ASG debate: Gordon vs. Cain
Former No. 2 pick in top form despite wrist surgery; teammate a highlight waiting to happen
*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
For a long while there, the Royals' All-Star representation used to be of the token variety. They'd send one guy selected by the American League skipper because, well, every team had to be represented. So a Gil Meche here or an Aaron Crow there would fill a reserve role, and that would be that.
You might have noticed that things have changed with Kansas City. The Royals captivated our collective imagination last October and have surged to start this season. Now the difficulty is not so much finding a guy on this roster worthy of his Midsummer Classic moment but rather winnowing down the list of worthy candidates.
The hardest choice is in the outfield, where Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon could be vying for the same votes. With guys like Mike Trout, Michael Brantley and Adam Jones off to particularly satisfying starts, it's hard to imagine Kansas City fielding two-thirds of the AL outfield.
Gordon has been the face of the Royals for some time now. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Draft shifted from the hot corner to left field, reinventing his reputation to become one of the game's great all-around players.
One of the many great things about Kansas City's postseason run is that it gave the nation at large a greater appreciation for how much Gordon has meant to this franchise and fan base. Though his .266/.351/.432 line wasn't all that eye-catching, FanGraphs' WAR calculation pegged Gordon as the third-most valuable player in baseball last season. That's how much the advanced math appreciated Gordon's defensive contributions.
This year, Gordon has bounced back from offseason right wrist surgery to improve upon his 2014 offensive totals (he took a .270/.377/.453 line into the week), and he remains a defensive wonder. Just the other day, he made one of his patented crashes into the wall for a terrific catch against the Reds, and his dive into the stands against the White Sox last month remains one of the highlights of the 2015 season.
But the crazy thing about the Royals is that they could probably get by just fine with a subpar defensive option in either outfield corner. It sometimes seems Cain is capable of covering all three positions simultaneously.
That's an exaggeration, of course, but Cain invites exaggeration with his electric play. Again, this was one of the things you had to love about last October. Here was a guy who didn't even take up baseball until his sophomore year of high school, and with a series of clutch hits and incredible plays on the game's biggest stage, he established himself as a star.
This season, Cain has solidified his star status. He took a .303/.353/.426 line into the week, to go with a team-high seven stolen bases. And though the metrics obviously think highly of Gordon's defense, they are absolutely head over heels in love with Cain's glove -- so much so that Cain entered the week trailing only Trout in FanGraphs-calculated WAR value among full-time AL outfielders.
So take your pick among these Royals regulars. Because defensive metrics are so uncertain, I'd lean toward Gordon's more potent and more established offensive profile. But one way or another, Kansas City is likely to be well represented in Cincinnati this summer.
You can vote for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online.
Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.
Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities.
The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.