The MLB All-Star festivities are dominated by big names from around the majors. Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, David Wright and Clayton Kershaw are among the players who will dominate the headlines at Citi Field next week.
Yet the Midsummer Classic is also a chance to recognize players who don't normally receive a lot of national attention but are having terrific seasons. While they may fade back into the background once the All-Star break ends, they will find a way to make an impact.
With that in mind, let's examine three players who earned their spots on the 2013 roster and should shine while representing their respective leagues. For a complete look at the squads for both the American and National Leagues, visit MLB's official site.
Jason Kipnis (AL—Cleveland Indians)
After a slow start, during which Kipnis hit just .200 in April, the Indians second baseman has been on fire since the start of May. He's hit 12 home runs and swiped 15 bases over that span while also raising his average to .290 and his on-base percentage to .375.
His combination of speed and power will make him an asset for the American League. Jim Leyland can use him as a pinch hittter, pinch runner or as a straight replacement late in the game. It's some much-needed flexibility for a squad deep at second base.
Kipnis has quickly developed into one of the most well-rounded players at the position. He's been a driving force behind a Cleveland offense that lacks star power and should provide a similar boost to the AL regardless of his role.
Allen Craig (NL—St. Louis Cardinals)
Look no further than players like Craig if you want to understand how the Cardinals continue to contend on a yearly basis despite a lack of hype. He doesn't make a ton of highlight-reel plays, but he consistently gets the job done.
His numbers back that up. Craig is hitting .327, which ranks third in the National League, with 10 home runs and 71 runs batted in. Those are tremendous numbers for the first half, but since he's playing in laid-back St. Louis, he's remained out of the spotlight.
Like Kipnis, he will provide his All-Star manager, Bruce Bochy, with options. Craig has played both corner outfield spots and first base this season. And if the National League needs a big hit late, he's one of the best bets to come through in the clutch.
Jason Grilli (NL—Pittsburgh Pirates)
On the pitching side, Grilli has been one of the year's biggest surprises. He had just five career saves coming into the season. Now, thrust into a closing role with the Pirates, he's flourished, racking up 28 saves with an ERA a shade over 2.00.
The rise to prominence is especially surprising when you consider he's 36. There are times when relievers hit their peak in their late 20s or early 30s, but it's rare to enjoy a resurgence on what's normally the back end of a career.
Since the American League is filled with sluggers, the National League will need some strong pitching performances if they have a late lead to hold. Along with Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, Grilli ensures they have the arms to get it done.
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