With just days remaining in the All-Star Game voting and their nearest Oriole to a fan-elected starting spot over 600,000 votes out of first place, next month’s midsummer classic might feel like the bad old days for the club.
Several of their prior All-Stars — there are nine on the roster who have made it in the past five years — are mostly either battling injuries or trying to find their form in what has been a down season, so the Orioles might be back to having just one representative.
The last time that happened was in 2011, when catcher Matt Wieters went for the first time. Since then, the Orioles have had at least three every season, and as many as five in 2013 and 2016.
How they could end up with just the league-mandated one — and who that one might be — is a product of a system that takes several factors into consideration. Here are the All-Star cases for some this year’s Orioles standouts, and what their chances of getting there are.
The wait for second baseman Jonathan Schoop to take the next step toward stardom, at least from a production standpoint, is over. Schoop is batting .295/.352/.545, with his 15 home runs tied for the team lead and his 22 doubles fourth most in the American League. The four players in the American League who have more extra-base hits than his 37 — the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Boston Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, Tampa Bay Rays’ Corey Dickerson and Cleveland Indians’ José Ramirez — have cases to go to the All-Star Game as well.
What harms Schoop’s chances is his position. Most Valuable Player candidate José Altuve has started the game at second base for the past two years and will again this year, with his .913 OPS the only one at their position above Schoop’s .897. Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is second in the fan voting and worthy of consideration, and once reputation comes into play, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, the Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Cano and Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis could snag a reserve spot over Schoop. Kipnis might not have the numbers, but his manager, Terry Francona, will be making the decision.
With Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger and Judge both hitting home runs at a prolific rate as rookies this season, Mancini’s 14-homer year is being overshadowed. Not locally, though. Part of the problem when it comes to wider recognition is that his team-best .321 batting average and 954 OPS are not on the major league leader boards. In a few days, he’ll be listed in the top five in the AL in both categories. Currently, he’s eight plate appearances short by the MLB formula of 3.1 plate appearances per team game.
Where he fits is another question that might keep him from Miami. Mancini was on the ballot as a designated hitter but is far behind the likes of Seattle’s Nelson Cruz, Dickerson and Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnación. His adopted position in the outfield is even more crowded, though there might be a way to fit him at first base if Francona wants to get creative. It shouldn’t come down to this, but Mancini’s standout rookie season might not be rewarded with an All-Star appearance.
Brach doesn’t have statistics as gaudy as last season’s thanks to a few tough outings, but he’s doing a more difficult job in filling in for injured closer Zach Britton.
Last year, the lead-up to the All-Star Game was uneasy for Brach because despite having a 0.91 ERA in the first half, he was a setup man without much name recognition. Now, he’d be a returning All-Star at a position that has only a few standouts in the American League this year. He’s eighth in the AL in saves with 13, fourth in ERA at 2.43 and third in WHIP at 0.87.
The Orioles have sent a setup man in each of the past two years — Brach in 2016 and Darren O’Day in 2015 — and Givens would certainly be a worthy heir if selected. He’s had perhaps as good of a season as Brach, with a better ERA (2.41) but a higher WHIP (1.10).
But there’s stiff competition. Andrew Miller technically isn’t a closer for Cleveland but is one of the game’s best relievers. Same goes for Dellin Betances in New York. With those established standouts, plus others having years not unlike Brach’s from last season, it’s difficult to project Givens getting there.
Bundy’s candidacy took a hit with some rough starts this month. His 3.73 ERA is still the best among Orioles starters, but it ranks just 11th among qualified AL starters, which is a lot of people to climb over for an All-Star spot.
A case certainly could be made, but given how the Orioles are planning to give him extra rest in the coming weeks and use the All-Star break’s built-in three days off to help do that, they would undoubtedly prefer Bundy was anywhere but Miami two Tuesdays from now, no matter how much of an honor it is.
Castillo is one of the only Orioles on the leaderboard at his position in the fan voting, but even with regular days off expected for a catcher, he has played in just 43 of the team’s first 75 games because of shoulder trouble and a groin problem stemming from a deflected ball behind the plate.
When he has played, he’s hit well, with a slash line of 284/.316/.462, eight home runs and 25 RBIs. All that projected over maybe 20 more games would put him into the conversation behind expected starter Salvador Pérez of the Kansas City Royals. But with New York’s Gary Sánchez, the Detroit Tigers’ Alex Avila and Houston’s Brian McCann also in the mix, Castillo would have to jump someone having a better season to be selected.
Perhaps the most interesting case for the Orioles, Machado has been to the All-Star game twice before and no doubt will go again. It doesn’t seem likely this year, though, at least based on the numbers. He’s fifth in fan voting and seventh in OPS (.744) among AL third basemen, and though his 15 home runs put him on a good pace, his .228 batting average hurts his candidacy.
That said, Machado is the Orioles’ brightest-shining actual star, so if the league needed to pick someone from its roster based solely on that, he would be it. That the game is in his native Miami and he won’t get to play there will likely be a source of great disappointment. But perhaps a return to the Home Run Derby, which he took part in two seasons ago, could be a reasonable way to get him involved in the showcase before his hometown crowd.