Brand-new Cincinnati Red Derek Dietrich is smashing the hell out of the baseball in the early part of the season, quickly going from Marlins Castoff On Minor League Contract to elite pinch-hitting threat to must-start infielder in just a few weeks. After his titanic three-dinger performance against the Pirates on Tuesday night, Dietrich is just four back of Christian Yelich’s MLB-best 21 dongs, despite having 72 fewer plate appearances than the Brewers’ MVP.
I don’t think I’m being very controversial when I say that this guy should be in the All-Star Game! As much as the point of that game is to get MLB’s most/only marketable stars all together on one field, the random breakout dudes with the first-half hot streaks are way more fun to see than the guys making their eighth or ninth appearance; it is cooler that goofs like Robert Fick and Bryan LaHair made one All-Star Game than it is that Albert Pujols has made ten. But if Dietrich is going to test his mettle against AL colossi like Justin Verlander, Blake Snell, and, uh, Matthew Boyd, he’s going to have to clear a pretty huge obstacle first—not even being on the All-Star ballot.
Yep, MLB’s just-released ballot for its newly revamped, multi-round system of voting has a 17-dinger hole right in the middle of it. Probably because Dietrich was hitting .196 on May 1 (he’s at .254 now), the tater-happy infielder isn’t one of the eight Reds hitters on the ballot. At second base, where Dietrich has found himself most often, his spot on the ballot is filled by Jose Peraza, whose wRC+ is currently a pathetic 53. (While we’re at it, Howie Kendrick is nowhere to be seen on the ballot either, even though the Nats’ utility ace has, like Dietrich, been one of the best second basemen in the National League so far.)
There will surely be a big Reds-driven campaign to get Dietrich onto the roster through write-in vote. But even though the powerful ex-Marlin certainly deserves his spot more than any of his NL peers, the idea that enough people are going to to be knowledgeable and motivated enough to go to the write-in category, type “D-E-R-E-C-K-Backspace-Backspace-K,” and then click on Dietrich to get him into the Top 3 at his position is just wishful thinking. Now that MLB has tweaked its voting process to #maximize #engagement, maybe next year they can focus on being flexible enough to ensure that the best players make it onto the ballot.