While we are still roughly two months away from the 84th MLB All-Star Game, held this year at New York's Citi Field, it's never too early to start speculating about how each league's roster might look for the midsummer classic.
The first quarter of the the 2013 regular season has seen superb performances from a great number of players, ranging from former MVP and Cy Young Award winners to youngsters just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential.
There's no lack of available talent to fill each of the All-Star squads' 34 roster spots at this point. That plethora of deserving candidates makes selecting only 68 players a far more daunting task than you might think.
Lest we forget, every team in baseball must be represented by at least one player, and that rule plays a part in forcing some deserving candidates to wait on the sidelines—or to wait for an injury to befall someone already selected.
With that in mind, let's take a look at what the All-Star teams for each league look like after a quarter of the season has been played.
*Starters indicated in bold.
|Team||Number of All-Stars|
|Los Angeles (AL)||One|
|Los Angeles (NL)||Two|
|New York (AL)||Three|
|New York (NL)||Two|
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians: .319 BA/1.018 OPS, 18 XBH (7 HR), 16 RBI
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: .349/.931, 18 XBH (2 HR), 13 RBI
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles: .237/.736, 13 XBH (6 HR), 21 RBI
How good has Carlos Santana been in 2013?
His 1.018 OPS is the highest of any catcher in baseball and third overall in the AL. He ranks sixth in the league in walks (22), and as Matt Skrajner of The News-Herald points out, his play has his teammates dancing in the dugout:
VIDEO: Nick Swisher dances to "Apache" celebrating Carlos Santana's home run. JUMP ON IT! vine.co/v/b2U3KpJumO3— Matt Skrajner (@MattNewsHerald) May 9, 2013
Joe Mauer continues to cement his place as one of the most prolific hitting catchers of all time, currently ranking among the league leaders in batting average, OPS, walks (21) and runs scored (24). In the midst of a 14-game hitting streak, Mauer is hitting .462 (24-for-52) in the month of May.
While Matt Wieters' batting average and OPS leave much to be desired, he's been driving in runs and remains one of the premier defensive catchers in the game today. It's his Gold Glove-caliber defense that defense that makes him the choice over Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Honorable Mention: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox: .255/.810, 14 XBH (4 HR), 11 RBI
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: .286 BA/.899 OPS, 17 XBH (5 HR), 25 RBI
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates: .265/.894, 15 XBH (6 HR), 12 RBI
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals: .336/.825, 13 XBH (2 HR), 19 RBI
While I'm still giving the nod of best defensive catcher in baseball to Yadier Molina, Buster Posey has closed the gap between the two considerably. That not only makes the reigning NL MVP the choice as the starting catcher for the senior circuit, but it makes Posey the best catcher in baseball.
Or, as David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution puts it:
This just in: South Ga. boy Buster Posey is real good.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) May 11, 2013
Speaking of Molina, the veteran leads St. Louis in batting average and is among the NL leaders in the category, though he's on pace to finish the season with far less impressive numbers in the power department from a year ago.
Russell Martin's play on both sides of the plate continues to make the two-year, $17 million deal that he signed with Pittsburgh prior to the season look like one of the steals of the winter.
While John Buck has better power numbers, Martin has been the more consistent contributor, giving him the nod for the third and final catching spot on the NL roster.
Honorable Mention: John Buck, New York Mets: .232/.786, 13 XBH (10 HR), 30 RBI
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles: .311 BA/1.067 OPS, 25 XBH (11 HR), 37 RBI
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers: .277/.938, 18 XBH (9 HR), 33 RBI
James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays: .379/.993, 15 XBH (3 HR), 20 RBI
Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians: .271/.943, 18 XBH (11 HR), 34 RBI
The AL roster boasts three of the season's biggest run producers at first base in Prince Fielder, Mark Reynolds and the man who gets the starting spot, Chris Davis.
All three rank near the top of the MLB leaderboards in both home runs and RBI, which, aside from Fielder, was unexpected. But there may not be a bigger surprise this season than the play of James Loney, whose .379 batting average leads all of baseball.
