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Grading Jim Leyland's American League All-Star Selections

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Grading Jim Leyland's American League All-Star Selections
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Jim Leyland is baseball's veteran guru.

COMMENTARY | The 2013 MLB All-Star game rosters were finally released on July 6. Like always, there were displeasure and arguments over the 68 players selected, as well as the ten currently in the running for the final spot.

Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland was dealt the difficult task of rounding out the American League's roster after fans selected the nine starters and players chose 17 of their peers to participate in the game. Leyland filled the nine remaining spots to comply with the representation rules that come along with the Midsummer Classic.

So, without further ado, here are my grades on Leyland's selections for the AL team that will play in the 84th All-Star game.

Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers

You're probably reading this, wondering to yourself, "The Tigers have six All-Stars because Leyland is their manager."

But that's not the case.

Justin Verlander was the lone Tiger selected by Leyland. The other four -- Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder, Max Scherzer, and Jhonny Peralta -- were selected by their peers, while Miguel Cabrera was chosen via the fan vote.

Verlander is now 9-5, with a 3.54 ERA and 119 strikeouts, far from the superstar we've all come to know. But as of late, he's shown flashes of his old self.

It's fair to say that Verlander's case for a spot on the AL squad was solidified by his past two starts, which he to threw a combined 15 innings, struck out nine, and allowed only two runs.

Grade: A-

Verlander hasn't fared well in his five previous All-Star games -- he's thrown three career innings, allowed six hits and six earned runs.

But 2013 can be a different story for the star pitcher, where he can earn redemption on one of baseball's biggest stages.

Bartolo Colon - Oakland Athletics

Bartolo Colon started the 2013 season by finishing a 50-game PED suspension. Even at 40-years-old, he's managed to turn back the clock.

An 11-3 record, 2.78 ERA, and 61 strikeouts are very impressive for a pitcher who's "over the hill." He's on the roster to replace Boston Red Sox's ace Clay Buchholz who's currently shelved with a neck strain.

Grade: B-

While it's nice to see Colon make his third All-Star team, there were other more deserving players on the first place Oakland Athletics, such as Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, and Grant Balfour, who broke Dennis Eckersley's consecutive saves record on July 8 after converting 41 straight.

Glen Perkins - Minnesota Twins

Glen Perkins has been one of the lone bright spots on a lowly Minnesota Twins team. His 1.91 ERA is the fifth lowest amongst AL relievers with at least 20 saves.

The first-time All-Star is well acquainted with Leyland's regular season team. He's thrown four innings without allowing a run against the Tigers this season. The familiarity, as well as respect, could've played a role in the closer being selected as an injury replacement for Jesse Crain.

Grade: C+

No disrespect to Perkins, because he's getting 20 saves on a team that's only won 37 games is a feat in and of itself, but there are more deserving candidates should Leyland have opted to choose starters over relievers.

Tampa Bay Rays ace Matt Moore begs your pardon, skip.

Ben Zobrist - Tampa Bay Rays

At first glance, Ben Zobrist's .262 batting average, five home runs, and 45 RBIs all but scream All-Star.

But that's just Zobrist. His worth comes with what he can do with the glove. He has a .992 fielding percentage this season at his natural position, second base, but also possesses an unscathed percentage while playing 34 games in the outfield.

Grade: C

It's easy to see why Leyland selected Zobrist. The two-time All-Star brings a reliable glove late in the game. His defense will play a key role in helping the AL win their first All-Star game in four years.

But with that being said, there are other options that deserved a look over Zobrist, such as his teammate, Evan Longoria, or even A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. Plus, the AL already had three second basemen, thanks to:

Jason Kipnis - Cleveland Indians

Apparently, winning the AL's Player of the Month in June was enough for Jason Kipnis to make his first All-Star team. He hit .419 with four homers and 25 RBIs last month to earn the honor.

He now has a .297 batting average with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs on the year, and has matured into Cleveland's premier offensive talent.

Grade: B+

Sure, with Kipnis making the All-Star team, the AL technically has four second basemen, but there's no doubt he deserved the honor. It's likely he would've been Cleveland's lone representative at Citi Field, if not for:

Justin Masterson - Cleveland Indians

It took six major league seasons, but the centerpiece in the Victor Martinez deal between the Indians and Boston Red Sox has finally lived up to potential. At 10-7 with a 3.78 ERA and 131 strikeouts, Justin Masterson has earned his spot on the AL's All-Star squad.

Not only has Masterson helped the Indians return to relevance in 2013, the team has won ⅔ of his starts this year. The six losses the Indians were dealt when Masterson took the bump were all in games in which he allowed four or more earned runs.

Grade: B

Masterson is just one of eight starters on the AL team, compared to the NL's ten. The first-time All-Star will add depth in a tightly contested game, which besides last season, has been the case in recent All-Star games.

Chris Sale - Chicago White Sox

It's been said that wins are an overrated statistic.

Chris Sale's record in 2013 says just that.

His 5-8 record is a matter of smoke and mirrors -- it really doesn't tell the whole story. Sale has allowed two or fewer runs ten times this season. The freshly minted two-time All-Star has also thrown 13 quality starts and has recorded double-digit strikeouts four times to earn the nod.

Grade: A-

At the moment, Sale is the lone member of the Chicago White Sox that will be able to participate in the game, as Crain has been replaced with an injury. His 2.78 ERA is fourth best in the AL, while his 123 strikeouts rank fifth.

Brett Cecil - Toronto Blue Jays

Brett Cecil was definitely a surprising pick by Leyland to say the least. He made his first All-Star team after posting a 1.81 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched. Amongst AL relievers that have thrown at least 40 or more innings, Cecil's 1.81 ERA ranks second, only to teammate and final vote candidate Steve Delabar, who has a 1.58 ERA.

Grade: D

If the Toronto Blue Jays didn't have a representative, then picking Cecil for the AL squad would've been understandable.

That's anything but the case.

The Blue Jays already have two All-Stars in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and didn't need further representation.

There was no need to include Cecil on the team, especially with more deserving options overlooked. Oakland's Balfour would've been a prime candidate here, as well as two of Leyland's own relievers -- Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit.

Jason Castro - Houston Astros

Finally, the Houston Astros -- months after their move to the AL, it still feels strange not including them amongst the NL teams.

Jason Castro, another first-time All-Star, will be the lone Houston Astro representing the team. He earned the spot after hitting .270 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs.

Grade: B-

There really isn't any reason to question this pick. The AL team needed a backup catcher on the roster to join Salvador Perez and starter Joe Mauer.

Leyland had to select at least one Astro. With the other positions already filled, it was a process of elimination for opting to go with Castro, but definitely solid one. The Astros will be well represented at Citi Field.

Overall grade: B-

There's a great chance that the AL rosters change between now and July 16. It always manages to happen.

But as of today, Leyland did a fine job of filling a roster so that each team was represented. He loaded up the roster with many first-time All-Stars, while overlooking several deserving players and choosing to make a few head-scratching picks.

Overall, Leyland's nine All-Star selections merit a grade of B-. He did well, but at the same time, could've done better.

Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's the sports editor for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.

You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.

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