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Evaluating the All-Star cases of key Mets players

As All-Star voting gets set to begin, several Mets players have compelling cases to be voted in as starters.

New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

With All-Star voting beginning tomorrow, the Mets have the opportunity to do something that they haven’t done since 2006: send more than four players to the All-Star Game. Gee, I wonder if there are any other comparisons to be made between this team and the 2006 one.

This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, when your team stands atop the league standings, it stands to reason that they got there because of the elite performance of at least a few different players. But having more than two All-Stars in one year has been a rare occurrence for the Mets. It’s happened just four times since 2006—in 2007, 2009, 2016, and 2019—and often they’ve simply been grateful for the rule that requires each team to have at least one All-Star representative. We see you, 2014 All-Star Daniel Murphy. So we’re in unfamiliar territory when we are able to discuss the All-Star cases of several different Mets players and not be dismissed as raving homers.

As things currently stand, there are numerous different players on the team who deserve to be All-Stars. But A) players who deserve to be All-Stars don’t always get the nod for one reason or another, and B) it’s an entirely separate question whether these players deserve to be voted in as starters for their respective positions. In addition to their other All-Star woes, the Mets have not had a player selected as a starter for the game since 2013, when both David Wright and Matt Harvey got the nod. They have a strong chance of breaking that streak this year, but that will depend on the will of the voters.

Thus, with voting set to get underway, we decided to examine the cases of a few key Mets players. While the Mets have certainly gotten valuable contributions from other guys on their roster, the players below are the ones with the clearest All-Star credentials—and the ones who should in theory have at least a shot of being voted in as a starter. Which ones would be deserving starters? Which ones may have to settle for reserve spots? And which ones are at the biggest risk of finding themselves on the outside looking in? Let’s break it down.

Pete Alonso - 1B

Pete Alonso has gotten the lion’s share of attention amongst the fan base as far as potential MVP voting may be concerned, and it’s not too hard to understand why. His offensive numbers are certainly the sexiest, buoyed by his staggering 54 RBIs in 57 games. He also shares the National League lead with 16 home runs, and his current 151 wRC+ would be a career high. It should be a mere formality for him to get the second All-Star nod of his career and for him to defend his two-time title as Home Run Derby Champion. And the fact that Alonso is one of the bigger household names on the Mets thanks to those derby wins and his effusive personality means that he’s probably a guy that a lot of fans will happily vote for to start in the game.

However, if we’re being objective, Alonso unfortunately does not have much of a case to be the starting first baseman for the National League right now. The reason for that is the utterly ridiculous season that Paul Goldschmidt is having for the Cardinals. The six-time All-Star is also putting up career numbers with an 1.031 OPS, a 189 wRC+, and 2.9 fWAR—more than a full win over Alonso’s 1.6. If we’re looking solely at fWAR, then Freddie Freeman also ranks a bit higher than Alonso with 2.2—though that is likely largely due to his superior defense, as his offensive numbers are below Alonso’s.

Nevertheless, the season that Goldschmidt is having cannot be overlooked, and he is the deserving starting first baseman as things currently stand. If we want to look for reasons to give Alonso a fighting chance, we could note Goldschmidt’s .397 BABIP and wonder if a regression in that area might result in a slump which would allow Alonso to catch up. But we’re also talking about a player who has always run a higher-than-average BABIP (.348 for his career), so we’re simply looking at a repeatable skill to make hard contact. Expecting a significant regression is probably setting oneself up for disappointment, and given that Goldschmidt has plenty of name recognition in his own right, odds are that fans will give him his rightful spot in the starting lineup and Alonso will have to settle for a reserve role. But on the bright side, his place in the Home Run Derby is all but guaranteed.

Jeff McNeil - 2B

Jeff McNeil is in an interesting position as a guy who largely alternates between second base and left field. If we were looking at him as an outfielder, he’d be tied for second among all NL outfielders in fWAR (more on that later), and he’d have a very compelling case to start in left field for the NL. However, as of right now he has played more at second (34) than in left (21), and second base is where he should be listed in the voting. And in comparing him to the other second basemen in the league, it becomes a more complicated question whether he deserves the starting nod.

