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Aaron Schoonmaker

Mahtook, Kelly, Yates lead list of Bulls worthy of All-Star vote

Posted June 2

Kirby Yates and Jeff Beliveau. Photo by Leah Sobsey (Bull City Summer)

— The 27th edition of the Triple-A All-Star Game will take place this year at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and it is very little surprise that the South Division-leading Bulls have plenty of players worthy of participating in front of their home fans.

Last week, online fan voting opened, giving everyone the chance to make a case for the stars of both the International League and the Pacific Coast League. You can vote up to 25 times at http://www.milb.com/vote. I personally have already voted online my maximum allotted 25 times.

Fan balloting will account for one-third of the total vote along with ballots cast by members of the media and each club’s field manager, coaches, and general manager.

The Deserving Bulls
Through 48 games this season, Mike Mahtook, a former first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, leads the International League in both doubles (19) and triples (5), is third in hits (62), fourth in batting average (.328) and fourth in total bases (97). Add to that 27 RBI and eight stolen bases and the outfielder should be a lock for the mid-summer classic on July 16.

And the list goes on for deserving Bulls. Third baseman/Designated Hitter Wilson Betemit and outfielders Jerry Sands and Justin Christian also have strong cases.

Entering the week, Christian is sixth in the IL in runs scored, 10th in total bases and has 55 hits in 51 games played. Betemit is third in the IL in home runs with 10 and has driven in 29 runs. And Sands has done it all including a team high 36 RBI, 32 runs scored, nine home runs and a slugging percentage of .474.

Betemit would also make an interesting entry should he be selected for the Home Run Derby on July 14.

On the mound, Merrill Kelly looks to be a strong candidate to get the start at DPAB for the ASG. The 25-year-old righty out of Arizona State is 6-1 with a 2.32 ERA in nine starts this year. He has worked into the sixth inning or later in six of his nine starts including each of his first five. His 62 innings pitched and 54 strikeouts also rank among the IL’s leaders.

Mike Montgomery is keeping pace with Kelly. Montgomery also boasts a 6-1 record while striking out 55 in 62.2 innings. He took a shutout into the ninth inning on April 26 against Scranton Wilkes-Barre and has gone seven innings or more in two of his last four starts.

Out of the bullpen, Kirby Yates is about as steady as it comes with 14 saves and a miniscule 0.89 ERA in 19 appearances. He has given up just eight hits and 16 baserunners all year while posting 33 strikeouts.

Jeff Beliveau has tacked on six saves on the year and struck out 38 batters in 22.2 innings over 17 appearances. He has also yet to give up a run.

Around the Country
Former Bull Dan Johnson leads all IL first baseman with 10 home runs and 38 RBI’s playing in Buffalo. But the real battle at first is in the PCL where Justin Bour (New Orleans), Mike Jacobs (Reno), Ben Paulsen (Colorado Springs) and Jon Singleton (Oklahoma City) all have strong cases. None of them would be a wrong choice.

At second base, Louisville’s Ruben Gotay seems to be a no-brainer. The veteran journeyman has 11 home runs (seven more than the next IL 2B) and 36 RBI (13 clear of any other IL 2B). He is also hitting a cool .270. El Paso’s Brooks Conrad has almost identical numbers in the PCL (.299/11/36).

While the IL doesn’t have much in way of stand-out shortstops offensively, the PCL features Nick Franklin. The 23-year-old former first-rounder with Seattle, Franklin has been an All-Star every year at every level as he works his way up. He enters the week batting .376 with seven home runs and 26 RBI.

At third, the PCL also has a ton of power, but none are more deserving of an ASG appearance than Adam Duvall in Fresno. The Grizzlies corner man strikes out a lot (42 times in 47 games) but also mashes. He has 15 home runs and 44 RBI while boasting a .293 average, .608 slugging and .971 OPS.

I’ll spare you stats on outfielders, but ones to think about in the PCL: Brad Snyder, Joc Pederson and Jason Pridie. In the IL – other than the Bulls mentioned above – Gregory Polanco has had an excellent first half.

See You At DBAP
It is not often the stars of tomorrow all gather in Durham. That said, I expect DBAP to be packed on July 16. Plus you would be silly to turn down the offer being given by the Bulls.

The four-event All-Star Game Pack, which includes tickets to the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, two weekend Bulls games and a commemorative All-Star t-shirt is only $48.

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