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The most obscure MLB All-Stars of the last 20 years

For every Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr. or Mike Trout, there are dozens upon dozens of other guys who reach All-Star status for just a fleeting moment. Whether it was a hot half, stepping up as a replacement or simply being the best candidate for a ball club’s mandatory representation, many of these players chosen for the Midsummer Classic have either surprising or forgettable appearances as All-Stars.

With the 2019 MLB All-Star Game quickly approaching, it is a fine time to look back at the most obscure All-Star from each team over the past 20 years.

 
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Arizona Diamondbacks: Damian Miller, 2002

Arizona Diamondbacks: Damian Miller, 2002
Credit: Jeff Gross /Allsport

Miller was best known as the catcher on the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series championship team, but his career hit a separate personal high the following season. Miller made the National League All-Star team in 2002 after hitting .263 with nine home runs in the first half. Miller tailed off in the second half of the season, playing in just 30 games with a .205 average and reaching 24 total bases as injuries took their toll.

 
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Atlanta Braves: Johnny Estrada, 2004

Atlanta Braves: Johnny Estrada, 2004
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Estrada spent his eight-year career bouncing among five different stops but hit his summit in the summer of 2004. The 28-year-old stepped in behind the plate for Javy Lopez, who left via free agency before the season. Estrada put up an admirable performance, hitting .332 in the first half and making the NL All-Star team as the backup to Mike Piazza. He would go on to pick up Silver Slugger honors at catcher for the year.

 
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Baltimore Orioles: Ty Wigginton, 2010

Baltimore Orioles: Ty Wigginton, 2010
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Wigginton was a well-traveled veteran by the time he made his All-Star debut, with stints with the Mets, Pirates, Devil Rays and Astros already under his belt. But with 14 first-half homers, Wigginton made his lone All-Star appearance as the O’s mandatory participant. He would tail off in the second half of the year, hitting .248 and finishing with 22 homers and 76 RBI.

 
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Boston Red Sox: Steven Wright, 2016

Boston Red Sox: Steven Wright, 2016
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After making his MLB debut at age 28 and seeing action in 28 games spread over three years, Wright had a breakout season in 2016. He earned a place on the AL All-Star team after posting the lowest ERA in the league during the first half of the year: 2.68. The knuckleballer would go on to win 13 games on the year over 24 starts — which still stands as the only year to date that he reached double digits in wins or games as a starter.

 
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Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija, 2014

Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija, 2014
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images

In one of the more awkward twists in All-Star Game history, Samardzija was elected to the game as a Chicago Cub…despite being a member of the A’s. After being selected to the All-Star Game on July 6, he was traded to Oakland days later, therefore making him an NL selection…but on an American League team. Since he could not play as a member of a league he was no longer a part of, Samardzija was declared ineligible for his lone All-Star selection while also being an odd hybrid of two different teams at once.

 
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Chicago White Sox: Avisail Garcia, 2017

Chicago White Sox: Avisail Garcia, 2017
(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

After never hitting above .257 in his first three years with the Sox, Garcia blew up on the scene in 2017. He hit .310 in the first half, spearheaded by a .368 effort in parts of March and April. It landed Garcia with a spot in the AL All-Star team, but he was far from done. Garcia hit .423 in August and .363 as a whole in the second half to finish second in the AL in batting at .330. He severely regressed the following year, hitting .236 and being sent to free agency the following winter.

 
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Cincinnati Reds: Alfredo Simon, 2014

Cincinnati Reds: Alfredo Simon, 2014
(Photo by Matt Brown/Angels Baseball LP/Getty Images)

Simon went from the waiver wire in 2012 to All-Star two years later. He made the jump from hard-throwing setup man to joining the Reds rotation in 2014, where he immediately thrived, winning an NL-best 12 games before the All-Star break. Simon won only three more games after the break, however, while working a career-high 196.1 innings. He played only two more seasons following his breakout 2014 showing.

 
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Cleveland Indians: Ronnie Belliard, 2012

Cleveland Indians: Ronnie Belliard, 2012
Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

Belliard is a recognizable name due to a long, 13-year MLB career that included a World Series championship with the Cardinals in 2006. However, it gets lost in the mix that he was an All-Star-level performer at his peak powers. Belliard made the American League team in 2004 after hitting .304 with five home runs and 37 RBI in the first half. He would go on to hit a career-best 48 doubles on the year while ranking in the top five for hits (169) and RBI (69) for AL second basemen on the year.

 
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Colorado Rockies: Shawn Chacon, 2003

Colorado Rockies: Shawn Chacon, 2003
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Chacon became the rare Rockies pitcher to make get an All-Star selection, in 2004 after posting 11 victories before the break. However, he never got to make an appearance in the game due to an elbow injury. It was an injury he never rallied from as a starter, as he didn’t add on to his first-half win total following the ASG, and then he moved to the bullpen the following year.

