Selecting the NL East's One-Quarter Mark All-Star Team
With a quarter of the season in the books, the National League East already has a number of standout performers.
The revamped Atlanta Braves have cooled off after an incredible start, but they still have many talented individuals on this list. On the other hand, the in-form Washington Nationals are now one game behind the Braves after a modest start.
Here is the NL East’s one-quarter mark All-Star team:
1. Matt Harvey, NYM
2013 Stats: 4-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.73 WHIP
Matt Harvey has taken the country by storm this season.
Although the Mets have been bottom-feeders for years now, make no mistake about it: Harvey’s the real deal.
In 56.1 innings, Harvey already boasts a 62/14 K/BB ratio, as well as an unbelievable 27 hits allowed. He has only allowed more than one earned run twice this season, proving how consistently dominant he has been.
In fact, Harvey’s worst outing was arguably his most recent outing against a strong Pittsburgh Pirates lineup. But even on a bad day, Harvey can still will himself to throw seven innings for five hits and two earned runs.
As for the rest of the Mets pitching staff, they have not been so special. Of the five other Mets to start a game this season, the player with the next-best ERA is Jeremy Hefner at 4.61.
The Mets have something special in Harvey, and he is already one of the best in the game.
2. Jordan Zimmermann, WSH
2013 Stats: 7-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
Jordan Zimmermann may not be as flashy as Harvey with his pitches, but Zimmermann has been just as good this season.
So far, Zimmermann has allowed just 42 hits and nine walks in 58.2 innings. Zimmermann is not a commanding pitcher, as his mere 39 strikeouts portrays, but he has unbelievable control and presence on the mound.
Zimmermann also has the unfortunate task of playing with two big headline-grabbers in Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg.
This season, though, Zimmermann has been the best of the trio. He is quietly having one of the best seasons in baseball.
3. Cliff Lee, PHI
2013 Stats: 4-2, 2.86 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
While the aging Phillies are struggling as a whole, the 34-year-old Cliff Lee continues to dazzle opponents.
Lee’s strikeouts are down a bit, as he currently has 43 in 56.2 innings in 2013. But Lee has still allowed just 52 hits and an incredible nine walks so far. Thus, don’t take his declining strikeout rate too seriously; Lee can still get the job done.
With Cole Hamels struggling and Roy Halladay imploding before his recent shoulder surgery, the Phillies really need Lee to step up all year.
Based on his current form, Lee looks set for another superb year.
4. Mike Minor, ATL
2013 Stats: 5-2, 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Mike Minor was one of the best pitchers in the second half of 2012, and he is picking up right where he left off.
In last year’s second half, Minor was 6-4 with a 2.16 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 87.1 innings. This season, Minor’s numbers are almost identical. Minor also has a respectable 42 strikeouts in 52.1 innings so far, which is above his normal output.
Minor’s seven home runs allowed are a bit worrying, but he has still been fantastic thus far for a first-place Braves team.
5. Kevin Slowey, MIA
2013 Stats: 1-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
The Marlins may be on their way to a 100-loss season, but Kevin Slowey is certainly doing his part to prevent that.
In 49.1 innings, Slowey only has 36 strikeouts but has also allowed just 45 hits and 11 walks.
Aside from Slowey’s lone victory, where the Marlins erupted for 14 runs, Slowey has never had a cushion to work with. The Marlins have scored more than two runs just once in Slowey’s starts, and even then they only managed three runs.
That makes it even tougher to work as a pitcher, so Slowey’s strong start is even more impressive. He has been a bright spot on an embarrassing Marlins season.
6. Stephen Strasburg, WSH
2013 Stats: 1-5, 3.10 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Stephen Strasburg has not lived up to his unbelievable expectations so far, but he has still had a strong season.
Aside from one bad outing, Strasburg has been dominant. He has recorded 51 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 49.1 innings. If you take away the one bad outing, Strasburg’s numbers improve to a 2.25 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.
Strasburg will likely find a groove and improve on his command, especially on the five home runs he has already allowed. He will also likely improve on his terrible winning percentage to begin the season, especially on such a strong Nationals team.
When that time comes, Strasburg should find himself near the top of the actual All-Star ballot in July.
Rafael Soriano, WSH
2013 Stats: 17 G, 2.12 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12 SV
After a breakout season with the New York Yankees in 2012, Rafael Soriano has been spectacular with his new team and new league.
Soriano is currently tied for second in the NL in saves with 12. He also has a 14/3 K/BB ratio in 17.0 innings. Furthermore, take away Soriano’s only blown save this season, and his numbers become a 1.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
Soriano will continue to pile up saves in bunches on the successful Nationals team. He is an All-Star at the quarter-season mark and likely by mid-season as well.
Cory Gearrin, ATL
2013 Stats: 21 G, 1.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
The Braves have the fourth-best bullpen in the majors, and Cory Gearrin is a big part of it.
In 21 games, Gearrin has allowed just two earned runs and two walks in 16.2 innings. Gearrin only has 14 strikeouts, but he makes up for it with a .196 BAA.
Gearrin does not have the name pedigree as other NL East relievers, but Gearrin arguably has been the most reliable reliever in baseball.
Catcher: Evan Gattis, ATL
2013 Stats: .252/.298/.532, 10 2B, 7 HR, 20 RBI
After John Buck’s recent cooldown, Evan Gattis has overtaken him as the top NL East catcher.
