While voting for the All-Star game ends tomorrow, I will still be producing these articles to discuss who I believe should have the starting nod and who should be on the team. Up tonight is the American League hot corner. This is a position that requires great reflexes coupled with a great arm, and, being a corner infield position, it is expected that this will be a position of hitting strength. All of the men being considered here are exceptional at their position and are all deserving of being in the conversation. Voting numbers can be found here.
#1. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 3,073,541
Beltre leapt into first place since the last update, leading by almost 400,000 votes, and it has been well deserved. Since Beltre signed a one year deal with the Red Sox in 2010, he has been one of the most consistent third basemen in the game, showcasing unbelievable glovework coupled with an ability to hit for average and power. His power numbers really spiked after a down year in '09 where he only managed to put 8 out of the park. Since then he has gone deep 73 times. Below is a picture of how Beltre has adjusted an begun hitting more pitches for power.
Beltre is well known for his ability to go down on one knee and muscle balls out of the park. If you haven't seen it before, here is a link to see one from his Red Sox days.
Beltre is not without fault though, as he sports a much higher groundball rate versus left handed pitching than righties, which has hurt his average versus southpaws.
This has not been too much of a problem, but if he can increase his flyball rate versus lefties, especially on the outside part of the zone, he may find that his average could increase even further. Now on to the stats.
71 G, 274 AB, 42 R, 90 H, 17 2b, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB, 16 BB, 34 SO, .328 AVG, .361 OBP, .533 SLG
Beltre could also afford to be a little more patient and draw some walks to boost the on-base percentage, but if he continues to get hits when he puts the ball in play, I can't really blame him for being a free swinger. Beltre continues to be an all-star on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and I wholeheartedly believe that he should have a place on that team when all is said and done.
#2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2,692,047
Something has to be said for Cabrera's durability after the move back to third. He has played in 74 games, even after taking a hard hopper to the eye in spring training, which happened to leave a nice battle scar. The move back to third also hasn't hurt his ability to rake. Cabrera is one of those unique hitters that has power to all fields, and he is showcasing that this season. He has hit seven home runs to left, four to center, and four to right field, totaling up to fifteen big flies. Below is a chart of the spread of his hits throughout the season.
Cabrera has taken advantage of pitches left up in the zone and driven the ball all over ballparks, including a mammoth 514 ft Home Run to left field off of Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox. Cabrera has also managed to get hits off the hard stuff, averaging .350 against pitches with a velocity of at least 91 mph. If the velocity drops down below that, he tapers off, hitting only .273.
As long as pitchers continue to throw him the hard stuff, Cabrera will remain an all-star caliber hitter. Lets look at his stats.
74 G, 299 AB, 43 R, 91 H, 22 2b, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB, 26 BB, 46 SO, .304 AVG, .363 OBP, .528 SLG
Cabrera has Beltre beat in overall power numbers, but that could be a 25 at bat factor that has allowed the Tigers' third basemen more opportunity to hit the long ball. Cabrera is mashing the ball this season, but I do not believe that he should be considered the started over Beltre.
#3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees 1,748,534
Compared to the first two guys on this list, the rest have been underwhelming. ARod hasn't been awful, but he also hasn't been able to live up to the performance of Cabrera and Beltre. Strangely enough, ARod has seen a concentration of pitches located dead in the strike zone, but he hasn't been able to capitalize to boost his average.
ARod has been excellent in one strike counts this season, with an ISO rate of .323.
71 G, 264 AB, 40 R, 70 H, 6 2b, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB, 32 BB, 63 SO, .265 AVG, .355 OBP, .436 SLG
Comparing his stats to the vote leaders, he is matching them well in the HR numbers, but he lacks in the total extra base hit department. He is drawing walks at a higher rate, which has put his OBP in the same range, but the SLG is down 100 points. ARod has had an amazing career, but this is not an all star year for the third baseman.
#4. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays 1,688,509
Before a major injury sidelined his season before the thirty game mark, Longo was on pace to be better than any third baseman in the league. He had drawn one less walk in that time than Beltre has all season and he had more doubles than ARod has compiled. His AVG, OBP, and SLG would be at the top of the list for AL third basemen, but he hasn't played in over a month and probably will not be ready for the all-star game either way. His BABIP was way up, so it is conceivable he may have tailed off a bit. Here is a look at that heat map.
23 G, 82 AB, 15 R, 27 H, 7 2b, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB, 15 BB, 17 SO, .329 AVG, .433 OBP, .561 SLG
I'm a huge Longoria fan, and I hope he tears it up in the second half.
Wild Card: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
Readers must understand that he is not the everyday third baseman and has played more of a DH role, but I believe he is worthy of consideration here. He has 21 HRs! That ranks him near the top of the league, nevermind among 3rd basemen. Also, his .572 SLG ranks him fifth in the American League. His power numbers versus southpaws has been unreal, with a .371 ISO.
It's almost as if anything in the zone is getting hit for extra bases with this guy. If you don't believe it, look at the numbers:
71 G, 269 PA, 44 R, 77 H, 14 2b, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, 28 BB, 53 SO, .286 BA, .361 OBP, .572 SLG
This guy has been revitalized. If he can continue this pace throughout the year, the Blue Jays will have quite a formidable lineup with Encarnacion hitting behind Bautista.
1. Adrian Beltre
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Edwin Encarnacion (due to less starts at 3b)
5. Brett Lawrie (Encarnacion's teammate and starting Blue Jays Third Baseman is having a good year)