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Will Robert Jr. and Burger make the All-Star team?

by Nik Gaur

2023 MLB All-Star voting is well underway, and given the underwhelming season by the Chicago White Sox, even the high-performing players are not receiving many votes from fans. The only White Sox players who rank among the top vote recipients at their positions for the American League (AL) as of Monday, June 12th’s update are Yasmani Grandal (10th amongst catchers) and Jake Burger (10th amongst designated hitters). Somehow, despite ranking second in the AL in fWAR among outfielders, Luis Robert Jr. is not even in the top 20 of voting.

Of course, all-stars are not solely determined by fan voting. While the game’s starting players are chosen based on these votes, fan opinion has no bearing on the benches and pitching staffs, which are selected by player ballots and the commissioner’s office. Each team is guaranteed at least one representative, so the White Sox will not be shut out.

Since it is safe to assume that no White Sox player will be voted in by fans (Shohei Ohtani, the leader at DH, has over 16 times as many votes as Jake Burger), who has a chance to make the team?

First, given that the White Sox are in third place in a laughably bad division, it is unlikely that the team will be given more than one all-star. It is possible, but the team would need to play solid baseball between now and July 2nd (when rosters are announced), in addition to strong individual performances from the deserving players. Robert Jr. and Burger certainly belong in the discussion, but could a strong finish to June put any other players in contention for a spot?

Dark Horses (0-10% Chance)

As mentioned, Yasmani Grandal is 10th in the voting for the catcher position. Grandal is quietly having a fine season, especially when considering how poorly he performed in 2022. However, Adley Rutschman figures to be voted as the (deserving) starting catcher, and a plethora of backup options such as Jonah Heim, Cal Raleigh, and Salvador Perez are all statistically more deserving of a spot than Grandal. Even if Grandal provided a 2021-esque run over these next couple of weeks, he would be a tough bet to make the team.

Lucas Giolito is another player that has had a strong 2023 after a disappointing 2022. He ranks 24th among AL pitchers with 1.3 fWAR, and his 3.54 ERA is the 19th-lowest among qualified AL starters. While solid, these figures are unspectacular. Giolito would likely only be a serious contender for the all-star team if the White Sox were a first-place team, and/or if several AL starting pitchers got injured/did not pitch in the all-star game due to scheduling issues.

Finally, the White Sox have a plethora of relievers with low ERAs that might get considered in years where the team had nothing else to offer and simply needed an all-star representative — call it “The Detroit Tigers predicament.” However, a lack of saves (typically valued in the process) hurts Gregory Santos, Keynan Middleton, and Kendall Graveman.

Realistic Contender (25-50% Chance)

Only one player will be listed here because he is one of two players that has performed well enough to be worthy of all-star consideration despite the team’s overall standing. That player is Jake Burger, whose 16 home runs are tied for sixth-most in the AL. Burger’s .902 OPS, 140 wRC+, and magnificent story of perseverance and hard work make him a very worthy all-star candidate.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems. First, Burger does not have enough plate appearances to qualify for rate statistics. As of this writing, Burger has 179 plate appearances in 2023 but would need 217 to qualify for leaderboards. While not a dealbreaker, it is very difficult for a player to make an all-star team without being a qualified hitter — a 140 wRC+ may not be enough to offset the lack of appearances. Yasmani Grandal, who did not make the 2021 all-star team despite similar production (at a position where elite offense is even more impressive), is an example of this. Of course, Burger’s lack of plate appearances is not fully his fault, but that’s another debate…

Next, all-star benches are not necessarily chosen with an equal preference for positions. Objectively, Burger is more fit for the all-star game than every DH in the AL aside from Shohei Ohtani. However, that does not guarantee that he will be chosen as a bench player. For instance, Miguel Cabrera is an eligible DH, and while he has not performed well for years, he is likely to be chosen for the all-star game by the commissioner’s office since this is the last season of his legendary career. Moreover, all-star game benches are not guaranteed to have a set number of players from each position — for example, if more outfielders are qualified than usual, sometime the eventual roster will have an extra outfielder at the expense of another position.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the White Sox are unlikely to have two 2023 all-star representatives (although it is not impossible). At 1.3 fWAR as a DH, Burger has had a plenty valuable start to the season. However, he has hardly been half as valuable as the team’s best player.

Likely All-Star (>51% Chance)

Luis Robert Jr. is second among AL outfielders with 2.6 fWAR. His 17 home runs are tied for third-most in the league, and he holds an .859 OPS and 132 wRC+ while several statistics have him rated as the best defensive outfielder in baseball.

While Robert Jr. is not receiving all-star votes from fans, his statistics should be enough to garner consideration from fellow players. If that is not the case, then the commissioner’s office may end up naming him an all-star to ensure the White Sox have a representative.

Robert Jr. has had a bit of a roller-coaster season, which could explain the lack of enthusiastic fan voting. However, given that he is sixth in the AL in fWAR among position players, it is hard to see him being left off the all-star roster. Even if he has another deep slump between now and the end of the month, his overall body of work is enough to warrant a selection, even against tough competition.

I don’t think fans are consciously trying to create a “Burger vs. Robert Jr.” conflict in their zealous campaigning for Burger — I want Burger to be an all-star too, and in an ideal world, both would make the team. However, I do believe fans should prepare for a scenario where Robert Jr. is the sole White Sox representative. While it would be disappointing to see Burger left off the roster, the White Sox simply have not played well enough to justify multiple all-star selections.

On the bright side, the Home Run Derby is always entertaining, and Jake Burger would surely be qualified to participate. Additionally, there are always injury replacements named to the roster in the week leading up to the all-star game, so even if he does not make the initial roster, there would still be a chance for Jake Burger to make the all-star team.

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Featured Photo: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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