 
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Detroit Tigers: Joe Jimenez, 2018

Detroit Tigers: Joe Jimenez, 2018
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Jimenez stood as the Tigers sole representative last season amid a pronounced rebuilding effort in Detroit. Working mostly as a setup man, Jimenez owned a 2.72 ERA over 46 first-half appearances. His excellent start was a short-lived one though, as he was bombarded to the tone of a 7.71 ERA in the second half with a 12.26 August mark, proving to be the lowlight of the effort.

 
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Houston Astros: Morgan Ensberg, 2005

Houston Astros: Morgan Ensberg, 2005
Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images)

Ensberg isn’t as much of an unknown, as he spent parts of seven mostly productive seasons in Houston from 2000 to 2007. He reached All-Star level just once but did so during an out-of-the-blue explosive 2005 season when he launched 36 home runs, drove in 101 runs and finished fourth in AL MVP voting. He replaced an injured Scott Rolen on the NL All-Star team that season but played a vital role later in helping to send the Astros to their first World Series appearance.

 
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Kansas City Royals: Ken Harvey, 2004

Kansas City Royals: Ken Harvey, 2004
Photo by Dave Kaup/Getty Images)

Harvey’s MLB career was a quick one, lasting just four seasons. During his time with the club, the Royals never lost less than 95 games, which made finding an All-Star delegate a challenge, to say the least. Harvey got the call in 2004 behind a solid .305, 10 home run, .805 OPS first half. He failed to recapture that power in the later parts of the season, hitting just three more homers over his final 42 games.

 
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Los Angeles Angels: Brendan Donnelly, 2003

Los Angeles Angels: Brendan Donnelly, 2003
Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images

Donnelly spent nine years in the minors before finally reaching the majors with the Angels at age 30. The following year, he represented the club in the All-Star Game, amid a strong run as setup man for closer Troy Pervical. Donnelly posted a 1.58 ERA on the year over 74 innings and picked up the win for the AL team after working a scoreless eighth inning.

 
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Los Angeles Dodgers: Hung-Chih Kuo, 2010

Los Angeles Dodgers: Hung-Chih Kuo, 2010
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Kuo made his only All-Star appearance amid a historic first half. Working as a middle reliever, he set a then-MLB record of 36 consecutive batters retired in relief. This performance made him the first Taiwanese All-Star in MLB history. He finished the year with a 1.20 ERA and as Dodgers closer, replacing Jonathan Broxton in the role. He converted 12 of 13 save opportunities and set a new Dodger relief ERA record.

 
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Miami Marlins: Gaby Sanchez, 2011

Miami Marlins: Gaby Sanchez, 2011
Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

Sanchez got the nod as the Marlins sole representative in 2011, on the heels of finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting the prior season. It came in a year where he equaled his rookie total of 19 home runs, but saw his numbers dip slightly elsewhere across the board. After a slow start the following season, Sanchez was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent three more seasons before departing to play in Japan.

 
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Milwaukee Brewers: Jesus Aguilar, 2018

Milwaukee Brewers: Jesus Aguilar, 2018
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Just two years after being claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, Aguilar took the league by storm last season. He hit .307 with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in the first half alone, which helped him to be elected via the NL Final Vote slot. He competed in the All-Star Home Run Derby as well, before finishing with 35 home runs on the year.

 
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Minnesota Twins: Joe Mays, 2001

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mays, 2001
Tom Pidgeon/ALLSPORT

Mays parlayed the start of a career year into an All-Star selection in 2001, winning 17 games and working 233 innings as a 25-year-old. The season would prove to be the by far highlight of Mays’ career, as before his 2001 effort, he owned a 13-26 career record. He never posted a record above .500 again in his career and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2004.

 
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New York Mets: R.A. Dickey, 2012

New York Mets: R.A. Dickey, 2012
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

One the game’s great emergences in history, a year after posting an 8-13 record, Dickey took the National League by storm for the Mets in 2012. Armed with one of the most dominant knuckleballs in history that season, Dickey’s dominant season was highlighted a Mets-record of 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings and consecutive one-hit shutouts during the first half. In addition to his lone All-Star appearance, Dickey would win 20-games and capture NL Cy Young Award honors for the season.

 
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New York Yankees: Phil Hughes, 2010

New York Yankees: Phil Hughes, 2010
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For a franchise as decorated and regularly star-studded as the Yankees, it can be tough to find a truly obscure All-Star caliber player. The closest that comes to fitting that bill is Hughes, who made his All-Star debut as a 24-year-old, who as the time was pegged for a future as a frontline arm for the Yankees for years to come. After opening the season as the Yankees fifth starter, Hughes won his first five outings, in route to going 18-8 as a 24-year-old. It would prove to be a career-best for the righty, who reached double digits in wins only twice with the club.

