Avisail Garcia making good case to start in All-Star Game

It has been 20 years since the White Sox last had a position player elected by fans as an American League starter in the All-Star Game.

Outfielder Avisail Garcia might become the first Sox non-pitcher to start since Frank Thomas in 1997, and he’s putting up a good fight by the numbers on the field and in the ballot box.

Garcia was running fifth among AL outfielders in vote totals released last Tuesday, in a close race behind the Indians’ Michael Brantley and the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts for the third outfield spot behind runaway leaders Aaron Judge of the Yankees and injured Mike Trout of the Angels.

How does Garcia stack up with the AL’s top outfielders? Let’s look at the numbers, starting with old-school stats and working up to WAR.

Garcia’s .332 batting average, which ranks fourth in the AL overall, is third among outfielders behind Judge’s .344 and Trout’s .337. His 42 RBI trail only Judge’s 47 among outfielders, and his 10 home runs are tied for 11th.

To use more inclusive stats that take into account walks and extra-base hits beyond homers, Garcia’s .920 OPS trails those of four outfielders: Trout (1.203), Judge (1.168), the Yankees’ Aaron Hicks (1.013) and the Rays’ Corey Dickerson (.959).

Garcia also ranks fifth behind the same outfielders with a 149 OPS+, which is OPS adjusted for ballparks and normalized so that 100 is league average.

Runs created, which more accurately weighs the relative value of each offensive outcome from a hit-by-pitch to a double play and includes stolen bases and caught-stealings, sees Garcia tied with the Astros’ George Springer at 43. That’s fourth among AL outfielders behind Judge (65), Trout (59) and Dickerson (53).

Fans focus almost entirely on offense in their votes, but Garcia also has been a little above average on defense with three runs saved. And despite his one steal and two caught-stealings, he has been good enough on the bases to be on the positive side with two runs from baserunning, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

To tie it all together with offense, defense and baserunning, we can look at wins above replacement. Among AL outfielders, Garcia’s 2.8 bWAR is tied for third with Dickerson and Hicks, trailing only Judge (4.1) and Trout (3.4). The Yankees’ Brett Gardner (2.6) is in the same neighborhood.

What about the outfielders who lead Garcia in the voting and aren’t named Judge or Trout? Betts is close with a 2.5 bWAR. A difference of three-tenths of a win is by no means a firm dividing line, and you can’t blame fans for voting for an established star over a breakthrough player. After all, this is the All-Star Game, not the All-Hot-Start Game.

Brantley, at 1.2, is not among the leaders. He’s slashing .289/.350/.418 for a .768 OPS that translates to a 98 OPS+, slightly below the league average.

Metrics are close enough among Garcia, Gardner, Dickerson, Hicks and Betts that they’re not shouting ‘‘Avi must start!’’ But does he belong in the conversation? Absolutely.

Follow me on Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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