No. 5: Michael Saunders
The most recent update released by MLB shows Saunders in the lead, but there’s an argument to be made that the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder is the least deserving candidate on the list.
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Don’t get me wrong, Saunders is having a fine season, hitting .298/.372/.559 with 16 home runs and 41 RBI. He also ranks sixth in the league with a .932 OPS, narrowly surpassing Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, who happens to be starting in this year’s All-Star Game. His offensive numbers are very comparable overall to JBJ, so why shouldn’t he be right there with him in San Diego?
Well, for one thing, he doesn’t have Bradley’s glove. Saunders has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball this season with – 8 defensive runs saved. Playing alongside a Gold Glove caliber center fielder in Kevin Pillar helps protect him in Toronto, but it doesn’t help him become an All-Star.
Saunders’ poor defensive play drags down his value to 2.1 WAR. That’s still solid, but ties him with the next guy on this list for last among the five Final Vote candidates.
This has been a breakout year for Saunders, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons and had never reached an .800 OPS before. His 4.8 HR% is well above his career average of 2.9%, as is his .261 ISO (career .167) and HR/FB ratio of 13.3% (career 9.3%), suggesting the power spike for the 29-year old may not be sustainable. Saunders is also 8th in the league with 90 strikeouts, so that batting average may start to dip if he doesn’t make more contact.
This has been a great bounce back year for Saunders, putting him in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year, but not for the All-Star Game.
Next: Evan Longoria