With the All-Star game less than one month away, I wanted to break down each team in the National League and list the possible All-Star selections.
We all know that every team has to have at least one representative. This rule may not be the most popular, but at least it gives the game some diversity—a dozen Yankees and Red Sox players doesn't appeal to everyone.
The National League looks to break the stranglehold that the American League has had on it for the last decade or so.
Would you have thought that an "All-Star" team could be winless since 1996?
No matter—here are the teams and their players on the bubble for All-Star inclusion.
St. Louis Cardinals
Candidates: Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter, Ryan Franklin, Adam Wainwright
Pujols is the best hitter in baseball, and Carpenter, when healthy, is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Molina currently is the leading vote-getter among NL catchers, while Franklin has 17 saves. Both could get in.
Schumaker doesn't have eye-popping numbers, while Wainwright might be a victim of his own numbers game, as in being the odd man out on the roster. The host Cardinals figure to be well represented all the same, however.
IN: Pujols, Molina, Carpenter, Franklin
OUT: Schumaker, Wainwright
Candidates: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Hoffman
All four look good to get in. Braun and Fielder are legitimate sluggers in the game, and Gallardo (7-4, 3.00 ERA, 93 Ks) has been the savior of the Brewers' staff. Hoffman is up to his old tricks as well (16 saves).
IN: Braun, Fielder, Gallardo, Hoffman
Candidates: Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly
Lee has come on strong in the month of June but is in a league with Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, and Adam Dunn. There simply is no room on the roster for Lee.
Theriot has modest numbers that don't merit much consideration. Soriano is only on this list because he is currently fourth in voting—he is no All-Star.
Look for Lilly to get in, as teammate Zambrano looks about 50/50.
OUT: Soriano, Lee, Theriot, Zambrano
Candidates: Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Francisco Cordero, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto
Votto has the numbers, but his at-bats are down due to his long stay on the disabled list. Phillips likely is behind Orlando Hudson and Chase Utley, both in numbers and in popularity.
Cordero looks like an All-Star closer (17 saves, 2.10 ERA), and Cueto has super numbers as well (2.55 ERA in over 90 innings). Bruce has a batting average just above the Mendoza line. Wait 'til next year, Jay.
IN: Votto, Cordero
OUT: Phillips, Bruce, Cueto
Candidates: Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez
Too many candidates for a team currently four games under .500. Tejada and Pence are both hitting well above .300, and Lee seems to be an All-Star regular.
Berkman has struggled somewhat, and Pudge Rodriguez really is only being considered because the fans could sneak him in. Bourn will not crack the top tier of outfielders.
Wandy Rodriguez (6-6, 3.18 ERA) has almost as many strikeouts as innings pitched, a good gauge of what an All-Star pitcher should look like.
IN: Wandy Rodriguez, Tejada, Lee
OUT: Berkman, Pence, Bourn, Ivan Rodriguez
Candidates: Freddy Sanchez, Zach Duke
Duke is in, Sanchez is out. Sorry Pirates fans, not much debate here.
Candidates: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino
Utley and Ibanez figure to be in because of the fan voting. Howard has a much tougher road to climb with the star power of National League first basemen going against him.
Rollins doesn't have the numbers, but the fan vote could sneak him in (currently second). Victorino has nice numbers and can move up from fifth to fourth in the fan voting because of Carlos Beltran's recent injury. If it's between Victorino and Alfonso Soriano, it could be down to the wire.
IN: Utley, Ibanez, Victorino
OUT: Howard, Rollins
New York Mets
Candidates: David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez
Wright has the bat and legs to start, and he will. Beltran will get in despite his recent trip to the disabled list.
Simply put, Santana is good at baseball. So is K-Rod. Both are All-Stars for sure.
IN: Wright, Beltran, Santana, Rodriguez
Candidates: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Cody Ross, Josh Johnson
Ramirez remains the class of the National League shortstops, and Johnson needs to be on this roster. His numbers (7-1, 2.66, 1.05 WHIP) scream "All-Star."
Uggla's batting average is ugly (no pun intended), and Ross is too much of an unknown player to merit any All-Star consideration.
IN: Ramirez, Johnson
OUT: Uggla, Ross
Candidates: Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Yunel Escobar, Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens
Lots of talent to show for a team without a lot of wins. McCann might get the fan vote, but his numbers should at least warrant a backup role. Chipper still can hit, but his numbers right now don't jump out at anyone.
McLouth doesn't figure to make the roster; same for Escobar.
Vazquez and Lowe should sneak in, though Jurrjens needs to continue his good season to have a chance.
IN: McCann, Lowe, Vazquez
OUT: Jones, McLouth, Escobar, Jurrjens
Candidates: Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Cristian Guzman, John Lannan
For a team this bad, they actually have some nice pieces to build around. Zimmerman should make the team as the top reserve for starter David Wright.
Dunn has the power (18 HR, 50 RBI) but could be another player to have his bubble burst. Guzman knows how to hit (.335 average) and could sneak in.
Lannan is a pitcher on the Nationals, so that automatically disqualifies him from consideration.
OUT: Dunn, Guzman, Lannan
Los Angeles Dodgers
Candidates: Orlando Hudson, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Randy Wolf
Lots of possibles for the best team in baseball. Hudson gets in to back up Chase Utley, while Martin could sneak in at the thin catcher position.
Kemp and Blake likely are on the outside looking in at this point. Manny is only listed here because the fans could carelessly vote him in.
Billingsley (96 Ks in 98 innings) and Broxton (57 Ks in 35 innings) give the National League some serious strikeout ability. Wolf can howl all he wants, but there won't be room for him.
IN: Hudson, Billingsley, Broxton
OUT: Kemp, Martin, Ramirez, Blake, Wolf
San Francisco Giants
Candidates: Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson
The Giants won't get a bat, but they'll get as many as three arms on this roster.
Lincecum and Cain are a combined 16-3 with an ERA in the mid-twos. Both are in.
Wilson is probably behind Hoffman, K-Rod, Broxton, and Heath Bell, so he'll likely be out of luck for a spot in the bullpen.
IN: Lincecum, Cain
OUT: Sandoval, Wilson
Candidates: Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Huston Street, Jason Marquis
The hot Rockies might get snubbed by only getting one representative. Hawpe is certainly going to represent his team, but will he be the only one?
Helton won't crack the Pujols/Fielder/Gonzalez trio, so he's out. Tulowitzki started too cold this year; he is out.
Marquis is not as good as his 9-4 record might indicate, and Street is a good closer in a league filled with great closers.
OUT: Helton, Tulowitzki, Street, Marquis
San Diego Padres
Candidates: Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, Scott Hairston
The Pads get a bat and an arm. Gonzalez and Bell will be on the roster.
Hairston's injury cost him his already slim chance.
IN: Gonzalez, Bell
Candidates: Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, Dan Haren, Max Scherzer
Reynolds has good power and speed numbers (19 HR and 13 steals), and Upton has similar stats (14 HR, nine steals), but both are on a bad team and may not have enough exposure to make the roster.
Haren is in with his 2.23 ERA and 0.82 WHIP, but Scherzer needs to wait another year.
OUT: Reynolds, Upton, Scherzer
A lot could still change, obviously, with injuries and cold streaks for players, but that's how I see it as of now.
I hope this league can at least field a competitive team to play, and hopefully beat, the American League.