MLB All-Star Game 2013: Power Ranking Every All-Star Starter

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2013

MLB All-Star Game 2013: Power Ranking Every All-Star Starter

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    MLB fans involved in the 2013 All-Star Game voting process actually gave starting nods to position players who performed well during the first half of the season, which isn't always the case.

    Of course, not every selection was equally justified, though, and these power rankings will make that abundantly clear.

    Factors such as durability and consistency affected each players' ultimate placement, as did comparisons to others who share their league and position. Popularity and marketability, however, did not affect the rankings.

    Miguel Cabrera, Yadier Molina and Robinson Cano—to name a few—have replicated and even outdone their excellent 2012 campaigns. However, they're sharing lineups with less deserving individuals who were bolstered by personal history and/or their fanbase's enthusiasm.

    By isolating the numbers and circumstances from everything else, we'll arrive at the truth, and we'll use the following space to evaluate all 17 fan-elected starters (and NL DH Michael Cuddyer) based on their contributions thus far.

     

    *First-half stats provided by FanGraphs.

18. OF Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals, NL)

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    First-half stats: .264/.371/.522, 13 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB, .381 wOBA, 1.6 fWAR

     

    Bryce Harper surged toward the end of the fan-voting period, which coincided with his return from the disabled list. If Harper didn't homer on July 1 (his first game back in the Washington Nationals lineup), maybe he would be watching the All-Star festivities from home.

    The second-year phenom basically carried his team through April by slashing .344/.430/.720 with nine home runs.

    Then came that mind-numbing drama about his fear of walls, followed by a month-long battle with bursitis in his knee.

    Harper has participated in only 61 percent of all Nats games this season. He has contributed significantly less value than NL reserve outfielders like Domonic Brown, Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen, and even snubs likes Shin-Soo Choo and Starling Marte.

17. SS J.J. Hardy (Baltimore Orioles, AL)

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    First-half stats: .251/.293/.428, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB, .311 wOBA, 1.6 fWAR

     

    We can all agree that it's been a supremely crappy year for American League shortstops. Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar have both looked lost at the plate, Derek Jeter is still waiting to try on a glove and most other veterans at the position aren't really stuffing the stat sheet.

    As a result, J.J. Hardy received tremendous fan support and joined several of his Baltimore Orioles teammates in the All-Star starting lineup.

    He completed the third-most defensive plays outside his fielding zone among AL shortstops, according to FanGraphs. On a per-inning basis, however, Hardy was merely in the middle of the pack.

    At the plate, he intimidates the opposition with a rare combination of over-the-fence power and contact ability. Flaws in his game include a high rate of infield pop-ups, a cautious baserunning mentality and a disdain for selectivity.

    All in all, there's little doubt that Detroit's Jhonny Peralta—who leads Hardy in each of the triple-slash categories—had the better first half.

16. OF Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays, AL)

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    First-half stats: .254/.351/.493, 20 HR, 55 RBI, 6 SB, .365 wOBA, 3.1 fWAR

     

    Jose Bautista's least productive first half of this decade was just barely good enough to earn him a starting gig.

    He has been inexplicably mediocre on the road in 2013. Fortunately for the perennial All-Star, he's compensating with a 1.041 OPS and fantastic 24/32 K/BB at the Rogers Centre.

    The consistency just hasn't been there. Baustista slashed only .245/.344/.471 through June 27 before experimenting with R.A. Dickey's pants.

    Even at age 32, he utilizes his speed on the basepaths and keeps the opposition humble with his great throwing arm.

15. OF Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals, NL)

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    First-half stats: .309/.346/.533, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 2 SB, .378 wOBA, 1.7 fWAR

     

    By excelling into his mid-30s, Carlos Beltran is gradually approaching slam-dunk Hall of Famer status.

    Father Time has taken away his blazing speed and Gold Glove-caliber range. These days, Beltran earns his pay checks with extraordinary offensive production.

