The Player on Every MLB Team Who Should Be an All-Star

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

The Player on Every MLB Team Who Should Be an All-Star

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Imagine a world, if you will, in which MLB's All-Star Game, as you know it, does not exist.

    The game has gone back to being an exhibition, no longer tied to the World Series, and the way teams are selected have changed.

    Instead of fans voting for only the starting lineup from each league, they now have the power to send 30 deserving players—one from each team—to the Midsummer Classic. The voting does not take a player's position into account, opening the door for fans to select pitchers for the first time.

    How would the voting play out? Would fans vote for the most deserving player from each team, or would the voting remain a popularity contest, one that resulted in some deserving candidates being passed over?

    Operating under the assumption that the most deserving player from each team would find his way to Minnesota in mid-July, here's a look at how the voting might play out.

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and are current through June 16.

     

     

     

Arizona Diamondbacks: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .312/.376/.567, 42 XBH (15 HR), 52 RBI, 154 wRC+

     

    With all due respect to injured center fielder A.J. Pollock, who is worthy of consideration, there isn't anyone besides first baseman Paul Goldschmidt who can represent Arizona.

    In the midst of another MVP-caliber season, the 26-year-old leads the National League in hits (88), is second in runs scored (52), third in slugging percentage and ranks among the top five in a number of other categories.

    Pollock just can't compete with production like that.

     

    Honorable Mention: CF A.J. Pollock

Atlanta Braves: SP Julio Teheran

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 15 GS, 6-4, 2.31 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 105 IP, 77 H, 21 BB, 84 K

     

    While Atlanta has five worthy candidates, including Evan Gattis, whose 15 home runs lead all MLB catchers (he's second in RBI to Arizona's Miguel Montero), one player has raised the level of his game more than any other member of the Braves.

    Julio Teheran is one of only two pitchers (subscription required), along with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, with 12 starts of at least six innings in which they allowed two earned runs or less. 

    Atlanta's ace has the National League's third-lowest WHIP and fourth-lowest ERA despite throwing more innings than anyone else.

     


Baltimore Orioles: DH Nelson Cruz

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Stats: .305/.374/.605, 35 XBH (21 HR), 57 RBI, 165 wRC+

     

    Nelson Cruz is far and away the selection in Baltimore, picking up the slack left by Chris Davis' disappearing act and Matt Wieters' season-ending elbow injury, which the team announced will require Tommy John surgery to repair.

    Baseball's leading home-run hitter and RBI machine, Cruz has emerged as one of the early favorites in the race for the American League's Most Valuable Player award. To say that Baltimore landed one of the steals of the winter by signing Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal would be one of the great understatements of the season.

     

    Honorable Mention: C Matt Wieters

     

Boston Red Sox: RP Koji Uehara

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 30 G, 1-1, 0.59 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 30.2 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 42 K, 14-of-14 SV

     

    He may not have more saves than everyone else, but make no mistake about it: Boston's Koji Uehara is the best closer in baseball—and the unquestioned representative from the reigning world champions. 

    Forget about the fact that Uehara's ERA is lower than his WHIP for a moment and consider this: Uehara has allowed two earned runs in nearly 31 innings of work—and both came before May 2. 

    Currently riding a 20-inning scoreless streak, Uehara has been one of the few bright spots in what has been a disappointing season for Boston thus far.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP John Lackey, SP Jon Lester

Chicago Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .278/.403/.502, 24 XBH (14 HR), 38 RBI, 150 wRC+

     

    It took a bit longer than anyone involved would have liked, but Anthony Rizzo finally looks the part of a middle-of-the-order run producer and deserves to make his All-Star debut.

    Not only does Rizzo lead the Cubs in multiple offensive categories, including wRC+, but he's second in the National League in walks (45) and is among the league leaders in home runs, runs scored (45) and OPS (.906).

    To his credit, Rizzo isn't letting talk of a potential trip to Minnesota in mid-July distract him from his task at hand, as he recently told the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales:

    "If I make it, great. You grow up dreaming of being an All-Star. It’s a ways away, and I will keep my head down until the All-Star break. If I make it, great. If not, I’ll take the time off."

