Despite operating under a reconfigured voting process for the MLB All-Star Game, the Marlins are once again being horribly underrepresented on a national scale. Every MLB team is ultimately represented by at least one player at the Midsummer Classic. However, the Marlins have several All-Star worthy candidates who are deserving of more serious consideration than they’re currently receiving.
Below, a case will be made for a a handful of Marlins deserving of more votes, in addition to a few pitchers who may be selected through the player ballot and the commissioner’s office.
The Must-Vote Player (MVP)
Jorge Alfaro (.264/.317/.430, 9 HR, 27 RBI, .747 OPS)
When it comes to Jorge Alfaro, he is not only the Marlins’ “Must-Vote Player” for the All-Star Game, but he is also arguably the most valuable player on the team for the first half of the 2019 season.
The former Philadelphia Philly currently leads the Fish with nine home runs, holds a respectable .264 batting average. He is third on the team in RBIs with 27—a total that is just one shy of the highest total on the team shared by Brian Anderson and Starlin Castro.
On the defensive end, Alfaro has continuously impressed all season long. Among Marlin position players, Alfaro holds a remarkable fielding percentage of .991 that is second only to Curtis Granderson (who has yet to commit an error this season). However, in being a catcher, Alfaro has had 431 total chances this season compared to Granderson’s 76. This number for Alfaro is also significantly higher than Starlin Castro’s 278 total chances, which is the second-highest total on the team.
While his profound influence on the Marlins goes without saying, how exactly does Jorge Alfaro compare to the best catchers in the National League? Among qualifying National League catchers, superficial offensive categories mark him well into the top five in a large number of them. His batting average would be ranked fifth under Wilson Ramos’s .272, his home runs fourth under J.T. Realmuto’s 10, his on-base percentage fifth under Realmuto’s .331, and his slugging percentage fourth under Realmuto’s .455. These numbers aside, Baseball Savant ranks Alfaro in the 88th percentile for hard hit percentage, the 92nd percentile for sprint speed, and the 84th percentile for average exit velocity.
As of the most recent NL All-Star voting leaderboard published by MLB.com (another is coming on Tuesday afternoon), Willson Contreras is the runaway candidate for catchers by nearly 600,000 votes, with the next best vote-getters, Brian McCann and J.T. Realmuto, accumulating 269,963 and 206,442 votes, respectively. Among the top 10 vote-receiving catchers, Alfaro is nowhere to be found. The least-voted catcher in the top ten, Francisco Cervelli, held just over 54,000 votes, indicating that Alfaro is easily 800,000 votes away from being the top-voted candidate and at least 150,000 votes from being a top-three candidate.
With the new fan voting structure, it is critical to remember that the top three vote-getters receive eligibility for the Starters Election, which is a final vote that determines the All-Star Game’s starters. In a sense, the starting spot can still be an attainable one for Alfaro if he can find a way to make it into the top three, but he will need tremendous support for the fans to be able to do so. Regardless, it is very possible that he will represent the Fish as a reserve.
The Longshot Picks
Garrett Cooper (.304/.380/.480, 6 HR, 20 RBI, .860 OPS)
In a recent article, we labelled Garrett Cooper as “For Real”, and he has performed in every way imaginable to embody an All-Star-caliber player. He continues to shine defensively, and his hitting has drastically improved since his activation from the injured list following a left hand contusion. In only 14 at-bats going into the month of May, Cooper was hitless. His first pair of hits would come on May 15 against Tampa Bay, and everything skyrocketed from there. Cooper would ultimately hit at a .274 average during the month of May, giving him a .243 average overall for the season.
As if this was not impressive enough, Cooper’s upstick in production granted him more opportunities at the plate and, during the month of June, he has hit at a ridiculous .394 clip, shooting his batting average beyond the .300 threshold to where it currently lies at .304.
When it comes to his ability to produce and impact the game, there is no question as to whether Cooper is worthy of an All-Star appearance simply based on what he’s been able to contribute to the Marlins this season. However, what renders Cooper as a far-fetched and unlikely selection for the All-Star Game is his limited number of games in comparison to other qualifying players.
Despite missing only a brief amount of time with his injury, Cooper only has 121 at-bats. This total is the eighth-highest on the Marlins in 2019 and is over 170 fewer at-bats than Whit Merrifield’s major league lead. Because of a lack of opportunity, Cooper’s numbers don’t hold up in comparison to that of other NL outfielders and first basemen.
