Four Reds Named to All Star Team

All Star rosters have been announced and the NL squad with call upon the services of four Reds. Three of them will be making their third all-star appearances while the three Cincinnati players with the most experience in the midseason classic will all be getting a week off. There are a couple of other candidates that could eventually slip onto the roster when the final tweaking has been made.

When players take the field for Tuesday’s All Star game four representing the NL will be from the Cincinnati Reds. Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Devin Mesoraco got the nod yesterday and though the invitations were generous for the Reds, there were still others with strong first half resumes that deserved attention. Of course there are limited spots and it’s mandatory that each team in the league get at least one of them. The players elected by the fans are a lock and though NL manager Mike Mathieny might not admit it, they could have been victims of the success of their teammates.

In a season that has seen Cincinnati rocked by multiple injuries Frazier has been a rock in the lineup and is tied for fourth in the league with 17 home runs, four behind the league leader. His OPS is tops among all NL third basemen as is his .500 slugging percentage. His 2012 season was a bit of a disappointment after finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting the previous year but now he’s on track toward establishing himself as one of the best at his position in major league baseball.

Like Frazier, Mesoraco will also be making his first all-star appearance. Outside of a couple of stints on the DL, there’s nothing to dislike about his first half this year. Also like Frazier, his OPS is tops among his position had he had enough action to qualify. He still slammed 15 home runs in only 52 games which fueled a slugging percentage over .600. He was one of the preseason favorites for the Rookie of the Year award that Frazier nearly won, but struggled with consistency at the plate which got him a brief trip down to Louisville in the second half. Now in his third MLB season he’s evolving into the receiver that Cincinnati envisioned when they invested a first round draft pick on him in 2007.

Chapman is the only repeat selection among the four and this will be his third consecutive trip to the midseason classic despite missing the first month of the season from a nasty spring training injury. Since coming back he’s shown that line drive off his head didn’t damage his arm by resuming ninth inning domination with his triple digit heat. He’s saved seventeen while blowing only two and has a WHIP of 0.811. Eye popping stats are nothing new for the Cuban Missile and thus far this year he’s managed to strike out over half of the batters he’s faced. He could sustain that until the break pending how much his action is affected by a tweak in his hamstring that prevented him from closing Sunday win over Milwaukee.

Given the run that Cueto has been on the past few years it’s hard to imagine this is just his first all-star selection. He must have narrowly missed a couple of years ago when Tony LaRussa came out of retirement to skipper the team. The snub did not prevent him from finishing fouth in the Cy Young balloting that season and he’s been perhaps the top pitcher in the league this year after multiple injuries sabotaged his 2013 campaign. It’s quite a feat to lead the league in both innings (131) and WHIP (0.868) simultaneously, but he’s done that thus far in 2014. Cueto is expected to take his turn in the rotation Sunday which will likely keep him out of action during the break.

Now the snubs… A message was sent to Johnathan Broxton that he’s likely not going to another All Star game unless he becomes a closer again. He couldn’t have done any more as a set-up man this season. That’s where he’ll remain while Chapman is around and, All Star or not, the Reds are happy to have him dominating eighth innings with his 0.65 ERA. That would have made him a shoo-in had he been closing all year. It makes one wonder just when the rules were changed that make ninth innings runs count extra.

Alfredo Simon put together two fine seasons as the long man out of the Reds bullpen after they picked him up off of waivers from Baltimore before stepping into the rotation for injured Mat Latos after opening day. All he’s done is tied for the league lead in wins (11) which has kept his spot after Latos’s return. Sure, wins may not be the best stat because so many factors outside of the pitcher’s control often influence decisions. Still, Simon’s 2.78 ERA makes his total look legit and it could have been higher if with a little luck in a couple of no-decisions when he allowed only one run in seven innings in each of last two outings before getting number eleven on the Fourth of July. He could eventually make it onto the squad in to replace his teammate if Cueto is inactive for the game.

Billy Hamilton was a long shot to make the squad, but his speed provides a weapon that could come in handy as a pinch runner. He’s overcome a slow start to put himself in the top four of all NL Rookies in batting average and on-base percentage. Of course he’s leading his class in stolen bases which explains why he’s running away with the highest rookie total for runs. Though not a power hitter his speed has stretched enough hits for extra bases to give him the third highest slugging percentage and his five home runs (which have all come with either a tie score or one-run differential) ties him for third in the bunch. Something else he’s doing to help his team win games is maintain a batting average of .328 with runners in scoring position coming into Monday’s game.

Not making the squad are all three of Cincinnati’s veterans of previous all-star games: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. Bruce and Votto are a couple of the many Reds with stints on the DL. Bruce wasn’t very productive before going down but he’s back in the lineup and broke an 0-26 streak with a walk-off homer Sunday. Votto appears to be headed back there and though his batting average (.255) is disappointing, it isn’t as alarming to Reds fans as the grimace that frequently has appeared on his face when he’s tried to play recently. Phillips’s numbers are in line with where he finished last year which was his third all-star season.

Of course one question that comes to mind quickly is with all the current all-stars, near misses, and form all-stars, how come they are only three games over .500? Obviously the injuries are not just an excuse, but a legitimate reason. Their series win over Milwaukee leaves them six games behind the Brewers for the division lead and they’re in the thick of the wild card race. The fact that they’ve been able to stay in the hunt while impersonating a M.A.S.H. unit could be a harbinger of good things to come in the second half… providing.

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