     

    Honorable Mention: SS Starlin Castro, SP Jason Hammel, SP Jeff Samardzija

Chicago White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .265/.320/.603, 35 XBH (19 HR), 51 RBI, 146 wRC+

     

    Despite missing two weeks with a left ankle injury, Jose Abreu has had little problem acclimating to the MLB game—or living up to the expectations that came along with signing the largest contract in White Sox history (six years, $68 million).

    Abreu's power numbers speak for themselves and, if he's able to sustain his current rate of production, could put him in rarefied air at season's end.

    Currently, the 26-year-old is on pace for 44 home runs and 116 RBI in just over 500 at-bats. Should he fall short of those numbers, finishing with say 450 at-bats, 35 home runs and 100 RBI while keeping his slugging percentage at .600 or better—he'd become only the fourth rookie in baseball history (subscription required) to do so.

     

    Honorable Mention: SS Alexei Ramirez, SP Chris Sale

Cincinnati Reds: SP Johnny Cueto

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 14 GS, 6-5, 1.85 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 102 IP, 57 H, 22 BB, 109 K

     

    Johnny Cueto may not be able to pitch Cincinnati back into the playoffs, but the 28-year-old has a chance to end a nearly 60-year drought for the Reds.

    By becoming the team's first Cy Young Award winner.

    The early favorite for the honor, Cueto has been downright filthy, holding opponents to a .160 batting average and .479 OPS while averaging a MLB-best 5.0 H/9, one of multiple pitching categories that he leads.

     

    Honorable Mention: 3B Todd Frazier

Cleveland Indians: RF Michael Brantley

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .323/.391/.519, 29 XBH (11 HR), 46 RBI, 160 wRC+

     

    If you're looking for baseball's biggest breakout performers, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive example than Cleveland's Michael Brantley.

    The 27-year-old outfielder, baseball's most productive hitter during the spring, has carried his torrid play into the regular season. His 160 wRC+ is the ninth-highest mark by any qualified batter in the game, ahead of more notable stars like Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

    While Brantley has thrived hitting in the heart of Cleveland's lineup, an opportunity that presented itself when second baseman Jason Kipnis was injured, teammate Jason Giambi told MLB.com's Alec Shirkey that he's capable of producing like this regardless of where he bats:

    The unique thing about Brant is he's so multi-dimensional. He can steal a bag, you can lead him off, you can hit him third, you can hit him fifth, you can hit him fourth in a pinch. He has that type of approach at the plate. I always say, 'If you're going to build a winning team, you need guys like him.'

     

    Honorable Mention: DH Lonnie Chisenhall, SP Corey Kluber

Colorado Rockies: SS Troy Tulowitzki

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .357/.449/.665, 33 XBH (18 HR), 45 RBI, 195 wRC+

     

    If we've learned anything about Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki over his nine-year career, it's that when he's healthy, he's arguably the best all-around player in baseball.

    Are his numbers heavily influenced by Coors Field? Of course they are, but holding a player's ballpark against him is lunacy.

    Tulo is putting up MVP-worthy numbers, leading all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.114). His secondary numbers are equally as impressive and place Tulo well within shouting distance of the MLB lead in their respective categories.

     

    Honorable Mention: CF Charlie Blackmon, 1B Justin Morneau

Detroit Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .322/.372/.553, 35 XBH (12 HR), 55 RBI, 154 wRC+

     

    Detroit posed one of the most difficult decisions in this exercise, with three players—designated hitter Victor Martinez, first baseman Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Max Scherzerall worthy of inclusion on the American League's All-Star roster.

    Ultimately, that Martinez doesn't play the field and Scherzer takes the ball only once every five days pushed Cabrera, looking to win his third consecutive American League MVP award, to the front of the line.

    Visions of another Triple Crown aren't yet swirling around Cabrera's head, with the slugger off to a slow start in the home run department. But that he's not among the league leaders in home runs isn't nearly enough to knock him low enough for V-Mart or Scherzer to pass him.