    If not for St. Louis Cardinals teammates/National League batting title contenders Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, we would talk much more about Beltran's first-half performance. Beltran also boasts the lowest strikeout rate of any NL player who has at least 15 home runs at the break.

14. DH Michael Cuddyer (Colorado Rockies, NL)

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    First-half stats: .330/.391/.568, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 6 SB, .409 wOBA, 1.8 fWAR

     

    Michael Cuddyer's 27-game hitting streak is by far the longest of any we've seen in the majors this season. It quickly made us forget about his mid-May stint on the disabled list (bulging disk in neck).

    Of his 74 appearances thus far, 42 have come on the road. His .304/.366/.506 slash line away from Coors Field confirms that Cuddyer is a legitimate threat.

    On the other hand, FanGraphs shows that he's a laughably poor defensive outfielder.

    Cuddyer simply hasn't put in enough time at the plate to compensate for that.

13. OF Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles, AL)

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    First-half stats: .296/.324/.501, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 9 SB, .355 wOBA, 2.5 fWAR

     

    Adam Jones can be incredibly frustrating to root for.

    Specifically, he lacks plate discipline. Per FanGraphs, the soon-to-be 28-year-old paces all American League qualifiers in terms of the percentage of pitches he chases outside the strike zone. That aggressiveness limits his walk total and on-base percentage, and in turn, his overall value.

    On the bright side, he's been very good defensively in 2013 and also an elite power source. Mike Trout, Raul Ibanez and Nelson Cruz were the only AL outfielders to finish the first half with superior slugging percentages than Jones.

    Jones' durability is also remarkable. He has matched J.J. Hardy by starting every game for the Baltimore Orioles so far this season, amassing more than 800 innings played in center field.

12. 2B Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds, NL)

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    First-half stats: .266/.320/.413, 12 HR, 74 RBI, 1 SB, .316 wOBA, 2.0 fWAR

     

    Batting behind on-base machines like Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto gives Brandon Phillips ample opportunities with runners in scoring position.

    As misleading as RBI totals can be, let's give Phillips some well-deserved credit for batting above .400 and seldom striking out with RISP; most players don't do that.

    In moving to the clean-up spot, the veteran second baseman has completely ignored base-stealing. Moreover, his 2013 OPS is the lowest of his Cincinnati Reds career.

    As always, Phillips has distinguished himself with defensive wizardry. MLB.com provides this example, this one and...well, you get the idea.

    The injury bug took a few bites out of his NL starting competition this season, namely Aaron Hill (broken hand) and Chase Utley (oblique).

11. 1B Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds, NL)

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    First-half stats: .318/.434/.506, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 3 SB, .402 wOBA, 3.7 fWAR

     

    Joey Votto has reached based in 29 consecutive games dating back to June 13. 

    For the third season in a row, the Canadian-born franchise cornerstone leads the entire National League in walks and on-base percentage. That attests to both his plate discipline, pitch recognition and the trepidation that consumes many of Votto's opponents as he digs into the batter's box.

    Actually, this has been an off year by his lofty standards. The above slugging percentage is lower than any slugging percentage that he's ever posted in a full season.

    NL reserve first baseman Paul Goldschmidt launched more home runs during the first half with a better OPS+.

10. DH David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox, AL)

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    First-half stats: .317/.402/.606, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 3 SB, .418 wOBA, 2.9 fWAR

     

    And you thought Carlos Beltran was an ageless wonder.

    David Ortiz is an American League All-Star selection for the ninth time in 10 years, and he is showing no signs of vulnerability. He's making more contact than ever as a 37-year-old and is still depositing plenty of balls into the bleachers.

    With a 1.008 OPS in his 77 games, the Dominican designated hitter has certainly made up for time missed in April due to his lingering Achilles injury.

    The elephant in the room is his lack of mobility. Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell regularly relegates Big Papi to DH duty because he's a terrible first baseman. Consequently, Ortiz's teammates don't have the option of taking half-days during the summer.

