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Wednesday, May 22, 2002

An Early Look at Possible First-Time AL All-Stars

The number of first-timers is likely less in the AL than the NL.

Yesterday, I took a look at the most-likely players in the National
League who might make their first All-Star team in 2002. Today, the
American League first-timers merit a look.


What is striking when examining the best players in the American
League, ten days before the First of June, is how concentrated they
are on a few teams. Boston, for example, has eight excellent
candidates right now, and that doesn’t even include Manuel Digit
Ramirez. New York, Seattle, and Minnesota, should also send large
contingents to the House that Bud Built. On the other end of the
spectrum, there are three clubs - Oakland, Detroit, and Tampa Bay -
who will be represented on Joe Torre’s team, but don’t really have
anyone deserving of going to Milwaukee.


For first-timers, the best bets to earn starting jobs are Alfonso
Soriano (NYY), .325/.348/.595 , and Torii Hunter(MIN),
.333.380/.585. But, it’s still early, so others may emerge, or some
who now look good, may have their pumpkins burst. Here are the players
I currently think have the best chance in the AL to break through at
each position:


Catcher - Jorge Posada, who has been an All-Star
in the past, is sure to start here. So what we are looking at for
first-timers is one or two reserves. The best bet is Jason Varitek
(BOS), .287/.341/.451, who has come back very nicely from his broken
elbow. After Varitek comes Chris Kahrl’s favorite, Tom Wilson (TOR),
.338/.450/.523. (I happened to have met Tom’s mother at a Sacramento
River Cats game, when Wilson was hitting about a buck fifty in
AAA. She was a nice lady.) No other American League catchers look much
like All-Stars to me. But I would say that A.J. Pierzynski (MIN),
.303/.344/.412, and Geronimo Gil (BAL), .283/.324/.475, have a


First Base - Paul Konerko (CWS), .331/.358/.506 is
on target to make his first All-Star team. The wild-card may be Tampa
Bay’s Steve Cox, .329/.374/.493, who could grab the spot reserved for
one Devil Ray.


Second Base - As I noted above, Alfonso Soriano
(NYY), .325/.348/.595, is very likely to be a starter, this
year. Whoever Joe Torre takes as his back-up, it will be a big drop
off in production. But first-timers Brent Abernathy (TBD),
.265/.311/.364, Mike Young (TEX), .293/.339/.431 , and Carlos Febles
(KCR), .257/.354/.363, will all get looks.


Third Base - Shea Hillenbrand (BOS),
.325/.374/.544, and Eric Hinske (TOR), .299/.374/.535 - a teammate of
Tom Wilson’s in Sacramento, last year, by the way -are in good
positions to win the back-up jobs to Troy Glaus. It is possible that
Eric Chavez (OAK), .261/.329/.577, will, however, be handed one of
these spots, due to the fact that one Athletic must be on the
team. Corey Koskie (MIN), .311/.418/.496 , is another first-timer
candidate for the hot corner.


Shortstop - The most likely shortstops are all
past All-Stars, Alex Rodriguez (TEX), Omar Vizquel (CLE), and Derek
Jeter (NYY). But should something happen to one of those players,
Carlos Guillen (SEA), .297/.375/.514, and David Eckstein (ANA),
.275/.352/.380, are off to productive starts.


Outfield - There are four good candidates to make
the American League outfield for the first time. But of these, Torii
Hunter (MIN), .333/.380/.585, now stands out as perhaps deserving a
starting role. Johnny Damon (BOS), .341/.383/.479, Jacque Jones (MIN),
.294/.335/.492, and Garret Anderson (ANA), .300/.316/.506, are the
other three that now have a decent chance to make the club. Jeremy
Giambi (OAK), .268/.392/.458, probably does not deserve to make the
club at this point. But if Chavez is passed by, Mini-G may win the
Oakland spot. (Barry Zito is a third possible choice for the A’s.)


Starting Pitchers - While the National League is
loaded with great first-time candidates, the A.L. cupboard is more
bare. Rodrigo Lopez (BAL), 5-0, 1.97 ERA, is a huge surprise to
me. Even his mother has been quoted as saying, “I didn’t think he was
that good.” Roy Halladay (TOR), 4-1, 3.18 ERA, and Mark Buehrle (CWS)
7-3, 3.31 ERA, each stand a chance to make the team for the first
time. Joel Pineiro (SEA), 4-0, 1.85 ERA, is probably more of a
long-shot, as he was stuck in Lou Piniella’s bullpen until April
30. And Pineiro only has three starts so far in which he’s gone six
innings. But it’s hard to argue with his 1.85 ERA.


Relief Pitchers - Last year, Joe Torre went with a
bunch of middle relievers. The best candidates in that category this
year (among guys who’ve never before been All-Stars) are teammates
J.C. Romero (MIN), 3-0, 0.34 ERA, 12 Holds, and Tony Fiore (MIN), 2.18
ERA, 11.7 ARP. Their teammate, Eddie Guardado (MIN), 14/15 Saves, 2.18
ERA, is also on target to make his first All-Star line-up. After the
Minnesota Triplets, I like the first-time chances of the Fat Toad
(TEX), 10/11 Saves, 2.96 ERA, and Steve Karsay (NYY), 1.98 ERA, 11.1


While it is true that a lot can and will change between now and
July, it is likely that of the 65 or so All-Stars - I’m counting on a
few extra players due to the non-attendance of wounded stars - around
one-third of the players this year will be there for the first


Rich Rifkin Posted: May 22, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 23, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605226)
I'll go out on a limb and say Jeremy Giambi won't be the A's All-Star rep. (Sorry.)
   2. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 23, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605228)
No, it's just players who have't been in an All-Star game before (said the guy who made the same mistake on the NL list)
   3. scruff Posted: May 24, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605231)
"It is possible that Eric Chavez (OAK), .261/.329/.577, will, however, be handed one of these spots, due to the fact that one Athletic must be on the team."

How the mighty have fallen. That's really an amazing statement.
   4. Loren F. Posted: May 27, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605241)
At this point, what with his performance and whatever added boost that'll come from All-Twins ballots, I'd be shocked if Torii Hunter is not a starter for the All-Star Game.
   5. Loren F. Posted: May 29, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605249)
I've been hearing a number of people wonder if MLB should drop its rule that every team must have a representative at the All-Star Game so that the choices can be based more on merit. Baseball's All-Star Game is by far the best of the major sports (does anyone care about the Pro Bowl, for instance?), and I wonder if the all-teams-are-there tradition is part of it. Personally, I think there's always been a deviation from merit-based choices at the Game, and because it's an exhibition I like the fact that every team gets at least one representative.
   6. Old Matt Posted: June 01, 2002 at 12:30 AM (#605254)
um, you really think it's obvious that nomar will not be an all-star? and that rey sanchez won't even get a look?

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