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Pirates Spotlight: Just three players deserve consideration for All-Star Game

November 30,-0001 00:00

Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, looks skyward as he scores past Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of Monday's game in St. Louis. Polanco has hit 12 home runs in 2016 boasts an .898 OPS ...and more »

The Pirates have been well represented at recent All-Star Games.Four players were selected for the 2013 game at Citi Field in New York and again last year for the festivities in Cincinnati. In 2014, three Pirates participated at Target Field in Minneapolis.However, the Pirates might have a hard time getting three players onto the National League squad for this year’s game, which will be played July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego.Major League Baseball will announce the teams for both leagues Tuesday night.Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has been the Pirates’ one constant at the All-Star Game in recent years, appearing in each of the last five and starting the past two.However, he almost certainly will be taking a vacation during the four-day All-Star break this season, as he is hitting just .236 with 12 home runs and a .715 OPS in 78 games.It is difficult to predict which Pirates will be chosen because no one is a surefire selection. There are also a number of factors that go into shaping the roster beyond the fan and player voting, including making sure each team has at least one player on the 34-man roster.Closer Mark Melancon is seemingly the Pirates’ best bet and certainly deserving of his third selection in four years. He is among the NL saves leaders, having converted 24 of 25 opportunities while posting a sparkling 1.35 ERA in 36 games.Left fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Gregory Polanco can also make strong cases for their first appearances.The perennially underrated Marte is having the best season yet of his six-year career, hitting .321 with six home runs, 24 stolen bases and an .840 OPS in 77 games. The lack of homers could hurt his chances, but he is second in the NL in steals behind Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar, who has 26.Those inside the game know that Marte is one of baseball’s best all-around players.The 24-year-old Polanco is in the midst of a breakout season. Following a two-home run game Monday in a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis, he has a .298 batting average, 12 homers, nine steals and an .898 OPS in 77 games.By comparison, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, the likely NL starter in right field and last year’s league MVP, has an .895 OPS.However, outfielders are often among those snubbed when it comes to All-Star selections because of the depth of good offensive players at the position.For those who fancy the WAR (wins above replacement) statistic, Marte’s 3.1 mark in the Baseball-Reference.com version ranks seventh in the NL, while Polanco’s 2.2 ranks 25th.In FanGraph’s version, Polanco is 15th with a 2.8 mark and Marte is 19th with a 2.4. They have the same marks in Baseball Prospectus’ version, though Polanco ranks 20th and Marte is 28th.Melancon, Marte and Polanco could all wind up in San Diego. Or they might not.We’ll find out Tuesday night.

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