     

    Honorable Mention: 2B Ian Kinsler, C Victor Martinez, SP Max Scherzer

     

Houston Astros: SP Dallas Keuchel

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 13 GS, 8-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 90.2 IP, 72 H, 18 BB, 75 K

     

    There may not be a bigger breakout star in baseball than Houston's Dallas Keuchel, who has seemingly transformed from a back-of-the-rotation arm into a legitimate front-of-the-rotation stud in two months.

    Keuchel has the American League's fourth-lowest WHIP and sixth-lowest ERA, both numbers largely due to his ability to keep the ball on the ground. Keuchel's 65.6 percent ground ball rate is the lowest in baseball by a wide margin.

     

    Honorable Mention: 2B Jose Altuve, CF Dexter Fowler, RF George Springer

Kansas City Royals: RP Wade Davis

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 27 G, 5-1, 1.19 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 30.1 IP, 13 H, 13 BB, 49 K, 0-for-2 SV

     

    After a failed stint as a starting pitcher in 2013, Kansas City decided to let Wade Davis hone his craft in the bullpen after losing Luke Hochevar for the season to Tommy John surgery. It's a decision that Davis wasn't initially comfortable with, according to the Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough, but it's fair to say that it's one that neither Davis nor the Royals regret.

    Davis has developed into one of the game's premier setup men and dominant strikeout relievers, averaging 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings of work, by far the highest mark of his six-year career.

    He hasn't allowed an earned run since April 23, a 20-inning streak that has seen him hold the opposition to a woeful .101/.181/.106 slash line—that works out to an even more ridiculous-looking .287 OPS.

     

    Honorable Mention: RF Alex Gordon, SP James Shields, SP Yordano Ventura

Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .305/.394/.582, 36 XBH (14 HR), 50 RBI, 172 wRC+

     

    Hits for average? Check. Hits for power? Check. Plays above-average defense at a premium position? Check.

    Mike Trout, Los Angeles' perennial MVP candidate, continues to stake his claim for the title of best all-around player in the game. The catalyst for the Angels offense, there doesn't seem to be anything that can keep Trout from making an annual appearance at the Midsummer Classic.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP Garrett Richards

Los Angeles Dodgers: RF Yasiel Puig

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .325/.417/.550, 31 XBH (11 HR), 41 RBI, 172 wRC+

     

    Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Yasiel Puig has quickly become one of baseball's most electrifying players.

    Baseball's leader in epic bat flips, the second-year star ranks fourth in the Senior Circuit in batting average and OPS (.967)—the only Dodgers regular with an OPS above .805—and fifth in slugging percentage.

    That he's been far and away the most productive bat in the Dodgers lineup sets him apart from a starting rotation that features multiple All-Star candidates that are clumped together with similar numbers.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP Josh Beckett, SP Zack Greinke, SP Clayton Kershaw, SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Miami Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 302/.397/.591, 36 XBH (18 HR), 54 RBI, 167 wRC+

     

    Miami's Giancarlo Stanton has gone from a youngster still trying to put it all together to a legitimate superstar and MVP candidate in the span of three months, establishing himself as baseball's most prolific slugger along the way.

    How good has Stanton been? Even if the ace of Miami's pitching staff, Jose Fernandez, hadn't been lost for the season to Tommy John surgery, the 24-year-old slugger would still be the fans' choice to represent Miami.

    Stanton's hitting the ball harder and farther than anyone else in the game, and his numbers back up his prolific power. He leads the National League in home runs and RBI and is second in slugging percentage and OPS (.993), while his 31 walks are the third-highest total in the Senior Circuit.

     

     Honorable Mention: SP Henderson Alvarez, RP Steve Cishek, 3B Casey McGehee

Milwaukee Brewers: C Jonathan Lucroy

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .335/.397/.512, 32 XBH (6 HR), 32 RBI, 154 wRC+

     

    There's a brutal battle brewing in Milwaukee between catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Carlos Gomez for the right to represent the Brewers at the Midsummer Classic.

    Arguably the best center fielder in the game, Gomez hits for average and power while flashing above-average speed and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at a premium position.

