This is the third of my annual series of League Minimum All Star teams, pretty self-explanatory; the best players who earned around MLB’s minimum salary in 2011. Last year’s minimum salary was $414,000 so all the players chosen for the 2011 League Minimum All Star Team, earned within $100,000 of that.
Firstly though, a look at how last year’s team performed in 2011.
|Position||Player||Team||2010 WAR||2011 WAR|
|SP||Clay Bucholz||Red Sox||5.4||2.3|
|RP||Daniel Bard||Red Sox||3.3||1.7|
There isn’t much I can say on any of these players that hasn’t been said before. Overall, and as expected, the 2010 team produced less WAR in 2011, although there are a few notable exceptions; Stanton, Wieters and Kershaw all performed exceptionally in 2011. Equally though, a few players fell off much more than should be expected; Shin-Soo Choo and Colby Rasmus suffered pronounced drops in performance.
Now, without further adieu, the 2011 League Minimum All Star Team:
|C||Alex Avila||2008 163rd||Tigers||$ 425,000.00||5.4|
|1B||Carlos Santana||Amateur Free Agent||Indians||$ 416,600.00||3.9|
|2B||Danny Espinosa||2008 87th||Nationals||$ 415,000.00||2.5|
|3B||Pablo Sandoval||Amateur Free Agent||Giants||$ 500,000.00||6.1|
|SS||Elvis Andrus||Amateur Free Agent||Rangers||$ 452,180.00||3.5|
|OF||Andrew McCutchen||2005 11th||Pirates||$ 452,500.00||5.5|
|OF||Mike Stanton||2007 76th||Marlins||$ 416,000.00||5.7|
|OF||Peter Bourjos||2005 313th||Angels||$ 414,000.00||5.0|
|Bench||Allen Craig||2006 256th||Cardinals||$ 414,000.00||2.9|
|Bench||Starlin Castro||Amateur Free Agent||Cubs||$ 440,000.00||2.2|
|Bench||Matt Joyce||2005 360th||Rays||$ 426,500.00||3.0|
|Bench||Cameron Maybin||2005 10th||Padres||$ 429,100.00||2.9|
|Bench||Matt Wieters||2007 5th||Orioles||$ 452,250.00||4.0|
|SP||Clayton Kershaw||2006 7th||Dodgers||$ 500,000.00||7.0|
|SP||Doug Fister||2006 201st||Mariners - Tigers||$ 436,500.00||5.7|
|SP||Gio Gonzalez||2004 38th||Athletics||$ 420,000.00||5.0|
|SP||Ian Kennedy||2006 21st||Diamondbacks||$ 423,000.00||5.5|
|SP||Jeremy Hellickson||2005 118th||Rays||$ 418,400.00||4.2|
|RP||Craig Kimbrel||2008 96th||Braves||$ 419,000.00||3.0|
|RP||Jonny Venters||2003 907th||Braves||$ 429,500.00||3.7|
|RP||Fernando Salas||Undrafted Free Agent||Cardinals||$ 400,000.00||2.3|
|RP||Tyler Clippard||2003 274th||Nationals||$ 443,000.00||3.4|
|RP||John Axford||Amateur Free Agent||Brewers||$ 442,500.00||2.7|
|RP||David Robertson||2006 524th||Yankees||$ 460,450.00||2.9|
|RP||Greg Holland||2007 305th||Royals||$ 350,000.00||2.6|
|Total Salary||$ 10,795,480.00|
Catcher: Alex Avila
If anyone ever asks you what a ‘breakout’ season looks like, this is it; Alex Avila’s unprecedented offensive explosion. His 2011 OPS was 239 points higher than his 2010 OPS and 100 points higher than his OPS in the Minors. Despite lingering questions about his defence, Avila hits very well for a guy John Sickels graded a C+ in 2009.
1st Base: Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana’s rise to prominence should surprise much fewer people, he spent 2 and a half seasons smashing Minor League pitching in the Indians’ system, reaching No.10 on Baseball America’s prospect list pre-2010, before getting called up to the Majors in late in 2010. Santana split time between 1st Base and Catcher in 2011, and although I’ve listed him at 1st Base here, he received 2/3 of his playing time at Catcher in 2011. This is testament to both the remarkable depth at the Catcher position in this year’s team and the lack of talent at First.
2nd Base: Danny Espinosa
Espinosa is an odd player. He hit .236/.323/.414, good for a .178 ISO (21 HRs, 29 2B, 5 3B) combined with above average defence. Not really a prototypical Second Baseman but this extraordinary skill set allowed him to produce 2.5 WAR. 2011 was something of a transitional year for Top Second Base prospects; Dustin Ackley and Jemile Weeks both got around 90 games in the majors and both hit well. Expect to see one or the other in next year’s team.
3rd Base: Pablo Sandoval
He’s BAAAACK! Fat Ichiro (which is apparently one of Sandoval’s many nicknames), last appeared in my inaugural list in 2009 at Catcher. Yet, after a pretty catastrophic 2010 which saw him lose 200 points of OPS, Sandoval returns to the team in his final year of eligibility. Having signed a 3 year/$17.15mil extension on 17th January, if the Kung Fu Panda continues to hit at his 2009 and 2011 levels he will be well worth the value of his contract.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
HE’S BAAAACK TOOOO! Another player from the 2009 Team returns. In 2011 Andrus combined his usual stellar defence with actually-not-that-bad offense (.347 OBP being his best feature) and above average base-running. Unfortunately this is also Andrus’ last year of availability for the League Minimum All Star Team, he is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and is likely to be rewarded for his part in the Rangers’ two American League championships.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Peter Bourjos, Mike Stanton
I take the Gold Glove approach to my OF in these posts; three best players, regardless of position in the OF. If it’s good enough for Rawlings its good enough for me. Although this year you could have a well above average defensive outfield with these players. McCutchen has been on the fringes of selection since his rookie season in 2009, I strongly considered him both years after he posted 2.9 WAR in 2009 and 4.0 WAR in 2010. In 2011 he had another very good season and earned his first All Star invitation. Bourjos is a phenomenal Centre Fielder for the Angels, with well above average defence and hitting above average for his position. It will be interesting how the Angels (famous for their ability to manage position logjams e.g. Vernon Wells and Mike Napoli) deal with Bourjos when the extraordinarily talented Mike Trout forces his way into Anaheim. Last year, I made some pretty bold claims about Mike Stanton
<!--[endif] --> I will stake my reputation on Stanton, one day, leading the league in home runs.
