The 2013 Midsummer Classic will take place on July 16 at Citi Field in New York. With the game less than a week away, there has been a lot of discussion in which players will emerge as X-factors for their respective squads.
How will Bryce Harper and Mike Trout fare in their second All-Star Game appearances? Will Matt Harvey wow the hometown crowd with a dominating performance? Will Chris Davis continue his monster home run tear and go deep once again?
All of these questions will ultimately be answered.
Here are 11 players would could play prominent roles when the Midsummer Classic kicks off on Tuesday night.
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
It's hard to argue with the selection of Chris Davis to the AL squad. The Orioles first-baseman is having a monster year. Through 91 games he is batting .310 with 33 home runs and 85 RBI.
The real question on everyone's minds is whether or not Davis will be able to replicate this success into the second half of the season. If he can, there is a good chance he will be able to enter select company and challenge the 60 home run mark.
All-Star Game X Factor: Power
Citi Field is not known as a home run hitter's park, but Davis has proven to be able to hit the long ball whenever and wherever. The first-time All-Star will have a good chance at showing off his ability for power when he steps into the batters box. In 91 games this season, Davis has split his 33 home runs almost evenly on the road (17) and at home (16).
Brandon Phillips will be making his third appearance in the Midsummer Classic next week at Citi Field in New York. Phillips is having a good season with the Reds, as he is batting .264 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Run Production
One area Phillips has excelled at this season is driving in runs. Phillips leads the Reds in with 67 RBI. It will be interesting to see how NL manager Bruce Bochy utilizes Phillips in the lineup to take best advantage of his run producing abilities.
It's safe to say that Tigers third-baseman Miguel Cabrera is doing his best to replicate his Triple Crown efforts of a year ago. Cabrera has once again put up gaudy numbers during the first half of the season, hitting .366 with 29 home runs and 93 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: True Triple Threat
There will be no easy way to deal with Cabrera. It will be interesting to see what game plan NL manager Bruce Bochy comes up with to deal with the talented slugger. Cabrera is currently leading the majors in both batting average (.343) and RBI (93).
There has been some incredible talent over the years on the left side of the infield in Baltimore. Names such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson have been synonymous with the Midsummer Classic. Now, the 30-year-old Hardy will try to add his name to this storied list. Hardy has had a strong start to the 2013 season, batting .253 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Defensive Versatility
The Orioles are blessed with having two capable players on the left side of their infield, Hardy and second year player Manny Machado. Hardy has been a pretty good hitter this season, but his capable defense up the middle is one of the reasons why the Orioles are poised to make another second-half playoff run.
The NL squad will have a fearsome hitter in the middle of their order with the addition of Gonzalez to the starting lineup. The 27-year-old Venezuelan slugger is once again having a strong year for the Rockies, batting .302 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Power
The two-time All-Star Gonzalez will bring a true power element to the NL lineup. He has averaged 30 home runs per season throughout his six year major league career.
It’s been quite a meteoric rise for Harper as he will be making his second appearance in the Midsummer Classic.
The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year has not suffered a sophomore slump so far this season, batting .274 with 13 home runs and 29 RBI in limited action during the first half of the season.
You have to wonder what type of numbers Harper would have put up if he didn’t miss time during the first half due to a left knee injury.
All-Star Game X-Factor: It Factor
The bright lights of New York will be honed in on the 20-year-old Harper as he looks to make his own indelible mark on the Midsummer Classic. Harper seems to relish the spotlight as he hit a home run in his first at bat returning from injury earlier in July. It’s quite possible Harper could replicate that feat in the All-Star game. It seems wherever Harper goes he brings a crowd of media with him. It's safe to say that he has the It factor—noteworthy buzz on and off the field.
One player who should not be overlooked on the AL squad is Bautista. The 32-year-old slugger has averaged 31 home runs and 85 RBI over the course of his career. He is well on pace to replicate his career averages as he is batting .261 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Power
One player who could easily be overlooked on the Blue Jays is Bautista, who has been a steady run and power producer during his stay north of the border. Bautista has hit more than 40 home runs twice in his career and a threat to go deep in almost every at bat. This will be Bautista’s fourth consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game and will be in the starting lineup for the AL squad.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Trout as the Central New Jersey born star will have a chance to shine in front of his friends and family. Trout has been putting up strong numbers during his second season, batting .320 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Five Tool Star
It’s safe to say that the two-time All-Star Trout will be bringing a lot to the table when he takes his position in the outfield at Citi Field. A versatile defender and all-around threat in the batter’s box and on the bases, expect NL pitchers to be on their heels.
The five-time All-Star Molina will be making another well-deserved appearance at Citi Field. Molina is having another great season in the batter’s box and behind the plate, leading the NL in batting at .343 with six home runs and 45 RBI.
All-Star Game X-Factor: The Gun
Mike Trout and company beware because Molina will have his eye on you. The five-time NL Gold Glove winner will be starting for the NL and has thrown out 45 percent of runners this season.
The Mets have a long history of dominant pitchers to participate in the Midsummer Classic. Harvey will be joining the likes of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone as he makes his debut appearance at his home ballpark of Citi Field.
All-Star Game X-Factor: K-Factor
Harvey is considered to be a future ace for the Mets and has lived up to that billing so far this season, going 7-2 with a 2.47 ERA. His dominance on the mound has been well-documented as he has struck out 147 in 130 innings pitched, leading the NL.
With the pending retirement of New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera, it seems Braves closer Kimbrel is ready to assume the reigns as the most dominant closer in the game. He has been living up to those expectations this season, as he has posted a 1.62 ERA with 24 saves for Atlanta.
All-Star Game X-Factor: Door Closer
It would be hard to argue with the notion that Kimbrel has been the most dominating closer over the past three seasons in the MLB. The three-time All-Star has averaged 39 saves over the past four seasons. Kimbrel has an astounding 332 strikeouts in 193.2 innings pitched in his career.