ASG debate: Semien or Escobar at SS?
*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until voting on the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot 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! ***
In one way the All-Star debate about shortstop in the American League is a classic: a player making his mark in his first full season (Marcus Semien of the Athletics) vs. an established veteran (Alcides Escobar of the Royals).
Semien is making a strong impression in what may be a breakthrough season for him with Oakland. But Escobar has a couple of built-in advantages in this argument.
The Kansas City club established itself last year, winning the AL pennant after a 29-year absence from the postseason. With that success, individual Royals players gained higher profiles. At a recent point in the All-Star balloting, five Royals were in first place in the voting. One of them, understandably, was Escobar.
The A's, meanwhile, have qualified for the postseason in three straight seasons. But at this point in 2015, they are last place in the AL West, with the league's worst record. With the Royals just one game off the pace in the AL central, team visibility and success provide one distinct edge for Escobar.
And for anybody who regards shortstop as a defense-first position, which is precisely what it has been historically, Escobar again has an advantage.
Semien may have considerable promise, but this season he also has a league-leading 19 errors. Escobar has a much more plausible five. Escobar's range rating is 3.95 to Semien's 3.79. Plus, Escobar has a history of making plays that are nothing less than sensational. Voters have seen these plays. Escobar's defensive body of work at this point is not merely larger than Semien's, it is also simply better.
Offensively, Semien has a slight edge. His slash line is .278/.319/.431 to 270/.305./.365 for Escobar. Semien's offensive WAR this season, according to Baseball-Reference, is 1.0 to Escobar's 0.7.
Overall, Semien, who was obtained in a trade with the White Sox in the offseason, is seen as having a high ceiling, who could eventually emerge as a player with a combination of speed and power.
But the voting for the 2015 All-Star teams is not about projections of future greatness. Escobar, who was obtained in a trade with the Brewers in December 2010, has already established his value as a shortstop on a pennant-winning team.
As far as performance this season, Escobar has been the steadier, more reliable shortstop. And at this position, which is so essential to a team's success, that component is the key difference-maker.
There may well be a future season in which Semien becomes the standout choice as the starting All-Star shortstop for the AL. But this season, the logical candidate for that honor would be Escobar.
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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.
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