American League All-Star Starter Leading Candidates
Last week I outlined who should be heading to the All-Star Game this year as a starter on the NL side.
The voters got a few right - with Pujols, Beltran, and Ibanez presently in the lead at their respective positions.
Most of the other vote leaders (Braun, Utley, Wright) certainly have merited the votes with their play this year. However, the voters who have Yadier Molina and Jimmy Rollins as their lead candidates at shortstop must not care to look at the mediocre (at best) seasons those two are having compared to Brian McCann and Hanley Ramirez.
Now - we focus on the American League
There are about five or six very deserving candidates for starter at first base in the AL. Three have OPS numbers above 1.000, and two are just barely under that number.
However, Kevin Youkilis has been injured and missed about 20 games so far this season. Russell Branyan doesn't have a whole lot of RBI for his average and home runs. Mark Teixeira was pretty bad in April but has turned it around in May since the return of "The Juicer". Carlos Pena was the opposite—starting off very hot, but his .220-something average won't get him voted in.
Which is why I'm picking Justin Morneau.
He's second among first basemen in homers, first in RBI and doubles and third in average and OPS. Playing in Minnesota means he's probably not getting as many votes as he deserves.
Stats: .335 BA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 1.043 OPS
A recent 0-for-25 stretch made this one a close call.
Ian Kinsler has a few more HR, RBI, and Runs scored when compared to Toronto's resurgent Aaron Hill, but there's a 40 point batting average differential.
Two weeks ago it was closer to 70 points.
After missing 100 games in 2008 with post-concussion syndrome, Aaron Hill is already on pace to shatter his career highs in RBI and HR.
Despite that recent slump which ended with a two run homer on Sunday, he's still the AL hits leader.
Stats: .311 BA, 13 HR, 40 RBI
I make this slide with the caveat that Jason Bartlett returns in a few days from his stint on the DL.
If he were healthy, this wouldn't really be close. Derek Jeter is in the lead, but right now is probably the third best shortstop in the AL East behind Bartlett and Toronto's Marco Scutaro.
Bartlett just leads all AL shortstops in HR, RBI, batting average, and steals—despite not having played since May 25.
Stats: .373 BA, seven HR, 30 RBI, 14 SB, 1.014 OPS
There are a number of AL third basemen having good seasons. However, in the infield there isn't an easier choice to make.
Evan Longoria just leads the entire AL in RBI, and leads AL third basemen in HR and is second in Batting average.
To give some perspective—he's 17 RBI ahead of Cleveland's Mark DeRosa, who is second in RBI among AL third basemen.
He's got a great shot to push for the MVP a year after being the AL Rookie of the Year
Stats: .320 BA, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 1.003 OPS
Think Red Sox fans are missing Manny any more?
Carl Crawford deserves plenty of consideration to be the AL starter in left field while leading all players at that position in batting average and steals.
However, Bay leads in home runs and RBI among left fielders, as well as on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. He's also tied for the AL lead in RBI.
Stats: .277 BA, 16 HR, 55 RBI, .400 OBP, .999 OPS
Victor Martinez leads all the AL qualifiers in most offensive categories.
Joe Mauer missed a month and still leads in HR.
The Twins' backstop has been a hitting machine since returning from the DL after a back injury. The numbers in just 130 or so at bats speak for themselves.
Stats: .410 BA, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 1.292 OPS
I bet most people don't realize that Baltimore's Adam Jones is leading all AL center fielders in batting average - by 30 points.
Torii Hunter leads all AL CF in RBI, but despite that, has slightly lower OBP, slugging, and OPS numbers than the Orioles' speedy center fielder.
Leading your position in hitting and OPS, while second in RBI and third in home runs should be enough to catch people's attention.
Stats: .346 BA, 11 HR, 36 RBI, .992 OPS
Ichiro may be the popular pick here—he does have a .356 batting average to show off.
However, Texas' Nelson Cruz has Ichiro beat in most every other major category.
Cruz currently leads all AL right fielders in HR, RBI, and OPS. He'll likely wind up on the All-Star team his first full year in the majors.
Stats: .292 BA, 17 HR, 42 RBI, .969 OPS
I hope you weren't expecting David Ortiz.
You likely didn't realize that Adam Lind currently leads the entire AL in doubles, along with AL designated hitters in batting average, RBI and OPS.
Jason Kubel and Hank Blalock deserve a look based on pretty good production out of the DH spot for the Twins and Rangers, respectively, but Lind, whose first full season in the majors has been consistent and solid.
Stats: .309 BA, nine HR, 39 RBI, .901 OPS
The last few days might have swung this spot away from Kansas City.
Zack Greinke had arguably the best first two months of a season of anyone in the last decade. However, he's come back to Earth in his last two starts, yet still leads the AL with a 1.55 ERA.
As dominating as Greinke has been, you really can't argue if you make Roy Halladay the AL starting pitcher.
The 2003 AL Cy Young winner won 20 games last year, and is halfway there after the first week of June in 2009.
He leads the AL in wins, winning percentage, and innings pitched - going at least seven innings in every start this year. He's also in the top five in ERA, K, CG and WHIP.
Stats: 10-1, 2.52 ERA, 3 CG, 88:12 K:BB ratio in 100.0 IP