Take note of these All-Star-worthy players
Mix of veterans, rookies merit serious consideration for roster
The 2009 All-Star Game was tied at 3 when Orioles outfielder Adam Jones entered in the fifth inning as a defensive substitution. Jones' sacrifice fly three innings later scored Curtis Granderson and provided the American League with the eventual winning run. Granderson, it's worth noting, entered the game in the sixth.
The lesson: All-Star starters generate many of the pregame headlines, but it's often later additions to the roster who determine the outcomes of Midsummer Classics. Given that the past four All-Star Games have been decided by one run, it is critically important to get the best group of players in each dugout on July 13 at Angel Stadium.
While the ultimate decisions about All-Star non-starters rests with the game's managers -- this year, the Yankees' Joe Girardi and the Phillies' Charlie Manuel -- fans can influence the skippers' decisions by giving deserving players robust vote totals, thus forcefully injecting them into the conversation. With that in mind, here are several deserving players in each league who have the talent to affect an All-Star Game in the late innings but are at risk of being left off the roster, having not received their fair share of votes in fan balloting to this point.
Alex Rios, outfielder, White Sox: Rios is a spot of consistency for the South Siders, who are coming off back-to-back sweeps of the Pirates and Nationals. Rios, whom the White Sox acquired off waivers from the Blue Jays late last season, was maligned for his production in previous seasons, relative to his sizable contract. But he's earning his money in 2010, with a .317 batting average and 13 home runs. Moreover, Rios' strong defense and speed -- he already has 20 steals in 2010 -- could put the AL in the catbird seat during a close game.
Ty Wigginton, infielder, Orioles: Wigginton trails only Robinson Cano in home runs and slugging among AL second basemen, and he was hitting a solid .274 with a healthy number of walks. While his defense is not quite as strong, Wigginton can also fill in solidly at first base and third base, and he's a capable defender in left field. In a game where someone is likely to play out of his everyday position, it's useful to have a guy like Wigginton, who is credible in several spots.
John Buck, catcher, Blue Jays: When Buck was traded from the Astros to the Royals in 2004, part of the bounty exchanged for Carlos Beltran, he was viewed as a catcher who would get on base at a reasonable pace and mash the ball. It took several seasons, but that's exactly what Buck is doing in the first half. Through Sunday, Buck is the leader among AL catchers with 12 home runs, and his .271 average would be a career high. Plus, he bats right-handed, making him an intriguing pinch-hitting option if probable starter Joe Mauer runs into a lefty specialist.
Brennan Boesch, outfielder, Tigers: Boesch has been smoking the ball since he made his Major League debut on April 23. Boesch has 10 home runs and a .337 batting average, the latter tying him with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the lead among AL outfielders. Boesch has also been solid in Comerica Park's voluminous outfield. He trails another Rangers outfielder, Nelson Cruz, in slugging. Hamilton ranks third among AL outfielders in All-Star votes, and Cruz is fourth; Boesch, however, is not among the top 15.
Adrian Gonzalez, first baseman, Padres: It's hard to call Gonzalez underrated, but he can't seem to crack the National League's top five in voting among first basemen. Gonzalez is up there statistically, however, and was tied for second among NL first basemen in home runs through the weekend. Gonzalez, who is also second among NL first basemen in slugging, is perennially the most important cog in the Padres' attack, and he is always worthy of an All-Star nod.
Corey Hart, outfielder, Brewers: Pop-quiz: Who leads the NL in home runs and slugging? The answer, obviously, is Hart, the Brewers' right fielder, who has 18 blasts. His 53 RBIs were also good for second in the NL. In the Senior Circuit's crowded outfield picture, Hart's prolific homer and RBI totals give him a leg up. He could be a dangerous pinch-hit option late in a game with ducks on the pond.
Miguel Olivo, catcher, Rockies: If Olivo's offense weren't enough, he also provides elite defensive value. Olivo entered Monday tied for second among NL catchers in home runs, and his .302 average would be a new career high if the season ended today. Olivo shuts down baserunners when he's behind the plate, as well, which would come in handy in the late innings of a tight game. He has thrown out 18 would-be basestealers, tops among NL catchers, in 34 attempts.
Sunil Joshi is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.