When the first two replacements for the MLB All-Star Game, two of the game’s biggest snubs were righted, but each player took very different paths to get to their first All-Star nod.
The Atlanta Braves selected Charlie Morton in the 3rd round of the 2002 MLB Draft. As a young 18-year-old the Braves scouting department saw a bright future ahead for the young pitcher. Morton slowly worked his way up the ranks and reached the Majors six years later.
Still, Morton never quite came into his own. After struggling with an ERA above 6, the Braves sent Morton in a package to the Pirates for Nate McLouth. Morton became a mainstay at the back-end of the Pittsburgh rotation for the next six years.
The Phillies wanted some rotational depth in 2016 and acquired Morton from the Pirates, but four starts into 2016 a season-ending hamstring injury ended his Phillies tenure. Philadelphia declined his $9.5m club option and made Morton, a free-agent for the first time in his career.
Once he became a free-agent many expected him to have to settle for a minor league deal to prove his health. His hamstring injury required surgeons to drill holes into his pelvis and even Morton was worried about his future. At most, a team would offer him a small major league deal to fill out the roster.
Then came the Astros. Houston’s scouts had seen Morton add noticeable velocity before the injury and thought he had untapped potential, unlike your average 33-year-old pitcher. They blew away the market and Morton signed a two year $14m contract.
The Morton signing was panned by analysts around the league, but the Morton has far exceeded that contract. Morton had the best season of his career in 2017 that culminated in a world series ring.
Somehow, he’s been even better this season. He already has thrown 115 innings and struck out 146 batters with an ERA under 3.00. While he’s talked about retiring after this season, he will have some very large offers if he wants to keep playing.
Today, Morton gets to celebrate. Major League Baseball announced that the 11-year veteran is heading to his first All-Star game in place of Corey Kluber.
In the same press release, MLB announced Rays budding star Blake Snell would be joining Morton in Washington. Snell, like Morton, will be playing in his first career MLB All-Star game, but his path has been quite different than Morton’s.
The Tampa Bay Rays selected Blake Snell in the supplemental first round out of high school, but unlike Morton, was a consensus top 100 prospect in just a few years. Going into the 2016 season, he was one of the best prospects in baseball. He didn’t disappoint.
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Snell was at the top of the Rays rotation by the end of the season and hasn’t looked back since. This season, though, he has taken another step forward. Establishing himself as the ace of the Rays staff. He was leading the American League in ERA just a few days ago and even after getting roughed up yesterday against Minnesota ranks in the top 5.
When the original All-Star rosters were announced, Snell was one of the biggest snubs and teammate Chris Archer took to social media to share his frustration. Now, Snell will get his rightful place in the game.
The Houston Astros’ and Tampa Bay Rays’ fans each received great news today. Both teams have another starter heading to the MLB All-Star game. Each player will be making their first appearance, but how they’ve made it is the beauty of baseball.
Some players explode onto the scene from the start and others can take over a decade to find their true form. Either way, their greatness will be on display at Nationals Park on July 17th for the MLB All-Star game.