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Gabe Kapler vouches for 4 Phillies as potential All-Stars


Rhys Hoskins has 18 home runs in 2019. (Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

Though another election may be on the minds of many Americans tonight, it’s officially “Election Day” in the baseball world. After narrowing down the finalists last Friday, MLB opened the polls for All-Star Game starters at 12 noon ET Wednesday. Said polls will close at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. Zero Phillies are on the finalists ballot.

Of course, every team is required to have at least one All-Star representative, so someone from the Phillies will be in Cleveland on Tuesday July 9 for the midsummer classic.

Wednesday, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was asked which of his players are worthy of being selected.

“Rhys Hoskins comes to mind, as a guy that just gets on base consistently,” Kapler told the collective media Wednesday, including Dave Uram of KYW NewsRadio 1060.

Entering Wednesday evening, Hoskins was slashing .270/.399/.536 with 18 home runs, 52 RBIs, 56 walks and a 2.1 fWAR. The problem for the 26-year-old – who competed in last year’s Home Run Derby – is that first base in the National League is a crowded position. Per FanGraphs, Hoskins has been the fourth best everyday first baseman in the National League in 2019, behind Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Hoskins homered in wins on Monday and Tuesday, catcher J.T. Realmuto has just four hits in his last 29 at-bats. In many ways, selecting All-Stars in the middle of the season is a flawed practice, but right now, it’s hard to make the case that Realmuto not playing in the All-Star Game would be a travesty. But Kapler says that more than just Realmuto’s .262 batting average and 10 home runs should be factored into the equation.

“J.T. Realmuto’s play behind the plate has been tremendous,” Kapler said of Realmuto, who the Phillies acquired in February. “Sometimes when you don’t have the entire offensive package working or clicking, defense should stand out. From a catching perspective, I don’t think there’s a better defender in all of baseball than J.T.”

Kapler may have a point. Even if Realmuto’s offensive numbers have been relatively underwhelming, FanGraphs still says he’s been the second best catcher in the National League. His defense has been his calling card, as he’s posted 10 defensive runs saved and thrown out 23 would-be basestealers. Still, it’s fair to wonder how many people outside of Philadelphia are aware of that, and there’s certainly a scenario where the only two catchers selected to the National League All-Star team are Milwaukee Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal and Chicago Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras.

The other two candidates that Kapler suggested were Zach Eflin, who has been the Phillies best starter in 2019, and Hector Neris, who has been the rock of a Phillies bullpen that has been ravished by injuries.

Eflin, 25, has two complete games and a 3.26 ERA, but his 4.38 ERA suggests that some regression is coming. It may have started to come Monday night.

Neris, who is coming up on the one-year anniversary of his demotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, may be the Phillies best bet as an All-Star. The 30-year-old righty pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the Phillies extra-inning win over the Mets Wednesday night, lowering his ERA to 2.41. He’s converted on 16 of 17 of his save attempts. Pitchers, of course, aren’t voted on by fans, so it’s hard to know how Dave Roberts’ National League staff feels about the matter.

The Phillies haven’t had multiple All-Stars since 2013, when Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee represented the team at Citi Field. That trend seems likely to continue for another season.

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