What to do with Brett Gardner? • 10.14.15
Continuing our early offseason look at some of the Yankees with uncertain roles next season, we’ll move on to a guy who actually has a pretty clear role and a pretty good long-term contract for the near future. The biggest question is whether the Yankees can find a way to use him to make the team better in another area. After looking at the late-season disappointments at the top of the lineup, let’s ask what to do with the Yankees’ No. 2 hitter.
This year: In his best stretches, Gardner was an underrated superstar. Two months into the season, he was on track for close to 40 stolen bases, and in the month of June he hit .351/.411/.622. He was a late addition to the All-Star team with an .861 OPS at the break. Of course, in the second half he hit just .206/.300/.292 (a slash line far too similar to Jacoby Ellsbury’s after the break).
A few possibilities for next season:
1. Everyday left fielder and No. 2 hitter
When the Yankees gave Gardner a four-year, $52-million extension, it was with this in mind. He was supposed to play a great left field, provide insurance in center field, and create with Ellsbury a one-two punch of speed and on-base skills at the top of the order. He was exceeding those expectations in the first half of this season, and assuming he’s not traded, there’s little reason to think he won’t have every opportunity to do the same next year. How many times has an All-Star lost his job the next year?
2. Something close to a platoon outfielder who regularly sits against lefties
Gardner does not have significant platoon splits in his career. There is little to suggest he needs a platoon partner, but there’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests he has a problem with fading in the second half. His career slash line before the All-Star break is .283/.360/.421. Career slash line after the break is .236/.326/.351. It’s nearly inevitable that the Yankees will sign a right-handed outfielder. Perhaps using a fourth outfielder primarily in left field will keep Gardner fresh and productive through the end of the season.
3. Trade away a relatively attractive contract
Essentially, Gardner has Chase Headley’s contract except with a team option added to the end of it. He’s signed for three more seasons at $12 million per year. He just turned 32 in August, so this contract takes him through his age-34 season with a month and a half at age 35. For a guy coming off an All-Star first half — a guy who can play center field and legitimately hit leadoff — it’s a pretty good deal. That’s good for the Yankees, and it’s only worth shopping because Gardner is somewhat redundant on this roster with Ellbury ahead of him in the pecking order, plus Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel and Jake Cave coming up from the minors. Are the Yankees better off trading Gardner to upgrade elsewhere? Of course, that depends on what they could get in return (and it depends on what they’d find to play left field).
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In 2011, Brett Gardner led the American League with 49 stolen bases. The year before, he’d stolen 47.
In the four years since, Gardner’s never stolen more than 24.
Manager Joe Girardi is as baffled as anyone.
“It’s odd to me,” Girardi said. “And I would ask him how he felt on a number of occasions when we’d get in a long stretch. (Gardner would say), ‘I feel good, I feel good.’ And he just, he wasn’t running as much.”
Gardner was actually running quite a bit when the season started. Through June 12, he was 15 of 18 in stolen base attempts. From June 13 through August 9, though, he didn’t even attempt to steal a bag. He quite literally went from stealing three bases in seven games to not attempting to steal a base in nearly two months.
When Gardner did start to run again, he was thrown out in his first two attempts before going a modest 5-for-5 through his final 47 games of the season.
“There is no answer,” Girardi said. “Part of it is he wasn’t on nearly as much the second half and teams pay attention to him obviously a lot. But that’s something that probably needs to be addressed because we need that out of him. And that’s something that you look at. Physically, he never really complained about his legs. But physically, sometimes where a guy doesn’t steal as much, maybe they don’t physically feel as good, (but) they’re not going to tell you, they’re not going to ask out of the lineup. The things like I said I gotta look at. As an organization, you have to look at the optimal number of days that you play a guy in a sense to get the most out of him and for him to be the most productive.”
Associated Press photo
The guys over at Yankee On Demand have put together some really strong content this season, and this video is no different. By now you’ve probably heard about Brett Gardner’s unlikely rise from college walk-on to American League all-star, but the On Demand guys tell it incredibly well, building the story around words from Gardner and his College of Charleston coach. It’s worth a look, for sure. Good stuff.
