MLB All-Star '08: Deserving Starters-National League
The National League team will be much more diverse than the AL squad, which will be composed of mostly Yankees and Red Sox in terms of the starters.
The voters for the NL have done much better in choosing players actually deserving of the starter spots.
Current Vote Leader: Geovany Soto-CHC
Deserving Starter: Soto or Brian McCann-ATL
Both players have very comparable batting stats to this point, with Soto swinging it at a .284 clip with 13 HR and 47 RBI, and McCann posting a .295 average with 14 HR and 45 RBI. The Cubs have been the story of the year so far in the National League in 2008, with the rookie Soto being one of the main reasons why.
The Braves, on the other hand, picked by many to represent the NL in the World Series as a sleeper team, have had a tough season due to a slew of injuries to many of its key players, including Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine. Soto will win the fan voting, and he should probably get the nod, anyway.
Current Vote Leader: Lance Berkman-HOU
Deserving Starter: Berkman
The "Big Puma" has had a freakish year to this point for the Astros. He is leading the team in just about every major offensive statistical category, with his .365 BA, 22 HR and 68 RBI. Not only is he an MVP candidate, he's a threat to win the Triple Crown in the NL.
He's being overshadowed by Josh Hamilton in terms of being a Triple Crown threat, but Berkman has been off the charts all season long. As opposed to the AL, the NL has a bevy of first basemen deserving of the start other than Berkman, including Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee, and San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez.
Pujols has posted a .357/17/47 to date, and that's even with having missed significant time due to injury. That's without even mentioning the Phillies' Ryan Howard and the Brewers' Prince Fielder, both having sub-par seasons to this point. Reds rookie 1B Joey Votto leads all rookies in home runs (12) and RBI (38) as well.
Current Vote Leader: Chase Utley-PHI
Deserving Starter: Utley
This race is closer than you may think, considering all the hype that has surrounded Utley's spectacular season to this point. Second in voting right now is the Cubs' Mark DeRosa, but the player actually deserving of being in that spot is Marlins' 2B Dan Uggla.
Utley and Uggla have posted very similar numbers to this point (Utley .297/23/65, Uggla .289/23/58), and their respective teams sit in first and second place in the NL East.
Utley was expected by many to have an outstanding season, but Uggla was an afterthought. Utley is bidding to become the third consecutive MVP for the Phillies, and he certainly has a very good shot at it. Both players are deserving, but because of slightly better numbers and a first-place team (for now), Utley should get the spot.
Current Vote Leader: Chipper Jones-ATL
Deserving Starter: Jones
The voters have done well again with third base, where Jones is the clear-cut choice to start. It's been well-documented that Jones has been flirting with hitting .400 all season, and sits at .394 right now, just before heading to the DL once again.
Should Jones not be able to play in the game, Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez would be next in line, and he has a good case as well (.289/14/55/.390 OBP). Chipper's on-base percentage is a ridiculous .485 right now. Those are Bonds-like numbers, and he deserves to start. No question.
Current Vote Leader: Hanley Ramirez-FLA
Deserving Starter: Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez is, once again, the right pick. He's one of the top 10 players in the National League, as well as one of the most underrated. So far in 2008 he is hitting .296 with 19 HR and 36 RBI, typically out of the leadoff slot in the Marlins' order. Combined with Uggla, the Marlins have one of, if not the, most talented and dangerous double-play tandems in the big leagues.
Astros' SS Miguel Tejada led in the voting for most of the time, but recently Ramirez overtook him. Tejada is having a decent season to this point, but has recently slipped, making Ramirez the outright choice.
Current Vote Leader: Alfonso Soriano-CHC
Deserving Starter: Nate McLouth-PIT
Outfield is where it gets interesting for the NL. Soriano has had a very good season, but has struggled to stay healthy, and is not expected to be ready to play by the time the All-Star Game rolls around. Little-known Pirates CF Nate McLouth has been on fire since Opening Day, posting a .280 BA with 15 HR and 52 RBI for a Pirates team with a terrible offense.
Though his numbers have slipped recently a bit, McLouth is still deserving of a starting spot over Soriano. The Pirates haven't had a starter in the game for years, but finally, they have a worthy candidate in McLouth.
Current Vote Leader: Ken Griffey, Jr.-CIN
Deserving Starter: Ryan Ludwick-STL
Like Soriano, Griffey is not quite deserving of a starting spot this year. He did reach the 600 HR plateau, which is an insane accomplishment, but he's hitting just .237 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI.
Cardinals OF Ryan Ludwick, on the other hand, is enjoying a breakout season at age 29. He's hitting .285 with 16 HR and 56 RBI, and, in the absence of Albert Pujols, has helped carry the St. Louis offense and keep them right in the middle of things in the NL Central race.
He's also proven to be very versatile, having played all three outfield positions this season, while committing just one error.
Current Vote Leader: Kosuke Fukudome-CHC
Deserving Starter: Fukudome or Pat Burrell-PHI
This one can pretty much be a toss-up between either player. In his first ML season, Fukudome has surpassed all expectations of him to this point. He's hitting .296 with six HR and 34 RBI, but his robust .404 OBP is what is really sticking out.
Much has been made of his ability to work counts and not swing at pitches out of the zone, and the rest of the Cubs' lineup seems to have adopted this philosophy as well.
Burrell, a player that has never really lived up to expectations, is having his best season ever, hitting .271 with 19 HR and 49 RBI. Like Fukudome, his high on-base percentage (.410) sets him apart from other candidates. Burrell has always been a low-average, high strikeout guy, but this year, has managed to maintain a decent average and work tons of walks (64, second in MLB to Adam Dunn).
With the Cubs and Phillies both in first place as of today, and with a down year for most outfielders, the spot can go to either Fukudome or Burrell. Another player deserving of consideration is Brewers phenom Ryan Braun. Last season's NL Rookie of the Year is continuing the brilliant start to his career, hitting .282 with 20 HR and 58 RBI so far in 2008.
Deserving Starter: Edinson Volquez-CIN
The Reds have not met expectations this season, but some of their young players have generated quite a buzz around the league. The 24-year-old Dominican, acquired in the offseason in exchange for fellow-phenom Josh Hamilton, has gone 10-3 with a 2.08 ERA and 110 strikeouts to this point in the season.
Not to be outdone, Giants P Tim Lincecum, 24, is currently 9-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 114 strikeouts for an even-worse San Francisco team. You can't really go wrong with either player, but Volquez should get the nod. His lines against the Yankees (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER), Red Sox (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER) and Phillies (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER) show how dominating he can be against a potent lineup.
Not that Lincecum can't, but Volquez's body of work to this point sets him apart by a hair.
The NL voting has been done much more accurately than the American League in terms of voting in the most deserving players.
It's just a shame that a few of the NL first basemen can't be transferred to the AL squad to give all the deserving players a chance to represent themselves in the game.
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