All-Star Game 2013: Players with Biggest Need to Validate Starter Status

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 11: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals throws his helmet after being tagged out at home in the first inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 11, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

Bryce Harper has become a lightning rod, and his selection as an All-Star starter has only increased that status. 

Of course, debate over starting status is not limited to Harper. There are several others (two in particular, who will be highlighted below) who did not have overwhelmingly amazing first halves. 

All of these guys can go a long way towards silencing critics with great performances in the 2013 All-Star Game. I offer up three who need that the most. 

But first, check out the starters, as tweeted by the MLB

Bryce Harper, OF, National League 

Stat Line: .264/.371/.522, 13 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB, .381 wOBA, 1.6 fWAR 

Bryce Harper ended a long stay on the disabled list on July 1 and promptly hit a home run. This helped him make a late surge in fan voting, and that came to the dismay of many. 

He receives a lot of hype for everything he does, and it's not like his stat line screams All-Star. Also, having played in 58 games this year, Harper has not made the same kind of contribution to his team that reserve outfields like Andrew McCutchen have. 

However, there is no denying his talent, and he has already shown the ability to go on MVP-type stretches. In April he put up a slash line of .344/.430/.720 with nine home runs.

He also put on a fantastic show while finishing second in the Home Run Derby. 

Still, if Harper goes hitless, there will be plenty of people jumping at the chance to say he is overrated. 

J.J. Hardy, SS, American League

Stat Line: .251/.293/.428, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB, .311 wOBA, 1.6 fWAR 

What has happened to A.L. shortstop play? Remember when the debate of who was better between Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and eventually Miguel Tejada was not just over who the best shortstop was, but who the best player in baseball not named Barry Bonds was?

Now we have J.J. Hardy and his modest stat line starting in the All-Star Game. 

He has put up solid power numbers, but he hacks at too many bad pitches. Defensively, Hardy is solid, but he's not a glove master in the vein of Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith. 

With a slash line of .303/.361/.447 and eight home runs, Jhonny Peralta has a legitimate beef over Hardy's selection. 

Hardy has some work to do to prove he is the rightful starter. 

Jose Bautista, OF, American League

Stat Line: .254/.351/.493, 20 HR, 55 RBI, 6 SB, .365 wOBA, 3.1 fWAR

This is not the kind of first half we are used to seeing from Jose Bautista. While solid, his average is lagging and his prodigious power has dropped off.

A lot of this is due to his slow start. Through June 27 he slashed only .245/.344/.471.

He remains a solid outfielder with a strong arm, but it's hard to argue he had a better first half than the Rangers' Nelson Cruz or the Tigers' Torii Hunter. Both will be sitting behind him on the bench. 

Cruz is slashing .277/.334/.517 and has 22 home runs. Hunter has a slash line of .315/.352/.458 and has seven home runs. Bautista is going to need a big hit or two to justify his starting spot over those players.