9. C Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins, AL)

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    First-half stats: .320/.402/.473, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB, .380 wOBA, 3.9 fWAR

     

    For the fifth straight season, it's looking like Joe Mauer will catch fewer than 1,000 innings.

    At least this time around he has stopped the opposition from running wild. Mauer has nabbed nearly half of all would-be base-stealers prior to the All-Star break and has committed only two errors.

    He's also the best AL hitter that nobody pays attention to. In terms of batting average and on-base percentage, Mauer finds himself in a virtual tie with David Ortiz and Mike Trout (albeit well off Miguel Cabrera's pace).

    At the same time, promising 27-year-old backstops J.P. Arencibia and Matt Wieters have taken surprising steps back in 2013.

8. SS Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies, NL)

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    First-half stats: .332/.400/.608, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 0 SB, .425 wOBA, 3.5 fWAR

     

    A fractured rib sidelined Troy Tulowitzki for 25 games this season, and that has understandably caused him to slide in these power rankings.

    Otherwise, he would have had enough plate appearances to appear on National League leaderboards. Using 250 PA as the minimum requirement, Tulo cracks the Senior Circuit's top three in each of the triple-slash categories.

    He hasn't lost any athleticism at age 28 and continues to remind us of that fact with sensational plays at shortstop. If not for Nolan Arenado's ability at the hot corner, Tulowitzki would venture outside his fielding zone even more often.

    His own Joey Votto-esque on-base streak lasted from May 14 until June 11.

    Tulo recorded at least one hit in every series he played in during the first half, with the only exception being the Rockies' matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers immediately before the break.

7. 2B Robinson Cano (New York Yankees, AL)

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    First-half stats: .302/.386/.531, 21 HR, 65 RBI, 6 SB, .385 wOBA, 3.7 fWAR

     

    Much like the superstar across town, Robinson Cano has had tremendous success without much lineup protection. With non-threats like Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells hitting behind him, the New York Yankees second baseman is now seeing fewer hittable pitches than ever.

    The short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium suits his swing, but Cano isn't just a product of cozy dimensions. He has posted a 1.007 OPS on the road with 13 home runs in only 197 plate appearances. Also, near-identical totals of strikeouts and walks serve as additional evidence of his offensive prowess.

    Five different Derek Jeter fill-ins have started at shortstop alongside Cano this year, which probably affects his comfort in the field. Even so, he boasts a .995 fielding percentage—with only two errors committed—and complements his ordinary range with extraordinary arm strength.

    The harsh, pressured circumstances under which Cano has thrived must be taken into consideration when drawing comparisons to the other fantastic AL second basemen like Howie Kendrick, Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia.

6. OF Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies, NL)

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    First-half stats: .302/.370/.610, 25 HR, 64 RBI, 16 SB, .414 wOBA, 4.5 fWAR

     

    A sprained middle finger has forced Carlos Gonzalez to withdraw from the 2013 Home Run Derby.

    Fortunately, Bruce Bochy will still have the toolsy star at his disposal on Tuesday night.

    More so than in past years, CarGo is committing to taking big swings. That has elevated his strikeout rate (26.6 K%) and helped him lead the National League in slugging percentage up to this point.

    It's easyyet completely misguidedto give the high altitude of Coors Field all of the credit for his gaudy production. Gonzalez actually goes deep more often on the road and also performs better in each of the triple-slash categories.

    Although most advanced metrics weren't impressed with his defense in 2012, they view him as an elite left fielder this summer.

    In most facets of the game, he's a bit more dominant than Robinson Cano.

5. 3B David Wright (New York Mets, NL)

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    First-half stats: .304/.396/.507, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 15 SB, .389 wOBA, 4.9 fWAR

     

    With ample support from the New York metropolitan area and a few thousand cougars, David Wright would have squeezed into the All-Star lineup, regardless of first-half success.

    He spared himself from an awkward reception, though, by obliterating all other NL third basemen in most categories and proving that he belongs.

