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The case for these 3 Orioles to make the All-Star Game originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With voting getting underway for the 2021 MLB All-Star Game in Colorado, the Orioles aren't exactly in an enviable position. They currently find themselves in last place in all of Major League Baseball with just 18 wins, the only team in the league with fewer than 20.
Their Major League struggles haven't been across the board, however. For a team playing as poorly as it has, the O's have a surprising number of potential candidates to represent Baltimore in the Midsummer Classic.
Let's run through the options O's fans can feel good about pulling for, homer-ism aside, for this year's game.
The Orioles' ace has been nothing short of jaw-dropping in 2021. Means has a 4-1 record, a 2.05 ERA (third in AL), .796 WHIP (leads AL) 2.10 ERA+ (second in AL) and 3.3 WAR (leads AL). By just about any measure, Means has been one of the three best pitchers in the American League and is deservingly one of the four favorites for the AL Cy Young.
Means' numbers also stand out for how poorly the rest of the staff has pitched -- by ERA+, he has been the only starter on the staff to even be average this season. Of course, he's been a whole lot better than average along the way. Oh, and he also threw one of the greatest games in MLB history when he recorded a no-hitter in which the only runner reached on a dropped third strike.
Means has been the Orioles' best player this season, and through the season's first two months it would be a major upset if he was not named to the 2021 All-Star Game.
Mullins is the biggest surprise on this list for sure. To give you a sense of how far along he's come, Mullins' 2021 WAR (1.9) is somehow higher than his career WAR (1.7). It's been a struggle for the speedy centerfielder from the moment he reached the majors, but a switch has been flipped this season and all of a sudden he has become one of the most productive leadoff men in baseball.
Mullins' 20 first-inning hits are the most for any hitter in any individual inning this season, and he has ridden his success to a .299 batting average, .842 OPS and an OPS+ of 134. Each of those is by far a career high, and he's done it all while playing a spectacular center field defensively, including this week when he made what manager Brandon Hyde called the best catch he'd seen since coming to Baltimore.
Mullins is going up against come ridiculous competition in the American League, even with Mike Trout hurt, and he has less recognition than his teammates up for consideration. But he has played at an All-Star level in 2021, whether or not he makes the team.
Mancini is tied for third on the Orioles in WAR, but he has as good a chance as anybody on the roster of earning the fan vote. The slugger's battle with colon cancer and subsequent return to being one of the best hitters in baseball has been nothing short of inspirational, and Mancini has countless admirers across the sport.
Mancini has 11 home runs and an OPS+ of 143, while currently third in baseball in RBI despite playing for a bottom-10 offense in the sport. He hasn't been the best overall player on the Orioles this year, but he has definitely been the best hitter. More importantly, he is their biggest star and has never made the Midsummer Classic despite being one of the better hitters in baseball for a number of years.
All that, plus the unfortunate circumstances that have led to him being the heavy favorite for Comeback Player of the Year, make Mancini a worthy and very possible choice to represent the Orioles in Colorado.