The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is rapidly approaching, with the top players in the world all anxious to take part in the Midsummer Classic. While household names will likely draw the headlines, there are a select few players who are as unknown as a star could possibly be.
The question is, which of those players have the most to gain from the Midsummer Classic?
With 30 teams, and a majority failing to experience consistent postseason success, it's not hard to see why a player would drift into obscurity. With that being said, those players deserve recognition as some of the best in the world.
Here are the players who have a chance to prove they belong.
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Position: Second Baseman
Experience: Third Season
2013 Season Statististics
.321/.394/.497, 72 R, 28 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 45 RBI
It's hardly a crime for the fans to vote Cincinnati Reds star Brandon Phillips as the starting second baseman for the National League All-Star team. He's one of the best players in baseball and is currently on pace for yet another standout season.
With that being said, Matt Carpenter may just be the most improved player in baseball.
Carpenter is on fire, ranking second in the MLB in runs scored, fourth in doubles and eighth in batting average. He also leads all National League second basemen in Wins Above Replacement, ranking behind only Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis for the MLB lead.
It's time he's given the national stage to showcase his pure hitting abilities.
Carpenter was very strong in 2012, but thus far, his 2013 campaign has been unlike anything we'd previously seen from the 27-year-old. While he may be recognized as an All-Star, Carpenter still has a way to go before reaching the reputation level of Cano, Pedroia and Phillips.
Shining at Citi Field is a great place to start.
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Position: Center Fielder
Experience: Seventh Season
2013 Season Statistics
.295/.337/.533, 51 R, 20 2B, 9 3B, 14 HR, 45 RBI
As it presently stands, one man stands above the rest in the ever-valued wins above replacement statistic. It isn't world class hitters such as Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout or Chris Davis, nor is it superstar pitchers Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez.
That honor belongs to Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez.
Gomez has been nothing short of brilliant in every area of the game, doing everything from hitting home runs and stealing bases to robbing opponents at the wall with gravity-defying catches. Six years into his career, Gomez has decided to make season No. 7 the time in which he breaks out in the best way possible.
By doing everything.
Gomez leads the MLB with nine triples, which combines with 20 doubles and 14 home runs to place him at eighth in extra-base hits. It's worth noting that Gomez also has the highest defensive wins above replacement mark amongst all outfielders and the second-best in the MLB.
Where better to put those tools on full display than in a game filled with home run balls and RBI situations?
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Position: Starting Pitcher
Experience: Second Season
2013 Season Statistics
20 GS, 131.1 IP, 8-4, 3.02 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .216 BAA
When you're a member of the Seattle Mariners and your name isn't Felix Hernandez, there's a high probability that the average sports fan has no idea who you are. With that being said, King Felix isn't the only starting pitcher who's dominating the MLB.
Second-year player Hisashi Iwakuma has been equally brilliant.
Iwakuma is currently 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA and ranks third in the MLB with a WHIP of 0.94. Iwakuma is also fifth amongst American League pitchers in batting average against and sixth in wins above replacement.
In other words, he's your definition of an elite pitcher.
It's unclear whether or not Iwakuma will pitch at the All-Star Game, but if he does, it's the perfect time for him to make a statement. As the latest Japanese veteran star to join the Mariners, the 32-year-old can shine on national television and prove that there's another ace to watch in Seattle.
Here's hoping that he gets that opportunity, as he's certainly worked to deserve it.