    There hasn't been much contrast between his hot streaks and cold stretches, as Wright owns an OPS above .800 in each of the first four months of 2013. He's smashing at Citi Field as well as in foreign environments, and his day/night and lefty/righty splits are barely distinguishable.

    Recapping the captain's year to date would be incomplete without applauding his defense. The error count shows that he occasionally tries to do too much, but consider that he has spent significantly more time at the hot corner than any of his peers in the Senior Circuit. Per FanGraphs, advanced stats like UZR, OOZ and DRS confirm that he's doing an awesome job.

    Wright's surrounding cast was ever-changing prior to the break, as only he and Daniel Murphy played in at least 80 of the first 91 New York Mets games.

4. OF Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels, AL)

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    First-half stats: .322/.399/.565, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 21 SB, .410 wOBA, 5.7 fWAR

     

    What a lethal combination of power and speed.

    Chris Davis (37 HR, 0 SB) and Jacoby Ellsbury (3 HR, 36 SB) are the only American League players who have combined for more home runs and stolen bases than Mike Trout.

    Even with the arrival of the rebuilding Houston Astros, it's not hard to imagine the Los Angeles Angels rotting in the AL West cellar in a Trout-less alternate reality.

    A year removed from being the best all-around player in the sport, Trout hasn't regressed at all. His OPS is holding steady and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is vastly improved.

    Several of his fellow All-Star starters have simply taken their games to higher levels.

3. 1B Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles, AL)

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    First-half stats: .315/.392/.717, 37 HR, 93 RBI, 0 SB, .458 wOBA, 5.1 fWAR

     

    Chris Davis let us know from the get-go that he was conspiring to have an all-time great power-hitting campaign. He drove in 16 runs through the first four contests of the season, and otherworldly performance has pretty much been the norm for him ever since.

    The strikeout rate has steadily crept upward, but Crush still has a very realistic chance at challenging Roger Maris, whom he acknowledged as the legitimate home run king on ESPN's radio show Mike & Mike.

    Davis' offensive brilliance more than compensates for sub-par defense. He's lapping other AL first basemen in everything from on-base percentage and slugging percentage to hits and runs batted in to Wins Above Replacement and Win Probability Added.

    He is extremely deserving of starting the All-Star Game, don't you think?

2. C Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals, NL)

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    First-half stats: .341/.386/.489, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB, .378 wOBA, 4.2 fWAR

     

    Yadier Molina has such a powerful influence on the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff.

    Since May 13, for example, opponents have not scored more than seven runs in any game while Molina was behind the plate. Keep in mind that Chris Carpenter and Jason Motte haven't thrown a single pitch in that two-month span, and Jaime Garcia made only one mediocre appearance before opting for shoulder surgery.

    The 31-year-old has squatted for 717 innings on an inflamed right knee, second only to Miguel Montero. In all that time, only 29 times have players attempted to steal a base against him. Nearly 45 percent of those attempts were unsuccessful.

    Oh yeah, and he's leading the NL batting title race without reaping the benefits of infield hits like many non-catchers can.

1. 3B Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers, AL)

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    First-half stats: .365/.458/.674, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 3 SB, .473 wOBA, 6.0 fWAR

     

    Miguel Cabrera could wind up in the exclusive company of Jimmie Foxx, Nap Lajoie and Frank Thomas. Per Baseball-Reference.com, they're the only right-handed batters in American League history with a 200 OPS+ season (OPS adjusted for a player's ballpark and era).

    Miggy isn't rivaled by any of today's active players.

    He's steamrolling the competition like Albert Pujols used to and in a way that Giancarlo Stanton someday might. Sure, Chris Davis stands in Cabrera's way as he attempts to repeat as the American League Triple Crown winner, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

    Among 90 qualified AL batters, Cabrera owns the seventh-best strikeout-to-walk ratio, according to FanGraphs. Davis ranks 65th on that list. Cursed by his notorious reputation, Cabrera sees more sliders than Crush.

    Despite being the one guy that everybody tries to pitch around, he's putting up historically terrific numbers.