was cut short with a knee injury. 

About a month ago, I wrote about the patience Cozart has been showing at the plate this season, as opposed to past seasons. He’s still being patient during his at-bats, with his swing% down six percentage points from 2016 and his contact% up by three percentage points.

Looking at the statistics, Cozart should make the team, barring a complete collapse in the month of June. There’s not a lot of competition at that position, and the closest players to him are Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks and Corey Seager of the Dodgers, both of whom have significantly lower statistics than Cozart.

ON THE BUBBLE

Raisel Iglesias is quietly (and by quietly, I mean on a national level) making a legitimate case to get his first All-Star selection. He is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA and a 2.59 FIP in 26.1 innings. He’s given up just one home run. He’s walked 12 batters, which might seem a little high, but he’s struck out 30, making his K/BB ratio a tidy 2.50.

The reason I put him on the bubble is because when it comes to relief pitchers being selected, the well-known veteran players tend to get chosen first. Iglesias has one thing going for him, however. Joe Maddon will be making selections, and he sees a lot of Iglesias with the Cubs and Reds playing in the same division. If Iglesias continues to pitch like he has been, Maddon will have no choice but to choose him.

Joey Votto is hitting .287/.415/.563, with an OPS of .978, 12 home runs, 12 doubles, 39 RBI and 37 runs scored. What’s absolutely crazy is his strikeout to walk ratio. Votto has walked 37 times and struck out just 27 times. (It was better before the Philadelphia series). Votto’s wRC+ of 151 is second on the Reds team to only Cozart.

Votto should make the team, but it will be a lot harder for him than it will be for Cozart because Ryan Zimmerman and Paul Goldschmidt also play first base in the NL (not to mention Maddon’s own first baseman, Anthony Rizzo). Both of those players are having monster seasons for their respective teams.

Eugenio Suarez is putting together a nice little season for himself, hitting .293/.367/.534, with an OPS of .902. Suarez has 21 XBH, including 10 home runs. He’s driven in 30 and has scored 30 runs. That gorgeous wRC+ of 135 is good for third on the Reds behind Cozart and Votto.

Suarez’ competition at third base includes (former Reds farmhand) Justin Turner, who is batting close to .400, and Jedd Gyorko. Suarez appears to be having a more complete season, as Turner is not hitting for power and Gyorko’s numbers might be identical to Suarez if he had played in as many games. Suarez has played in about eight more games than either competitor.

LONG SHOTS

Wandy Peralta has become of the best relievers in the Reds bullpen this season. In 21.2 innings, he has a 2.49 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. Peralta has struck out 27 batters and walked just seven. He has allowed six runs, but only two home runs. Peralta has been impressive given his performance in 2016, when he gave up seven earned runs in 7.1 innings. He won’t make the team because relievers who aren’t “closers” rarely do, but it’s important to highlight just how much Peralta has contributed to the Reds.

Adam Duvall is hitting .274/.317/.548, with an OPS of .865. He has 13 home runs and 43 RBI, so he is doing exactly what a cleanup hitter is supposed to do. I put him on the list because he has decent numbers. His wRC+ is around 120, which is better than average. But there are about four or five NL outfielders with better overall statistics than him. Combine that with the popularity vote from the fans and Duvall is likely the odd man out.

Scott Schebler, batting just .241/.312/.547, likely will not make the team for the same reasons as Duvall. But Schebler gets included because he leads the National League with 15 home runs. Schebler’s .859 OPS puts him ninth among NL outfielders, sandwiched between Duvall and former Red Jay Bruce. He’s been good, just not good enough. And since invites to the Home Run Derby can now be extended to non All-Stars, it would not be surprising to see Schebler receive one.

The Reds might get only the required one participant in the All-Star game, and it deservedly would be Cozart. However, based on stats for relief pitchers, Iglesias deserves to be selected as well. Votto should go, but Goldschmidt and Zimmerman will almost certainly get selected over him. If that is the case, the Reds would have two players go for the first time in their careers. If Suarez is selected, it would be three players. Not bad for a team hovering around the .500 mark, and it shows just how much talent this Reds team has.

9 thoughts on “Zack Cozart Deserves a Donkey (And Other Reds All-Star Candidates)

  1. Maddon does not make the All Star selections. With the new CBA, the Commissioner’s office makes selections now instead of the All Star manager (the players do still get to vote in players as well)

    • Also, I think Suárez’s biggest competition at 3B is from Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado, rather than Turner and Gyorko

      • Bryant and Arenado will probably get the majority of the fan vote, so I agree, they are also competition. But in terms of statistics, it’s hard to ignore what Turner is doing right now, his power numbers not withstanding.

        • Looked back at the stats, and those 5 third baseman actually all have very similar overall numbers. Will definitely be tough for Suárez to get in over the other bigger names, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these players.

          Turner: .379/.453/.493/.946
          Bryant: .281/.394/.545/.939
          Suárez: .293/.367/.534/.902
          Arenado: .288/.348/.566/.914
          Gyorko: .322/.377/.570/.947

    • I did not realize that. Thanks for the info, I don’t know if I like that or not. Maddon is managing games and sees players up close everyday. If the Commissioner’s office is making selections, it still might be a popularity contest, as they might want the most well-known players going in order to better market it.

  2. Votto has to compete with not only Zimmerman and Goldschmidt, but also Thames and Freeman. Freeman was a lock if he didn’t get hurt. NL 1B is the most loaded position in baseball.

    • Agreed. I see almost no way Votto gets in, given that he’s not much of a fan favorite, especially outside Cincinnati.

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