White Sox no longer require charity for All-Star consideration

If you were a time traveler and told me before the season that James McCann would have the best All-Star case among White Sox position players in mid-June, I might have believed you, but I’d demand to know what rare disease unearthed from the melting tundra consumed the rest of the clubhouse. If you added that Lucas Giolito is making a run at starting the All-Star Game, I’d then ask if the entire country was quarantined.

McCann is hitting .329/.376/.487 through 44 games, and while he’s been coming back down to Earth, the regression hasn’t been gentle enough to avoid rousing him from his dream season:

  • April: .357/.400/.536
  • May: .338/.372/.514
  • June: .250/.344/.321

A lot of that difference is randomness. McCann’s having better at-bats in terms of walks and strikeouts over his first eight games this month, but his BABIP is only .318, which is a marked decline from the .432 clip he ran over April and May. He’s still hitting the ball relatively hard, and if a couple balls that died on the warning track had a few feet more carry, his June numbers would be basically in line with his other months.

Even with the more ordinary fortune, McCann is running second in All-Star Game voting among American League catchers, and as long as regression doesn’t hammer him into the ground over the next couple of weeks, it seems as though he’ll continue to own a case.

I like following All-Star Game voting in the abstract, because it’s kinda fun to see how mainstays are judged against the random breakout seasons. My interest in actually voting for the All-Star Game has waned the more involved it gets, and the further it evolves away from punching a ballot with pen between innings at a game.

For the first time, Major League Baseball is using the first round of voting as a primary round, which will then result in a run-off “election” for the top three after June 21. That means twice the voting, in hopes that fans care twice as much, not half.

McCann and Jose Abreu are the only White Sox who are in the top three at their position at the first update issued by the league. McCann and Yoan Moncada are the players who have the best cases for top-three status. Tim Anderson is just outside it all, and he’d be the player I’d most like to see in a head-to-head-to-head vote, because the White Sox communications department will have the most material with which to launch an emotional campaign.

It’s a step forward in the rebuild that the White Sox have legitimate All-Star cases to discuss, rather than being an exercise in determining which player fulfills the one-per-team obligation. Four Sox position players have a shot, and let’s run through them in order of closest to furthest away.

Catcher: James McCann

  • Hitting: .329/.376/.487
  • Current position: Second
  • Rank in fWAR: Third

After a down year for catchers across baseball, McCann is part of a resurgent class of backstops who are hitting again. He’s in the cluster of catchers who can be considered among the best in the American League, although as long as Gary Sanchez is healthy, back with his bat and improved with the glove, it’s hard to see anybody overtaking him for the starting spot.

Top three is more within McCann’s grasp. He’s probably behind Mitch Garver, who is crushing McCann in the power categories despite 50 fewer plate appearances. McCann’s résumé holds up otherwise. He leads catchers in hitting, he’s tied for fifth in wRC+, and he’s having a decent year behind the plate as well. (FanGraphs’ value rankings also line up with Baseball Prospectus’ assessments, more or less.)

The competition doesn’t have him beat in terms of name recognition, either. Behind Garver and Sanchez, it’s Jason Castro, Robinson Chirinos, Pedro Severino and Omar Narvaez. Severino and Narvaez could be threats if they are their team’s lone representative, but it’s fair to say he’s on equal footing with the rest of the league.

First base: Jose Abreu

  • Hitting: .246/.293/.496
  • Current position: Third
  • Rank in fWAR: T-16th

While catcher has rebounded with vigor, first base is still a bit of a morass, which has allowed lesser names like Luke Voit and C.J. Cron to take the first two spots.

Abreu’s having a down year, but he’s got two of the three Triple Crown numbers going for him. He leads the crop with 52 RBIs (Edwin Encarnacion is second with 49), and his 16 homers is tied for second among first basemen with Voit (Encarnacion leads the way with 21).

Look any further, and Abreu’s having problems. The .246 average has dragged his OBP below .300, and when paired with bad defense, he’s lagging behind the rest of the league. He’s probably the most popular first baseman in terms of national name recognition, but it’s hard to make the case with a .293 OBP at an offensive position.