As things currently stand, McNeil is tied with Jazz Chisholm Jr. for second amongst all NL second baseman in fWAR (1.8), with Tommy Edman of the Cardinals being almost a full win above the two of them (2.7). Like McNeil, Edman also demonstrates some positional versatility, with Edman having played 14 games at shortstop this year. The fact that both have played in different positions may slightly skew their fWAR totals in ways that makes it a bit more complicated than it might otherwise be to directly compare them, and that’s before you bring Chisholm in the mix. McNeil does currently have a slightly higher wRC+ (135) than either Edman (126) or Chisholm (127), but they’re all close enough that any one of them could realistically be in front by the time the All-Star game takes place. If we’re looking at the more traditional offensive stats to try to deduce which one voters might be inclined to give an edge to, McNeil does lead this trio in batting average, but he also has the fewest home runs. Meanwhile, if we try to get a sense of how the three compare defensively at second, then McNeil does come up a bit short when looking at Outs Above Average (-1 in 263.2 innings compared to Edman’s 4 in 351 innings and Chisholm’s 5 in 336.2 innings). But again, it’s hard to make any firm judgments based solely on two months of defensive stats.

In the end, second base may be the toughest call amongst the bunch here. All three guys in question are exciting players who deserve to be All-Stars. The easiest thing to do would be to point to Edman’s fWAR lead and say that he currently deserves the nod, but this race is likely close enough that the equation could look very different just a couple weeks from now. From a Mets standpoint, one just has to hope that McNeil will continue to put up strong offensive numbers (regardless of where in the field he is playing) to make the case for himself, as it would probably be the easiest for him to get snubbed from the team due to both the aforementioned limited power numbers and the inevitable roster crunch that always leaves a few deserving players on the outside looking in. One potential example of how the roster construction may work against him: The Reds will need to send at least one player to the game, and second baseman and former Mets legend Brandon Drury currently leads the team with 1.2 fWAR. Despite having slightly worse numbers, it’s conceivable that he could get one of those infield roster spots at McNeil’s expense.

Francisco Lindor - SS

Here is where it becomes more easy to be firmly pro-Mets in our evaluations. To put it simply, Francisco Lindor not only deserves to be an All-Star, but he should be the starting shortstop for the National League team. After a disappointing first two months with his new team in 2021, Lindor has since been everything the Mets had been hoping for when they acquired him from Cleveland. This year, he’s leading all NL shortstops in most major categories, including homers, runs, RBIs, and fWAR. He has been a major part of the Mets offense both in terms of getting on base for others and driving in runs himself, and he is doing that while still providing the steady defense that he is known for. Other shortstops—like Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson—are also having strong seasons which deserve recognition, but their overall numbers do not quite measure up to Lindor’s.

The case here goes beyond just the numbers, however. Lindor remains one of the most exciting all-around players in all of baseball, and he remains the face of a Mets team that is currently at the very top of the standings. That is the type of player that the All-Star game is meant to highlight, as it will draw further interest in a player and team that figures to be in the hunt for October this year—and hopefully in future seasons. Lindor getting the nod as the starting shortstop would thus be the right decision based on both the numbers and the entertainment and narrative elements that always makes the league drool. Thus, Mets fans should feel absolutely no sense of bias in smashing the vote button for Lindor. He is the rightful choice in every respect.

Brandon Nimmo - OF

Remember when I said that McNeil would be tired for second in fWAR if we listed him as an outfielder? Would anybody care to guess who he’d be tied with? If you guessed his own teammate Brandon Nimmo, congratulations—you get a cookie.

