BRANDON GUSTAFSON

The 5 Mariners with strongest cases to make 2022 All-Star Game

Jun 1, 2022, 2:58 PM

Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Logan Gilbert delivers a pitch during against the Astros on May 28, 2022. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Mariners are seven games under .500 entering Wednesday’s game in Baltimore, but that isn’t the fault of the five guys listed below.

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In the last two All-Star Games, the Mariners had just one representative on the American League team – Daniel Vogelbach (2019) and Yusei Kikuchi (2021). This year when looking around the AL, there are five Mariners who are making cases to make the All-Star roster, with three appearing to be have good shots through the first two months of 2022.

Let’s dive into the five Mariners players in the All-Star Game conversation this season – and it’s worth noting that none of these five players have been an All-Star in the past.

The Lock: Ty France

Ty France is a top-10 player in baseball. No, that’s not an exaggeration.

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Entering Wednesday’s game in Baltimore, the sweet-swinging Mariners first baseman is tied for seventh in MLB in wins above replacement at 2.7 through 49 games. That puts him on pace for nearly a 9 WAR season if he plays all 162 games and keeps up his torrid pace at the plate.

While France’s .347/.420/.508 slash line may seem like a tough one to continue, his expected batting average is over .320 and is in the 96th percentile in baseball, per Statcast. He’s also swinging and missing at a very low clip, ranking in the 91st percentile. Both those numbers show that France is rightfully contending for a batting title and has the ability to put up a monster slash for an entire season.

But that all has more to do with his end-of-season numbers.

As far as getting to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, France not only should be a part of the festivities but should be in the starting lineup, so long as he stays healthy.

Aside from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Toronto and José Abreu in Chicago, the American League isn’t loaded with stars at first base. Guerrero is having a good but not great season at the plate and Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, isn’t faring much better. France is hitting nearly .100 points higher than each of those two stars and is producing more runs. Heck, he has more WAR than each of them and three-time All-Star Anthony Rizzo of the New York Yankees combined.

The question isn’t whether France will be an All-Star or whether he should start (he absolutely should). Rather, it’s where he will hit in the order.

Nearing a Lock: Logan Gilbert

Logan Gilbert has taken the next step forward.

Gilbert was solid as a rookie for the Mariners in 2021, going 6-5 with a 4.68 ERA, 3.73 FIP and 128 strikeouts to 28 walks in 24 starts (119 1/3 innings). He was especially good in his final five outings, posting a 2.70 ERA as the Mariners won each of those starts.

This year, essentially everything has gotten better for Gilbert. He’s allowing less hits, home runs and runs than he did on average a year ago, and through 10 starts he owns a 2.29 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 59 innings. He is 41st in baseball in WAR at 1.7, which is 13th among pitchers and 12th among starters.

The fastball remains elite and Gilbert is showing more confidence in his slider, changeup and curveball, as well, which wasn’t the case during his rookie campaign.

Gilbert started the year off as arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball, posting a 0.40 ERA in four April starts. If he wasn’t the top pitcher in MLB, he at least was in the American League as he earned AL Pitcher of the Month honors for his elite start to 2022.

He came down to earth a bit in May but was still very good with a 3.44 ERA in six outings, and he pitched at least seven innings in each of his last three games, including seven scoreless innings Saturday against a tough Houston Astros lineup when his manager thought he was lacking his best stuff.

“Logan has just learned how to work his way through lineups and when it’s not quite there early in the game, find a way to get deep in the game,” Scott Servais told Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Jake and Stacy on Tuesday.

If Gilbert stays healthy and keeps putting up numbers like he has so far, he should be there in Los Angeles alongside France in mid-July.

There are obviously a lot of star starting pitchers in the American League, but Gilbert is up there with the best of the best so far. I mentioned his 1.7 WAR and where it ranks in all of baseball, but it’s also tied for sixth-best among AL pitchers. If you’re a top-six starting pitcher in your league, you’ll more often than not find yourself on the mound at the Midsummer Classic.

Bubble Again? Shouldn’t Be: J.P. Crawford

J.P. Crawford made a strong case to be an All-Star a year ago but ultimately didn’t crack the roster. Will history repeat itself in 2022?