“Beat up” seems to be Joe Girardi’s go-to phrase for a player who’s not necessarily hurt but not necessarily playing at 100 percent either. It’s not that there’s a specific injury that’s causing problems, but there might be a series of injuries that are starting to add up.
Right now, it’s Brett Gardner who carries the “beat up” label.
“Sometimes it’s legs; sometimes it’s an arm,” Girardi said. “Physically, they’re just beat up. Sometimes it’s shoulders. They’re just… it’s a long year. Playing every day and playing hard, the way these guys play; they’re diving all over the place. They’re not physically 100 percent. But as I’ve said all along, all teams go through this and you have to fight through it.”
Whenever he’s been asked how he’s feeling, Gardner’s said he’s fine. He hasn’t been walking around the clubhouse with ice wraps or anything like that. He doesn’t seem to be hobbling on the field, hasn’t necessarily shown signs of an injury, but his numbers suggest something’s not quite right.
Gardner was one of the Yankees’ best players in the first half of the season. He went to the All-Star Game for the first time and was especially good while filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. Immediately after the All-Star break, he was still good, getting on base a lot.
Since July 29, though, Gardner’s hit .186/.274/.256. Since August 19, his slash line is down to .169/.250/.292. He had a three-walk game in Cleveland on August 23, but he’s walked just three times since then. In his past five games he has five strikeouts, three hits and one walk.
“It’s just the time of year guys go through,” Girardi said. “At times you’re going to struggle, and at times you’re going to do well. Sometimes you’re going to line out. You think about the ball he hit down the first-base line, and then he hit another ball hard (yesterday) and it was caught, and it can become frustrating, but he’s just a little beat up.”
Of course, Girardi wasn’t specific in his “beat up” analysis. Certainly he’s right that players are often feeling less than 100 percent this time of year, and it makes sense that Gardner would be among them.
“There’s head-first dives diving back into first, diving after line drives, that sort of thing,” Girardi said. “Guys can just get kind of beat up. Sometimes it can be just one dive, you know, that hurts you a little bit and takes time to recover. It’s probably a little bit of everything for him, just because of the way he plays.”
• Chris Capuano has rejoined the Yankees. In the past week and a half, he’s pitched for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre twice. His pitching line in those starts: 9.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. He’s back to be an emergency long man.
• To make room for Capuano on the 40-man roster, Jacob Lindgren was shifted to the 60-day disabled list. He’d been on the minor league DL, so Lindgren technically had to be called up first and then added to the 60-day. He’ll get basically another month of big league time while on the DL. Lindgren had surgery to clear up an elbow bone spur.
• Since roster’s expanded, the Yankees have faced three left-handed starters. In those games they’ve used Stephen Drew, Brendan Ryan and now Jose Pirela at second base. Still waiting for Rob Refsnyder’s first at-bat since rejoining the team. Why Pirela today? “He’s had some success off Chen,” Girardi said. “Swinging the bat well at Triple-A, so going to run him out there.”
• Worth noting that after the All-Star break, Refsnyder hit .229/.296/.379 in Triple-A. In the same span Pirela hit .342/.414/.424. Neither one is considered a particularly good defensive player, but it’s Pirela who’s hit recently.
• Alex Rodriguez has responded well to getting a few days off this season, and Girardi said he won’t stop resting A-Rod down the stretch. There’s one more National League series coming up against the Mets, so those should be three days off. But Girardi said he will likely give Rodriguez at least one more day eventually. “I still think you need to give him a day off from time to time,” Girardi said. “I think it’s beneficial for him, and I think he becomes more productive.”
• Even though Toronto is only a game and a half ahead in the division, the lead seems much more significant because the Blue Jays have played so overwhelmingly well. “I don’t necessarily think that’s our perception in that room,” Girardi said. “We know that we have seven games with them. We know that you can’t overlook these three games with the Baltimore Orioles before you get to that series over the weekend. Our perception is – and it hasn’t changed from Day 1 — just go out and win, and things will take care of themselves. Go out and win series and things will take care of themselves. I think that’s what we think about.”
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Here’s video of Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances on the TODAY Show this morning to surprise tonight’s HOPE Week honoree Chris Singleton. The introduction of Singleton is pretty emotion. Impressive kid.
The Yankees have one stolen base since the All-Star break. Care to guess who stole it?