    Lucroy doesn't have Gomez's power or speed, but the 28-year-old sits with the National League's second-highest batting average and seventh-highest OPS (.909), the latter of which trails only Gomez among Brewers regulars. He's walked nearly as many times (26) as he's struck out (30), however, and that phenomenal plate discipline gives him the slightest of edges over his equally deserving teammate.

     

     Honorable Mention: CF Carlos Gomez, SP Kyle Lohse, SP Wily Peralta

Minnesota Twins: SP Phil Hughes

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 13 GS, 7-2, 3.17 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 82.1 IP, 83 H, 8 BB, 72 K

     

    I was one of the few people who believed that Minnesota got a bargain when the team signed Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million deal over the winter. The 27-year-old has proven me right in the early part of the season.

    Hughes has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Twins, averaging a ridiculous nine strikeouts for every walk that he issues and easily surpassing fellow newcomer Ricky Nolasco as the ace of the rotation. No pitcher who has thrown at least 80 innings has walked fewer batters than Hughes has.

    He's not yet at the level of the truly elite starters in the game—and he may never reach that plateau—but Hughes is finally beginning to show why he was such a highly touted prospect as he worked his way through the New York Yankees farm system.

     

    Honorable Mention: RP Glen Perkins, C Kurt Suzuki

New York Mets: SP Jonathon Niese

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 13 GS, 3-3, 2.54 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 85 IP, 74 H, 22 BB, 62 K

     

    While many expected prospect Zach Wheeler to step in and replace the injured Matt Harvey as the ace of New York's rotation, it's been one of the team's less-ballyhooed players who has taken the reins from the upstart youngster.

    Jonathon Niese isn't the kind of power pitcher who blows batters away with a fastball that hits triple digits, rather relying on his ability to command his five-pitch arsenal to keep batters off-balance. It's a major reason why the 27-year-old southpaw has the National League's sixth-lowest ERA.

    Niese has yet to allow (subscription required) more than three earned runs in any of his 13 starts, a mark that's bested by only Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who has done so in each of his 14 outings thus far.

     

    Honorable Mention: 2B Daniel Murphy

New York Yankees: SP Masahiro Tanaka

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    2014 Stats: 13 GS, 10-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 93.2 IP, 74 H, 14 BB, 103 K

     

    Remember back in February when New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the world that the team viewed Masahiro Tanaka as a "really solid, consistent No. 3 starter" while a guest on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio?

    Yeah, we all got a good laugh out of that one.

    Tanaka has left no question as to whether he's up for the challenge of taking over as the team's ace, replacing the injured (and quickly fading) CC Sabathia. Tanaka leads the American League in multiple pitching categories, including wins, ERA and WHIP.

    Not only does Tanaka look like a shoo-in for the AL Rookie of the Year Award (apologies to Chicago's Jose Abreu), but he's got a legitimate shot at becoming the first player since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 to take home both the first-year player award and the Cy Young Award.

     

    Honorable Mention: RP Dellin Betances

Oakland Athletics: 1B/OF Brandon Moss

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .267/.360/.547, 30 XBH (17 HR), 54 RBI, 151 wRC+

     

    By my count, there are nearly a dozen players currently wearing an Oakland Athletics uniform who are worthy of serious consideration for an All-Star berth. That makes choosing only one an incredibly daunting task.

    Of that group, one player, more than any other, has been a driving force behind baseball's highest-scoring offense: Brandon Moss.

    The 30-year-old, whose bizarre path to this point was expertly chronicled recently by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, has developed into one of the American League's most potent run producers.

    Sitting third in the AL in RBI, fourth in home runs, eighth in wRC+ and ninth in OPS (.907), there's a strong case to be made for naming Moss the team's MVP through the first two-plus months of the season.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP Jesse Chavez, 3B Josh Donaldson, RP Sean Doolittle, SP Sonny Gray, SP Scott Kazmir, C Derek Norris

Philadelphia Phillies: 2B Chase Utley

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .301/.360/.477, 32 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 128 wRC+

     

    While he's no longer the perennial MVP candidate that he once was, 35-year-old Chase Utley continues to defy father time and a pair of chronically degenerative knees and sits in the midst of his most productive season at the plate in years.