Loney's surprising production at the plate for Tampa Bay knocks Boston's Mike Napoli off the AL roster. Like Davis, Fielder and Reynolds, Napoli has been one the top run producers in the game so far.
Honorable Mention: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox: .261/.840, 26 XBH (7 HR), 34 RBI
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks: .322 BA/1.013 OPS, 21 XBH (10 HR), 31 RBI
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers: 349/.909, 12 XBH (4 HR), 27 RBI
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: .327/.931, 13 XBH (4 HR), 17 RBI
No real surprises at first base for the NL, where Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt continues to make the D-Backs forget about Justin Upton by raising the level of his game to become of the league's most productive run producers.
Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto, with a combined seven All-Star appearances, continue to do what they do best—hit for average and provide a potent, run-producing bat in the middle of their respective team's lineups.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs: .277/.871, 20 XBH (9 HR), 29 RBI
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: .301 BA/.897 OPS, 21 XBH (10 HR), 25 RBI
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros: .333/.816, 12 XBH (2 HR), 18 RBI
Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers: .304/.874, 18 XBH (7 HR), 20 RBI
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: .340/.851, 11 XBH (1 HR), 17 RBI
The best second baseman in the game, Robinson Cano, leads a four-pronged attack at the position for the American League. He's thriving in the middle of New York's lineup despite the lack of complementary All-Star caliber talent.
Ian Kinsler hasn't swung a bat this well since 2008, when he finished 20th in the AL MVP voting, and his play is a major reason for Texas not missing a beat since losing Josh Hamilton's bat to free agency.
Neither Jose Altuve nor Dustin Pedroia have offered much in the way of power this season, but the pair has hit for average and been key pieces in their respective team's lineups.
Honorable Mention: Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers: 318/.807, 10 XBH (3 HR), 14 RBI
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds: .286 BA/.797 OPS, 16 XBH (6 HR), 34 RBI
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: .281/.835, 16 XBH (7 HR), 24 RBI
With similar offensive numbers and above-average defense this season, choosing between Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips and Philadelphia's Chase Utley for the starting nod on the NL squad is difficult.
Yet it's Phillips who leads the NL with 34 RBI, and that run production ultimately makes him the choice over his equally deserving counterpart.
Honorable Mention: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: .294/.817, 15 XBH (3 HR), 12 RBI
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .369 BA/1.040 OPS, 19 XBH (8 HR), 41 RBI
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays: .329/.986, 20 XBH (9 HR), 26 RBI
No real surprises here with the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, getting the nod over the uber-talented but oft-injured Evan Longoria, who is off to a torrid start to the 2013 season.
Longoria, recently named AL Player of the Week, is crushing anything that comes near the strike zone:
Roster constraints push a pair of deserving players in Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado off the squad, but either one would be a fine selection as an injury replacement.
Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics: .316/.909, 20 XBH (5 HR), 25 RBI; Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: .343/.920, 23 XBH (5 HR), 24 RBI.
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants: .312 BA/.838 OPS, 13 XBH (7 HR), 30 RBI
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres: .286/.883, 11 XBH (4 HR), 12 RBI
David Wright, New York Mets: .295/.914, 14 XBH (5 HR), 24 RBI
Pablo Sandoval has put some distance between himself and the rest of the third basemen in the National League over the first quarter of the 2013 season.
Sandoval leads NL third basemen in multiple offensive categories, while his 22.9 UZR/150 (via FanGraphs) is tops in the senior circuit, trailing only Baltimore's Manny Machado for the MLB lead.
Chase Headley and David Wright remain among the elite at the position. While the All-Star Game is being played in Wright's home ballpark, Citi Field, "Captain America" has to settle for coming off of the bench in front of his hometown fans.
Honorable Mention: None.
Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers: .328 BA/.846 OPS, 11 XBH (3 HR), 17 RBI
Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers: .267/.634, 7 XBH (0 HR), 12 RBI
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics: .299/.831, 17 XBH (3 HR), 19 RBI
With Derek Jeter sidelined, Manny Machado playing third base and Asdrubal Cabrera having a subpar season, shortstop in the AL lacks its usual star power.
Peralta's power numbers are down from where they were at this point two years ago (his only other All-Star season), but with his solid defense and league lead at the position in batting average and OPS, he gets the starting nod.