Here’s a hint: He’s hit five home runs since his daring race to second base.
It was Mark Teixeira. On July 24, in the eighth-inning of a lopsided loss, Teixiera stole second against the Twins. But that was it. No second-half stolen bases for Jacoby Ellsbury. None for Brett Gardner. Not even one of those occasional steals for Didi Gregorius or Chris Young, or a heads up stolen base for Chase Headley or Stephen Drew.
Since June 1, the Yankees have just 15 stolen base attempts.
“I think that whenever your guys can get the extra base, we want them to get the extra base,” Joe Girardi said. “However, not at the expense of being thrown out or taking a chance, so it has to be a pretty good calculated risk that you’re going to get to second base, or to third if you’re trying to steal third. So what our guys have done is, they’ve been wise, and if they feel that there’s a chance they’re going to get thrown out, in a sense, they’re probably not going to be as aggressive as maybe early in the season.”
The Yankees had the seventh-most steals in baseball for the month of April, and they were middle-of-the-pack with 14 stolen bases in May. But they’ve basically stopped running since then.
Ellsbury had 14 stolen bases before he went on the disabled list in the middle of May, but he’s attempted to steal only once since returning in early July. He was thrown out in that one attempt.
Gardner had 15 stolen bases through June 12 — and had been caught stealing only three times — but he hasn’t even attempted a stolen base since then.
“We still have the green light most of the time,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I feel like I haven’t really been doing a good job getting on base the last couple of weeks, but I think before that, when (Ellsbury) was out, I was a little more timid, trying to stay smart out there playing every day without him out of the lineup. It’s not a case of us not wanting to run. We still want to be aggressive, it’s still a part of our game. The thing is, with Alex and Tex swinging the bat so well behind us, you’re essentially in scoring position when you’re on first. So, that may have a little more to do with it; we haven’t been hard-pressed to manufacture runs in that way.”
Ellsbury has a .243 on-base percentage since coming off the disabled list. He had a .412 before getting hurt, so obviously his opportunities to run have dwindled significantly. Gardner, though, has a .383 on-base percentage since his last stolen base. He’s been to first base plenty of times and has simply elected not to run.
Granted, Gardner’s long had a reputation for being hesitant to break for second, but even by his standards, this seems extreme.
“People are paying a lot more attention to our base runners now,” Girardi said. “Overall, if you look around the league, I think pitchers are paying more attention to it. They’re quicker to home. We’re not just going to run into outs.”
Not sure pitchers have ever stopped paying attention to Ellsbury and Gardner. More emphasis on shutting down the running game could very well play a role in this — and Gardner pointed out that he’s gone for second a few times only to have the hitter swing and make contact — but the Yankees’ halted running game seems to be a clear shift in offensive philosophy.
“I think it’s an understanding that we all have about our offense as we got a better idea of what we have,” Girardi said. “Going into the season, a lot of times early in the year, the ball doesn’t carry as well, and we didn’t play at home as much, and those sort of things; I think it’s harder for a catcher to throw when it’s colder. So you take some more risks, but now knowing what we have in this offense, I think our guys have been pretty smart. … It’s not like we’ve had a hard time scoring runs, so I’m pleased with the offense and the way we’re doing it.”
• If need be, Brian McCann can catch tonight. For now, it seems the Yankees still have no intention to bring up a catcher and will just play John Ryan Murphy behind the plate. “(McCann) feels better today,” Girardi said. “So he’s really day-to-day. We don’t anticipate it will be too long. As of right now, the way he felt today, we were encouraged by (it). We’ll look at tomorrow or the next day (to get him back in the lineup).”
• Speaking of Murphy, his season slash line is up to .297/.336/.406 and he’s hit .355/.385/.452 since the beginning of June. He seems to be growing more comfortable in this part-time role. “I think there’s been a little more consistent playing time just because of all the lefties we’ve seen, too,” Girardi said. “He’s getting some more at-bats than some day games after night games. He’s learning how to do the role and understand the role that you don’t play every day and the more at-bats probably the better.”
• After his impressive debut last night, Luis Severino’s second big league start is scheduled for Tuesday. That’s the series opener in Cleveland.