    The five-time All-Star has been one of the few bright spots in another disappointing season for Philadelphia. He's the team's only regular hitting above .300 or with an OPS above .800, and while he's lost a step, Utley's defense remains above average, as he's one of only five MLB second basemen with a UZR/150 above 7.0.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP Cole Hamels, RP Jonathan Papelbon

Pittsburgh Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .325/.437/.553, 34 XBH (11 HR), 41 RBI, 179 wRC+

     

    Believe it or not, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen is performing at a higher rate than he did a season ago when he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.

    Through his first 68 games of the season, the numbers don't lie:

    YearBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    2013.298.367.464.83127 (7)354315-for-19
    2014.325.437.553.99034 (11)41379-for-9

    That's impressive, and it leaves the rest of his teammates choking in a cloud of dust when it comes to selecting the Pirates All-Star representative.

     

    Honorable Mention: 2B Neil Walker

San Diego Padres: RF Seth Smith

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .286/.395/.500, 25 XBH (6 HR), 21 RBI, 155 wRC+

     

    I'll be the first to admit that I underestimated Seth Smith's ability to produce for San Diego, viewing the 31-year-old as nothing more than a mediocre fourth outfielder/designated hitter-type player.

    I was wrong.

    While he doesn't have the gaudy numbers that many of his fellow All-Stars do, Smith has been the most consistent (and sometimes only) source of offense for a team that is full of disappointing position players. He leads the team in nearly every offensive category, while his 155 wRC+ is the 11th-highest mark among qualified MLB batters, regardless of position.

     

    Honorable Mention: RP Joaquin Benoit, SP Tyson Ross, RP Huston Street, RP Dale Thayer

San Francisco Giants: SP Tim Hudson

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 13 GS, 7-2, 1.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 89.1 IP, 74 H, 13 BB, 60 K

     

    Every once in awhile, someone comes along and says something as well, if not better, as you could. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince has done just that in a recent piece on San Francisco's Tim Hudson:

    Tim Hudson is 28 days away from his 39th birthday, which means he's 393 days away from his 40th birthday, which means he really has no business sporting the best WHIP, FIP or walk rate of his career.

    And oh yeah, Hudson probably shouldn't have the Major League's best ERA (1.81), either.

    But going into Wednesday's start at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox, this is where Hudson stands. And when you remember what happened 11 months ago, when the poor guy couldn't stand on his own right ankle, it's all the more amazing.

    After breaking his ankle in late July last season, coupled with the wear and tear on his arm that comes along with a 16-year MLB career, nobody expected Hudson to be more than a solid, mid-rotation innings-eating starter in San Francisco, slotting in behind Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.

    Instead, he's outperformed his talented teammates and finds himself heading to the fourth All-Star Game of his career, his first since 2010.

     

    Honorable Mention: SP Madison Bumgarner, 1B/OF Michael Morse, CF Angel Pagan, RF Hunter Pence

Seattle Mariners: SP Felix Hernandez

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 15 GS, 8-2, 2.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 106.1 IP, 86 H, 19 BB, 112 K

     

    One of only three starters (subscription required) in baseball with 10 starts of at least seven innings in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer, we've come to expect this level of performance from Felix Hernandez, the undisputed "King" of Seattle.

    Hernandez's name sits near the top of the MLB leaderboards in nearly every pitching category, and he's been a steadying force in a Seattle rotation that has been decimated by injuries through the early part of the season.

    Aside from high-priced newcomer Robinson Cano, there isn't another member of the Mariners who even garners a look as a possible All-Star.

     

    Honorable Mention: 2B Robinson Cano

St. Louis Cardinals: SP Adam Wainwright

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 14 GS, 9-3, 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 100.1 IP, 72 H, 21 BB, 91 K

     

    Like Seattle's Felix Hernandez, St. Louis' Adam Wainwright is one of only three starters (subscription required) in baseball with 10 starts of at least seven innings in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer.

    Like Hernandez, performances like that have become commonplace for the 32-year-old ace of the Cardinals rotation.

