Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Justin Verlander... Who Are This Year's MLB All-Stars?

Eric Brach@EBrachWritesCorrespondent IMay 21, 2012

Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Justin Verlander... Who Are This Year's MLB All-Stars?

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    Over the past two weeks, MLB All-Star ballots have been introduced to baseball stadiums across the country. With voting now officially underway, that got us wondering: if the 2012 All-Star Game were to be played next week, who’d be in – and who’d be out? 

    What follows is a position-by-position roster for both the NL and the AL teams, including who’s starting and who’s left at home eating tortilla chips, catching the game on TV like all the rest of us.

    Want to know who’d make it – and who the presumptive frontrunners are for the actual game contest in Kansas City come July? Then read on.

    Questions? Comments? Arguments and disagreements? Please contribute to the conversation below. 

Catchers

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    Catcher:

    NL: Yadier Molina, Carlos Ruiz

    AL: A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Mauer

    Just short: A.J. Ellis (LAD), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL), Matt Wieters (BAL)

     

    Carlos Ruiz is having a heck of a year at the plate: his .355 batting average, 7 HRs, and 29 RBIs all lead the NL. Yadier Molina is going to win the starting nod via popular vote, though, because he’s very strong, he’s a name people know, and he catches for arguably the best offensive team in the NL.

    That leaves hot-hitting A.J. Ellis and Jonathon Lucroy (both of whom are young catchers enjoying career years) at home.

    In the AL, no one is even close to A.J. Pierzynski: and that’s more a commentary on the lack of offensive production behind the plate than Pierzynski’s stunning prowess behind the plate this year.

    Still, Mauer’s .293 batting average is going to be enough to win him second place, just above young slugger Matt Wieters.

    Wieters has shown no trouble in going (Camden) yard, but his consistency leaves something to be desired. Maybe he’ll get the nod next year.

First Basemen

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    First base:

    NL: Joey Votto, Bryan LaHair, Adam LaRoche

    AL: Paul Konerko, Prince Fielder

     

    Two White Sox starting at the first two positions? Don’t worry, it thins out after this.

    The pickings are easy at first base: with slumping Albert Pujols underproducing, the five players above are all at the top of their position in batting average, HRs, and OPS. And since the NL will need DHs, they can afford to take three players at this position.

    Keep an eye on Votto and LaHair: with batting averages above .300 and OPSs over 1.000, they may find themselves at the top of the MVP race if they can keep up this pace through September.

Second Basemen

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    Second base:

    NL: Jose Altuve, Omar Infante

    AL: Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano

    Just short: Daniel Murphy (NYM), Kelly Johnson (TOR)

     

    It’s too bad that no team will be taking three second basemen, because both Murphy and Johnson make strong cases for inclusion: Murphy’s hitting .319 on the season, and Johnson leads all major league second basemen with 8 home runs.

    But Murphy’s also buried in the Mets’ lineup and has only 16 runs through 41 games, and Kelly Johnson finds himself buried in the same division as big-time names Pedroia and Cano...and, he’s hitting 40 points lower than either of those two former All-Stars are.

    The slightly speedier Altuve and Pedroia get the starts over their slightly more offensively potent counterparts.

Third Basemen

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    Third base:

    NL: David Wright, David Freese

    AL: Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera

    Just short: Pablo Sandoval (SFG), Chipper Jones (ATL)

     

    Though the Mets may get passed up at second, they won’t at third: David Wright is the talk of the NL. Last year’s playoff wonder David Freese will get the backup nod; whether he truly deserves it over hotter-hitting Pablo Sandoval and legend Chipper Jones is debatable, but given how well the Cardinals are doing, he’ll likely get it.

    Despite his stint on the DL, Evan Longoria will win the vote for the starter’s role. His OPS is pushing 1.000, so he deserves it, too.

    Mark Trumbo will likely be a DH, as he’s still getting his legs under him at the hot corner (and the Angels hardly ever play him there), so that opens up room on the AL roster for both Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera.

Shortstops

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    Shortstop:

    NL: Rafael Furcal, Starlin Castro

    AL: Derek Jeter, Elvis Andrus

    Just short: Jose Reyes (MIA), Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)

     

    Furcal and Jeter are both hitting around .350, something no shortstop has come close to since the ’82 MVP year of Robin Yount, so they will both earn the starting nod.

    Cabrera may barely beat out Elvis Andrus for the AL’s backup slot, but he’s got a tough road ahead if he aims to do it. Andrus has the edge given his higher batting average, better speed and how well the Rangers are playing.

    As for the NL’s No. 2 shortstop, there’s Jose Reyes to consider, and he is tied with Castro near the top of the MLB steals race.

    However, Castro’s hitting .313, and Reyes is hitting .247. Given that Furcal should win the popular vote, it’s unlikely that NL manager Tony La Russa will pick the guy who, despite the millions of dollars he commanded in the free agent market this offseason, can’t seem to get on base. Thus, Castro gets the nod.

Outfielders

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    Outfield:

    NL: Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran, Andrew McCutchen, Jon Jay, Michael Bourn

    AL: Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Adam Jones, Matt Joyce

    Just short: Melky Cabrera (SFG), Mike Trout (LAA)

     

    The AL has far fewer outfielders than the NL for two reasons: 1) the AL has natural DHs, whereas the NL will have to repurpose some of their players to fill that role, and 2) most of the AL outfielders this season have been iffy at best.

    2011 All-Star Jose Bautista has done little this year, and Ellsbury is injured again. That leaves a pair of gaping holes in the AL lineup. Yes, Josh Hamilton is having a record-setting year, but while the star power is there, the depth isn’t.

    Granderson’s got power, but his average has dipped; Suzuki will get the nod like always (last year’s non-appearance was an anomaly), but at 38, his production has really fallen off. This well could be his last year in the league, as his contract is expiring, and Suzuki may earn the vote out on the pure, unfettered strength of nostalgia.

    Besides, it’s not like there’s much competition in the AL this year. Trout could step up and get enough votes to surprise everyone (and if the youngster keeps hitting at his .333 clip, he just might), but that’s the only real foreseeable surprise here.

    As for the NL, the starters feel pretty set. Beltran may squeak by Ethier, but either way, the NL will have a good lineup take the field. Braun will win the starter’s vote, as will Kemp, injuries be damned.

    Jon Jay and Michael Bourn are doing too well not to vote in. And though Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez admittedly seem a little earning outfield spots off the bench, the MLB has decreed that every team, deserving or not, has to have at least one representative on their league’s 34-man All-Star roster.

    Thus, Pittsburgh and Colorado each get theirs in here.

Designated Hitters

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    DH:

    AL: David Ortiz, Mark Trumbo, Adam Dunn

    Just short: Billy Butler (KCR)

     

    I know what you’re thinking...Adam Dunn? Yes, he’s spent an entire career striking out like he’s afraid it might go out of style. But he also has 14 HRs in 41 games: those are All-Star power numbers.

    Mark Trumbo, for his part, is hitting .350 with an OPS over 1.000, and David Ortiz is smacking the ball like the perennial MVP candidate he was half a decade ago. They’ll all make the team.

    In company like this, poor Billy Butler just misses out. Every year, he has a near-All-Star caliber year, and every year, he gets overlooked.

    With an $8 million salary under his new contract, he’s gotten a sizable pay raise over 2011, but he’s still underpaid. If he can get himself traded (good luck), he’ll finally earn the visibility and the lineup support that he needs to push himself over the top.

    But for now, he might be left off the game’s roster once again, even though it’s at his home stadium.

Pitchers

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    Pitchers:

    NL: Johnny Cueto, Lance Lynn, Ted Lilly, Brandon Beachy, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Zambrano, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, Zack Greinke, Wade Miley, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels

    AL: Jered Weaver, Jake Peavy, Jason Hammel, Brandon Morrow, C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander, Chris Perez, Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson, Jonathan Broxton, Brandon McCarthy, Derek Lowe, David Price

    Just short: Ryan Dempster (CHC), Jake Westbrook (STL), Johan Santana (NYM), Wandy Rodriguez (HOU), Kyle Lohse (STL), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Jeremy Hellickson (TB)

     

    Cueto, Lilly, Beachy, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zambrano, Kershaw, and Miley are the frontrunners for the NL ERA crown, and they have a combined W-L record of 35-8, with a WHIP under 1.00 and an ERA under 2.00. That’s incredible. It would make for among the best rosters of pitchers ever assembled, in fact.

    In this company, 3-4 Wandy Rodriguez will lose his spot to 6-1 Lance Lynn; 6-1 Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke will also earn nods on the strength of their great records and their strikeout totals.

    Matt Cain will steal a spot because the Giants need a representative and Ryan Dempster, for all his skill, is 0-2 thanks to anemic run support from his Cub teammates.

    Kimbrel, Papelbon, and Street are arguably the NL’s best closers; if Street remains injured, though, that does open one final spot for a deserving pitcher like Westbrook, Lohse, or Santana.

    In the AL, Verlander, Lowe, Peavy, Darvish, and Weaver have all unquestionably earned their spots. Hammel and Jim Johnson are the ace and the closer, respectively, for the cruising Orioles, so they’ll get a nod apiece, and Brandon McCarthy is the only player on the A’s even worth consideration (at least, so far.

    Overshadowed by free agent defector Yoenis Cespedes, young slugger Josh Reddick may see himself an All-Star as soon as next year...perhaps even this year, if McCarthy does get overlooked.) Chris Perez and Fernando Rodney are stud closers, and Jonathan Broxton’s both serviceable and a Kansas City Royal, which means he’ll likely be on the AL squad.

    This leaves just one spot remaining between David Price, Price’s teammate Jeremy Hellickson, and perennial Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez. It’s a tough call, especially given Hernandez’s 61 strikeouts, but the nod will likely end up with two-time All-Star David Price.

    Hernandez has more strikeouts and Hellickson has a better record, but there’s no question that David Price is simply one of the best pitchers in baseball.

    Perhaps if there are some injuries between now and mid-July, AL Manager Ron Washington won’t have to make this choice...but as it stands, he’ll have one last tough call to make before the opening pitch.

     

    Questions? Comments? Arguments and disagreements? Please contribute to the conversation below.