Voit is the leading vote-getter, and his case is more than the Yankee boost. Cron is among the many worthy Twins, while Encarnacion could be the Mariners’ lone rep. However, the best first baseman season appears to be coming from Carlos Santana, who’s hitting .286/.406/.530. He’s the only first baseman with an OBP that starts with a “4.”

Shortstop: Tim Anderson

  • Hitting: .314/.344/.480
  • Current position: Fourth
  • Rank in fWAR: Ninth

It’s a crowded field at short, and Anderson is running behind Jorge Polanco, Carlos Correa and Gleyber Torres for a primary position.

Had Anderson maintained more of his scorching April over the last month and a half, it could be a different conversation. Alas, he’s hitting a pedestrian .268/.306/.378 since the start of May, and is just 5-for-8 in stolen bases over these last 36 games. Even after this prolonged regression, Anderson is still boasting a career-best line for himself, but it puts him behind Polanco, Correa, Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts in terms of his offensive contributions, with Torres only trailing slightly. Anderson’s defense is a negative right now due to the league-worst error total.

Anderson still has a shot at the primary, because Correa had one of his ribs broken during a massage, and his unavailability could suppress enthusiasm. If Anderson can sneak in, the White Sox will have plenty of material for an emotional campaign.

Third base: Yoan Moncada

  • Hitting: .295/.348/.506
  • Current position: Eighth
  • Rank in fWAR: Tied for fourth

Finally, here’s a case where a White Sox player should be faring better than he is. Alex Bregman will make the starting vote a moot point for good reason, but one-tenth of a win separates the second spot from the fifth in terms of WAR.

Even if you set aside WAR and value offense more heavily than everything else like a typical voter, Moncada is right there with Hunter Dozier, Matt Chapman and … Tommy La Stella? Really? … for the for the second-best third baseman in the American League.

Yet even with La Stella on the ballot as a second baseman, Moncada is still running well behind. He’s behind the other three third basemen mentioned along with Gio Urshela, Rafael Devers, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marwin Gonzalez.

The good news is that third base has more parity than any other position, at least after Bregman. Fewer than 100,000 votes separates the third from the eighth spot, so Moncada can climb with a surge, even if it’s like a team that’s “only” five games out of the second wild card with five teams in between. If you are a fan of fairness and voting for the All-Star Game, Moncada probably deserves your support more than anybody else, assuming his back muscles support him as well.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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KenWo4LiFe

None of them will make it. Giolito and Colome will be the white sox reps. Unless they have some guys back out then maybe. 

Patrick Nolan

Not convinced Colome makes it.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Agreed. Pitching/Bullpen is always highly contested, with many teams getting their sole all star in that route. Colome deserves it so far though.

Patrick Nolan

Not sure Colome deserves it. Hand, Giles, Chapman, Greene, Osuna, all have better numbers among closers.

Colome is 45th in the AL in reliever fWAR.

Patrick Nolan

On that note, here is my list of the most overrated White Sox by White Sox fans

1) Alex Colome
2) James McCann
3) Jose Abreu
4) Charlie Tilson

Most underrated is harder because fans don’t tend to underrate their own players:

1) Leury Garcia
2) Juan Minaya
3) Ivan Nova

SonOfCron

Not sure I agree about Sox fans overrating McCann. I feel like most Sox fans are thrilled with the production thus far, and hopeful (without being optimistic) that some version of it continues. Not sure that qualifies as being overrated.
I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to mention him for all-star consideration, because at this point in time it’s warranted.

Patrick Nolan

If McCann’s BABIP were just a normal sorta-lucky value, like .350, we wouldn’t even be discussing his All-Star candidacy.

SonOfCron

But as long as it is, and as long as a lot of all-star voting is based on current slash numbers and traditional counting numbers, I’m not at all surprised by his consideration.
I’d be willing to bet the majority of those who frequent this site would project significant regression for McCann, which I think runs counter to his being overrated.

Lurker Laura

Indeed, Sox fans are ready to elect McCann the Mayor of Bridgeport for NOT being Dunn, LaRoche, [insert name here].

