Here’s who should rep the Detroit Tigers at the MLB All-Star Game

Detroit Free Press

The 2023 MLB All-Star Game is almost upon us; the 93rd Midsummer Classic between the American League and National League is set for July 11 in Seattle.

But first, well, they’ll need the rosters.

The starters were announced on Thursday night, and to no one’s surprise, there were no Detroit Tigers among the starting nines. Still, every team is guaranteed at least one All-Star representative.

Who will the Tigers’ be? Gregory Soto, their two-time All-Star, is now an Philadelphia Phillie, so the competition is wide open. At least, it’s as wide open as a team that’s, entering Saturday, 11 games under .500 — but only five games out of the AL Central lead! — could make it. It’s pretty telling that the franchise’s leaders in pitching and position player WAR this season, Eduardo Rodriguez and Riley Greene, have maintained their leads despite spending a month on the injured list.

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But, again, someone has to rep the Tigers in Seattle. So who’s it going to be? We’ll find out on ESPN (and at freep.com) at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. But before then, here’s our top candidates, in order of likelihood (all stats entering Friday):

Honorable mentions

RHP José Cisnero: The ERA (2.03) is nice, but the inherited runners allowed to score (10 of 19) isn’t.

OF Kerry Carpenter: He’s clearly the Tigers’ best hitter this season, but he has played just 39 games.

C Jake Rogers

The buzz: If we were building a lineup to take advantage of platoon splits (or sweet mustaches, now that he’s regrown his), Rogers would be in; his 1.119 OPS (in 48 plate appearances) vs. lefties ranks seventh among all batters with at least 40 PAs, and the names in front of him — Ozzie Albies, Matt Chapman, Ezequiel Duran, Luis Robert Jr., Jorge Soler and Orlando Arcia — contain more than a few likely All-Stars. Unfortunately, there are righties pitching for the NL, too, and Rogers has just a .605 OPS against them. Odds: 1,000-1.

1B Spencer Torkelson

The buzz: Yeah, the .223/.305/.392 slash line isn’t pretty, especially for a first baseman. (His wRC+ of 94 ranks 14th out of 16 AL first baseman qualified for the batting title.) But a hot series in Texas boosted his counting stats; he finished June as the Tigers’ leader in runs scored (36), home runs (11) and RBIs (39) — as well as walks (33) and strikeouts (80). Just what you’d expect out of the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, right? (Do not look at the stats for the 2019 No. 1 pick…) Odds: 500-1.

OF Matt Vierling

The buzz: Well, the semi-viral voting campaign didn’t work — Vierling didn’t even crack the top 20 among outfielders — but he’s quietly having a productive season, when healthy. Vierling’s .273 batting average and  .338 on-base percentage lead the non-injured roster, and his .415 slugging percentage is third, while his 110 OPS+ shows a hitter who’s performing above average in the AL. That’s enough to at least get him a mention here, if not an All-Star berth. Odds: 400-1.

UTIL Zach McKinstry

The buzz: The Tigers’ June swoon has been a team effort, but few players epitomize it like McKinstry, who followed his .832 OPS at the end of May with a .493 mark in June (with a slash line of .186/.214/.279, 20 strikeouts and three walks). The CMU product’s performance this season — especially considering his ability to cover some injury-created gaps in the outfield — has basically been “house money” for the Tigers and president of baseball operations Scott Harris, but in baseball, like the casinos, the longer you play, the more likely the house is to win. Odds: 300-1.

RHP Tyler Holton

The buzz: He has worked his way into higher-leverage situations by throwing strikes — resulting in 36 strikeouts over 42⅔ innings — and not walking batters (only 14 free passes), while getting a bit of batted-ball luck (his .203 BABIP is well below the league average of .248). Holton has also been valuable in eating mid-game innings, with 20 of his 25 outings stretching over multiple frames. Only one reliever, among those with at least 40 innings thrown, has a lower ERA than his 2.11. Odds: 100-1.

DH Miguel Cabrera

The buzz: His .236/.321/.319 slash line doesn’t even live up to the low bar of his 2022 first half —.287/.324/.346 — that earned him a special selection to last year’s All-Star squad by MLB’s commish. Still, Cabrera has been one of the Tigers’ best hitters in June, with an .865 OPS, nine walks and 11 strikeouts. We can’t rule out another sentimental selection here in Miggy’s final season. Odds: 50-1.

RHP Jason Foley

The buzz: The next pitcher on this list has gotten the bulk of the high-leverage work, but no Tiger has been handed more runners by manager A.J. Hinch than Foley — 23 in all, and just six of those have scored. Foley doesn’t have dynamite strikeout numbers — just 30 in 35⅓ innings — but he’s positively stingy with free passes; only seven batters have drawn a walk from him: three in April, one in May and three in June, as Foley has dropped his ERA to 2.29. Odds: 25-1.

RHP Alex Lange

The buzz: A month ago, he seemed like a lock, entering June as the reigning AL Reliever of the Month after posting a 0.84 ERA with 17 strikeouts over 10⅔ innings in May. And then June happened, with Lange suddenly unable to find the strike zone; he walked nearly as many batters in June (10) as he did in March, April and May combined (11). And a lot of those runners came around to score, resulting in 12 earned runs in just 9⅓ innings — an 11.57 ERA. Still, he’s the Tigers’ closer — OK, technically not, as Hinch doesn’t officially have one, but no Tigers pitcher has faced more high-leverage work this season — and none of the 11 runners he has inherited this season have come around to score; that could count for something as the commish’s office builds a bullpen for Dusty Baker for the Midsummer Classic. Odds: 2-1.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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