With voting set to end tomorrow night, no Phillies have received enough votes to earn a starting role on this year’s National League All-Star team. In fact, no Phillie ranks in the top five in his position – or the top 15 for outfielders – in votes received.
Voting isn’t exactly a fair measure of merit – Kyle Schwarber has received nearly a million votes and ranks eighth among outfielders even while playing poorly enough to recently be demoted – but no one is clamoring for the inclusion of any particular Phillie no matter the selection criteria. Given their place as baseball’s worst team, it’s no surprise that the Phillies lack an apparent superstar.
Last year’s representative, Odubel Herrera, has had a disappointing season at the plate. His .258/.295/.402 slash line is a step backward from his previous tenure in the big leagues, and he ranks 40th among National League position players in fWAR. Even then, that value is boosted by his defensive acumen, a trait unlikely to warrant a trip to Miami this year.
The rules being what they are, though, someone has to go.
If it were up to Phillies fans, Aaron Altherr would be a worthy candidate. In a season set aside for the emergence of bright young prospects and player development, Altherr is the only up-and-comer to make the most of the opportunity. His wOBA (.369) and wRC+ (127) are both miles ahead of other qualified Phillies hitters, and he’s tied with Tommy Joseph for the team lead in homeruns with 12. He’s the only player on that same list whose wRC+ is even above average.
Altherr was never going to win the fan vote, and he’s unlikely to receive much attention in the player voting, either. The offensive stats that seat him as the best Phillies hitter rank him 10th among all National League outfielders. While that’s worthy of praise, it puts too many other deserving candidates ahead of him, many of whom have more renown.
That leaves the manager selection to decide who represents the Phillies, which means it will be up to Cubs manager Joe Maddon to figure out which Phillie is both deserving of an All-Star appearance and of use to him during the game.
Out of sheer practicality, the plainest conclusion is that Pat Neshek will be the Phillies’ selection.
As they’re currently constructed, All-Star rosters can stash plenty of arms. In 2016, the National League carried 16 pitchers, which should leave room for the one whose 0.59 ERA is the best in baseball among all pitchers (min. 30 IP). With how frequent pitching changes are in the modern game, managers can cycle through a handful of pitchers without leaving anyone feeling slighted for playing time, which is a convenience not afforded to position players.
It’s not just a matter of convenience, though. Neshek has allowed only 2 runs to score this season and, while his time in Philly is unlikely to last beyond the trade deadline, his overall effectiveness tops even Altherr’s relative to other players at their respective positions, as reflected in his 746 ERA+.
Despite being an entirely deserving pick, Phillies fans might be disappointed if Neshek is the player to represent them at the Midsummer Classic. Not only might it feel like they’re getting a guy in based on a technicality when he doesn’t win the voting outright, but Neshek also is not a building block for the Phillies. He’s not the homegrown talent the team desperately wants to see blossoming as soon as possible, nor is he a player who will remain in the franchise for long. Instead, Neshek’s elite performance has been, ironically, a reminder of how many other things have gone wrong and of all the one-day stars whose day still hasn’t come.