Oakland Athletics: Multiple 2018 All-Star Contenders Hang in the Balance

Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie follows through on an RBI single in the eighth inning to score Dustin Fowler from second against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, June 3, 2018, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie follows through on an RBI single in the eighth inning to score Dustin Fowler from second against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, June 3, 2018, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images) /
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As media speculation regarding the 2018 All-Star selections continues to heat up, there is little agreement over how many of the Oakland Athletics will be making an appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

Simply put, the Oakland Athletics didn’t fare very well in 2018 All-Star fan voting. Historically based primarily on offensive statistics, fan votes for any of the A’s have been (understandably) low, with only one player breaking into the top five at any position. Not a lot of A’s are putting up hugely recognizable numbers. What’s more, not a lot of baseball fans outside of Oakland’s mid-sized, but highly localized market cite many A’s players as household names.

Alex Hall’s commentary for Athletics Nation yesterday quite rightly claims that the only lock for an Oakland player to appear in D.C. July 17th is Blake Treinen. Treinen was drafted by the A’s in 2011 but was sent to the Nationals in 2013 in a three-team deal with the Mariners. His first major league appearance in 2014, Treinen achieved notable success first as a starter and then in his transition to setup man roles. He was named the closer for the Nationals at the start of 2017.

Treinen’s return to the Oakland club in July of 2017 and presence on the 2018 roster was a highly anticipated addition to the bullpen. And his numbers have not disappointed.

Treinen boasts a 0.81 ERA with 22 saves in 44.2 innings pitched with an MLB-leading WPA hovering around an impressive 4.0 (WPA = win probability added, a statistic which factors context into a player’s performance in any given appearance) . Treinen has not allowed a run scored in his last ten appearances and his freakish sinking fastball garners league-wide astonishment (as John Shea’s recent San Francisco Chronicle article describes in all its wonder).

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Who Else Will Represent Oakland?

A July 6th ESPN article featuring the votes of five of their MLB contributors almost unanimously picked Lowrie as the reserve (Jose Altuve ran away with the starting position in fan voting, topping votes for nearly any position in either league) at second base with four of their five votes (Treinen received three). Lowrie’s season has without question been spectacular, with 15 home runs, 61 RBI’s, .291 batting average, and sits in the MLB top-ten in multiple offensive categories including RBI’s, doubles, WPA, and offensive WAR.

At 34 years-old, this would be Lowrie’s first All-Star bid and the Oakland A’s first All-Star at second base since Phil Garner had the honor in 1976. Many experts seem to Lowrie as a more valuable player than the Kansas City Royals’ Whit Merrifield, arguably his most immediate competition at second base.

Undoubtedly Oakland’s premier player, defensive-phenom third baseman Matt Chapman has also been projected to be in line for significant votes, but it seems to me highly unlikely that he will beat out Houston Astro’s Alex Bregman or Royal’s Mike Moustakas for the spot. Though his defense is (in my humble opinion) far superior to either player, his offense has just been too streaky and his numbers are considerably lower in all notable categories. But if you’ve watched the youngster Chapman at the hot corner, especially during offensive hot streaks (he went 4-4 last night in another rallying comeback, this time to top the Cleveland Indians), you’ll know to expect that he will likely represent the A’s in All-Star games for years to come.

Hall suggests another interesting possibility, that of first baseman Matt Olson as a possible reserve, mostly because of the dearth of competition at the position and the need for every team to have representation. (Yahoo MLB columnist Jeff Passan wrote on July 6th that White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu will probably secure the spot, adding tongue-in-cheek that it “deserved to go to Oakland’s Matt Olson, but the rules state that every major league team must be represented. Yes, the White Sox are still technically a major league team”). In any case, an Olson selection seems unlikely, but would be a pretty nice surprise for A’s fans who celebrated Yonder Alonso as their solo All-Star representative at first base last year.

Next: A's bats getting hot late

All of this speculation is to say that although the Oakland Athletics may not have starting caliber All-Stars at any position in 2018, they do have a host of exciting up-and-coming players, including young guys with limitless potential as contenders for multiple reserve spots. And this doesn’t even include the possibility of seeing Khris “Khrush” Davis in the Home Run Derby. All-Star weekend could showcase the talents of a number of Oakland A’s, but more than likely, the Athletics will see just Treinen and Lowrie this All-Star Break.