With so many superstars on the field, the 2014 MLB All-Star Game is going to have some stellar moments.
It's hard to predict the outcome of games like this. With so many quality performers taking part in the action, any one of them might step up and play the hero. Excitement is guaranteed, though, as this many stars will surely produce something great.
There are a few stars you can bank on stealing the show. These players have had incredible first halves to their seasons, and Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is their next stop for success. On July 15, look for these three players to take over.
You can't say enough about Clayton Kershaw. His statistics are simply off the charts, and Ace of MLB Stats highlighted two of the most notable numbers:
#Dodgers Clayton Kershaw has a 1.97 ERA over his last 94 games started.— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) July 8, 2014
Since July 29, 2012, #Dodgers Clayton Kershaw: Pitching [against]: .195/.242/.284 Batting: .218/.255/.263— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) July 8, 2014
He's simply incredible. The left-hander is deserving of the nod to start the Midsummer Classic, but National League manager Mike Matheny could choose his own guy, Adam Wainwright, or a divisional foe, Johnny Cueto.
Kershaw has the credentials to pitch the first two innings of the contest. Plus, if the NL wants to start off on the right foot against the American League, it should be relying on Kershaw's left arm. Given how stellar he has been of late, Kershaw can hold the AL scoreless over the first two innings and allow the NL to jump out to an early lead.
When you think of show-stoppers in an All-Star Game, your mind generally doesn't jump to a starting pitcher. Pitchers only throw two innings (max) in the game, so how can they really steal the show?
Well, if Kershaw strikes out four guys and keeps the ball in the infield for the other two outs—like he has all season long—we'll remember the performance even when the ninth inning rolls around.
As the most exciting pitcher in the NL, Kershaw deserves the start, even if it's for the sole purpose of watching him take the mound for two frames.
Giancarlo Stanton can change the outcome of a game with one swing. All Stanton needs is a fastball out over the plate to tack runs on the board and send a jolt of excitement through the fans in Minneapolis.
Stanton is a good candidate to go deep in this one—but not just because of his in-season exploits. He'll also be participating in the Home Run Derby at Target Field, so his home run swing should be in the zone after smacking a dozen or so balls over the fence the previous night.
Will Giancarlo Stanton win the Home Run Derby?
Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond will pitch to Stanton in the Derby, and he thinks Stanton has a good shot of winning, via Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel: "He’s been waiting a long time for this day. He certainly deserves it. I think the most important thing, no matter what happens, is for him to just enjoy it and let it be a great experience. This guy has got sick pop. He can hit homers anytime he wants."
Stanton doesn't just hit home runs. He hits absolute moonshots. He leads the league with an average distance of 423.8 feet on his home runs, per ESPN's Home Run Tracker, meaning he doesn't get shorted when swinging for the fences.
Looking for a smart pick to win the Derby? Go with Stanton. Looking for a smart pick to take over the All-Star Game with one (or two) swings of the bat? Go with Stanton.
Adam Jones is one of the most exciting players in baseball today. He's a fan favorite, even for those baseball fans who don't root for the Baltimore Orioles, and he can do nearly anything he's asked to do on the diamond.
Jones can hit the ball out of the yard, drive the gaps and hit situationally. He has enough speed to keep pitchers and catchers honest, and his arm is strong enough to keep runners thinking cautiously about grabbing an extra base. Defensively, Jones is no stranger to making highlight-reel plays.
To take over this one, Jones just needs to play his signature all-around game. Assuming he gets three at-bats as a starter, that should leave him in the ballgame until about the sixth inning. That gives him plenty of time to make his presence felt.
Jones, who will start for the second straight year and make his third consecutive All-Star Game appearance, enjoyed a late surge in the fan voting, jumping from fifth among outfielders to earn the third and final starting outfield spot. He passed the Oakland Athletics’ Yoenis Cespedes and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Melky Cabrera in the final days of voting. Jones, who is hitting .310 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs, edged Cespedes by 73,000 votes.
Given the fact that Jones also started last year at Citi Field, there should be no first-time jitters. That will allow him to play comfortably and put on a show for the fans. I predict two hits and some stellar defense out in center field from Jones.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR