Ranking the Cleveland Indians' Best All-Star Game Candidates
The Cleveland Indians' 2014 season has been a relative disappointment, as the team currently sits two games under the .500 mark at 41-43, with 7.5 games separating Cleveland and the division-leading Detroit Tigers. The club is just 2.5 games ahead of the last-place Minnesota Twins.
Despite the Indians' underwhelming overall performance, there are several players on the roster worthy of some All-Star Game notoriety.
Last year, the team sent two players to the 2013 All-Star Game, Jason Kipnis and Justin Masterson. This year, it may be just one player representing the club, as their performance as a squad has kept several deserving players from shining on a bigger stage.
All in all, four Indians players look to be even remotely deserving of a spot on the American League's roster. So, in this piece, we'll look at said players and rank them to find who the "best" candidate is to represent the club at Target Field in Minnesota on July 15.
Let's get started.
4. Cody Allen
Despite serving as one of the better right-handed relievers in the American League, Cody Allen has flown under the radar this season.
The 25-year-old owns a stellar stat line, including a 2.50 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and season averages of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.5 walks per nine and a 3.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while allowing just 6.2 hits per nine. Allen's advanced metrics are equally impressive, as he boasts a 2.88 FIP, an xFIP of 3.29 and a 0.7 FanGraphs WAR.
Among qualified American League relievers, Allen ranks among the top 25 in fWAR and K/9.
Allen's standing as a potential All-Star reliever has been hindered by his fluctuating role in the Tribe's bullpen. Had Allen been a closer from the onset of the 2014 season, he could have a legitimate shot at a roster spot.
However, for now, it's a pipe dream at best.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall
Lonnie Chisenhall has been one of the most productive third basemen in the American League. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old is stuck behind Oakland's Josh Donaldson and a slew of other third basemen on the most recent balloting poll, according to via MLB.com.
Also working against Chisenhall is the fact that he started the year as a bench/platoon player and did not receive regular at-bats at third base until later into the 2014 season than many of his closest competitors—e.g. Donaldson and Texas' Adrian Beltre.
Chisenhall's numbers (.344/.401/.559, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 256 PA) suggest, though, that he's being snubbed by voters, as he ranks outside the AL's top-five vote-getters at third base, behind the two names mentioned above, as well as Brett Lawrie, Manny Machado and Evan Longoria.
Lawrie and Machado, really?
Chisenhall bests Lawrie, Machado and Longoria in nearly every statistical measure, aside from home runs. Among AL third basemen with at least 250 plate appearances, Chisenhall leads in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA and wRC+, while ranking fourth in fWAR (2.1).
Chisenhall has a lot of ground to make up, and it's likely that AL manager John Farrell would have to add him to the roster in order for the former top prospect to make the cut.
2. Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber has been outstanding this season, and, quite frankly, should be receiving a lot more notoriety than he has to this point in 2014.
The 28-year-old came into his own last year, but this season, he's been downright dominant, allowing just a 2.99 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP over 117.1 innings pitched. To go along with his impressive ERA and WHIP, Kluber's stats include averages of 9.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 4.38 K/BB and just 8.7 H/9.
The Stetson University product ranks highly among American League starters in some key areas, including a third-place ranking in FIP (2.64), while clocking in at fourth in xFIP (2.85), fWAR (3.3) and 10th in ERA.
Despite his outstanding work on the bump this year, Kluber has notched just seven wins in 18 starts (7-6). The Indians offense has been helpful for the most part, averaging 4.9 runs' worth of support per start. Even so, Kluber has seen two of his wins lost by the bullpen and has suffered two tough losses to boot.
Whether or not Kluber gets proper recognition for his accomplishments remains to be seen, but he's absolutely deserving of an All-Star spot.
1. Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley should make the American League All-Star team. The 27-year-old has made major strides over the past few seasons and has made himself into one of the more dependable outfielders in the American League.
Through just 80 games this season—345 plate appearances—Brantley has already logged a career-high 12 home runs and boasts impressive measurables including a .312/.380/.500 slash line, 20 doubles, 54 RBI, 56 runs scored, 10 stolen bases and a 30-29 K/BB ratio.
Among qualified AL outfielders, Brantley ranks highly in a number of key statistical areas. The six-year-veteran ranks first in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging percentage and also within the league's top 10 in wRC+ (150), fWAR (2.6), RBI, home runs and runs scored.
Brantley's performance this season has caught the attention of fans of all teams and has earned him a sixth-place ranking in the most recent All-Star ballot report, per MLB.com.
Brantley represents the Indians' best candidate for an All-Star game bid. Whether he receives the bid or not will likely hinge on his ability to hold off Jacoby Ellsbury, who ranks within 130,000 votes of the Indians outfielder for the final outfield spot.