The All-Star break is just about a month away. Fans are voting for their favorite players to have a spot on the starting lineup card. The baseball world eagerly awaits Midsummer Classic festivities.
Typically, and understandably so, the better teams have more representatives in the All-Star Game than, say, a fourth- or last-place team. The better the team, the more high-quality players the team possesses.
The Baltimore Orioles have been one of the top teams in the league for the last year and a half, and while fans hope for a second consecutive playoff appearance, they also hope for the respect their team deserves with multiple starters in this year's All-Star Game.
Currently, the O's have Adam Jones (pictured, number 10) leading AL outfielders, while first baseman Chris Davis tops his position and J.J. Hardy bests all shortstops. Should that hold up, the O's will have multiple starters in the All-Star Game for the first time since 2005.
Having said that, let's take a look at which Orioles deserve to be All-Stars this season.
I argue this not because Nick Markakis has overwhelming numbers this season, but because he's been deserving in the past and gotten snubbed (just like his overdue Gold Glove that he finally got in 2011).
His numbers are strong this season. The right fielder is batting .293 with seven homers and 37 RBI, with a .342 OBP.
And his defense remains strong. He knows how to play right field, and he has one of the better arms in the game out there, making him a threat to any baserunner trying to take the extra base.
By no means should Markakis be a starter, but he would be a solid choice by AL manager Jim Leyland for a bench player to slot in later in the game as a defensive replacement, or a pinch hitter with an incredible knowledge of the strike zone and ability to handle the bat.
Nick Markakis hasn't put up overwhelming numbers this season.
Chris Davis, on the other hand, has.
His numbers are that of video games. A .335 average. 20 home runs. 52 RBI. A .416 OBP.
All while playing above-average defense at first base. Nothing insanely flashy, but he's doing more with the glove than just getting the job done.
If Davis keeps it up, it'll be a crime should he not be the starting first baseman and batting in the middle of the AL lineup on July 16.
Like Markakis, Nate McLouth certainly isn't worthy of being a starter in the All-Star Game, but he is putting up a pretty good argument for his inclusion on the AL roster.
McLouth has been exactly what the O's need: a spark plug atop their lineup (.365 OBP) and an above-average defender in left field. He's also been quite the threat on the basepaths, with 22 steals, good for third in baseball.
Off the bench, McLouth could give the AL a great weapon as a pinch runner or late-inning defensive replacement.
McLouth likely won't be selected to the AL squad unless he starts setting the baseball world on fire, but he's definitely putting up solid enough numbers to warrant consideration.
Currently leading the way in voting at the shortstop position, J.J. Hardy is having a fine season.
His power numbers are there with 13 homers and 39 RBI. The defense is there—always has been. And lately, he's been raising his average to a very respectable number; a .267 clip with those kinds of power numbers is an impressive line for any shortstop.
What's more, he's given his manager, Buck Showalter, a reliable right-handed bat to slot into the No. 3 spot when the team faces a lefty. So instead of bumping Adam Jones up from No. 4 to No. 3, Hardy can produce in that spot and help keep the whole lineup deeper.
In my mind, there's no other AL shortstop more worthy of starting in the All-Star Game than Hardy.
Like Hardy and Davis, Adam Jones currently leads AL outfielders in All-Star voting, putting him in prime position to earn a starting job come the Midsummer Classic.
Jones seems to be building on his outstanding 2012 season, as he's yet again been the obvious team leader on the Orioles. His power is there with 13 homers, and he's on pace to drive in over 100 RBI for the first time in his career. He's also been batting over .300 for the entire season.
Admittedly, he experienced many defensive miscues early on in the season, but he has long since corrected his issues and returned to being the above-average defensive center fielder that Baltimore has come to know him as.
He's even been known to swipe a base here and there, with a total of nine on the season. Jones is a true five-tool player, and is very deserving of his third All-Star selection.