Nimmo leading all NL outfielders with the sole exception of Mookie Betts would probably be surprising for any non-Mets fans. Those of us who have gotten to watch him day in and day out, on the other hand, know what kind of player he is capable of being when he stays healthy—and thus far in 2022, he has thankfully mostly avoided major injuries [knocks furiously on wood]. He has taken advantage of his unusually good health by playing in his usual Brandon Nimmo way of being a perfect leadoff hitter, getting on-base and helping to make things happen for the Mets’ offense. His wRC+ currently stands at 129, which is tied for fifth in the FanGraphs leaderboards for outfielders and would be fourth if you remove McNeil from the list. He’s put up those offensive numbers while also providing perfectly serviceable defense in center (2 OAA in 404.2 innings—and based solely on the eye test, it does indeed look as though he has made some considerable strides at the position). Playing that premium position certainly increases his overall value in comparison to some of his competition.

In looking at the overall list of NL outfielders, Betts is obviously the safest of safe picks for the first spot in the starting outfield. But then it gets more complicated. Even though he is currently slightly down in the leaderboards with 1.1 fWAR, it wouldn’t be at all shocking for Juan Soto to get a starting nod in voting thanks to his name recognition and his still impressive—if slightly below career average offensive—numbers (134 wRC+). And anyway, it wouldn’t shock anyone if Soto went on an offensive tear that shot him up the leaderboards and made him a deserving pick.

If that scenario does end up playing out, that would leave just one more spot in the starting lineup. One can probably make reasonable arguments for a few other guys, including Ian Happ for the Cubs and Mike Yastrzemski for the Giants, whose numbers hover in the same general areas as Nimmo’s. The good news for Mets fans is that those two, along with most of the other guys who could conceivably be in the running for the spot, are not previous All-Stars—meaning it’s unlikely that voters would gravitate towards them due to familiarity over potentially more deserving options. Perhaps Nimmo will get a slight boost over those two for playing on the team with the best current record in the league, but certainly it seems as though this vote could go in a number of different directions.

And in the end, while it’s hardly a runaway call, it seems reasonable to say that Nimmo is ultimately as deserving of that starting spot as anybody else. The biggest thing working against him is the lack of gaudy power numbers that voters might expect from an All-Star outfielder (his ISO of .138, while not terrible, is well below other contenders—including Happ and Yastrzemski). Indeed, Nimmo’s game has never been particularly sexy—but it’s always been effective, and we’re seeing that this year as much as ever. With the exception of Betts, nobody in the mix is producing significantly better overall offensive numbers than him, and the things he does well along with his center field defense are enough for him to be right behind Lindor as the second most deserving All-Star starter on this Mets roster.

BONUS: Edwin Díaz - RP

Okay, we’re cheating a little bit now, since Díaz—being a relief pitcher—won’t actually be eligible to make the All-Star team via fan voting. Still, in addition to the above four players, Díaz is a guy whose numbers justify an All-Star nod. In looking at the other closers in the National League, there are certainly a few guys who seem likely to rank higher on the priority list for roster spots—Josh Hader still hasn’t given up a run all season, for instance, and David Bednar and David Robertson seem likely to be representatives (potentially the only ones) for their mediocre teams. But Díaz is going to be one of the guys in the conversation for the remaining spots. He has been a dominating force in the Mets’ bullpen, with his sky-high K/9 rate of 16.28 ranking just a mere 0.01 points behind Devin Williams for first in the National League. While he has blown a save here and there, he has thus far largely avoided the kind of meltdowns that we’ve seen from him in years past, and thus his overall numbers (2.38 ERA with 11 saves—tied for fourth in the NL) accurately represent the stabilizing presence he’s been in the ninth inning for the 2022 Mets.

Of course, we’ve seen Díaz go on some rough stretches in the past, and going on one anytime in the next month would be enough to doom his All-Star campaign before it even firmly begins. Amongst all of the players discussed here, the pressure will probably be most firmly on Díaz to maintain or improve his current numbers if he wants to get the nod for Los Angeles. But amongst all the players discussed here, it might be the most purely satisfying to see Díaz get the recognition, given the struggles he endured earlier in his tenure in New York. Seeing him take the mound during an All-Star game—ideally with a couple of his Mets teammates behind him—would be sure to bring a smile to a lot of our faces.