Earlier today, the Chicago Cubs sent out a Tweet announcing the beginning of All-Star season, which includes the ability for Cubs fans to vote up to 5x per day to see their favorite players represent the North Side of Chicago in Colorado on July 13th.
And that got me thinking …
All-Star season is upon us! #CubTogether
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 3, 2021
… Which Cubs players actually have a shot at being chosen and/or starting in the game? We know this team has turned things – big time – around lately, but it’s been a group effort, including contributions from the 4th/5th/6th man up on the depth chart in certain cases.
From where I stand, this can be broken down into two main categories (Note: You don’t get to vote for pitchers, but we still discuss).
Virtual Locks (At the Moment)
This is the easy part. Kris Bryant is an OBVIOUS choice for the All-Star game, as he’s arguably already one of the favorites for 2021 NL MVP. The tricky part is at which position. He’s listed as a third baseman, so that’s the group of players he’ll have to beat, but he doesn’t actually even qualify as a third baseman on FanGraphs right now.
1B – 10 games, 8 starts, 75.0 innings
3B – 15 games, 14 starts, 121.2 innings
LF – 15 games, 11 starts, 91.1 innings
CF – 8 games, 5 starts, 47.2 innings
RF – 13 games, 12 starts, 103.0 innings
He’s started 14 games at third base so far this season, but has 28 starts across the outfield. Obviously, this shouldn’t affect his All-Star qualifications … in fact, it *should* bolster it, but that’s not really how this works. But whatever. The guy is slashing .317/.398/.598 (169 wRC+, 3rd in NL) with 12 homers (t-7th), 36 runs scored (t-6th), and 36 RBI (t-5th). He’s an All-Star. Period.
The other really easy choice is Craig Kimbrel. The Cubs closer is behind only Josh Hader in terms of WAR among NL relievers and is third in the NL with 13 saves. Meanwhile, his 0.78 ERA trails only four total pitchers (including Dan Winkler) and he’s the closer on a first-place team. And he’s got the name recognition and the big bounceback story. Add it all up and I have no doubt that he’ll receive plenty of votes this season.
But this is where things get tricky.
The Borderline Guys
Anthony Rizzo (129 wRC+, 1.2 WAR), Javy Baez (117 wRC+, 1.5 WAR), and Willson Contreras (120 wRC+, 1.3 WAR) are each undoubtedly in the conversation for the 2021 All Star game at their respective positions, ranking among the top 3(ish) guys by most stats depending on your preferences. Javy Baez’s recent homer binge (14 HRs, 2nd in the NL) and glove will keep him in the race. And Anthony Rizzo is currently out-playing his usual competition (Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt). Meanwhile, Willson Contreras has started each of the last two All-Star games and is having a fine year. He’s in the race.
But as of today, I’m not sure any of those three exactly deserve to be *the* guy. Cubs fans can make it happen, mind you, but they’d really need to stuff the ballot boxes.
The same goes for a number of Cubs relievers: Ryan Tepera (the NL Reliever of the Month for May) and Andrew Chafin are both theoretically good enough to be All Stars, but it just doesn’t happen for non-closers too often. And don’t forget, Dan Winkler (0.46 ERA) is the NL reliever ERA leader this season (and that’s a qualified position) and Keegan Thompson isn’t too far behind (0.66 ERA). But some of those guys will come back down to Earth, and, again, non-closers just don’t get picked often. So maybe they deserve love, but they probably won’t be All-Stars.
With all love to every other Cub for which you can vote right now (Nico Hoerner, Joc Pederson, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ) … I don’t see it happening. Hoerner probably could’ve had a chance if he had stayed healthy, but he’s missing a lot of time and has fallen off the radar a bit. Joc Pederson and Ian Happ have performed well, but not well enough. And Jason Heyward has been underperforming or injured for pretty much the entire year.
Meanwhile, the starters have had some nice performances, especially post-May, but I just don’t see it happening right now for any of them. Maybe Adbert Alzolay can keep on keeping on and generate some buzz because of his story (A Cubs Homegrown Pitcher is an All-Star!), but he’ll need to be given a longer leash and I don’t know if David Ross is ready to do that.
So ultimately, I think you can probably count on at least two all-stars, and maybe one or two other guys the way things break. All things considered, that’s not half-bad.