With the Rangers suddenly having one of the best seasons in franchise history, led by a number of stars carrying subpar performers in several spots, the team is poised to yet again have solid representation in an All-Star Game. Here are the most deserving of those stars:
No. 5 - Michael Young
Young is a tale of two sides of the ball. Offensively, his recent renaissance puts him into contention. Defensively, he has been poor again this season, though his closest competitors -- Alex Rodriguez and Jose Bautista -- are nothing special themselves. In some circles, listing Young here would be viewed as a mistake. In others -- some within baseball -- he is viewed as possibly the most important guy on the team.
If the AL takes two third basemen, Longoria and Beltre make it, and that's that. If the league takes a third, he has a shot. He is outhitting A-Rod, but if Bautista gets consideration as a third baseman (he has played in 41 games as an outfielder and 30 as a third baseman), Young is a tougher sell, particularly since a good Blue Jays team will be viewed as deserving multiple members of the team and the Rangers will have two-three other position players.
No. 4 - Elvis Andrus
Elvis needs July 1 to arrive quickly. Two weeks ago he was the team's biggest slam dunk choice, but a recent slump drops him back to the pack, both in real numbers and perception. His combination of on-base ability and stellar defense still makes him a fine candidate, though he would greatly improve his chances by bouncing back this week offensively.
This is another position where the Ranger's chances will depend largely on how many players are carried. Jeter will start, so if only two shortstops are taken, Andrus has to beat out the rest of the field. Going by these numbers Gonzalez has a good case to be on the team.
No. 3 - Colby Lewis
Arguably the best pickup in baseball in the offseason and a terrific comeback player of the year candidate, Lewis has been hugely important to the Rangers. If the AL faces difficult roster decisions, he could be an odd man out, but for the wrong reasons.
Lewis has seven wins and a 3.07 ERA, but his home run issues and some early season high walk totals are what currently keep him from being among the most dominant starters in the AL.He is third in the AL in WHIP and first in BA against, two numbers that don't tell us much analytically but are popular within baseball, so that could bode well for him. It is hard to distinguish candidates after the first four guys, so Lewis' chances may revolve around roster shuffling.
No. 2 - Vladimir Guerrero
I would argue that Colby Lewis is a more important player for the Rangers, but when competition is taken into account, Guerrero is an easier candidate. Whether Vlad should be judged against other DHs or all of the best hitters in the league is basically a moot point because Guerrero is on the ballot as a DH, is deserving as the starter among the choices, and is in fact lapping the field in voting (1.7 million to Hideki Matsui's 825k as of June 14).
No. 1 - Josh Hamilton
Hamilton was rocking along having a very unspectacular season until June, when he and hitting coach Clint Hurdle seemed to find the answer to his timing issues. He's 37-78 this month with seven home runs, and he will make his second All-Star Game as a Ranger. We can only hope that he won't be talked into participating in another home run contest.
Reviewing the below numbers, Hamilton's WAR is damaged by a harsh -1.6 UZR from his limited play in center field, but he clearly belongs as one of the starting AL outfielders in Anaheim.
Darren Oliver - Oliver's raw numbers are slightly better than Neftali Feliz's, but neither stands out in a group of excellent AL relievers that includes Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde, JJ Putz, Darren O'Day, Brian Duensing and Daniel Bard. What does stand out is that the Rangers possess three of those dominant relievers.
Neftali Feliz - Feliz may make the team, since he leads the league with 19 saves (and three holds) and has blown just two. Rivera and Soriano, for two, have been a little better, but Feliz does have a good chance of getting one of the spots, particularly if the AL takes four relievers. But Feliz is not among the 3-4 best relievers in the league and therefore really shouldn't make the roster.
Nelson Cruz - If only he had stayed healthy. As the above chart shows, Cruz has been absolutely dominant when on the field, but a little over 100 at bats is a tough sell.
Ian Kinsler - Kinsler is almost as deserving as Young when position is taken into account, but he is clearly not one of the three best second basemen in the league -- Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Orlando Hudson are. Cano and Pedroia are easy choices unless the AL opts to classify Ben Zobrist at second, as he listed on the ballot.