It’s an annual exercise in disappointment. When the updated All-Star balloting was released earlier this month, only Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds were among the top-five at their respective positions. The voting that had taken place prior to this release largely occurred during a run where the Indians could not lose. The starting pitchers were motoring, the bullpen was a revolving door full of fastball Fort Knox, walk-offs were the new normal. The Indians, however, had just two players get even a cursory nod among fan voters. Wins, typically, command some sort of respect, but hey…
This is to be expected given the (much-discussed) attendance issues coupled with overall market size. The days of having an entire team of All-Star players are long gone and, as history has shown, New York- and Boston-based players litter All-Star rosters regardless of the fact that they may or may not be playing at a caliber worthy of the Mid-Summer Classic. All it takes is one quick look, however, at it does appear that the fans have done thier homework thus far, passing up big names like Pujols and Ellsbury and Hamilton for more deserving players like Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Manny Machado1. But another player who deserves to have his name among the top of his peer group is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.
While the rest of his teammates have regressed to more human-like levels, and the overall record doing the same, the former second-rounder has taken his slow start this season (he hit .200 through April) and quietly catapulted himself to being one of the best secong basemen in the American League. Over the course of the last six weeks, Kipnis—Dirtbag, The JK Kid, whatever—has hit .292 with an OPS just under .900. He’s third on the Indians in hits, second in runs scored and second in OPS2 behind only Santana.
To compare Kipnis to other second basemen in the American Leauge, his numbers stand out just the same. While April was undoubtedly a bit of a drag on Kipnis’ counting stats, he’s just 0.1 WAR points (2.0) behind the position’s overall All-Star leader in New York’s Robinson Cano (2.0). He’s ahead of Detroit’s Omar Infante and Houston’s Jose Altuve, both of whom are currently ahead of Kipnis in the vote-getting. Texas’ Ian Kinsler, arguably one of the best second basemen in baseball, has been hampered by a rib injury and was just activated from the disabled list having missed a month of work.
It can be argued that none of Kipnis’ statistics really stand out to be considered an All-Star. However, a deeper dive shows that he trails only Cano in isolated power and home runs while leading all second basemen in stolen bases. His five tools have been fully on display, being among the top five in fielding metrics as well as SABR-heavy batting metrics like wOBA. For Indians fans, Kipnis clutch hitting is even more of a reason for a nod given that his game-winner this past weekend against the Nationals was his second walk-off hit of this young season.
Having little-to-no chance at gaining any traction in the fan vote, it will be up to Kipnis to keep his level of play elevated enough to garner consideration from the coaches. Detroit’s Jim Leyland will be captaining the good ship AL, so things could get interesting if the AL Central foe opts for his own player in Infante despite all of the numbers heavily suggesting that Kipnis is the better player thus far through 2013. While the Indians’ representative(s) in New York remain to be seen, fact of the matter is that the All-Star game is less than one month away, and Jason Kipnis deserves the chance to be the first Indians first-year player draftee to make an AL All-Star team since CC Sabathia in 20073.
Image: Scott Sargent/WFNY
- It could also be argued that this is merely Orioles fans coming out in droves as Davis and Machado are joined by Matt Weiters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and JJ Hardy as being among the top-three at their respective positions. [↩]
- Among those with at least 150 at-bats [↩]
- Fausto Carmona made it in 2010, but he was not a part of the first-year player draft [↩]