Most players go through their entire careers without ever being involved in an All-Star controversy. William VanLandingham pitched four seasons with the Giants and was never an All-Star snub nor did he ever undeservingly make the team. Same for Skeeter Barnes and Bump Wills and thousands of others who never sniffed a midsummer controversy.
But Omar Infante is working on his second. In 2010, Infante made the National League All-Star team despite being a reserve on his own Atlanta Braves team. The rationale provided by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was that, because of a new ASG rule that allowed one player to re-enter the game after subbing out, a player with Infante’s type of positional versatility — he can play the outfield and three infield positions — would provide the most value to the team. It was a silly, undeserving berth that was quickly forgotten as a footnote in All-Star history.
This year, Infante is leading the voting to start at second base for the American League. He is a starter on his team, the Kansas City Royals, so that is an improvement. Unfortunately, he is awful. His .236/.243/.319 batting line adds up to a .561 OPS that is the third-worst in baseball. There are nine players whose slugging percentages alone are higher than Infante’s OPS. He should not be an All-Star.
But this is not about Omar Infante. It is about another utility player, one who actually is deserving of an All-Star berth, unlike Infante in 2010. His name is Justin Turner. After part-time play in parts of five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, the former Cal State Fullerton star was non-tendered by the Mets following the 2013 season. Turner jumped at the chance to play for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, and he has rewarded the Dodgers by hitting .334/.400/.523 with 33 doubles and 17 home runs in 508 plate appearances. He has also provided defensive versatility, playing all over the infield and even spelling Adrian Gonzalez at first base on occasion. As a part-time player, Turner bears a superficial resemblance to 2010 Infante; where the comparison falls apart is that Turner is an excellent hitter (166 OPS+ this year after a 153 last year), while Infante carried a 108 OPS+ into the 2010 All-Star break.
Simply put, Turner is an excellent hitter who plays solid defense at four positions. After putting up a 4.2 WAR in only 322 plate appearances last season, he has been even better this season. Turner currently sits at 2.9 WAR in 186 plate appearances in 2015, which multiplies out to over 10 WAR in a full season.
Players have made All-Star teams based on their offense. Infante made one based on his defensive versatility. Others have benefited from being extremely likable, or from exceeding expectations. Justin Turner checks all these boxes. He wouldn’t just fill a valuable roster spot on the NL All-Star team — he could actually help the team win. And as you’ll recall, this time it counts.