Predicting All 30 MLB Teams' Guaranteed All-Star Representative
With the 2012 season well under way, we're starting to see names already surface in MVP discussions as players like Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp take the league by storm with their outstanding play.
At the same time, superstars like Jose Bautista and Albert Pujols are struggling to hit their stride.
It's definitely still early so you can't write anyone off, but the first six weeks of the season should if nothing else give us an idea of who is pushing themselves in the right direction.
Here are some players that could very well end up representing their organization at the All-Star game in Kansas City on July 10.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Wade Miley
In his second season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wade Miley has turned some heads early in 2012 with his 4-1 record and 2.52 ERA.
He strikes out more than six batters per nine innings while walking less than two. With a .233 BAA, he's doing his best to help the D-Backs work their way to another postseason appearance this year.
Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy
Brandon Beachy has done a very good job maneuvering his way to the top of the NL ranks in ERA, as he's posted a 1.60 mark in seven starts this season.
He's given up only 29 hits in 45 innings pitched and with a 0.956 WHIP, he's set the bar for the rest of the young Braves rotation.
Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson
When you look at the top of the AL's saves list for 2012, you'll see the AL East once again represented with the top spot.
No, you won't see Mariano Rivera, but rather Jim Johnson of the surprising Baltimore Orioles. He's saved 12 games in 14 appearances this season, posting a 0.54 ERA and striking out nearly seven batters per nine innings.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz
Things haven't gone as planned so far in Bobby Valentine's short tenure as the skipper of the Boston Red Sox, but the struggles certainly can't be blamed on slugger David Ortiz.
In 36 games this season, Ortiz has hit a league-leading 15 doubles and gone deep eight times. His batting average is north of .350 and his OPS has climbed up to an impressive 1.050 mark.
Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro
Playing in just his second major league season in 2011, Starlin Castro made his first All-Star appearance, representing the Chicago Cubs in a role that he could very well be headed for again this year.
Castro has driven in 22 runs so far for the Cubs, while stealing 12 bases and maintaining a .331 batting average and .346 on-base percentage.
Chicago White Sox: Jake Peavy
After some disappointing campaigns as a starting pitcher in the Chicago White Sox rotation, Jake Peavy is once again showing glimpses of what he once was.
He's 4-1 on the year, posting a 2.65 ERA and owns better than a five to one strikeout-to-walk ratio. His WHIP is currently below 1.000, and with eight starts under his belt, he just might be getting his health back under control.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
With an on-base percentage higher than at any point in his career, Joey Votto is finding all sorts of ways to help the Cincinnati Reds.
He leads the league in free passes (34), and with a .311 batting average, he's once again showing he can hack it in the batter's box.
With five home runs and 24 RBI in 35 games this season, Votto should once again prove to be one of the most prolific offensive players the National League has to offer.
Cleveland Indians: Asdrubal Cabrera
A year removed from his first All-Star appearance, Asdrubal Cabrera has stepped up his game early in 2012, proving that he might be ready to head back to the Midsummer Classic.
He's batting .319 through 30 games with the Cleveland Indians thanks in part to 16 extra-base hits and 17 walks drawn. He has an on-base percentage of better than .410, while his OPS continues to climb toward the 1.000 mark.
Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez
Under more normal circumstances, you might think Troy Tulowitzki would be a more logical choice for a lock to represent the Colorado Rockies in Kansas City.
Early on in 2012, however, Carlos Gonzalez has emerged as the top offensive threat for Colorado, with seven home runs and 29 RBI already in just 32 games. He hasn't let his power get his average down, as he's batting .305 with an on-base percentage approaching .400.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Having committed only four errors at third base so far this season, Miguel Cabrera has probably surpassed some critics' opinions of what he'd do when he made the move from first base to make room for Prince Fielder.
No matter how his defense has fared, he hasn't let it get in the way of his hitting too much. He's already gone deep eight times this season and driven in more than 30 runs, while maintaining a respectable .308 batting average (albeit nine points below his career average).
Houston Astros: Jose Altuve
Without many reasons to cheer in Houston these days, the Astros may have found a formidable infield option in Jose Altuve.
After appearing in 57 games for Houston last year, Altuve has driven in 13 runs in 2012, stealing as many bases as he did all of last year and maintaining a .309 batting average in the 35 games he's played.
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
As the host city for this year's All-Star game, the Kansas City Royals want nothing more than to send their slugger to the festivities to represent the franchise.
Billy Butler hasn't completely broken out to be the power hitter that many are hoping he will be, but his numbers over the past four seasons have been very consistent, as they are once again this year.
Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver
Jered Weaver has won five of his first eight starts, one of which was an impressive no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.
