The All-Star Game is a special event that brings together the best players in the world on one stage, but sometimes those players aren't household names just yet.• VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot Every club has at least one under-the-radar All-Star candidate, and it's no different in the
The All-Star Game is a special event that brings together the best players in the world on one stage, but sometimes those players aren't household names just yet.
• VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot
Every club has at least one under-the-radar All-Star candidate, and it's no different in the American League Central. Here's a look at stealth candidates for each AL Central club for the 2018 All-Star Game, which will be held at Washington's Nationals Park on July 17.
The case for him: On the position-player side, there is nothing surprising about what Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor or Michael Brantley are doing at this point. The intriguing All-Star cases for the Indians are on the pitching front, and Bauer is at the top of that list. Heading into Thursday's off-day, Bauer ranked in the top five in the AL in Fielding Independent Pitching, strikeouts per nine innings and homers allowed per nine innings. He is also in the top 10 in the AL in a variety of other categories. Bauer has been Cleveland's most consistent starter behind ace Corey Kluber.
The case for him: Merrifield has emerged as one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. Merrifield led the AL in stolen bases in 2017, and he has already swiped 14 bags this season. After a slow start, Merrifield has a .289 average with a .368 on-base percentage and a .418 slugging percentage, entering Thursday. He can beat you with his speed and his power. Merrifield has also emerged as perhaps the top super utility player in the league -- he can play all outfield and infield positions. He's a smart player who is aggressive on the basepaths.
The case for him: Candelario, acquired in the trade that sent reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, got a taste of the Majors in 2016 and '17, but he has really put it together offensively this season. The 24-year-old has shown an impressive blend of power and patience at the plate, hitting .267/.361/.513 with nine homers and 26 RBIs through his first 50 games this season.
The case for him: Escobar has played well in the absence of starting shortstop Jorge Polanco, who is serving an 80-game suspension. Escobar's 24 doubles lead the Majors. Escobar has filled in capably at third and shortstop, but it's his surprising power -- despite his small stature -- that makes him an intriguing All-Star candidate. Escobar set a career-high with 21 homers last year, and already has 11 this season. He is having a breakout season in the last year of his contract with the Twins.
White Sox:Reynaldo Lopez
The case for him: Remember when Jose Quintana consistently put up quality starts for the White Sox but had a .500 individual career record to show for it? Well, this season Lopez has taken over that harsh role. Despite posting a 3.42 ERA over 12 starts and 71 innings pitched, Lopez has a record of 1-4. His ERA also is skewed by 13 runs given up over 4 2/3 innings in starts against the Pirates and Indians. He has held opposing hitters to a .212 average with 54 hits yielded, and beyond Jose Abreu, Lopez is the most deserving All-Star candidate on the White Sox.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.