• That Cleveland series is the start of another long stretch of consecutive games. Girardi said the Yankees could use a sixth starter at some point during that stretch. “We’ll look at how our starters are doing and then really make a decision,” he said. “Is there a chance we’ll insert a guy once in there, yes, absolutely.”
• Any concern that, given his numbers, Ellsbury isn’t healthy? “He’s physically fine,” Girardi said. “He got banged up when he ran into the wall a couple times. I thought he was starting to swing the bat better and then you run into a knuckleballer, and that’s always hard to figure out and I know we’re going to see one (more on Friday). I was encouraged with what I saw in Chicago, some of the things I saw in Chicago and Tuesday night here as well, so I think he’s on the right track.”
• Not nearly as hot today as it was last week in Texas. Girardi said he’s not worried about any sort of heat or dehydration issues resurfacing for CC Sabathia. “I’ve checked with him a couple times during the course of the weekend and yesterday and he feels he’s at full strength,” Girardi said. “He would know physically better than anyone. He threw his bullpen and felt fine so I feel pretty good about it.”
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After scoring 21 runs for an improbable blowout victory, it seemed the onle thing all the Yankees wanted to talk about was the relatively unknown guy on the mound.
“It was amazing,” Chris Young said. “Diego is the guy tonight, though. To be able to come into the situation he came into, I don’t know how long he was in the game, but whatever it was, it was shutout pitching. I didn’t realize how nasty he was, so it’s nice to see that we have that in our arsenal as well.”
Diego Moreno. Venezuelan right-handers. Twenty-eight years old. Nine years in professional baseball. Zero big league innings before this season. Five career minor league starts since 2009. Acquired in the A.J. Burnett salary dump three years ago.
Called up this morning, Moreno pitched 5.1 hitless innings of game-saving relief. He allowed one base runner, kept the Rangers from rediscovering their momentum, and saved the Yankees bullpen from what could have been a crushing situation. Adam Warren, who pitched immediately after him, said he had no idea how good Moreno’s stuff was this good.
According to Brooks Baseball, Moreno’s fastball averaged nearly 95 mph and topped out at 98. He also showed a power changeup and threw his slider for strikes. He wasn’t just eating innings. He was legitimately good.
“First, I was super happy about the opportunity given to me,” Moreno said through a translator. “Just to be able to be part of the win today, and they called me to be in the bullpen today, to help out, and I was happy that I could contribute to the win.
By this point, we all know how this works. There’s a solid chance Moreno will be optioned tomorrow to add a fresh arm (could be two new arms if Chris Capuano is designated for assignment). It’s just the nature of the business. Happened to Warren after a long relief appearance a few years ago. Happened to Chasen Shreve after he ate a bunch of innings earlier this season.
But regardless of what happens tomorrow, Moreno has left an impression. Twenty four hours ago, I wouldn’t have been stunned to see him DFA to open a roster spot for someone else, but this outing was impressive. As one Yankees player said: “No one in here will forget it.”
“Huge performance,” Joe Girardi said. “… The strikes he threw. Velocity. His changeup was outstanding. His slider was outstanding. He was ahead in the count, and he was able to expand. I think he had one walk, and it was the only base runner they had. He just attacked the zone. He went 5.1, and I think he only threw about 70 pitches. That’s aggressive.”
The Yankees were in a bad spot from the very beginning, but the offense exploded, and Moreno made an impression.
“I was thinking about it as soon as the (bullpen) phone rang,” he said. “I looked over and knew my number was going to get called.”
• Girardi said the Yankees had not made any moves after the game. More specifically, he said the Yankees hadn’t made any moves “yet.” It would be surprising to see the Yankees not add at least one fresh pitcher tomorrow, maybe two.
• After walking five, getting just two outs, and putting the Yankees in a massive hole, is Capuano worried about his roster spot? “I try not to worry about that stuff,” he said. “That’s not my area. They’re going to try to do what they can to make the team better. As a player, you do the best you can, and you can live with that. For me, I’m just focused on not getting down, bouncing back, and being resilient like I’ve done throughout my career.”
