Ranking Philadelphia Phillies' Best All-Star Game Candidates
The month of July in MLB is arguably the most significant month of the regular season. Not only does it mark the halfway point of the year, it also presents the MLB All-Star Game midway through (July 15) and ends with the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.
In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, July has only brought a continuation of losing that closed out the month of June. While the Phillies won their first game of the month on July 3 by a score of 5-4 over the Miami Marlins, it was their first win in seven games and still came down to the ninth inning.
Before embarking on a current 10-game road trip, the Phillies came off a 2-6 home stand that saw them go from potential division climbers to permanent cellar dwellers.
It's been nothing short of negativity surrounding the Phillies over the last couple of weeks, but the bright side is that the All-Star break is rapidly approaching. Not only will it present a much-needed breather for the Phillies to attempt to distance themselves from losing baseball, it also gives fans the chance of seeing the team's best and brightest playing on the national stage.
While the Phillies don't have an incredible amount of All-Star talent, there is a player or two who could find himself playing in the Midsummer Classic. This slideshow will look at the Phillies' most likely candidates of playing in the 2014 All-Star Game, even if only a few are realistically going to be elected.
Without further ado, here's a ranking of the Phillies' best MLB All-Star Game candidates this season.
3. SS Jimmy Rollins
Choosing a third-place candidate for the Phillies' most likely All-Star nods is difficult since they just haven't had too many standout stars in 2014. Starters Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would typically be shoo-ins, barring poor performance or injury, but both have suffered from the latter, thus diminishing their chances this season.
Therefore, it is the Phillies' all-time hits leader, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who is given the edge.
Although Rollins is not even in the top five of NL shortstop voting, he's still put up a solid season by his standards. In 2014, J-Roll's hit .252 with eight home runs, 32 RBI and a .719 OPS. While his OPS is slightly low, it's partially comprised of a respectable .333 OBP. To top it off, Rollins also has 16 steals under his belt.
It would likely take an addition from NL manager Mike Matheny for Rollins to make the All-Star team at this rate, but among Phillies players, he's got a decent shot.
2. RP Jonathan Papelbon
Because the All-Star Game wants to have some credibility aside from its World Series home-field advantage factor, all pitchers are selected by the All-Star team coaching staff. In theory, the best pitchers to date are named to the team, which isn't always the case for the position players, who are voted in by the fans.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon simply can't be ignored by the Matheny this year. After a lackluster 2013 season, Papelbon has once again been one of the most dominant closers in the league, if not the majors altogether. While he gets fewer save opportunities due to the Phillies' losing ways, Papelbon has made the most of the hand he's been dealt, posting 19 saves with a 1.35 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.
He's been a huge reason why the Phillies bullpen has been so successful in recent weeks and should continue to anchor the unit for the home stretch, barring a potential trade before the month's end.
1. 2B Chase Utley
Chase Utley is the only guarantee to make the All-Star team this year as a representative of the Phillies. Of course, it's not hard to see why: Utley leads all NL second basemen with 2,436,143 votes as of the most recent tally, and the next-closest vote-getter, Pittsburgh's Neil Walker, trails by almost 900,000 votes.
After getting off to a scorching start in April, Utley has cooled off a bit, though his season numbers are still impressive. At age 35, and with deteriorating knees, Utley has nevertheless managed to post a .287 batting average while slugging six home runs, driving in 37 runs and putting up a .781 OPS.
His defense continues to be above-average as well, as evidenced by his 8.8 UZR/150, per FanGraphs.
Utley somehow continues to defy the odds and be not just productive, but elite. He's the Phillies' best player when he's on the field, and it's gratifying to see that fans on the national level seem to agree. Simply put, Utley is the best second baseman in the National League.