    Wainwright, who seems to have dodged a bullet with his recent elbow injury, leads the National League with nine wins and trails only Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto in WHIP and Cueto and San Francisco's Tim Hudson in ERA.

     

    Honorable Mention: 1B/OF Matt Adams, SP Lance Lynn, SP Michael Wacha

Tampa Bay Rays: RP Jake McGee

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 34 G, 3-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 31.1 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 36 K, 1-for-2 SV

     

    In the midst of the worst season the franchise has seen in nearly a decade, finding an All-Star worthy selection in Tampa Bay was far more difficult than it normally would be.

    The team's biggest stars, third baseman Evan Longoria and starter David Price, have been underwhelming, while reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers has been injured for much of the season (and didn't do much while he was healthy).

    But one of the few standout performances of the season in northern Florida has been delivered by reliever Jake McGee, who has allowed only five earned runs while being used more frequently than any other reliever at manager Joe Maddon's disposal.

     

    Honorable Mention: None

Texas Rangers: SP Yu Darvish

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 12 GS, 7-2, 2.11 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 85.1 IP, 69 H, 27 BB, 101 K

     

    As if there was a question as to who was going to represent Texas in the Midsummer Classic.

    Owner of the American League's third-lowest ERA, sixth-highest strikeout total (but highest K/9 rate at 10.7) and eighth-best WHIP, Yu Darvish is one of only five pitchers (subscription required) in baseball to rack up double-digit strikeout totals in at least four starts.

    He's held the opposition to a .600 OPS, the sixth-lowest in the American League and 11th-best mark in baseball. Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, Darvish has been the slump-buster that the Rangers' injury-depleted rotation desperately needs.

    It's something manager Ron Washington alluded to after his ace's most recent start against Miami on June 11, via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News:

    The first couple of innings, he was trying to find his way and his rhythm. After that, he just did what Yu does. He made pitches, started to get some quick outs. He was strong the whole night. He certainly gave us what we needed. We needed to get back in the win column.

     

    Honorable Mention: 3B Adrian Beltre, RP Jason Frasor, RF Alex Rios, RP Joakim Soria

Toronto Blue Jays: SP Mark Buehrle

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 14 GS, 10-3, 2.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 94.2 IP, 90 H, 26 BB, 55 K

     

    Strong cases could be made for first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jose Bautista, but nobody has been a bigger part of Toronto's resurgence this season than veteran ace Mark Buehrle, currently enjoying the best season of his 15-year career.

    The only member of Toronto's starting rotation with double-digit quality starts (11) or an ERA below 3.50, Buehrle's ability to keep the opposition looking foolish without a pitch that touches 90 mph is remarkable. 

    His stellar performance is even more remarkable when you consider that he's spent the bulk of his career in the American League, and the vast majority of batters that he's facing have lengthy histories against him.

    That they know what he's going to do and still can't do much damage is only a testament to how deserving Buehrle is of the honor.

     

    Honorable Mention: RF Jose Bautista, 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion

     

    Note: ESPN's Chris Jones, one of my favorite writers, recently penned a phenomenal piece on Buehrle that is well worth the read, whether you're a Buehrle fan or not.

Washington Nationals: 1B Adam LaRoche

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    Jeff Curry/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .299/.413/.492, 18 XBH (8 HR), 34 RBI, 153 wRC+

     

    Someone in Washington needed to step up and begin to replace the production the Nationals lost when Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman went down with injuries. 

    Adam LaRoche was able and willing to answer the call.

    What the 34-year-old lacks in gaudy power numbers, he makes up for with an uncanny knack for getting on base with regularity. LaRoche's .413 on-base percentage is the fourth-highest in the National League, his 35 walks the Senior Circuit's ninth-highest total.

    When he's not drawing walks, he's making solid contact with the ball, resulting in the NL's ninth-best OPS (.905), making him the only member of the Nationals everyday lineup with an OPS above .775.

     

    Honorable Mention: IF Anthony Rendon, SP Tanner Roark, SP Stephen Strasburg, RP Rafael Soriano, SP Jordan Zimmermann