He's striking out better than eight batters per nine innings, something he's only done once before. With only 10 walks on the season, he's showing great control on the mound.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
Currently leading the league in slugging (.726), OPS (1.173) and runs scored (29), there's really no way Matt Kemp won't be making a trip to Kansas City this July.
He's currently batting .359 and has gone deep 12 times en route to 28 RBI, making some wonder if he could be the type of player that could take home the Triple Crown.
Miami Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes found themselves in a bit of a controversy this offseason when it needed to be determined who would be playing at shortstop in 2012.
More than a month into the season, Ramirez appears to be doing alright in the hot corner, with only one error committed in 36 games.
His batting average has dipped from his career average, but he's getting some power back, with seven home runs and 25 RBI already under his belt.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun
After losing Prince Fielder to free agency, Ryan Braun took over the sole spot as the face of the Milwaukee Brewers. With the steroid allegations from the offseason behind him, he's once again thriving at the plate.
His batting average is down a bit from prior seasons, but his power numbers are up, as he's already in double digits for home runs and boasts an OPS above 1.000.
Minnesota Twins: Josh Willingham
Despite a relatively large payroll and plenty of money committed to proven stars, the Minnesota Twins have the worst record in baseball and don't appear to be getting better any time soon.
Josh Willingham has been one of the only bright spots for the team in 2012, proving that you can hit for power in Target Field.
You have to wonder how long after the All-Star break he stays in a Twins uniform before the team moves him for prospects.
New York Mets: David Wright
David Wright's .408 batting average is clearly good enough for the league lead, with a nearly .500 on-base percentage right behind it in the statline, thanks in part to 22 free passes.
He's driven in 21 runs already, and with only one error in the field this season, Wright is showing he's one of the most complete players the league has to offer.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
After a down couple of seasons in the Bronx (by his standards), Derek Jeter has gotten off to a very hot start in 2012, boasting a .366 batting average, thanks in great part to his league-leading 56 hits.
He's already nearly matched his 2011 home run total (five) and has scored 24 runs in 36 games.
Oakland Athletics: Josh Reddick
The Oakland Athletics organization was one of the more busy in baseball this past offseason, as a number of high-profile names left town, while some others were added into the fold.
Josh Reddick's first season with Oakland has been his best, as he's already driven in 20 runs, just eight shy of his career high. He's also posting his highest numbers in batting, slugging, OBP and OPS.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels
As he prepares to potentially enter free agency this offseason, Cole Hamels has every reason to give it all he has on the mound.
He's off to a good start, with a 5-1 record in seven starts this season, posting a 2.28 ERA in the process.
His strikeout numbers are the highest they've been since his rookie season and he continues to see his walks decrease.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen
With a newly signed contract in hand, Andrew McCutchen appears to be playing more freely, and the statistics seem to back it up.
He's batting .339 in 2012, nearly 60 points above his career average, and with his strikeout numbers on the decline, his swing is maturing into something that could help him lead the Pittsburgh Pirates for years to come.
San Diego Padres: Yonder Alonso
Seeing his first real action in the major leagues, Yonder Alonso is doing everything in his power to make sure he catches on for good with San Diego.
He's currently batting .296 for the Padres and has 12 doubles and one home run to go along with 11 RBI in 35 games.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
One of the more popular catchers in the league, Buster Posey is still working his way back from an injury-shortened 2011 season.
He doesn't appear to be too far off right now, as he's batting .280 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 32 games.
Posey has drawn 10 walks already, but does appear to be striking out at a higher rate.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
2010 AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is back in strong form in 2012, with three wins and a 2.29 ERA in eight starts so far.
King Felix leads the league in innings pitched and continues to see his strikeout numbers climb, while walking fewer batters.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
Before signing a five-year contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals this past offseason, Yadier Molina was set to become the top free-agent catcher in the market after 2012.
As it stands, Molina is batting over .300 for the Cardinals this year, while driving in runs at a strong pace and showing power along the way.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
Three-time All-Star Evan Longoria has done a good job of building on a season of ups and downs in 2011 that saw him continue to produce power (31 home runs, 99 RBI) but also saw his average dip below .250 for the first time in his career.
Longoria is batting .329 so far in 2012 and has driven in 19 runs in just 23 games played.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton
Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion
With Jose Bautista struggling early on in 2012, it'll probably take a fan vote for him to make it to Kansas City, so Edwin Encarnacion may be the next logical choice to represent the Blue Jays.
In 37 games this season, Encarnacion is batting .270, and has driven in more than 30 runs, going deep 12 times already. His .918 OPS is a career high, thanks in part to a nearly .600 slugging percentage.
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
After seeing limited action in 2011 following his return from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg appears to be himself once again in 2012.
Strasburg currently leads the league with 56 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched.
He's walking batters at the same rate he did in 2010, and with a 2.25 ERA accompanying his 3-1 record, Strasburg is no doubt one of the top pitchers in the league.