• I don’t think anyone claims Capuano is a standout pitcher, but one thing to notice about tonight’s game: He couldn’t throw strikes. Capuano might not have overwhelming stuff, but he’s generally in the zone. He’d pitched just 4.1 innings in the past month, and rust seemed to be a significant factor in what happened tonight. He wasn’t hit hard, just couldn’t get the ball over the plate. “I have to be spot on with my pitches,” he said. “And tonight, I didn’t have it.”
• Adam Warren pitched three hitless innings of relief, which means he actually got a save tonight. That’s his first save of the year. The Yankees didn’t allow a hit after Shin-Soo Choo’s double in the first inning.
• According to the Rangers, Moreno is the first Major League pitcher with a relief win on 5.1-or-more hitless innings since the Rangers’ John Barfield in 1990.
• According to Elias, the Rangers are the second team in modern history (since 1900) to have two pitchers allow seven or more runs while getting three or fewer outs (both Martin Perez and Wandy Rodriguez did that tonight).
• With a grand slam and two doubles, Young finished the game with five RBI. “It didn’t suck,” Young said. “It felt good to be in that situation. Credit the rest of the guys; I had runners on base all night tonight. That’s the reality of it. You have runners on base all the time and you get hits every now and then, you’re rewarded for it. Kudos to the rest of the guys for being on base so much.”
• Brendan Ryan managed two doubles in the second inning. On the first one, second baseman Rougned Odor broke toward second and the ball got past him the other way. Could have been a double play, instead it was a double. “I don’t want to speak on his behalf,” Ryan said. “But I have been crossed up where I’ve been anticipating one way and the hitter does technically what he’s not supposed to do on the pitch. Definitely, I’ll take it. I was fooled on it, but I still got the barrel to it.”
• Mark Teixeira was the only Yankees starter without a hit. He was hit by a pitch, but that wasn’t a problem. Girardi said he pulled Teixeira in the sixth inning just because the game was so lopsided. He wanted to give Teixeira a break.
• Rangers utility man Adam Rosales made his second pitching appearance of the season and gave up a home run to Brett Gardner (catcher Brian McCann immediately gave Gardner a hard time about it in the dugout). It was Gardner’s sixth time on base in the game, and it wasn’t entirely without merit. According to the TV broadcast, Rosales was actually getting his fastball up to 93 mph.
• The Yankees did not take batting practice today, and they won’t take BP tomorrow either. “I had a plan when we came in here because of the weather and we’re in a long stretch, that we’d probably take BP the first day and maybe not take it after that,” Girardi said. “Just here (in Texas) because of the long stretch and our guys seemed to respond pretty well.”
• Final word goes to Young, who was asked what it was like to score 21 unanswered runs: “That was sick. (Moreno) was the player tonight. He kept us in the dugout; we were never on defense too long. Stay fresh, stay within the rhythm of the game and continue to produce runs throughout the rest of the game. It was amazing.”
Associated Press photos
Here’s the announcement from the Players’ Association.
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is pleased to announce Brett Gardner as the New York Yankees 2015 Heart and Hustle Award winner. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.
“[Gardner] has moved into the leadoff spot in our lineup and has been the heartbeat of our offense,” said Alan Cockrell, Yankees assistant hitting coach. “He has moved from left field to center field and played Gold Glove defense. He has been a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.”
The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on their passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. These players will be recognized prior to an upcoming home game. As the season draws to a close, fans, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. The previous overall winners are David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Mike Trout (2012), Dustin Pedroia (2013) and Josh Harrison (2014).
The final winner will be announced on November 10,2015 at the 16th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. These clinics impact more than 15,000 children each year at 120 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.
Associated Press photo
Just a few notes and links from this final off day before the trade deadline:
• A fun story to check out at the end of an off day, Billy Witz from the New York Times wrote about Hideki Matsui moonlighting as a pitcher and right-handed cleanup hitter in a New York City adult rec league. “We’ve all followed him since our high school days,” one of the other players told Witz. “So whenever he comes to bat, everybody stops.”
• Jon Heyman writes that the Yankees have expressed interest in finding a starting pitcher, but they might not find one because of their unwillingness to trade Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird or Rob Refsnyder. Heyman says a right-handed reliever and right-handed hitter are also points of interest for the Yankees.