And though he didn’t do that, he did hit .262/.356/.537 with 34 HRs.
Ace: Clayton Kershaw
I would like to admit that I was wrong about Kershaw and I would like to apologise for my transgressions. Last year I said that
In all likelihood; Kershaw is the real ace going forward
What I should have said was; "Clayton Kershaw is going to be a SUPERACE" and then just a series of expletives. I should have then immediately made a bet with VEP that Kershaw was going to win the Cy Young in 2011 and I could now have forced him to have some sort of humiliating sig. Kershaw has appeared on every League Minimum All Star Team since its inception in 2009 and it is with great sadness that I write about him here for a final time. As he will receive at least $6.5mil through arbitration.
Fister is the first player to be included in the League Minimum Team All Star that had been traded midseason, he was also drafted 201st overall back in 2006. The Cardinals have never had the 201st overall pick.
To be honest, the 2-3-4 guys in this theoretical rotation could easily be switched around in any order, only Kershaw and the number five guy are distinctly better or worse than the others. Gonzalez pitched for the A’s last year (as well as making an appearance on the 2010 version of this very team) and he pitched the best season of his career, posting bests in IP, ERA and ERA+, earning himself the dubious honour of being traded to the Nationals a month ago.
"But wait!" Your inner-Jon Heyman might be saying. "How can you put a guy with 21 Wins at 4th Starter?!? Doug Fister only won 11 games, and 8 of those were for the Tigers, if he was a really clutch pitcher, like Kennedy, he would have won more games with the Mariners!" Why, you might be now thinking, having silenced your Inner-Jon Heyman, is Aranathor constructing this awkward straw man argument? Because I wanted to point out how awesome Fister was with the Tigers in 2011; he added two hitters to his K/9 and walked only FIVE hitters during his entire 10-start stint with Detroit, if you’re counting at home that’s K/BB all the way to 11 and a little bit further. Kennedy meanwhile, showed the world that maybe the Yankees didn’t win the three team mega-trade between Arizona, Detroit and New York back in 2009.
There was a 4-way tie for the 5th starters spot this year between; Jhouyls Chacin of the Rockies, Justin Masterson of the Indians, Matt Harrison of the Rangers and Hellickson of the Rays. They all had very good seasons, all of them posting around 4 WAR. Hellickson won out though mostly because, out of all of those teams, I like the Rays best. And he won the Rookie of the Year, which helped a bit.
Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters
I would usually divide these two into Closer and Set Up Man. But I think that they’re pretty inseparable, between them they had 6.7 WAR and a Rookie of the Year and were an indomitable pair at the back of Atlanta’s Bullpen.
The Washington Nationals are another team with a fearsome 1-2 punch at the back of the Bullpen between Clippard and Closer Drew Storen. Although it is my opinion that Clippard is probably the better pitcher of the two and the cynic in me thinks that Clippard is only pitching set up because the Nationals want Storen (10th overall pick in 2009, a full 264 picks before Clippard) to Close as soon as possible.
John Axford and David Robertson
Two guys who, by all accounts, shouldn’t be as good as they are. Axford was picked up as an Amateur Free Agent in 2006 by the Yankees, he was released by New York and signed by Milwaukee in 2008. Two years - and one Trevor Hauffman implosion - later he’s the closer for the Brewers. Robertson’s rise from 524th overall pick to guy with ERA of 1.05 is equally improbable.
Greg Holland and Fernando Salas
There was another 4-way tie here, this time for the last two spots in the Bullpen; Holland, Salas, Chris Sale of the White Sox and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians. I picked Salas because he’s a Cardinal (duh) and Holland because... well I don’t have a reason. Those three guys are pretty damn similar.
We all know that Craig can HIT. But he also has a good line in impersonating ancient horrors of the deep:
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
Cameron Maybin, Starlin Castro and Matt Joyce
Maybin was traded to the Padres before the 2011 season and it was in San Diego that he had his best season, hitting .264/.323/.393 with decent defence and stealing 40 bases. Castro is an all-bat SS for the Cubs, which sums him up precisely. It seems like an eternity ago that Joyce was traded straight up for Edwin Jackson. Since then Joyce has taken 4 years to break into the Rays MLB team and Jackson has played for 3 different teams (and probably a 4th next season), yet its still hard to say who won that trade.
Backup Catcher: Matt Wieters
2011 was the first year that Wieters actually looked like SUPERPROSPECT Matt Wieters, Saviour of the Orioles. It is also his second year as backup catcher for the League Minimum All Stars. He is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, so will always be remembered as the Second Catcher who couldn’t for this team.
Just a couple of notes: 1) if the salary is less than $414,000 then the player was called up during the season and there is no way of determining their actual salary, hence the values are an educated guess based on service time. 2) all WAR values are bWAR. 3) the projected win-loss record is based on the total WAR added to the projected W-L record of a replacement level team (a team with a .320 winning pct.) This should be taken with a huge great cliff face of salt.