Wednesday began the official start of MLB All-Star Game voting and the Colorado Rockies have nine players on the National League ballot.
The last two years, Colorado had only one selection to the Midsummer Classic: Germán Márquez (2021) and C.J. Cron (2022). Since teams towards the top of the standings typically have more All-Stars than those at the bottom, this year could be more of the same. If so, it will be the first time with one representative in franchise history for three consecutive years.
For a team with a 24-33 record entrenched at the bottom of the NL West despite a 16-13 record since April 30, it will be hard for the Rockies to get support from voters around the country.
Once the Phase 1 voting closes on June 22, the top two vote-getters at each position will move on to Phase 2 where voting closes on June 26 and starters are revealed on June 29. The leading vote-getter in each league during Phase 1 receives an automatic roster spot.
Here are the three players who have a legitimate case to be named to the NL squad for the July 11th showcase at T-Mobile Park in Seattle:
C Elias Díaz
Díaz has been the backbone of the Rockies this season in every possible way. In the batter’s box and in the middle of the lineup, check. Behind the plate minimizing the opposing team’s running game and, maybe most important of all, keep the pitching staff from imploding despite countless injuries. Also, check.
For the most physically grueling position on the diamond, he’s displayed one of the best abilities in all of sports: availability. His 47 games at catcher is the second-most in the Majors.
Entering Wednesday, Díaz is at the top of so many categories that it seems improbable he won’t become the first Rockies catcher to become an All-Star. He ranks fifth among NL position players with 2.2 bWAR, trailing only Ronald Acuña (2.9), Freddie Freeman (2.8), Dansby Swanson (2.4) and Mookie Betts (2.3).
Defensively, his 1.1 defensive WAR is tied for the fourth-best in all of MLB, tied for second in the NL and best among catchers. Aiding that rating is 10 catcher caught stealing, good for third-most in the Majors.
Díaz is undeniably one of the top three best backstops in the NL this season. If voters select someone less worthy to start the game, then a roster crunch could leave him unjustly snubbed from a free trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Competition: Sean Murphy (ATL), Willson Contreras (STL), J.T. Realmuto (PHI), William Contreras (MIL)
3B Ryan McMahon
McMahon is heating up at the right time. A four-game home run streak and five-game extra-base hit streak against the New York Mets and then the Arizona Diamondbacks on Memorial Day has likely placed him on the radar for more voters than Díaz right now.
When fans sign in and see his name and likeness on the ballot, they’re going to notice his OPS starts with the no. 8 and recall he’s been oh-so-close in Gold Glove Award voting. They might even do additional research to learn he has a better on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Nolan Arenado. That kind of underdog support will be nice, but it won’t be enough when the likes of Manny Machado (SD), Max Muncy (LAD) and Austin Riley (ATL) are also eligible at the position.
If RyMac can continue his latest offensive surge and the coaches who choose the bench for the NL team award bonus points for his defense and flexibility — let’s not forget he was moved to second base in Spring Training only to shift back to the hot corner when Elehuris Montero was removed from his duties — he could join Arenado, Jeff Cirillo and Vinny Castillo as Rockies’ third basemen to make the Midsummer Classic.
Competition: Arenado, Machado, Muncy, Riley, J.D. Davis (SF)
SS Ezequiel Tovar
Tovar’s statistics aren’t jumping off the page at the moment, but neither are those from the other shortstops in the Senior Circuit. He finished Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks with a pair of doubles, putting him in a tie for 5th-most two-baggers in the NL.
Defensively, he’s better than most of the competition at shortstop. His seven defensive runs saved are tied for the most at the position in the NL according to Sports Info Solutions and six outs above average tie him for the fifth-most in all of MLB, as per Baseball Savant.
Getting into the All-Star Game is less about defense and more about being a marquee name that has posted offensive numbers in multiple seasons. Five notable shortstops — Dansby Swanson (CHC), Xander Bogaerts (SD), Francisco Lindor (NYM) and Trea Turner (PHI) — will get support in voting and another, Willy Adames (MIL), is deserving to be in the conversation for best in the league.
