If you told me, or anyone else really, at the beginning of the season that Miles Mikolas and Jose Martínez would be in prime position to make the All-Star Team in 2018, I’d say you’re a lunatic.
Now in the middle of June with the baseball season in full swing, Mikolas and Martínez have a good shot at representing the Cardinals in the mid-summer classic.
Mikolas, otherwise known as the “Lizard King”, was a dominant force in the Japanese League for three years (31-13, 2.59 ERA, 0.994 WHIP) after stints with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers didn’t quite work out.
The St. Louis Cardinals were one of the teams to offer Mikolas a shot back in MLB to be part of a younger starting rotation looking for veteran leadership. He hasn’t disappointed, going 7-2 with a 2.69 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP in 14 starts.
“To watch Miles over this stretch… The guys upstairs saw something really special,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re benefiting from what they saw.”
A reason for Mikolas’ dominance in his comeback season to the Majors comes from what he learned in his time playing in Japan. A former 100-plus mile-per-hour hurler with control issues learned how to tone it down, as his elite control is a vital reason for his All-Star caliber season.
Mikolas is one of only three pitchers in the National League to register less walks than games pitched, and prior to his start Monday against the Phillies, he was the only pitcher in all of baseball to start at least 10 games and allow less than 10 walks.
“He’s putting together a pretty special season that not many knew was coming, including us,” Matheny said.
Another potential candidate to represent the Cardinals in the 2018 All-Star Game is first baseman Jose Martínez. A career journeyman in the Minors prior to his 2016 call-up, the 29-year-old comes as a pleasant surprise for Cardinals fans.
Acquired from the Royals for cash considerations in May of 2016, Martínez tore up the PCL with Triple-A Memphis, hitting a monstrous .384 with an OPS of 1.024.
Even though the Royals won the World Series in 2015, he was never given the opportunity to play in the Majors. Because of that, the Royals moved the aging Minor-Leaguer to St. Louis.
He’s been worth every penny.
In the first 70 games of 2018 he’s seen a significant amount of playing time at first baseand has been one of the best hitters for the Cardinals thus far, hitting .314 with 10 HR and 42 RBI.
Martínez is tearing up the month of June, going 18-45 (.400) with five long-balls. It comes at a perfect time, as All-Star voting started in late May.
Other hot All-star candidates are left fielder Marcell Ozuna and starting pitcher Michael Wacha.
In the midst of a rebuild, the Miami Marlins traded all three of its All-Star outfielders in the 2018 offseason. The Cardinals acquired Ozuna from Miami for a trio of prospects.
After taking a bit of time to adjust to a new team and city, Ozuna has started tearing it up at the plate, especially in the last month. He was just awarded as the National League Player of the Week, going 10-22 (.455) with four home runs, eight RBI, four runs-scored and a 1.000 slugging percentage from June 11 to June 17.
Since the calendar flipped to June, he’s gone 23-61 (.377) with seven home runs, 17 RBI. In mid-May, he saw his average fall down to .234. He’s since raised it to .288 and is a possible All-Star contender if he can continue to stay hot.
Aside from a brutal start against the Cubs in which he gave up eight earned runs, Wacha’s been a dominant force in the Cardinals rotation. The 26-year-old right-hander won eight straight decisions and gave up two or less runs in ten straight starts prior to Friday’s loss. He even flirted with a no-hitter just a few starts ago.
If you don’t include a start in which he gave up the most earned runs in his career, Wacha is 8-1 with a 2.67 ERA. Regardless, he’s tied for second in the National League in wins and still boasts a very respectable 3.24 ERA. If Wacha can get back to his dominant ways for a few starts in a row, he very well could make his second career All-Star Game.
The next month or so will be vital as both Mikolas and Martínez try to make their first ever All-Star team, while previous All-Stars Ozuna and Wacha look to make some waves in the coming weeks.
Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals for 590 The Fan and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi.