2012 MLB All-Star Game: B/R Predicts Each Team's Starters

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJune 17, 2012

2012 MLB All-Star Game: B/R Predicts Each Team's Starters

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    With the 2012 MLB All-Star Game just under a month away, it’s time to start analyzing who’ll be making their way to Kansas City for the Midsummer Classic and who’ll end up staying home and getting an extra few days of rest.

    Since 2003, when Major League Baseball decided to award the All-Star Game winner home-field advantage in the World Series, the showcase of the best players in the game has sparked plenty of debate. Whether it should count or not is a debate for a later day, though.

    Today, I ask which players deserve to play in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game. Major League Baseball tries to settle this question by asking fans to vote for their favorite players. Through a few weeks of fan voting, here are the leaders for the American League and the National League.

    I’ve decided to take a different approach to determine who represents their team and league. I polled Bleacher Report’s MLB featured columnist community, asking them who they think should go to the All-Star Game. The ballot that they filled out was identical to the one that everyone can fill out on MLB.com.

    A total of 46 B/R FCs completed my ballot and I’m happy to share the results with you. Each starter has analysis from not only me, but a MLB FC that voted for that specific player as well.

    Without further ado, here are B/R’s starters for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

    *All statistics are as of June 16*

    **Note that the official ballot does not include a National League DH, who will be determined by NL manager Tony La Russa**

American League Catcher

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    Starter: A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox (32.6 percent)

    There is a trio of great catchers in the American League, but Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski gets the nod in Kansas City. He's in the top five of nearly every offensive category among catchers and has been a wall behind the plate.

    Even at 35 years old, Pierzynski is playing better than some of the younger catchers in the league. There's no doubt that Matt Wieters will make his fair share of Midsummer Classic teams and that Mike Napoli will get a great contract after this season, but this year the starting spot goes to Pierzynski.

    B/R featured columnist Jeremy Dorn believes that Pierzynski's role in the first-place White Sox makes him the obvious choice at catcher. 

    No catcher in the American League can touch Pierzynski's numbers this season. His closest overall competition is the Orioles' Matt Wieters and Rangers' Mike Napoli, but they are both hitting below .260. On the other hand, Pierzynski is helping anchor the first-place White Sox and on pace to shatter his career-highs in offensive production.

    At this point in the season, he's hitting .286 with 11 homers and 40 RBI. He is tied for the lead among AL catchers in home runs, leads all AL backstops in slugging percentage and OPS and leads all catchers in RBI. Put A.J. in the All-Star Game.

    Honorable Mention: Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (21.7 percent); Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers (15.2 percent)

National League Catcher

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    Starters: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals; Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (26.1 percent)

    Both Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz are top-tier catchers who each make great cases to start the All-Star Game. Molina has been named to the last three All-Star Games, while Ruiz is still looking for his first appearance.

    Molina has helped the Cardinals stay in the playoff hunt, while Ruiz has been one of the few bright spots for the ailing Phillies this year. Neither of these players lead the fan vote, but Molina does lead Ruiz by a small margin in second place.

    My vote went to Molina since he's played great and is on a contending team, but since the vote ended in a tie, let's hear an argument of why each should get the starting nod.

    B/R contributor Ben Larivee argues that Ruiz's offensive and defensive production stand alone.

    The performance of Chooch has been just about all that has gone right for the Phillies this season. He has been a constant force in an otherwise painfully inconsistent offense. His numbers tell the story better than words ever could.

    Ruiz is hitting .347 and slugging .555, both of which greatly exceed the league average. Those numbers have only been matched by major league catchers twice since 1937—by Mike Piazza in 1997, and Joe Mauer in 2009. 

    Meanwhile, for all the talk about the defensive brilliance of Yadier Molina, Ruiz actually has posted a better dWAR than the St. Louis backstop (0.9 to 0.5).

    It's pretty clear who should be behind the plate in the bottom of the first in Kansas City.  When he strokes a double in the gap amidst the collective howl of his moniker, you might understand why it's Ruiz...and then everybody else.

    B/R featured columnist Chris Haddad counters with some sabermetrics that favor Molina.

    The value of a catcher is tied into so much more than his individual statistics. The real value of the player is in how well he controls the pitching staff; offensive numbers are often an added bonus.

    St. Louis Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, has caught more games than any NL catcher. The Cardinals’ staff is sixth in NL ERA but third in NL FIP.

    Of the top three NL catchers’ WAR (Carlos Ruiz 3.2, A.J. Ellis 2.8, Molina 2.6), Molina has caught the only team that appears in the top five in NL FIP.

    The added benefit that Molina has provided his team away from the plate more than compensates for the sub-0.6 WAR that he trails Ruiz in offensive production. This is why Yadier Molina should be the choice for top NL catcher. 

    Honorable Mention: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (17.4 percent); Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves (10.9 percent)

American League First Baseman

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    Starter: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (65.2 percent)

    Going into the season, many of you might have thought that by this time in the season, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols would be having phenomenal seasons with their new teams. Well, you were wrong. Kind of.

    Pujols had a miserable power drought to start the season and even though Fielder is having a decent year, the Tigers have played very poorly. That has left the door open for a veteran who could end up being a Hall of Famer some day.

    Paul Konerko has been outstanding this season for the first-place Chicago White Sox. Who would've thought that a 36-year-old would be leading the league in hitting? I certainly didn't, but he definitely gets my vote this year.

    B/R featured columnist Kenny DeJohn also thinks that it's time Konerko gets the credit he deserves.

    Paul Konerko is the obvious choice to start at first base for the American League in the 2012 All-Star Game.

    It's simply, really. His line of .373/.452/.617 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI show just how much of a force he's been at the plate so far this season. His batting average ranks first in baseball. His 12 home runs are second amongst American League first basemen and his 35 RBI rank sixth.

    Of all the options to start at first, Konerko clearly has the most complete stat sheet. It's time to recognize this guy as an elite hitter in today's game.

    Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (23.9 percent); Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (4.3 percent)

National League First Baseman

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    Starter: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (76.1 percent)

    Joey Votto has been a force in the National League and really all of baseball since coming up with the Cincinnati Reds. In previous years he's had some competition as to who was the best first baseman in the NL. With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols both going to the American League this year, it's no longer even close.

    He's arguably the best first baseman in all of baseball and will most certainly be at first base in Kansas City. Freddie Freeman hasn't been good this year at all and Ryan Howard hasn't even played a game yet. Adam LaRoche has put together a great season for the Washington Nationals but still isn't even close to the caliber that Votto is playing at.

    B/R associate editor and MLB team leader Stephen Meyer agrees that Votto is in a class of his own among NL first basemen.

    Joey Votto is about as clear a selection as there is in the 2012 MLB All-Star voting process. The Reds superstar is either first or second among first basemen—as of June 13—in runs, home runs, runs batted in, walks, doubles, average and OPS.

    Votto is one of the handful of best hitters in the entire game of baseball, let alone just at his own position. No one, even a great story in the Nationals' Adam LaRoche, is remotely close to unseating him as starting NL first baseman—and he’ll likely hit in the heart of the NL order in Kansas City.

    Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (8.7 percent); Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (4.3 percent); Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (4.3 percent)

American League Second Baseman

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    Starter: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (34.8 percent)

    Even being a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox, Robinson Cano still has my vote. He's amazing at what he does, whether it be at the plate or at second base. He has incredible bat speed, power and range in the field.

    There's no doubt in my mind that Cano gets the start at second base for the American League for the third consecutive year. He's clearly earned it.

    B/R featured columnist Ely Sussman explains how the competition for Cano just isn't at the same level as the Bronx Bomber.

    Playing for a contending team in Major League Baseball's largest media market is surely helping Robinson Cano in All-Star fan voting. Everybody is aware of the second baseman's past excellence and there are New York Yankees fans who would support him regardless of his 2012 performance.

    In reality, though, Cano is very deserving. Since getting off to an uninspiring start, he has recovered to lead his position in extra-base hits, batting average and OPS. His defense is impossibly smooth, too. The baseball world is still trying to understand how he gets so much velocity behind his sidearm throws.

    Dustin Pedroia is not at the top of his game, while Dustin Ackley and Jemile Weeks are regressing in their first full seasons. Brian Roberts (concussion) would have been a popular write-in candidate had he made his 2012 debut a few weeks earlier.

    Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers) and Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians) are Cano's only legitimate challengers. Both are superior base-stealers, but better overall players? Not quite. Robbie has earned the starting nod.

    Honorable Mention: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (30.4 percent); Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (17.4 percent)

National League Second Baseman

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    Starter: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (39.1 percent)

    I would bet that not even the Houston Astros fans out there knew what kind of numbers their young second baseman would be putting up this year. He has been absolutely outstanding this season and it's a shame that he probably won't make the actual All-Star team.

    He leads all second baseman in hitting by a huge margin while playing for one of the worst teams in the game. Altuve ranks second in WAR among NL second baseman just behind the Braves' Dan Uggla. He's done it all this year and has really made a name for himself. Hopefully he's on the Final Vote ballot.

    B/R contributor Eric Brach argues that since Altuve is more of a prototypical shortstop, he deserves the starting spot.

    Jose Altuve beat out Dan Uggla in what was actually a close vote, which feels like a surprise. Yes, Uggla leads NL second basemen in home runs with 11, but that's all he's got.

    Besides, second base is not a power position and Uggla, though a good hitter, is not a great hitter—even with his 11 home runs, he'd likely be hitting near the bottom of the NL lineup. A .257 average with a handful of dingers is nothing much at an All-Star Game.

    Altuve, on the other hand, is the total package. He's hitting .320, and his 12 stolen bases lead NL second basemen. He’s the prototypical star middle infielder—good ability to get on base coupled with speed to torment a pitcher and create runs on the basepaths—and that’s why he should start for the NL.

    Honorable Mention: Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (34.8 percent); Omar Infante, Miami Marlins (8.7 percent)

American League Shortstop

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    Starter: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (58.7 percent)

    It's scary to think how consistent Derek Jeter has been throughout his entire career. If he makes the All-Star team this year, which he will, it'll be his seventh consecutive selection and 13th of his career. That's insane.

    There's no other way to say it other than he's just the best. He's a Hall of Fame lock and will be voted into the All-Star Game until he retires. It could be because the fan voting is a popularity contest, but Jeter does deserve the vote. He's 37 years old and putting up very impressive numbers. 

    B/R featured columnist Jake Singer says that even though Jeter has slowed offensively, he deserves to be the starter.

    Despite cooling off from a fast start, Derek Jeter remains the clear choice to start at shortstop for the American League in Kansas City.

    After hitting .389 with four home runs in March/April, he's down to .321 and six homers for the year.  Still, he leads AL shortstops in average and hits, is second in RBI and OPS and is third in home runs and on-base percentage. 

    Other contenders are Elvis Andrus, who is hitting .299 with nine stolen bases, Asdrubal Cabrera, whose .296/5/25 line is slightly worse than Jeter's .321/6/20 and J.J. Hardy, who has 11 home runs but is hitting .261.

    One interesting note about Jeter's season to date: He's hitting .375 with a .926 OPS on the road, but just .264 with a .674 OPS in the Bronx.

    Honorable Mention: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (23.9 percent); J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (6.5 percent)

National League Shortstop

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    Starter: Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals (32.6 percent)

    Rafael Furcal is about as complete of a shortstop as you're going to find. Despite being a good hitter—tied for the second-best batting average among NL shortstops—Furcal can also hit the occasional home run, snag a base and drive in runs all while playing solid defensively.

    He is tied for the second-best WAR among NL shortstops behind Jed Lowrie, who didn’t even finish in the top three of this vote. He’s just behind Troy Tulowitzki—second on this list—in the fan voting and it will be very close to see who starts in Kansas City.

    Despite Furcal leading this list, I think that Tulowitzki should end up starting for the NL. He’s an overall better player but has had his issues with injuries this season. Apparently, the B/R writers still believe that Furcal tops him.

    B/R contributor Chris Haddad goes into deep sabermetrics to make a case for Furcal as the starter.

    To make the case for Rafael Furcal as the top National League shortstop, one must do a deep dive through advanced metrics to show that he has actually been the best shortstop in the NL.

    He ranks in the top five among NL shortstops in standard and advanced stats, such as OPS, wRC+, wOBA and WAR, despite ranking dead last in line-drive percentage. 

    On average, an MLB player will have a 25 percent line-drive percentage over the course of the season, but Furcal only hits line drives 16.3 percent of the time.

    It's definitely a tight race at shortstop and this evidence shows that if Furcal had a line-drive percentage as high as Jed Lowrie (21.0 percent) or Starlin Castro (22.1 percent), then he would have league-leading stats instead of merely breaking the top five. 

    Honorable Mention: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (21.7 percent); Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (13 percent)

American League Third Baseman

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    Starter: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (39.1 percent)

    Coming into the season, I was one of many that questioned whether Miguel Cabrera would be able to continue to play well despite transitioning from first base to third base. He really hasn't been good at all at third but his offensive production has stayed. The addition of Prince Fielder to the Tigers' lineup has also helped Cabrera.

    In the fan voting, Cabrera sits second behind Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. I think that Cabrera deserves to start over Beltre and would be a better fit in the AL lineup. I do, however, feel that Mark Trumbo has had a phenomenal breakout year and that he deserves the start over both Cabrera and Beltre. It was a close vote, but Cabrera ended up winning.

    B/R featured columnist J. Cook says to forget about Cabrera's defense and just focus on his offense when thinking about who should be the AL starter.

    Without a doubt, Miguel Cabrera is one of the most prolific hitters in MLB; however, his defensive skills at the hot corner are certainly cause for concern and call into question earning the starting nod at third base for the American League All-Stars.

    It is a rarity when fans of the Midsummer Classic care more about defensive glove work than they do the chance to see moon shots off of a slugger's lumber from the dish. Fact is, they'd rather see a bomb before a sensational defensive stab any day—and that's why Cabrera is the starter.

    After enduring one of the toughest stretches of his career—a five-game 0-for-22 stretch in early May, dropping his average to .222—Cabrera has charged back as a hitting machine, totaling a league-leading 93 on the season. He leads the Tigers with 13 home runs and ranks second in the AL with 52 RBI behind Texas' Josh Hamilton's 62.

    While there may be several better defensive third baseman, none of them hold a candle to the stick Cabrera swings at the plate. 

    Honorable Mention: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (37 percent); Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals (8.7 percent)

National League Third Baseman

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    Starter: David Wright, New York Mets (63 percent)

    David Wright is having an MVP-caliber season for the surprising New York Mets, who are very much in the playoff hunt. His batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS are far better than any other third basemen in the National League.

    Wright's WAR this season is 3.9. Second place in that category is Padres third baseman Chase Headley at 2.7. For those not knowledgeable in WAR, that means that David Wright is more than a win better than any other third baseman in the NL. If that doesn't make him the All-Star Game starter, I don't know what does.

    B/R featured columnist Ely Sussman feels that Wright has outplayed any other contender this season and that's why he got his vote.

    David Wright is enjoying a dominant season for the New York Mets, while his rival NL third basemen are underachieving. For those reasons, he is the only candidate to start at the hot corner on July 10. 

    Wright leads his position in most offensive categories by a significant margin. He is off the pace in home runs and stolen bases, but still in the top three. Besides Placido Polanco, no other third basemen has stayed injury-free and struck out less frequently. Also, Wright's ability to make both routine and "impossible" defensive plays should not be overlooked.

    Veterans Chipper Jones and Scott Rolen have each sat out numerous games due to injury, as have past All-Stars Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Zimmerman. Middle-of-the-order threats like Aramis and Hanley Ramirez aren't legitimate candidates because they have not statistically recovered from disappointing April performances.

    Two guys on the ballot—David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres—are amid great campaigns. But simply, neither deserve the starting nod over Wright.

    Honorable Mention: Hanley Ramirez, Miami Marlins (13 percent); Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (8.7 percent); David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (8.7 percent)

American League Outfielder

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    Starter: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (82.6 percent)*

    There's absolutely no way that Josh Hamilton doesn't start in the All-Star Game unless he gets injured somewhere between now and July 10. If he wasn't voted in, there would be something seriously wrong with the system.

    He has as good a shot at winning the Triple Crown as anyone that we've seen in a while. Although he currently ranks second in WAR among AL outfielders, he's still the best player out in the field and will be the best player in the AL lineup.

    B/R featured columnist Brandon Tripp brings up Hamilton's eye-opening statistics as a major reason of why he should start.

    Josh Hamilton’s 2012 All-Star bid is the reason the term no-brainer was coined.

    The Texas outfielder is in a contract year playing out of his mind for the Rangers and into a pricey mega-deal this offseason.

    Hamilton leads the American League in homers (22), RBI (62), OPS (1.064) and SLG (.674). He also had a four-home run game sandwiched in there against a much-improved Baltimore team.

    We would all like to see him participate in the Home Run Derby and crank another 28 homers like he did in 2008, but considering he is a legitimate threat for the first Triple Crown since 1967, we can let it slide...this time. 

    Honorable Mention: Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics (23.9 percent); Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers (10.9 percent)

    *Leading vote-getter*

American League Outfielder

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    Starter: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (65.2 percent)

    Believe it or not, Adam Jones is the best statistical player in the American League. His 3.7 WAR this year is slightly higher than Josh Hamilton, and he leads all AL hitters. That's a little shocking to say the least.

    Jones has had a spectacular year for the Baltimore Orioles, who also are having quite the 2012. When you think of Triple Crown hopes this season, you automatically think Hamilton.

    Jones has also put up numbers that could get him that crown. He's in the home run hunt and even though he isn't too close in RBI and batting average, a great second half could push him toward the top.

    B/R contributor Chris Haddad think that Jones' franchise numbers and recent extension makes him an obvious starter.

    Adam Jones is putting together the best season of any Baltimore Oriole since Melvin Mora had a .980 OPS in 2003. In addition, Jones has the second-best OPS of any AL center fielder behind only the leading AL MVP candidate, Josh Hamilton.

    In May, the Orioles rewarded Jones with the largest contract in organization history, inking him to a six-year, $85.5 million contract extension.

    According to FanGraphs, as of June 12, Jones has already been worth $15.6 million this season, thanks to both his elite production at the plate and in the field.

    If it was not for the all-world production of Hamilton, we would be making the case for Jones to be the best AL center fielder of 2012. 

    Honorable Mention: Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins (17.4 percent); Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox (8.7 percent)

American League Outfielder

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    Starter: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees (41.3 percent)

    Curtis Granderson has done a great job at proving to all those that thought last season was a fluke power-wise. Granderson continues to roam the New York outfield with ease and also has been swinging a hot bat.

    His OPS is among the highest of American League outfielders and he is second with 20 home runs behind Josh Hamilton. He's really a jack-of-all-trades despite not stealing as many bases this season. Granderson still gets my vote this season and should start in the All-Star Game for the second straight year.

    B/R featured columnist Josh Benjamin focuses on Granderson's surprising power numbers over the last two seasons, which is why the Bronx Bomber gets his vote.

    When you think of a great power hitter, Curtis Granderson isn't exactly the first name that comes to mind.  He's long had a reputation as an impatient hitter who will swing at anything, resulting in large strikeout totals that border on the ridiculous. As a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2006, he led the AL with 174 K's.

    Yet, since coming to the New York Yankees after the 2009 season, Granderson has blossomed into one of the most dangerous bats in the game. He always could hit, but now he has become a longball machine with more patience. Just last year, he hit a career-high 41 dingers while leading the AL with 119 RBI.

    The man has continued hitting the ball out of the park this year, as he is currently second in the AL with 20 home runs. The RBI total is a bit low at 39, but he is so reliable and so clutch that to deny him an All-Star berth would be a crime.

    Honorable Mention: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (15.2 percent); B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays (4.3 percent); Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (4.3 percent)

National League Outfielder

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    Starter: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (52.2 percent)

    Matt Kemp started the 2012 season about as well as you could've asked him to. Through his first 23 games, he had 12 home runs. Although he hasn't had a home run since May, he's still the favorite to start in the National League outfield.

    He's currently leading all NL players in the fan voting and had one of the highest vote totals on my list. His hamstring injury is a little concerning, but he should get voted in whether he plays in the All-Star Game or not.

    B/R featured columnist Jonathan Irwin thinks that despite his injury, Kemp is still the best out there.

    As it stands in the National League, Matt Kemp is tied for eighth in home runs (12) and tied for 43rd in RBI (28). He’s hitting .355 with a 1.163 OPS. While other players have had at least 200-230 at-bats, Kemp has had just 121.

    Despite playing in just 13 games between May and June—due to a nagging hamstring—Kemp owns one of the best resumes among National League outfielders.

    There’s no doubt that the most dynamic athlete in baseball deserves to be an All-Star. 

    Honorable Mention: Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants (37 percent); Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (17.4 percent)

National League Outfielder

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    Starter: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (52.2 percent)

    After winning the NL MVP last season with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and a .332 batting average, he could be on pace for another trophy this season. He currently has a 3.7 WAR, second best among NL outfielders, behind the Atlanta Braves' Michael Bourn, who will be snubbed this year.

    B/R featured columnist Christopher Benvie argues that Braun is the complete package and deserves the NL nod.

    Ryan Braun—the Hebrew Hammer—reigning 2011 National League MVP—is an obvious choice to roam the outfield in the 2012 All-Star Game.

    He is batting .314 with 17 home runs (tied for first among left fielders with Carlos Gonzalez) and 11 stolen bases (second among left fielders behind Juan Pierre.) Only CarGo has more RBI with 51 to Braun’s 45.

    Only Gonzalez has a higher OPS and only Melky Cabrera has a higher OBP.

    In short, Braun is the everyman that baseball fans know him to be. He hits for power, average and can swipe a bag out from underneath you. Clearly, All-Star material.

    Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (32.6 percent); Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers (17.4 percent)

National League Outfielder

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    Starter: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (45.7 percent)

    Carlos Gonzalez, CarGo for short, has had another impressive season for the Colorado Rockies. He's the best complete left-handed hitting outfielder in the National League without a doubt. Michael Bourn is also having a great year but isn't nearly as complete of a hitter as CarGo.

    Gonzalez ranks first among NL outfielders in runs and OPS and second in home runs and RBI. He's not the best fielder, but his hitting ability is pretty incredible. He hasn't gotten much respect from the fan vote, but still deserves to start in my mind.

    B/R featured columnist Geoffrey Ratliff thinks that CarGo could get himself into Triple Crown contention after an injury hurt his shot last season.

    Carlos Gonzalez is once again proving that he is one of the best players in the National League, if not all of Major League Baseball. "CarGo" spent most of the 2011 season in Triple Crown contention, but had his efforts disrupted by a wrist injury in late July.

    Now completely healthy, Gonzalez has gotten back to the business of terrorizing NL pitching, and is once again one of the league leaders in batting average (.326; fifth), home runs (17; third) and RBI (51; second). In addition to his prolific bat, he has played stellar defense in center field.

    With Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp's first half cut short by a hamstring injury, Gonzalez deserves the third starting outfield spot in next month's All-Star Game, alongside Carlos Beltran and Ryan Braun.

    Honorable Mention: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (23.9 percent); Hunter Pence, Philadelphia Phillies (4.3 percent)

American League Designated Hitter

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    Starter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (47.8 percent)

    I think that this one is relatively simple. David Ortiz is the best designated hitter in baseball and will be in the American League lineup come July 10 in Kansas City. Edwin Encarnacion is having a great year, but I don't think he really deserves the DH role.

    Big Papi has been awesome for the Red Sox, despite their slow start and current last-place standing. He's been one of the more consistent hitters in their lineup and is looking to get a big payday come free agency this season. I hope Boston brings him back, but he'll still be the best DH no matter where he plays.

    B/R featured columnist Brian Roach says that despite his age, Ortiz should still be the starter over Encarnacion.

    David Ortiz has been one of the lone bright sports for the last-place Boston Red Sox club in 2012.

    As of June 15, Big Papi was hitting .307 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI. He is top 10 in batting average and is tied for seventh in both homers and RBI.

    The only other DH with his kind of numbers is Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion has hit 17 home runs and has driven in 44 runs. The 29-year-old is way younger than Ortiz and it looks as if the 36-year-old is trying to prove himself as an All-Star in a contract year.

    Honorable Mention: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (17.4 percent); Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (15.2 percent)

American League Write-in

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    Write-In: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (11 votes)

    Mike Trout has been the spark that the Los Angeles Angels needed this season. Did you think you'd be saying that after they signed slugger Albert Pujols this past offseason. There's a pretty good chance that Trout is on the AL roster while Pujols stays home in L.A.

    I was one of the 11 who decided to write-in Trout onto the AL roster and he will most likely have my vote for AL Rookie of the Year. He's just an incredible talent that still isn't getting the credit that he deserves. Many are too focused on another young superstar to appreciate what Trout has done this year.

    B/R featured columnist Alec Snyder thinks that this is the first of many All-Star Games for Trout.

    Is there anything stopping Mike Trout right now?

    Although he’s just a rookie, Trout’s been playing as though he’s already one of the sport’s established veterans. He’s hitting even the best pitchers, stealing bases like it’s nobody’s business and hitting a home run every now and then. Trout really is a true five-tool player.

    He’s also been a big reason for the Angels’ recent winning ways. Prior to his joining the team on April 28, the team was dead last in the AL West, sitting at 6-14 and way behind expectations following their marquee signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

    However, since Trout has been a member of the big league squad, the Halos have played to the tune of a 28-17 record. And, by all standards, Trout has been a huge reason for that success.

    Hitting .333 with six home runs and 26 RBI, Trout has also posted an OPS of .922 and is leading the AL in stolen bases with 16. Not only is Trout deserving of an All-Star nod this year, if he continues to play like this, we’re going to see a lot of him in future All-Star Games.

    After all, he’s only 20 years old. If he’s already playing baseball at an All-Star level, imagine how he’ll be in his prime in a few years. That’s a scary thought.

    Honorable Mention: Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox (three votes)

National League Write-in

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    Write-In: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (11 votes)

    I know that there's the theory that when superstars start to be younger than you, you start to lose interest. Well, I'm only 21, yet I still love watching 19-year old Bryce Harper play baseball. He's easily already one of my favorite players not only because of his talent, but his work ethic and love of the game as well.

    Harper is proving that the hype behind Sports Illustrated's cover story on him was well-warranted. He's my favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year and he continues to impress me on a daily basis. It will be awesome if he makes it to Kansas City, playing along with the best in the game today.

    B/R featured columnist Jake Singer explains that even though Harper is still young, he's already a star.

    One of the most hyped prospects in the history of baseball, Bryce Harper has shown that he is already a star since being called up to the big leagues on April 28.

    After struggling through his first 20 games, which is to be expected from a 19-year old, Harper has been on a tear. In his last 22 games, he's hitting .365 with five home runs. He also made perhaps the most exciting play of the year to date—stealing home against Cole Hamels after being intentionally hit by the southpaw.

    Harper is already a star in the league and he deserves to be in Kansas City with the rest of baseball's best.

    Honorable Mention: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (two votes); Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (two votes); Kirk Nieuwenhuis, New York Mets (two votes)

Starting Lineups and Prediction

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    Starting Lineups

    Since the All-Star Game will be played in an American League ballpark (Kansas City), that means that the designated hitter will be in full effect and we won't be seeing pitchers hitting.

    On the ballot, there isn't a spot for a National League DH, so I've decided to put St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran in that role.

    Here is what each team's lineup could look like:

    AL NL
    Jeter, SS Furcal, SS
    Jones, RF Beltran, DH
    Hamilton, LF Wright, 3B
    Cabrera, 3B Votto, 1B
    Ortiz, DH Kemp, CF
    Konerko, 1B Braun, RF
    Cano, 2B Gonzalez, LF
    Pierzynski, C Molina/Ruiz, C
    Granderson, CF Altuve, 2B



    We obviously won't know who will be pitching in the All-Star Game for at least a couple of weeks, but based on the offenses of each team, it could turn out to be a slugfest.

    Nearly every starter has the ability to hit the ball out of the park. The game could honestly go either way, but I'm going to take the American League in this one.

    The timetable of Matt Kemp could play the biggest role. It wouldn't be a huge drop-off if he missed the game, but it would make a difference. Also, how could I bet against a guy going for the Triple Crown?


    American League 11, National League 7

    A special thanks to MLB team leader Stephen Meyer and the entire MLB FC community for helping me put this slideshow together!