The fact that all five of these players have not been otherworldly leaves the door open for Tovar to make a case as an addition to the infield.
Competition: Swanson, Bogaerts, Lindor, Turner, Adames, Orlando Arcia (ATL)
Reliever (Pick One)
Though only position players are eligible to be selected by fans, NL coaches will be better prepared to recognize Colorado’s relief corps as one of the best in the game.
Three different Rockies’ relievers have a legitimate case for consideration: RHP Jake Bird, LHP Brent Suter and RHP Justin Lawrence.
Suter is the most mild-mannered of the bunch. He doesn’t strike out as many batters as his counterparts in the bullpen, but he’s been more effective than others. The top three relievers in the NL according to fWAR are all closers and next is Suter with his 1.93 over 32.2 innings, fourth-most in the Majors.
Bird put his name on the map during the Phillies series when the benches cleared and Bryce Harper gave him some attention. Truthfully, it’s been his multiple-inning performances that should have earned him the notoriety.
After his fifth appearance of the year on April 9, he had an 11.12 ERA. Since then, he’s posted a 1.24 ERA with 10 walks and 32 strikeouts. His 34.2 innings pitched out of the ‘pen is tied for the most among all relievers and his 36 strikeouts are third-most in the NL.
Lawrence has been on the verge of breaking out for a year now, even becoming a favorite of Pitching Ninja on social media. Like Suter, he ranks high in innings pitched (29.1) and, like Bird, he’s among the leaders in reliever strikeouts (32). Were it not for those three runs he gave up on Sunday that pushed his earned run average to 3.07, J-Law may have been the frontrunner in the trio.
Justin Lawrence, 97mph Two Seamer and 85mph Sweeper, Overlay pic.twitter.com/qxJQDA52Te
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 25, 2023
Two more names could get consideration depending on how the next five weeks shake out. Daniel Bard, scoreless in 13 of 14 appearances since being reinstated from the 15-day injured list on April 19 has a 0.57 ERA and was one of the last players left off the NL roster in 2022. Pierce Johnson is 11-for-11 in save opportunities, good for fourth-most in the league. A 6.23 ERA may scare some, but a few scoreless outings and several more saves could get the job done.
Competition: Roster space is limited due to more notable starting pitchers having a major edge. Each team typically has at least two relief pitchers having a career-year, but there could be room for one Rockie at this position.
Never Say Never
Randal Grichuk is one of three Rockies’ outfielders on the ballot alongside Kris Bryant and Jurickson Profar. He’s batting for average at home (.408, 20-for-49) and on the road (.288, 13-for-45 with 1 HR), but he’s simply at a disadvantage since starting a month after everyone else on April 29 following recovery from sports hernia surgery.
Charlie Blackmon has been productive and compares well to the other designated hitters on the ballot. This is his final year under contract and if he really intends to step away from the game and call it a career after the October 1 game against the Minnesota Twins at home, Bud Black could work behind the scenes to get Blackmon his flowers one last time.
Two shaky performances in his last three outings have curtailed Kyle Freeland’s chances at bit as his ERA rose to 4.22 on the season. With plenty of time to get back on track, the leader of a starting rotation that has been beaten down by injuries deserves some recognition for steadying the ship this season in addition to everything he’s been able to do in Colorado during his career.
Colorado can feel a bit better about one representative in the All-Star Game if one of their players gets into the Home Run Derby. Trevor Story was worthy of that distinction in 2021 and helped add to the excitement at Coors Field. However, 2023 will not see the Rockies returning to the Derby.
Their 47 home runs this season, 26th-most in all of MLB, suggests a power outage and a look at their team leader confirms it. McMahon is tops with eight home runs, a mark that’s tied for 32nd-most in the NL. Were it not for Cron’s back issues keeping him out of the lineup, he may have been a decent long shot to earn a spot. Though he hasn’t played a game in over two weeks, he’s still tied for the second-most long balls on the roster.