Scutaro, Hill deserve trip to St. Louis
Toronto middle infield has put up All-Star worthy numbers
TORONTO -- The fans will have their say, but it's nearly time for players around baseball to cast their own All-Star ballots, voting for those worthy of reserve roles on their respective league's roster. Inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse, there is an overwhelming hope that Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill will make the cut.
"Hopefully these guys will be rewarded for what they've done so far," Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells said.
With Scutaro at shortstop and Hill manning second base, Toronto owns one of the best middle-infield combinations in the game this season. The pair's defense has been stellar and their contributions in the batter's box are a primary reason the Blue Jays have been able to hang with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays in the tough American League East.
As well as Scutaro and Hill have played, though, they don't have a realistic chance of earning a ticket to the Midsummer Classic on July 14 in St. Louis as starters for the AL squad. Often, popularity outweighs production when it comes to the All-Star starting lineups, but the fact that the players also vote can ensure that deserving candidates are also honored.
As far as the Jays are concerned, Scutaro and Hill -- the first and second hitters in Toronto's lineup, respectively -- definitely fall into that category. A case could also be made for left fielder Adam Lind. The only player that would seem to be a lock to make the All-Star team is ace Roy Halladay, who is currently 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA.
"Being up in Canada, players here won't get the notoriety," said catcher Rod Barajas. "But [Scutaro and Hill] have gone out there, they've played every day, they've performed, they've done everything that's been asked of them. Those two guys at the top of the order, they're the reason why we've been able to stay close in this race. They're doing what's expected of an All-Star player."
"They're definitely going to get my vote," he later added. "Those are the guys that you're seeing play every day and seeing the special things that they've done all season. When I do get that ballot, I know their names are going to be on there."
Fans vote for the eight starters for the American and National League teams, and the players have a part in casting ballots for the eight backups in the field and eight pitchers (five starters, three relievers). If the players vote for someone who is also leading in fan voting at his position, then the person with the second-highest vote total from his peers gets the nod.
It'd be hard to argue against a vote for either Scutaro or Hill.
"Their peers are the ones who are going to have to vote for them," Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said, "because of the votes for the big-market teams."
Scutaro, 33, is serving as an everyday player for the first time in his career, and the veteran has quickly shed the utility-man label that has followed him for years. Through Sunday, Toronto's leadoff man had reached base 134 times, representing the best total in the Majors -- one more than St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols. Overall, Scutaro is hitting .300 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 71 games.
Among AL shortstops -- a group that includes New York's Derek Jeter and Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett, among others -- Scutaro ranked first in hits (85), walks (48) and doubles (20) and was tied with Jeter for the most total bases (122). Scutaro's 53 runs were the most among all shortstops in baseball and his .400 on-base percentage ranked second in the league to Bartlett.
In the field, Scutaro has been just as impressive, topping the AL charts with 310 total chances, 212 assists and 50 double plays turned.
"Scutaro is the MVP of our club everyday player wise -- minus Doc Halladay," Blue Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield said. "For me, it ain't even close. For everything that he has brought -- baserunning, catching the ball, swinging the bat, getting on base -- it's off the charts."
Hill has also been opening eyes.
Hill missed nearly all of last season after suffering a serious concussion at the end of May, but the second baseman has rebounded in a big way. His numbers stack up against the other second basemen in the game, but it is a position that is stacked with talented players -- many worthy of being included in the All-Star Game.
"It's not a very good year to be a second baseman," Overbay said.
In the AL alone, Hill has stiff competition in Texas' Ian Kinsler, Boston's Dustin Pedroia, New York's Robinson Cano and Baltimore's Brian Roberts, among others. The NL boasts the likes of Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers. Hill has proven that he can hold his own in that group, though.
Overall, Hill is hitting .302 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs. His 93 hits were tied with Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki for the most in the Majors and he was tied with Kinsler for the most RBIs by a second baseman in baseball. Among all Major League second basemen, Hill led the way with 147 total bases and he was tied with Utley for the most home runs.
In the field, only Kinsler had better numbers in the AL than Hill's 337 total chances, 208 assists and 49 double plays turned.
"I think he should be in there," said Overbay, referring to Hill's chances at making the All-Star team.
"If you look at numbers, I don't know if there are too many shortstops that have better numbers overall than Scutaro," Barajas said. "Hill, there's a couple guys out there who have done pretty well, but his numbers, they speak for themselves. I can't think of two players that are playing better than these two guys right now at their respective positions."
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston agreed.
"I think they've got a good chance," Gaston said of Scutaro and Hill. "I hope that people realize that, even though they're not going to be voted in, these two kids have played All-Star baseball up to this point. A lot of guys don't make the All-Star team that should make the All-Star team, but it'd be very nice for those two kids to make it."
If it were up to the Blue Jays' players alone, Scutaro and Hill would both be headed to their first All-Star Game next month. Wells is confident that others around the game are aware of what that pair has meant to Toronto's club as well.
"Players have a great understanding of what everyone else around the league is doing," Wells said. "Obviously, you have to take notice of what those two have done at the top of our lineup. Hopefully, players around the league will give them a few votes."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.