Fans are back in ballparks, the White Sox and Cubs are among baseball’s hottest teams and All-Star voting is upon us.
Balloting began last week, opening the annual question: Should you choose the best players or vote, vote, vote for the home team?
Is the game to honor players or to entertain fans?
For a middle ground, you could favor the home team but focus on those with numbers near the top of their position.
This week, let’s zero in on Sox who fill that bill (through games Sunday), using Fangraphs’ wins above replacement and weighted runs created plus as guides — fWAR for a player’s total game, wRC+ for offense-first voters.
Jose Abreu, first base
The reigning MVP is second in the American League with 49 RBI. Abreu’s 125 wRC+ signifies offense at 125% of the league average, and his 1.4 fWAR puts him on pace for 3.5.
The fWAR and wRC+ aren’t superstar level, but they’ll do for fans who find comfort in voting for an established star.
Problem is, baseball’s best player in 2021 plays Abreu’s position. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads MLB with a 4.1 fWAR and incredible 203 wRC+, not to mention in home runs, RBI, times on base, OPS, OPS+, runs created and more.
Nick Madrigal, second base
For old-schoolers who love batting average, Madrigal’s .305 leads AL second basemen. His 1.4 fWAR and 117 OPS+ put him in the “very good” category.
But Madrigal’s two home runs and 11 walks aren’t enough to compete with league leaders Marcus Semien (2.7 fWAR, 142 wRC+, 15 homers, 26 walks) and Jose Altuve (2.1, 132, 12, 26). Of course, Madrigal wouldn’t be able to play anyway because of a hamstring injury that has him on the 60-day injured list.
Tim Anderson, shortstop
Like Abreu and Madrigal, Anderson has been good but not league best.
With a .299 BA after .322 last season and .335 in 2019, Anderson is at 1.7 fWAR and 115 wRC+. Xander Bogaerts (3.1 fWAR, 153 wRC+) and Carlos Correa (2.5, 144) are the leaders, partially because of Bogaerts’ 12 homers and Correa’s 11 to Anderson’s six.
Yoan Moncada, third base
It’s a close call with the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, but Moncada has been at the top of the AL third-base class.
Moncada has homered only five times, but his .402 OPB has fueled a 134 wRC+ that’s a near match for Ramirez (136), Rafael Devers (135) and Joey Wendle (135). Add 5.0 Fangraphs defensive runs, and Moncada tops AL third basemen with 2.6 fWAR to 2.4 for Ramirez and 1.9 each for Devers and Wendle.
Yasmani Grandal, catcher
Can a .157 hitter be an All-Star?
Despite the low BA, Grandal leads AL catchers with a .398 OPB. Fifty-one walks in 182 plate appearances will do that. Toss in 10 home runs, and Grandal’s 135 wRC+ leads Mitch Garver (129), Salvador Perez (127) and Mike Zunino (121) among AL catchers.
With defense considered, Grandal and Zunino are tied for the lead with 1.6 fWAR.
Grandal is vote-worthy and Moncada tops his position, but Abreu, Anderson and Madrigal all face opponents with better numbers.