What metrics can’t show is his apparent part in Giolito’s rise. If that’s real, or just placebo effect, who knows.

PauliePaulie

McCann has been called the catcher of the future around here more than once. That’s pretty firmly in the overrated zone.

GoGoSoxFan

McCann has been called the catcher of the future around here more than once.

I must have missed both of those times.

As Cirensica

I agree with Leury. I actually think the White Sox should keep him even to times when this team is supposed to contend. He is a player with a plus glove, very versatile, fast, and decent with the bat. The kind of player that does a little bit of many things without being a star in any of them.

Patrick Nolan

I think he’d be great in a fourth outfielder role.

lil jimmy

Also Utility Infielder. Hits from both sides. Can pinch run. He’s a Swiss Army knife.

Trooper Galactus

The way Yolmer gets trashed on, I’d say he’s even more underrated than Minaya or Nova.

As Cirensica

Just extend McCann already. Can’t believe I want that, but even if the Sox finds better catchers in future years, having McCann as a 2nd catcher is a plus. The guys turn 29…welp…today! Young enough and I am quite doubtful the Sox have catchers in the minors. Collins?…not sure.

PauliePaulie

They do have another year of arb control.

As Cirensica

Then tendering him should be a no brainer.

Neat_on_the_rocks

With the Sox having Arb control through 2020 there is really no reason to rush to an extension right now.

As Cirensica

Forgot about the 1 year control left

PauliePaulie

Fangraphs updated their prospects ranking. Robert up to 27, Madrigal stays at 32 and Vaughn debuts at 46.
Dunning dropped from 50 FV to 45, Adolfo and Collins from 45 FV to 40+

As Cirensica

I read the other day a column by KLAW where he was listing teams that just drafted their #1 prospect with the recent draft (That is, their farm system was so weak, that they drafted their top prospect this year)… he mentioned Vaughn, and how it’s impossible for him to name him even 3rd best prospect of the White Sox before Robert, Cease, and Kopech. He seemed very impressed with Robert, and I expect KLAW to rank him very high when he does his top prospects rankings

Trooper Galactus

Robert should be a top-10 with every ranking system if he keeps this up. Most of the other top guys will have graduated from the list and his entire toolshed has been on display all season.

Trooper Galactus

Weird that Collins dropped considering he’s having a pretty decent year so far.

As Cirensica

He is gonna be 25 in Feb!

I guess they are penalizing Collins because of his age. Teams are graduating prospects at early age to harvest in peak years production at ridiculous low salaries. Having prospects at 25 still in the minors….not a good thing anymore

Brett R. Bobysud

Collins is also probably not gonna be anything more than a platoon 1B/DH at this point (because I don’t think anybody projects him as a catcher in the majors anymore).

lil jimmy

Based on things Jim has pointed out, Sept 1 looks like a call up date for Collins. DFA Yonder at that time as well.

PauliePaulie

He’s listed as a 1B, and by the tool grades they have for him it looks like they peg him as a platoon 1B/DH bat with contact issues.
He’s being out OPS’d by Goins, Orlando, Palka and Skole.
40+ is very fair.

Brett R. Bobysud

I’ve been voting for Moncada, Anderson, & McCann every day for the past week or so.

Unfortunately, I think McCann might be the only one of the 3 that has a shot.

Lurker Laura

I need to start voting.

As Cirensica

You will hate me. I never vote for this. I never watch the ASG nor the Hr derby. They stopped being interesting (to me) many years ago.

Lurker Laura

I don’t watch the HR Derby at all. I do watch at least part of the game, but I don’t vote most years. However, TA is one of my favorites, and I think Yoan and McCann deserve some fan love. So I will vote a few times this year.

PauliePaulie

Not sure if it’s Benetti and Stone blowing so much smoke, but I hadn’t realized Anderson had regressed back to old Timmay the last 5+ weeks.

Trooper Galactus

Holy shit, I didn’t realize that he hasn’t drawn a single walk yet this month. Isn’t necessarily striking out a ton (about 21%) but the BABIP is way down (.269).

As Cirensica

Speaking of ASG….For whatever is worth, not sure if it has been mentioned, but Omar Vizquel was named coach on the Future’s game prior ASG.

