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Fixing the American League All Star Ballot

16 JUN 2015: Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) flips the ball into the stands during the game between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays played at Citi Field in Flushing,NY. The New York Mets defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2. (Icon Sportswire)

Just because the fans vote a player doesn’t mean he should start the All-Star Game. Here are the guys who should for the American League.

The All-Star Game, which will take place in Cincinnati on July 14, is right around the corner.

Major League Baseball has been releasing a series of ballot updates in the prior weeks leading up to the game, keeping the public aware of who which players are leading in fan votes at their respective positions. Of course, the fans do not always get it right – the latest ballot update had seven members of the Kansas City Royals primed to start – and that can sometimes be a cause for controversy. After all, the MLB All-Star Game is not a traditional pro sports exhibition designed to highlight the game’s best players. Instead, it is tied to home field advantage in the World Series, which means the best players should play.

The fans do not always get that, and so here is what the lineup should look like for the American League when they take the field in Cincy:

Catcher

Wednesday, June 3, 2015: Oakland Athletics Catcher Stephen Vogt (21) [9076] hits a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of the A's 6-1 win over the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday night at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Current Leader: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics

No disrespect to Perez, as he happens to be having a fine year in KC. However, no catcher in the AL has been better than Stephen Vogt this season. He leads the league’s catchers in homers (13), runs batted in (51), average .294, OPS (.938) and Wins Above Replacement (3.0).  The 30-year-old has been solid behind the plate as well, making just three errors while throwing out 32 percent of runners.

Honorable Mentions: Perez, Brian McCann, Russell Martin

First Base

Current Leader: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

It Should Be: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

This one was close call between Miggy and Albert Pujols, but the Tigers’ slugger has The Machine bested in RBI, average, OPS and WAR. Cabrera actually happens to be leading the AL in runs knocked in, OBP, SLG, OPS and a OPS+. He is already just 10 home runs away from his season total of 25 last year an nearly halfway to his 2014 mark of 109 RBI. While there are a handful of worthy candidates, none is more deserving than Cabrera.

Honorable Mentions: Pujols, Jose Abreu, Eric Hosmer

Second Base

24 June 2015: Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians during the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio

Current Leader: Omar Infante, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Literally Anyone Else… Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

This one is just as much about the terrific season Kipnis is having as it is the dreadful one Infante is having. While a case can at least be made for who fans have picked at other positions, this one is simply inexcusable. The 33-year-old is having the worst season of his 14-year career, hitting .227 with no home runs, 19 RBI and a .540 OPS. It is for reasons like this that some are so sick of fans deciding who starts the All-Star Game. Meanwhile, Kipnis has been tearing the cover off the ball in Cleveland, hitting an AL-high .354. He also leads the league in hits and doubles, making him the obvious choice to start at second base.

Honorable Mentions: Dustin Pedroia, Brian Dozier

Third Base

Current Leader: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

Donaldson has been the man since joining the Jays – and not just because of that insane play he made to preserve Marco Estrada’s perfect game on Wednesday. With a .298 average, 17 homers, 46 RBI, a .895 OPS and 3.* WAR, Donaldson is either leading or close to leading all AL third baseman in every major offensive category. That seems like more than enough reason for him to manning the hot corner come July 14.

Honorable Mentions: Moustakas, Manny Machado

Shortstop

Current Leader: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

Not to be rude, but the American League is not exactly offering the cream of the crop when it comes to shortstops. Sure, players like Escobar and Xander Bogaerts are having modest seasons, but Correa is easily the best player at the position. Sure, he does not have a full season to back that claim – he has only been in the Majors for 15 games – but look at what he has already done in a short time. In 65 at-bats the 20-year-old kid has five doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and four stolen bases. Forget the numbers though, this pick is all about talent.

Honorable Mentions: Escobar, Bogaerts

Outfield

May 5, 2015: Toronto Blue Jays Right field Jose Bautista (19) at bat during the ninth inning during a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Yankees beat the Blue Jays 6-3.

Current Leaders: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim/Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals/Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Trout/Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays/Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

Trout is the easy one here. The guy is the best player in the game and chances are he will be starting the All-Star Game for the next 10 years. Trout does it all – he scores runs as often as he drives them in,  hits for power and contact, can swipe bags and play stellar defense. Whether it be by way of stats or the eye test, it is impossible to conclude that he not baseball’s most prolific player.

Bautista meanwhile is doing what he normally does – smacking bombs out of the park. At .257, his average could be better, but Joey Bats is the only AL outfielder with 50 RBI. That, along with his 15 home runs, makes for quite the power threat at the plate.

Gardner may not be the biggest name among AL outfielders, but he has done more than enough to work his way into the league’s starting lineup. The left fielder is hitting .294 with nine homers, 37 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Keep in mind, Gardner has been doing this atop the Yankees offense without his partner in crime, Jacoby Ellsbury, for a while now.

Honorable Mentions: Cain, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, J.D. Martinez, Adam Jones

Designated Hitter

Current Leader: Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals

It Should Be: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

There really is no other right answer for here. Cruz has been off the charts offensively, belting 19 homers to go along with his 44 RBI and .308 average. His .559 slugging percentage is the best in the league among regular DH’s – what more could the M’s ask out of their full-time hitter? The craziest part is that Cruz is doing this with hardly any protection from an abysmal Seattle lineup and he is doing it at the cavernous Safeco Field.

Look folks, this is not a popularity contest. The All-Star game matters – whether it should is a whole other debate- so the best players should be out there on the field. Fans in Kansas City and across the country need to realize that they have a responsibility to put the best product out there. If they do not they are simply compromising the integrity of a game that does effect the players participating in it. Omar Infante should not get an opportunity to go hitless in a game that determines home field advantage in the World Series.

If fan bases cannot figure out how to find a balance between voting for their hometown favorites and those who actually deserve, they will eventually have to be stripped of their privilege.

***All stats are as of June 24, 2015.

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