 
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Oakland Athletics: Ryan Cook, 2012

Oakland Athletics: Ryan Cook, 2012
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

In his first year with the A’s after being traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks the previous winter, Cook emerged as one of the best relievers in the American League. Amid a season where he posted a 2.09 ERA over 71 appearances –which included a four-strikeout inning— Cook stood as Oakland’s only All-Star representative in 2012. He would work a scoreless seventh inning in his lone ASG appearance.

 
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Philadelphia Phillies: Vincente Padilla, 2002

Philadelphia Phillies: Vincente Padilla, 2002
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Padilla came to Philly as a third of the package sent in exchange for Curt Schilling in mid-2000. Two years later, he represented the club as an All-Star, going 14-11 as a 24-year old. Padilla would continue on with a solid, not spectacular 14-year MLB career, owning a 108-91 career record. However, his 3.0 WAR during his All-Star season would remain the high point.

 
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Pittsburgh Pirates: Jeff Locke, 2013

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jeff Locke, 2013
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Locke’s first-half brilliance as a rookie for the Pirates was the definition of a one-half wonder campaign. After going 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA over the first 18 games of the year, the 25-year-old southpaw was named as the Pirates’ All-Star selection. The season quickly evolved into a gruesome tale of two halves however, as Locke posted a brutal 6.12 post-ASG ERA and was demoted back to the minors by late August.

 
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San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera, 2013

San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera, 2013
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

A year after leading the NL in stolen bases, Cabrera was named the Padres' All-Star delegate in 2013. Continuing to be a speed threat with 34 stolen bases, Cabrera had improved at the plate as well, hitting .291, which was an over-50-point improvement from the year before. However, his moment in the sun soon passed, as Cabrera was suspended for 50 games shortly after his All-Star appearance due to his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal.

 
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San Francisco Giants: Ryan Vogelsong, 2011

San Francisco Giants: Ryan Vogelsong, 2011
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After signing a minor league deal with the Giants before the year, Vogelsong delivered a huge return on investment. He  went 6-1 across the first half, with his manager Bruce Bochy naming him to the NL All-Star team. He would finish the year with a 13-7 mark and fourth in the NL in ERA, at 2.71.

 
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Seattle Mariners: Jose Lopez, 2006

Seattle Mariners: Jose Lopez, 2006
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

After rising to the MLB as the Mariners' top prospect, Lopez enjoyed seven mostly productive seasons in Seattle. He made his lone All-Star appearance as a replacement for an injured (then-Yankee) Robinson Cano. In his only ASG appearance, Lopez made an impact, entering as a pinch runner in the ninth inning and scoring the game-winning run.

 
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St. Louis Cardinals: Pat Neshek, 2014

St. Louis Cardinals: Pat Neshek, 2014
Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

After signing a minor league deal and being the final player named to the Cardinals roster in the spring, Neshek took his career to new heights in 2014. The sidearm-throwing sinker specialist became the NL’s most dominant middle reliever, allowing no runs over a 22-game streak and sporting an 0.70 ERA at the All-Star break. In his lone season in St. Louis, Neshek went 7-2 and sported an incredible 0.78 WHIP.

 
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Tampa Bay Rays: Lance Carter, 2003

Tampa Bay Rays: Lance Carter, 2003
Photo by Andy Lyons /Getty Images)

Carter earned his spot on the Tampa Bay roster following a promising eight-game stint at the end of the previous year, producing a 1.33 ERA over eight appearances. The following season he assumed closer responsibilities for the Rays, notching 26 saves for the last place team. Overall, he spent four of his six MLB seasons with the club.

 
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Texas Rangers: Gary Matthews, 2006

Texas Rangers: Gary Matthews, 2006
Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

After spending his career bouncing among six franchises before turning 30, Matthews experienced a breakout campaign out of nowhere in his second season in Texas. The outfielder was named an All-Star amid a season where he set personal highs in hits (194) doubles (44), home runs (19), runs scored (102) and batting average (.313). However, it would be discovered later in the year that Matthews had been involved in performance-enhancing drugs after being named in the Mitchell Report, shortly after signing a $50 million contract with the Angels on the heels of his (enhanced) All-Star campaign.

 
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Toronto Blue Jays: Steve Delabar, 2013

Toronto Blue Jays: Steve Delabar, 2013
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Delabar debuted in the majors at age 28, after a prolonged bounce back from Tommy John surgery early in his career. A year later, following a trade from Seattle to Toronto, Delabar pitched his way onto the AL All-Star team after being selected via the Final Vote slot. He pitched a third of an inning in the game, which included striking out Buster Posey. Delabar finished the year sixth among AL relievers in strikeouts despite missing nearly all of August.

 
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Washington Nationals: Matt Capps, 2010

Washington Nationals: Matt Capps, 2010
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Although he spent parts of only five months wearing the Nationals cap, Capps made the most of it. The closer achieved All-Star status after converting 26 of his 42 saves on the year with the club and was the winning pitcher of record in the Midsummer Classic. Shortly after his ASG appearance, Capps was traded to the Minnesota Twins and helped them to a postseason berth.

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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