How many Mariners will be All-Stars? A look at 3 players with the best cases
The Seattle Mariners are a really interesting team right now.
They’ve maintained a record over .500 past the midway point of the season, are playing their best ball of the year as July begins, and are creeping into the American League playoff picture.
And all of that despite having no clear-cut All-Star on their roster.
That’s not to say the Mariners don’t have any players worthy of getting invited to the festivities at the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field on July 12-13, though. In fact, they have three players who at the very least belong in the conversation.
Considering the starters for the game were announced Thursday night and the Mariners didn’t so much as have a player included as a finalist (top three) at any position, however, it is a bit of a conundrum which of Seattle’s three realistic candidates will get the call when the full AL roster is revealed Sunday – and if the Mariners’ surprising record will help get them more than the requisite one representative.
Let’s look at those three players, what stands in front of them possibly getting an invite to Denver, and each of their chances are of being 2021 All-Stars.
The Mariners MVP: J.P. Crawford
The numbers: .286/.348/.405 slash line, .752 OPS, 3.0 WAR, five home runs, 20 doubles, 40 runs, 30 RBIs, three stolen bases
The case: Crawford, 26, has been on an absolute tear over the last month, and really you can take it all the way back to April 30. In his last 55 games, he’s posted a .305/.365/.457 slash for an .822 OPS, and in his last 25 contests it’s an even more robust .363/.422/.559 slash for a staggering .981 OPS by a player who only has three homers over that span. He’s really taken to the leadoff spot for the Mariners and is continuing to play Gold Glove defense at one of the most important positions in the field, and that really does need to be taken into account for his All-Star consideration. Something else that really needs to weigh heavy is his 3.0 WAR, which leads the Mariners and quite literally illustrates that he’s been Seattle’s most valuable player this season. Oh, and his 1.6 defensive WAR leads MLB, so yeah, his glove and arm really are that good.
Getting to work early 💪 pic.twitter.com/VYF19uAMQE
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 1, 2021
The challenge: There are two big ones for Crawford. First, shortstop is a stacked position in baseball right now, especially in the AL. Houston’s Carlos Correa and Toronto’s Bo Bichette both have higher WARs than him, and they plus Boston’s Xander Bogaerts (who was voted as the AL starter) have considerably more eye-popping offensive statistics. That leads into the other thing standing in front of Crawford. While he’s been fantastic for most of the season, his April was a struggle (his slugging in the first month of the season was just .295), which really hurt his overall numbers. Because he’s not much of a power hitter, his OPS sits over 150 points below two of the AL’s three other top shortstops, which will be an especially tough hurdle for him to clear in the All-Star race.
Prediction: Crawford is deserving, and if the Mariners were to only get one All-Star I think it should be him, but his OPS and lack of power numbers will prevent him from surpassing the other talented shortstops in the AL for a spot in the game this year. Don’t rule him out for a spot as an injury replacement, however.
The emerging ace: Yusei Kikuchi
The numbers: 3.18 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 93 strikeouts, 3.0 K/BB, 9.0 K/9, 2.3 WAR
The case: The 30-year-old Kikuchi has found the consistency he needed to reach his potential in the big leagues, and he’s been on a roll for most of the season as a result. He’s thrown a quality start in 11 of his 15 games, which is tied for third in the AL and tied for the MLB lead among left-handed pitchers with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
Yusei delivered another brilliant performance. pic.twitter.com/N4wrD8CRuF
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 31, 2021
The challenge: The pitching in baseball this year has been pretty dominant, so it’s understandable that Kikuchi could get lost in the mix. His 3.18 ERA is great but also only good for seventh-best in the AL, and his 93 strikeouts ranks 14th in the Junior Circuit.
Prediction: I think Kikuchi makes the AL roster on Sunday, becoming the first Mariners starting pitcher named to an All-Star team since Félix Hernández in 2015. He may not rank very high on the leaderboards in some of the more important pitching categories but his stats all together look like what you would find on the back of an All-Star pitcher’s baseball card.
The comeback story: Mitch Haniger
The numbers: .261/.308/.497 slash, .805 OPS, 18 home runs, 16 doubles, one triple, 52 runs, 47 RBIs, 1.3 WAR
The case: After missing a year and half due to injury, Haniger has re-established himself as the Mariners’ best middle-of-the-order bat. He leads the team and is tied for 10th in the AL in homers, and he is the only qualifying Mariners hitter with an OPS over .800.
Mitch picked his pitch 💥 pic.twitter.com/xCt00XL7NG
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 1, 2021
The challenge: Haniger faces similar problems to Crawford. He had a strong start to the year but scuffled for a month – for him it was mostly in June – before snapping out of it on the successful road trip the Mariners just wrapped up. Because of that, his overall numbers at the plate aren’t as strong as a lot of other AL outfielders yet to make the squad like Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins, Minnesota’s Byron Buxton and Texas’ Joey Gallo. Perhaps the biggest issue in his way is that his WAR ranks 20th among AL outfielders.
Prediction: Haniger most likely will get left off the AL roster Sunday, but his power numbers, name value as a 2018 All-Star and comeback story could keep him in the mix to be an injury replacement (though probably below Crawford in the pecking order).