Red Sox All-Star candidates are plentiful, even if wins haven't been
The Red Sox earned five All-Star nods last year, including starters Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez, with Mitch Moreland and Craig Kimbrel in reserve. They won't reach that total this year, but here are their most worthy candidates.
Catcher: Christian Vazquez
First Base: Mitch Moreland
Moreland ranks in the top five at his position in home runs (13) and OPS (.870) in what is once again a relatively anonymous first base class, but the odds are definitely against him, thanks to injuries and a .228 average.
Veteran Edwin Encarnacion has 16 homers in Seattle, while Chicago's Jose Abreu owns the AL RBI lead with 50. Others who can make a stronger case than Moreland include Minnesota's C.J. Cron (.275-13-38), Cleveland's Carlos Santana (.907 OPS) and New York's Luke Voit (15 HRs). A repeat berth is unlikely.
Second Base: Michael Chavis
A lot depends on the next month. Chavis started like gangbusters, but has cooled since pitchers began attacking him with elevated fastballs. At this point, he's not even the best rookie second baseman in the AL. That would be Tampa's Brandon Lowe, who's hitting .278 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs.
There's also New York's D.J. LeMahieu, a two-time All-Star with the Rockies, to contend with, as well as Anaheim's Tommy La Stella, who's hitting .302 with 12 homers. Chavis is batting just .190 since his last homer, on May 22.
Third base: Rafael Devers
The third base class in the AL is loaded, and Devers' slow April may end up costing him. The AL Player of the Month for May is hitting .314 with eight homers and 35 RBIs, and he's already one of the most dangerous hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with outstanding plate coverage and pitch recognition.
But he's up against some stiff competition, like A's Gold Glover Matt Chapman (.271-16-35), or Astros MVP-in-waiting Alex Bregman (.274-17-43). Then there's former fellow Red Sox farmhand Yoan Moncada, who continues blasting 450-foot homers, and Kansas City's Hunter Dozier (.314-11-33). Devers is realistically a longshot at this stage.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
We have our first and only no-brainer. Bogaerts is coming into his own as a middle-of-the-order threat and is one of the best all-around shortstops in the American League, second only to Minnesota's Jorge Polanco so far this year. Bogaerts is hitting .304 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs, and he displays effortless power. His .927 OPS ranks second to Polanco's .981 and he's a steady defender, too.
It should be noted that this is a deep class, with superstars Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, AL steals leader Adalberto Mondesi of Kansas City, Yankee slugger Gleyber Torres, and potential batting champ Tim Anderson of Chicago.
Outfield: Mookie Betts
After winning last year's MVP award, Betts seems like he's having a down season. And yet he currently ranks third among AL outfielders in WAR (2.6), behind the God-like Mike Trout (4.1) and Rangers breakout slugger Joey Gallo (3.2), who has finally started hitting some singles to go along with his home runs en route to a league-leading 1.074 OPS. (We'll see how long an oblique injury sidelines him).
Betts is hitting .275 with nine homers and 27 RBIs, though he hasn't made nearly the impact on either side of the ball he did a year ago. Houston's George Springer and Michael Brantley, Minnesota's Byron Buxton, and Tampa's Austin Meadows are also strong candidates, to name a few. The guess is Mookie makes it on name recognition.
DH: J.D. Martinez
The triple Martinez improbably hit off the top of the fence in Kansas City on Tuesday — where it nearly stayed, as if landing on a pillow — sums up his season nicely. Though his numbers are strong (.301-12-33), they're not as good as last year's, in part because he anecdotally leads baseball in loud outs. The unseasonably cold weather in April and May probably cost him three or four home runs, but he's still head and shoulders above everyone else in the DH field.
Rangers veteran Hunter Pence is turning back the clock at age 36, and Baltimore's Renato Nunez (.301-15-35) could make a case for the Orioles' lone berth. But Martinez remains the most deserving.
Starting pitcher: David Price
The Red Sox have won 60 percent of Price's starts since he arrived in 2016, but one thing he has not done in that time is make an All-Star team. A strong June will put him in a position to contend for a spot, even if he's probably on the outside looking in at the moment.
Were the All-Star Game today, there'd be five locks: Minnesota's Jake Odorizzi, whose 1.96 ERA leads the league, Houston's Justin Verlander, Detroit's Matthew Boyd, White Sox breakout candidate Lucas Giolito, and Rangers scrap heap find Mike Minor. Price (3-2, 2.83) belongs in the next tier, alongside pitchers like New York's Domingo German, Oakland's Frankie Montas, and Tampa's unbeaten Charlie Morton.
Reliever: Matt Barnes
A much stronger case could've been made for Barnes on Sunday afternoon, before he went out and allowed three garbage runs in the eighth inning of an 8-5 victory over the Yankees, ballooning his ERA from 1.99 to 3.04. That said, Barnes deserves recognition for the tightrope he has walked all season, striking out 16 batters per nine innings despite being reserved to face the heart of the order, night after night.
His strikeout percentage of 43.8 leads the American League, but there are so many closers with big numbers — Detroit's Shane Green boasts a 1.08 ERA and league-leading 19 saves, for instance — and middle relievers with miniscule ERAs (like the 0.64 of Houston's Ryan Pressly) that Barnes will probably be overlooked.