Gattis’ numbers have also cooled down, but Gattis still has a higher on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as seven more doubles and five fewer strikeouts.
Players like Yadier Molina or Buster Posey will likely win the vote to the All-Star team for the entire National League. But Gattis has been the best NL East catcher so far, especially since this is his first major league exposure.
The 26-year-old rookie is on his way to a fantastic career, and his rookie season is just the beginning.
First Base: Freddie Freeman, ATL
2013 Stats: .289/.355/.402, 5 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI
Freddie Freeman has roughly 30 fewer at-bats than the other regular first basemen, but Freeman is still far and away the best one this season.
Ryan Howard has slugged six home runs, but he is still hitting just .250 and striking out in bunches. Adam LaRoche is uncharacteristically hitting .210 so far, while Ike Davis has been an embarrassment.
Freeman should improve on his power numbers and pull away even further from the rest of the NL East as the season drags on.
There is no question about this choice.
Second Base: Chase Utley, PHI
2013 Stats: .289/.344/.514, 7 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 4 SB
While fellow teammate Ryan Howard has struggled since his 2012 return from injuries, Chase Utley has flourished.
Utley has been the all-around talent that he was before various injuries. He is able to hit for average and power, and based on the four stolen bases his speed is still a factor. Utley has also drawn a respectable 13 walks in 39 games.
This race was a bit closer than the previous ones.
Daniel Murphy was the only other choice. However, his amazing .357 batting average in late April has since dropped to .272. And without Monday’s 3-for-4 game against the Cardinals, that average dropped all the way to .258.
Phillies fans should be happy to see a healthy Utley again. Utley was the best second baseman in the league not so long ago, and he may reclaim that title again this season.
Third Base: David Wright, NYM
2013 Stats: .295/.412/.516, 6 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB
After a nine-figure contract extension, David Wright has had even more expectations thrust upon him this season.
By all accounts, he has lived up to every one.
Wright has been the model of consistency this season. He has never gone three straight games without a hit, and has only had consecutive hitless games three times so far. In two of those instances, Wright got three hits and two extra-base hits the following day.
Wright’s next-closest competition is Michael Young. Young has an impressive .310 batting average, but his anemic .395 slugging percentage drops him below Wright for now.
Wright is the face of the Mets for the next decade, and he is far and away the best NL East third baseman so far.
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, WSH
2013 Stats: .295/.318/.534, 13 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 4 SB
Ian Desmond has quietly been one of the biggest offensive surprises in all of baseball.
In 147 at-bats, Desmond already has 21 extra-base hits, including 13 doubles. Desmond does have an unfortunate 37/6 K/BB ratio, but that can be forgiven with the kind of offensive production he is providing.
Even though Desmond hit .292 with a 20-20 season in 2012, this season is still better than his normal output. That is how incredible Desmond has been so far.
Desmond’s only other competition is Jimmy Rollins. Rollins has an impressive 11 doubles, but he is hitting just .248 with a .296 on-base percentage.
Desmond is on his way to a superb season, and he is one of the most powerful shortstops in the league.
Left Field: Justin Upton, ATL
2013 Stats: .289/.395/.644, 7 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB
This is one of the toughest decisions so far.
Justin Upton, who has oozed raw potential for years, is well on his way to the long-awaited breakout season.
On the other hand, the phenom Bryce Harper has been having an outstanding sophomore season.
Harper does have a .303 batting average, but Upton is just edging him in many offensive categories, including hits, runs, walks, doubles, home runs, RBI and stolen bases. But Upton has also had 16 more at-bats and 18 more strikeouts than Harper. Harper could easily catch up in all of those stats with an even number of at-bats.
Nonetheless, Upton is currently running away with the league lead in home runs.
He has been one of the best players in all of baseball, and he is the starting left fielder for the All-Star team at the one-quarter mark.
Center Field: Denard Span, WSH
2013 Stats: .277/.344/.350, 6 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB
Despite the poor slugging percentage, Denard Span has put together a solid season so far for the Nationals.
Span is providing consistency in the outfield since the departure of Michael Morse. After hitting a solid .276 in April, Span is keeping up that pace, hitting .282 in May.
Span does not have too much competition. Justin Ruggiano surprisingly has seven home runs and five stolen bases, but he is hitting .223 with 39 strikeouts. B.J. Upton is hitting .151, and has been essentially the opposite of brother Justin this season.
The Nationals acquired another quality ballplayer in Span, and he is already paying dividends this season.
Right Field: Jayson Werth: WSH
2013 Stats: .260/.308/.400, 2 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB
Right field is possibly the weakest position in this division. Jayson Werth, despite a down year for him so far, is still performing the best.
Werth should improve drastically as the season progresses. He is hitting .282 against righties and .316 as a cleanup hitter. Once his batting average climbs back up, the power numbers will come.
Werth has no real competition for this victory. Giancarlo Stanton is an incredible talent, but he is struggling without any other Marlins hitters to back him up. Meanwhile, every other team has used right field unsuccessfully as a platoon position, with a right-handed and left-handed batter.
The only exception is the Braves. Their phenom, Jason Heyward, has hit a disappointing .121 so far and is currently recovering from an appendectomy.
Right field is not the strongest NL East position, but Werth has stood out among the rest.
Stats and Notes via: MLB.com, ESPN.com