Elvis Andrus continues to play superb defense in Texas, but his bat leaves much to be desired. Conversely, Jed Lowrie's bat has been key in Oakland's offensive attack this season, but his below-average defense makes him a liability in the field, holding him back from getting the start.
Honorable Mention: None.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: .322 BA/1.013 OPS, 17 XBH (8 HR), 32 RBI
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals: .288/.831, 21 XBH (6 HR), 17 RBI
Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers: .349/.968, 16 XBH (7 HR), 18 RBI
After missing most of the 2012 season with a groin injury, Troy Tulowitzki has returned with a vengeance. He's driving the ball with authority, playing excellent defense and once again looking like a legitimate contender for the NL MVP award.
Ian Desmond continues his solid, somewhat under-the-radar career in Washington, and his 13 doubles on the season trail only the aforementioned Jed Lowrie for the MLB lead.
While he's not eligible for the Rookie of the Year award, Jean Segura has exceeded even the loftiest expectations that people had for him heading into the season. Not known as a slugger (he hit a total of 26 home runs over parts of six minor league seasons), Segura's power and performance have been among the biggest surprises in baseball in 2013.
Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs: .282/.720, 14 XBH (3 HR), 20 RBI; Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants: .270/.807, 15 XBH (5 HR), 17 RBI
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals: .331 BA/.878 OPS, 17 XBH (6 HR), 28 RBI
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles: .317/.843, 19 XBH (5 HR), 26 RBI
Vernon Wells, New York Yankees: .301/.895, 14 XBH (10 HR), 23 RBI
Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics: .275/.914, 16 XBH (5 HR), 13 RBI
Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers: .325/.798, 13 XBH (1 HR), 19 RBI
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: .293/.912, 23 XBH (8 HR), 29 RBI
You couldn't go wrong handing a starting spot to any of the six outfielders on the AL squad, but Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Vernon Wells have earned that honor with their superb early-season play.
Gordon and Jones, both in the prime of their careers, continue to produce at a high level for their respective clubs while taking aim at setting new career highs in multiple categories. Wells, whom many (myself included) presumed done as a useful major league player, has been revitalized in New York.
Coco Crisp and Torii Hunter continue to defy time, putting up All-Star-caliber numbers despite being well into their 30s, while Mike Trout, who needs no introduction, continues to establish himself as one of the premier players in the game, regardless of position.
Honorable Mention: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers: .264/.826, 15 XBH (10 HR), 32 RBI; Daniel Nava, Boston Red Sox: .286/.883, 12 XBH (5 HR), 24 RBI
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers: .365 BA/1.025 OPS, 20 XBH (6 HR), 18 RBI
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: .300/1.014, 17 XBH (10 HR), 21 RBI
Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: .286/1.032, 21 XBH (13 HR), 23 RBI
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: .315/.995, 19 XBH (8 HR), 26 RBI
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds: .322/1.054, 20 XBH (9 HR), 19 RBI
Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates: .313/.860, 15 XBH (5 HR), 17 RBI
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: .227/.728, 6 XBH (3 HR), 9 RBI
The outfield situation in the NL is incredibly crowded, with at least 10 players deserving of All-Star honors but room for only seven.
Carlos Gomez has outplayed his teammate and perennial MVP candidate Ryan Braun for one starting spot, while Bryce Harper and Justin Upton are putting up big power numbers that demand a spot in the starting lineup.
Shin-Soo Choo has been better than expected in the leadoff spot for the Cincinnati Reds, but he's been just as bad in the field as many thought he'd be, forcing him into a reserve role on this squad.
Like Gomez in Milwaukee, Starling Marte has outplayed his much-ballyhooed teammate, Andrew McCutchen, earning himself a spot on the All-Star team for the first time.