It seemed like Crawford was on his way to “All-Star lock” status like France after his .360/.449/.573 line in April, but Crawford’s numbers in May were closer to his career totals, slashing .247/.340/.328 for the month. Now his overall line is .299/.391/.439 on the year.

Crawford’s hot start coupled with his Gold Glove-caliber defense, however, still have him ranking 12th in MLB in WAR at 2.5 and eighth in defensive WAR at 0.8.

Crawford’s current numbers and trajectory should have him among the league’s best shortstops come the All-Star Game, but star power is a big part of who does and doesn’t make the cut. It’s also worth noting the American League carried four shortstops in 2021 while the National League had three.

Currently, Crawford easily ranks among the four best AL shortstops in terms of 2022 production – he’s tied with Houston rookie Jeremy Peña to lead AL shortstops with his 2.5 WAR. Next up are Chicago’s Tim Anderson (1.9), Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco (1.6), Boston’s Xander Boegarts (1.5), and Texas’ Corey Seager and Minnesota’s Carlos Correa (both 1.1).

With the exception of Peña, those other shortstops all carry far more name recognition than Crawford. But Anderson just landed on the injured list and is expected to miss a month while Seager and Correa have not lived up to the hype with their new teams that their big contracts brought.

With Anderson out for a bit, that leaves six top candidates for what will probably be three to four roster spots. If Crawford can keep up his current pace, he has a very legitimate case to be an All-Star for the first time in 2022, especially with he and Peña possessing roughly one full win above replacement more than the next healthy candidate.

Rookie Breaks Through A Crowded Spot?: Julio Rodríguez

Remember when Julio Rodríguez hit just .206 in April? Well, it’s June 1 and the rookie absolutely obliterated pitching in the month of May to the tune of a .337/.389/.554 slash line. That brings his season slash total to .268/.316/.421 with six home runs, 23 RBIs and an MLB-leading 14 stolen bases.

Not bad for a kid who won’t turn 22 until Dec. 29.

 

Now, if Rodríguez continues to hit like he did in May through the start of July, he definitely could crack the AL All-Star roster. The All-Star game is about, well, stars, and Rodríguez certainly appears to be on a superstar trajectory. Earning his first All-Star nod as a rookie would certainly be a fun storyline not just here in Seattle but for MLB as a whole.

One issue that could prevent Rodríguez from bumping shoulders with the league’s best in 1.5 months time is the slow start. The other? That there are a ton of good outfielders in baseball.

Currently, there are 12 American League outfielders who have as much or more WAR than Rodríguez at this point of the season (1.2).

Rodríguez plays a very good defensive center field, though, swipes a lot of bags, and has started to showcase his big-time power on top of hitting for average over the last month. Another good few weeks could vault the rookie into serious consideration for an AL bench spot in July.

And if not? There’s always next year’s All-Star Game, which just happens to be here in Seattle.

Very Good, But Unlikely: Paul Sewald

Paul Sewald is a shutdown reliever who is once again a key part of the Mariners’ roster.

He’s improved in every category this season from 2021 aside from strikeouts, and he has a good shot at exceeding the 1.5 WAR he posted a year ago.

So why wouldn’t he be an All-Star?

For starters, most All-Star relievers are your more traditional closers who earn saves and pitch in the ninth inning. Seattle doesn’t have a set closer, however, and instead deploys Sewald against the middle of an opponent’s order late in games, regardless of inning. Many teams are moving away from having a set closer, but when it comes to All-Star games, recording saves is still a big metric for earning a spot in the Midsummer Classic.

Last year, six relievers made the AL All-Star roster, with only two not being a closer. One of those two was Tampa Bay’s Andrew Kittredge, who was a late injury replacement, and it’s worth noting that Kittredge’s manager, Kevin Cash, led the AL squad last year and got to make some roster choices. The other was Detroit’s Gregory Soto, who was the Tigers’ lone All-Star representative.

Currently, seven AL relievers have more than 1 WAR, which is double what Sewald currently owns. Plus, four AL closers have 10 or more saves as of June 1.

The All-Star game also has a rule where each team must have at least one participant. With that being the case, perhaps a reliever is a way the Baltimore Orioles have an All-Star this year, as three members of their bullpen have at least 1 WAR. If that ends up being the case, it makes Sewald earning an invite to Dodger Stadium that less likely.

Servais: Mariners’ bats more aggressive, ‘excited’ about rotation trending up

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