• Ken Rosenthal says the trade market for starting pitching could erupt as we get close to the trade deadline and teams decide whether to go all in on some of the impact arms available. Still doubt the Yankees make a play for one of these arms, but Rosenthal lists Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo and “even David Price” as big starters who could be available at the right price.
• If you missed it, it’s worth listening back to Michael Kay’s radio interview with Brian Cashman earlier today. There was not necessarily anything surprising about it, but he was on the air for about 20 minutes and talked through the Refsnyder demotion, the possibility of calling up Severino, and his approach to the trade deadline. Kay covered a lot of ground. Give it a listen.
• Last night Brett Gardner wore bright white cleats, which stood out as quite different from his teammates. Gardner told George King that CC Sabathia and others had been pushing him to wear the new shoes, but Cashman said during today’s radio interview that he actually talked to Gardner about sticking to the normal uniform going forward. “You’re not going to see those white spikes again,” Cashman said. “… That doesn’t look good, so we’ve fixed that. No big deal.”
• Before tonight’s Triple-A game, the Yankees activated shortstop Nick Noonan from the disabled list and immediately released him from his contract. The RailRiders have been playing Cole Figueroa at shortstop these days, and their infield has grown crowded with Gregorio Petit, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird and Kyle Roller.
• Speaking of the Triple-A team, Aaron Judge was held out of the lineup for the third day in a row. Cashman said earlier today that it’s a minor day-to-day issue. He sounded thoroughly unconcerned when I asked about it.
Associated Press photo
According to the FanGraphs version of WAR, Brett Gardner has been the eighth-most-valuable outfielder in the American League. That’s perhaps not surprising. What might be surprising is that all of Gardner’s value — according to that stat, anyway — has come from his bat. He’s actually lost points because of his defense.
Maybe Gardner’s not the high-end defender he sometimes appears to be — particularly in center field — but I have a hard time believing he’s really a negative with the glove. Regardless, the fact he ranks so highly on his bat alone really show just how good he’s been at the plate.
Gardner ranks third in the league in runs scored, fourth in stolen bases, fifth in doubles, 10th in on-base percentage, and he’s even 18th in slugging percentage ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion. But will that be enough to make him a first-time all-star?
Here are the top American League outfielders ranked by FanGraphs WAR:
Mike Trout: 4.5 WAR, .299/.393/.575
Lorenzo Cain: 3.6 WAR, .305/.364/.462
Kevin Kiermaier: 3.1 WAR, .255/.289/.419
Jose Bautista: 3.1 WAR, .246/.397/.520
J.D. Martinez: 2.9 WAR, .285/.340/.563
Mookie Betts: 2.8 WAR, .283/.336/.463
George Springer: 2.6 WAR, .264/.365/.457
Brett Gardner: 2.6 WAR, .297/.373/.481
Alex Gordon: 2.5 WAR, .262/.380/.431
Yoenis Cespedes: 2.4 WAR, .292/.320/.479
Adam Jones: 2.3 WAR, .286/.334/.464
Kevin Pillar: 2.1 WAR, .283/.312/.412
Josh Reddick: 2.1 WAR, .288/.346/.463
Trout and Cain are already on the All-Star team, and the flood of Royals voting made Gordon questionable/bad choice for the third starting job.
Almost all of Kiermaier’s value comes from his defense, and I’m not sure that will be enough to put him on the roster (the Rays will surely be represented by Chris Archer, so Keirmaier won’t have to make it simple to give Tampa Bay a spot). Jones, on the other hand, isn’t having an elite season but might still finish top three on the players’ ballot because of who he is (and because his numbers have been excellent outside a bad month of May). Cespedes, also, could be a somewhat surprising players’ choice because his numbers were quite a bit better in mid-June.
Two things to consider about the possibility of Betts making the team: He has the sixth-best WAR in the entire American League according to Baseball Reference, and he could be the best way to get a Red Sox player on the team. If not him, then who? Maybe Xander Bogaerts? Clay Buchholz? Koji Uehara? Hanley Ramirez?
I’ve written before that I would pick Gardner, and I think he has a good chance of making it. But the outfield is always crowded, and Gordon being elected by the fans didn’t do Gardner any favors. I think Gardner deserves a spot, but much like Teixeira, that doesn’t mean he’ll actually get one.
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