Before we get to my All-Star ballot, I must address the Joe D’Alessandro situation. He pitched last night, and the only thing I can say is — WOW! I’ve never seen an inning like that in my year-and-a-half of covering independent baseball. Wichita’s new closer (I can only assume) retired the first batter he faced on a weak grounder to third then struck out the final two. He got a generous call on the final strike, but the umpire must have been caught up in the situation — fans on their feet, a guy out there throwing gas. This guy should immediately become a fan favorite. I know he’s put up just OK numbers in the past, but after one appearance he has all the makings of a dominant closer. We’ll see. But one thing is for sure — he gets it up there at every bit of 96 mph. OK, so maybe not 96. But the word today is that he was up to 94 while working 90-92.
Now, for my All-Star ballot. Quite simply, it’s Wingnut-heavy. When there was a slight question and a Wingnut player was involved in deciding between two players, I usually went with the Wichita player — except for one circumstance, which I’m still not totally comfortable with. But here we go:
CatcherMy pick: Joe Muich, Wingnuts — .285 AVG, 10 extra-base hits, .774 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS)Second best: Shawn McGill, Lincoln — .280, 9 XBH, .785 OPSOthers: Scott Knazek, St. Paul; Ken Lup, Sioux Falls
An easy pick. Even though McGill has comprable offensive numbers, Muich has dominated defensively, throwing out more than 40 percent of would-be base stealers. His production with the bat, not totally unexpected but still nice, has been a bonus to the way he’s played behind the plate and his handling of Wichita’s league-best starting pitching staff.
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First BaseMy pick: Phil Hawke, Lincoln — .324, 22 XBH, .986 OPSNext best: Steve Pearson, Wingnuts — .346, 14 XBH, .848 OPSOthers: Jason Cooper, St. Paul; Derek Schermerhorn, Sioux City; Patrick Reilly, Sioux Falls
A tough pick, though looking at Hawke’s numbers against Pearson’s I feel a little bit better. Still, Pearson has been kind of the glue guy for the Wingnuts’ offense this season, getting a ton of big hits — he’s batting close to .500 with men in scoring position in two outs. That’s just ridiculous. But Hawke, who was MVP of the Northern League last season, gets the nod here. Hard to ignore his numbers, which again are MVP-worthy.
Second BaseMy pick: Brenan Herrera, Wingnuts — .288, 16 XBH, .767 OPSNext best: Joe Anthonsen, Sioux Falls — .292, 4 XBH, .740 OPSOthers: Shea McFeely, Lincoln; Tony Mansolino, St. Paul; Alex Llanos, Sioux City
If Herrera walked as much as Anthonsen does his numbers would look even more impressive and this wouldn’t have even been a contest. As it was, I wrote down Anthonsen initially before examining the numbers, which made Herrera a much easier selection. The only glaring drawback to Herrera’s game this season has been his defense — he has 14 errors playing shortstop and second base. But Anthonsen does nothing so well that it would outweigh Herrera’s shaky defense, so the Wingnut is again the pick here.
Third BaseMy pick: Trevor “Foghorn” Lawhorn, Sioux Falls — .288, 17 XBH, .758 OPSSecond best: Brandon Jones, Lincoln — .288, 11 XBH, .703 OPSOthers: Jeff Eure, St. Paul; Landon Camp, Sioux City; Michael Thompson, Wingnuts
This might be the weakest overall position in the American Association, and Lawhorn might not be an All-Star if he played any other position. But he gets the easy nod at third because, well, he’s having easily the best season. Jones is performing quite well since being picked up by Lincoln a few weeks ago, but he loses points for being released by Sioux City early in the season.
ShortstopMy pick: Josh Horn, Wingnuts — .341, 8 XBH, .839 OPSSecond best: Tim Hutting, Sioux Falls — .307, 15 XBH, .790 OPSOthers: Albenis Machado, Lincoln; Steve Butler, St. Paul; Nick McCoola, Sioux City
Hutting’s 12 doubles, twice more than Horn’s total, give him the edge in extra-base hits. But Horn has the edge in every other facet offensively, and he earns bonus points for switching to shortstop, a position he has never played, a month into this season. Horn is a career .300 hitter in 2 1/2 professional seasons. Though the Wingnuts tried to pry Anthonsen from the Frontier League to play second base, it’s clear they got the better of the two players.
OutfieldMy picks:Josh Burrus, Lincoln — .314, 25 XBH, .942 OPSGreg Porter, Wingnuts — .378, 22 XBH, 1.057 OPSDustan Mohr, Wingnuts — .314, 15 XBH, .838 OPSSecond bests:Cory Harris, Sioux Falls — .335, 16 XBH, .900 OPSJacob Butler, St. Paul — .276, 20 XBH, .920 OPSBrent Krause, St. Paul — .319, 18 XBH, .917 OPSOthers: Pichi Balet and Deacon Burns, Lincoln; Andrew Schmiesing, St. Paul; Dustin Jones, Justin Nelson and Anthony Webster, Sioux City; Jared Lemieux and JD Reininger, Sioux Falls; Nick Blasi, Wingnuts
I told myself that Burrus and Porter were no-brainers. And they are. Except that you could swap them for any two players in the “Next bests” category and not lose a ton of production. Mohr’s numbers aren’t quite as good as the players in the next three, but I gave him the nod because he’s been a middle-of-the-order hitter on the league’s best team all season. And he leads the entire group in RBIs — a statistic I think is fairly overrated, but when you score as many runs as the Wingnuts do, the RBI leader should be an All-Star.
Designated Hitter:My pick: Kelly Hunt, Wingnuts — .264, 27 XBH, .841 OPSSecond best: Steve Alexander, Lincoln — .257, 17 XBH, .769 OPSOther: Kyle Eveland, Sioux Falls — .333, 1 XBH, .745 OPS (6 games)
Easy choice here, though Hunt could have made it much easier without his recent slump. Since hitting his last home run on June 21, Hunt has batted .240 (12 for 50) with two extra-base hits. He tied Michael Thompson’s team record in homs runs 16 days ago but has yet to pass it, something that seemed like a first-half inevitability. Still, Hunt’s numbers are far better than those of Alexander and Eveland.
That’s all, folks. See you tomorrow for more blogging fun.