As for the currently injured Giancarlo Stanton, while he wasn't producing at the plate while he was active, is the only legitimate All-Star candidate on a terrible Miami club. Per the rules of the game, the Marlins must be represented on the team by at least one player.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals: 296/.876, 13 XBH (10 HR), 26 RBI; Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies: .319/.963, 16 XBH (7 HR), 23 RBI; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies: .306/.952, 20 XBH (9 HR), 22 RBI
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: 5-2, 1.53 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: 6-0, 1.69, 1.04
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers: 6-1, 2.73, 0.91
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners: 5-1, 1.84, 0.78
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays: 7-0, 2.44, 1.13
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox: 4-2, 2.88, 0.94
Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers: 4-3, 2.05, 1.08
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: 4-3, 1.93, 1.21
I give King Felix the starting nod for the American League due to his track record and continued dominance of the opposition. However, the former Cy Young Award winner faces legitimate competition for that role—including from his teammate Hisashi Iwakuma, who has posted the lowest ERA in baseball since the All-Star break last season.
Clay Buchholz and Matt Moore are finally delivering performances more in line with their incredible talent levels, while Yu Darvish and Chris Sale continue to improve after outstanding rookie campaigns in 2012.
Detroit's duo of veteran hurlers in Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander round out the group, and their numbers speak for themselves.
Honorable Mention: Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees: 5-2, 2.31, 1.05; James Shields, Kansas City Royals: 2-3, 2.48, 0.97
Matt Harvey, New York Mets: 4-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.73 WHIP
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: 4-1, 2.18, 0.93
A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates: 3-4, 2.73, 1.07
Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks: 6-0, 1.52, 1.07
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-2, 1.40, 0.87
Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals: 5-2., 1.40, 0.88
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals: 5-2, 2.30, 0.99
Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs: 4-2, 2.03, 0.92
Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals: 7-1, 1.69, 0.87
Matt Harvey gets the starting nod only because the game is being played in his home park of Citi Field. In reality every pitcher on the NL squad can make a strong argument as to why they deserve the honor.
You've got Clayton Kershaw and Shelby Miller, tied for the MLB lead in ERA. Jordan Zimmermann is the first NL pitcher to win seven games in 2013, while A.J. Burnett leads the senior circuit in strikeouts with 72.
Patrick Corbin has emerged as the unlikely ace in Arizona, while Travis Wood has opened eyes with his performance with the rebuilding Chicago Cubs.
Adam Wainwright, now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, has returned to his pre-surgery form, making batters look foolish and looking like one of the favorites in the Cy Young Award race.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies: 4-1, 2.47, 1.06; Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies: 4-2, 2.86, 1.08.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: 0-0, 1.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 16-for-16 SV
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays: 0-0, 0.69, 0.31, 10-for-10
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles: 1-3, 1.80, 1.05, 14-for-15
Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers: 1-0, 2.40, 1.20, 12-for-12
The greatest relief pitcher of all time is set to retire at the end of the season—and while that alone would be reason enough for Mariano Rivera to be the AL's only option in the ninth inning, his continued dominance on the hill makes an easier decision even easier.
Casey Janssen has been one of the few bright spots on Toronto's pitching staff this season, while Jim Johnson and Joe Nathan continue to perform at the highest of levels for their respective clubs.
Honorable Mention: Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels: 0-1, 1.56, 1.15, 7-for-8; Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox: 1-0, 2.65, 1.24, 12-for-13; Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners: 0-0, 0.53, 0.59, 10-for-10
Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates: 0-1, 1.02 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 16-for-16 SV
Edward Mujica, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-0, 1.69, 0.56, 11-for-11
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-0, 1.08, 0.60, 7-for-7
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals: 0-1, 2.12, 0.94, 12-for-13
After serving as Joel Hanrahan's primary setup man in Pittsburgh in each of the past two seasons, veteran Jason Grilli moved from the eighth inning to the ninth with Hanrahan's trade to Boston before the start of the season.
The veteran hasn't missed a beat in his new role, as he's tied with Mariano Rivera for the most saves in baseball, earning him the start as the NL's primary closer in the midsummer classic.
Edward Mujica has been one of the few bright spots in St. Louis' bullpen, while veterans Jonathan Papelbon and Rafael Soriano continue to perform up to the levels we've come to expect from the pair over the course of their careers.
Honorable Mention: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: 2-1, 2.50, 1.06, 8-for-8; Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers: 2-1, 1.06, 0.76, 7-for-7