Trooper Galactus

So, just a thought, but I remember somebody mentioning the possibility of trading for Matthew Boyd. My initial impression was that Detroit is gonna ask for the moon and we aren’t in a position to part with top prospects, but thinking about it maybe I was hesitant to dismiss the possibility. Consider this:

White Sox receive – Matthew Boyd

Detroit receives – Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, Steele Walker, and PTBNL

Yeah, losing Kopech and Dunning hurts, but Kopech won’t be back until next season and lord only knows what he’s going to look like post TJS. Dunning should be a bit safer as he isn’t reliant on a power arsenal, but he won’t be back at all until 2021. As for Walker, yeah, I like the kid a lot, but there needs to be a solid third piece and Walker isn’t liable to arrive for another two seasons, by which time you’d hope one of Basabe, Adolfo, Rutherford, Gonzalez, or some free agent would be a legit option.

For the White Sox, we get a guy who was solid last year and has morphed into ace form this season and has another three seasons of control beyond this one. Imagine going into the second half with a front three of Giolito, Boyd, and Cease, with Lopez and Nova rounding out the back end. That would get me legit excited about the team’s prospects this season next year would have a lot fewer questions in the rotation assuming everybody can stay in one piece. Is this just stupid crazy to think about, or does it make some sense for both parties? Detroit is in a better position to be patient with the timelines for these players, more so than we are, I would think.

PauliePaulie

Detroit should get offers that are equal on talent, while being much safer than 2 guys who haven’t thrown a pitch with their new UCL’s and a near 23yo doing nothing in high A. Also, looking at their prospect list, I’m sure they’d prefer bats to arms.

Trooper Galactus

If Detroit gets equal offers on talent, I’d be interested to see who’s ponying up. I could see safer offers, but it would be hard to find more upside in a trade than Kopech/Dunning offers. But yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody came out of nowhere and blew their doors off.

lil jimmy

trading in division will bite you in the ass every time. It’s like dating your ex girl friend’s sister.
Just don’t do it.

Trooper Galactus

The Yonder Alonso trade gives this comment merit.

Right Size Wrong Shape

My dad just celebrated his 42nd wedding anniversary with his ex-girlfriend’s sister.

gibby32

From the guy who says that he doesn’t trust the breakout of James McCann, it’s curious that you trust the breakout of Matthew Boyd. I wouldn’t make this trade under any circumstance. I only hope that I’ll remember it so that I can bring it up to you a year or two from now. Hahn has his flaws, but I’m glad he’s there as opposed to you.

Trooper Galactus

Boyd was a good pitcher last season and has become better despite offense being up as well. McCann was so bad last season the Tigers cut him and what he’s done so far is a massive outlier for him. And I wouldn’t necessarily do this, but it was something that (like you) I initially dismissed outright but on further consideration thought maybe it wasn’t totally crazy.

And if the bar for our GM is, “better than internet commenter who does not have a legion of scouts or over a decade of experience in an MLB front office,” then that’s why so many fans have come to accept mediocrity.

gibby32

I won’t repeat myself on McCann; reasonable people can disagree on that point. As to the “trade”, better to say that you would not necessarily do it; I still believe that it should be dismissed outright. Kopech’s ceiling is a #1; Dunning’s ceiling is Boyd; Walker’s ceiling is Tatis (I kid, but you get the point.) But your point about a comparison with Hahn is curious. We all spend time on these sites, some more than others, implying that we are smarter than Hahn. It is the coin of the realm. But then you want to defend yourself against the possibility of being wrong by saying that he has more resources? Heads I win, tails you lose. It seems to me that you’re undercutting the whole premise of this site. And the whole “accept mediocrity” meme: how do you, presumably, demonstrate your lack of acceptance of mediocrity? Are you an Astros fan? Do you refrain from going to White Sox games? Do you pout and boycott White Sox sites? Or is it simply that you complain incessantly about front office and managerial decisions, while conveniently saying that they have more resources than you do when you are proven wrong. If any of the above, have at it. I won’t be joining you. I’ll be at the game.