Andrew McCutchen has made his mark on the sport over the past few years, culminating in a National League MVP award last year as the Pittsburgh Pirates returned to the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
Next week, McCutchen will add another honor to his resume, as he has been voted to start the MLB All-Star Game at Minnesota’s Target Field. That much was of little surprise, since the Pirates’ dynamic center fielder was among the leading public vote-getters leading up to Sunday night.
McCutchen, 27, ended up with more than 4.5 million votes, the second most in the NL to Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki and the top figure among league outfielders. However, while “Cutch” will get most of the national attention heaped upon the Pirates in Minnesota, the two teammates that will join him on the all-star squad are just as intriguing locally.
Much like McCutchen, whose stunning triple-slash line of .324/.424/.547 made him an obvious choice for the fans, Watson and Harrison have also stood out on a Pirates team that has surged back into playoff contention over the past six weeks.
The 29-year-old Watson has compiled an eye-popping 0.89 ERA in his usual eighth-inning role, where he serves as the dominant bridge to closer Mark Melancon.
Watson, who has allowed less than a baserunner per inning this year, has gradually improved over the course of his four-year MLB career, to the point where he is the Pirates’ most trusted bullpen arm. His 10.84 strikeouts per nine in 41 appearances this season is merely a continuation of his incredible late-summer run in 2013.
Harrison, meanwhile, has seen his stock rise dramatically this spring. Since securing a starting role in late April, the diminutive fan favorite has ensured that manager Clint Hurdle has to find a spot for him, despite the recent call-up of outfield prospect Gregory Polanco and the return to health of second baseman Neil Walker.
In addition to providing stellar defense and baserunning, Harrison has hit .298/.335/.453 in 72 games – a revelation for a 26-year-old who appeared to destined for mostly bench duty at the MLB level. Instead, he’s been one of the Bucs’ most valuable players this season, challenging those dismissive evaluations.
Harrison and Watson will be making their first all-star appearances, while McCutchen has been selected four times in a row. The Pirates had five all-star players last season, with Jeff Locke, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon joining McCutchen.
The 2014 MLB All-Star Game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time next Tuesday, July 15. It will be televised on Fox.