However, what if we were to project Cooper’s numbers across an at-bat total belonging to another outfielder, say Ketel Marte for instance? Marte currently leads all NL outfielders with 290 at-bats. Granted that Cooper continues to hit at his pace, across this number of at-bats, we could easily expect him to have roughly 14 home runs and 48 RBIs, making him an obvious pick for the All-Star Game. If this were the case, Cooper would have the tenth-highest home run total among NL outfielders, and the sixth-highest RBI total.
Unfortunately for Cooper, a lack of in-game opportunities has restricted his influence in the polls and anybody not following the Marlins would likely overlook him. Facing an even greater vote deficit in the outfield category than Alfaro does in the catching category, it is unlikely Cooper will be voted in, but his worthiness of being an All-Star is crystal clear.
Harold Ramírez (.322/.349/.438, 2 HR, 16 RBI, .787 OPS)
Another Marlin who will potentially suffer the same fate as Cooper due to a lack of in-game opportunity is Harold Ramírez. Nicknamed “Harry the Hit Machine” by his teammates and the Marlins broadcasting team, Ramírez has been an energetic catalyst for the Marlins on offense. Whether its his hustle down the line on every ground ball or his continuous string of multi-hit games, he has been nothing short of an amazing surprise for the Marlins in 2019.
Despite his production, his limited time at the plate is a detriment when being considered for the All-Star Game. Unlike Cooper who missed time due to injury, Harold Ramírez missed the first month of the 2019 MLB season in starting the season in Triple-A New Orleans. By the time he was called up on May 11, Harold had hit .355 with four homers and 14 RBIs in New Orleans, and has nearly replicated those numbers at the major league level.
In his short stint with the Fish, Ramírez has proven to be a prototypical leadoff hitter despite typically being held lower in the batting order. With a sprint speed ranking in the 94th percentile, it would be to Ramirez’s benefit to be more aggressive on the basepaths, especially because of how frequently he gets on base. Regardless, his ability to catalyze an offense, meet bat with barrel, and produce a remarkable batting average should reward him with an All-Star appearance nevertheless.
The Starting Pitching Trifecta
These three young starting pitchers all have less than a full season of pitching in the majors, but they have been fantastic thus far. While they have undeniably had their bumps in the road, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, and Caleb Smith have all been tremendous for a ball club in need of a silver lining with a relatively weak offense.
In many ways, Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith have had seasons opposite to that of each other. Whereas Caleb Smith dominated his first handful of starts, Trevor Richards struggled. Heading into May with six starts under his belt, four of which were losses, Richards’ ERA was soaring well above the 5.00 threshold. However, May proved to be a turnaround for Richards and his ERA for the month was 2.86. In June, Richards’ only blemish has been his most recent start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in which he allowed five earned runs in five innings pitched. Regardless, his ERA had dropped enough in his previous starts to maintain him at an ERA comfortably far from the 4.00 mark.
As previously mentioned, Caleb Smith’s season has been the reverse. With a 2.17 ERA heading out of April, Smith posted one of the league’s best ERAs in April and was dominating nearly every team faced. In May, Smith experienced quite the opposite, and his ERA for the month lied at 3.94. Combined with his spotty starts in May, Smith held one start in June prior to going on the injured list where he allowed four earned runs in five innings. Through it all, though, Caleb Smith has been dominant overall and his several nearly perfect starts have significantly outweighed the recent outliers.
Sandy Alcantara’s start to the season is comparable to that of Richards. While not being as continuously dominant as Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith have proven to be in 2019, his 3.73 ERA is a good one and there have been flashes of All-Star potential for Alcantara this season. On May 19, for example, the 23-year-old fireballer tossed a complete-game shutout against the New York Mets, punching out eight hitters, walking one, and allowing two base hits in what was an incredibly encouraging pitching performance.
Now, these ERAs are good, but are they great? Not necessarily. However, with a month to go before the All-Star Game arrives, there is more than enough time for these pitchers to string together a series of quality starts to drop their ERA closer to 3.00 and earn an appearance at the All-Star Game. This Marlins starting pitching trio all hold ERAs better than a number of renowned aces who can potentially make the All-Star roster, including three-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg and four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner. Of this trio, both Smith and Richards hold a better ERA than last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, and they are all less than half a run away from the ERA of last year’s NL Cy Young winner, Jacob DeGrom.
If the coming weeks are successful for these three pitchers (Smith could rejoin the rotation during this road trip, per FNTSY Radio host Craig Mish), at least one of them, if not all, can be a serious contender for a spot on the All-Star Game’s NL pitching staff.
While pitchers cannot be voted on for the All-Star Game, position players can be. The margin may be large for players like Alfaro, Cooper, and Ramírez, but with your help, your Miami Marlins can represent our team and city in the best way possible.
Click here to access the MLB All-Star voting ballot, and vote, vote, vote!