Thus far, in the 2008 Major League Baseball season, there have been some incredible stories that have truly made this a special time for any fan of the game. Therefore, I felt it would be appropriate to take this time to look at the players who have brought us the greatest stories at each position. Putting together this team of headline- makers wasn’t easy, so feel free to let me know what you would have done differently.
The Starting 9
Catcher: Geovanni Soto
Starting as a rookie for the Chicago Cubs, Soto has already collected 16 home runs and will start for the National League in this year’s All Star Game.
1st Base: Ryan Howard
Despite getting off to a rough start this season, Howard is now leading the league with 28 home runs.
2nd Base: Chase Utley
Despite playing a position typically reserved for slick fielding infielders, Utley has already amassed a total of 25 home runs, and still has games to play before the All Star break. If he keeps up his torrid pace, Utley will have one of the most prolific seasons ever by a 2nd baseman.
3rdBase: Evan Longoria
Although he began the 2008 season in the minor leagues, Longoria has not wasted any time since being called up. He is already on his way to his first All Star game, and will be appearing in the home run derby as well.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez
Shortstops are not supposed to be able to hit like this. Hanley has already collected 23 home runs to go along with 23 stolen bases, and will undoubtedly have a shot at putting together a 40- 40 season; a rarity in the realm of baseball.
Left Field: Ryan Braun
So much for the sophomore slump. In his 2nd major league season, and his first as a left fielder, Braun has already hit 23 home runs and will be appearing in both the All Star game and home run derby. In addition, he even has already made 6 outfield assists. It’s scary how good this kid could be.
Center Field: Josh Hamilton
Josh is, without a doubt, the biggest story of the 2008 MLB season. A former big time prospect who was out of baseball for a time due to personal problems involving drug and alcohol abuse, Hamilton has fought away his demons and made his way back to his once heralded form. With days to go before the All Star break, Josh has already collected a mind- boggling 93 RBIs! Some all star caliber players would consider themselves lucky to have that many RBIs in a full season, let alone half of one. Its simply unbelievable what this kid could do.
Right Field: Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce is to the National League what Evan Longoria is to the American League. He may not have quite put up the numbers yet, but he has shown flashes of dominance in his short time in the majors. If he lives up to his potential, he could end up playing like the next Griffey.
Designated Hitter: Chipper Jones
In today’s MLB, the conception of a player hitting .400 in a given season seems like nothing more than a fantasy. However, Chipper has put himself into a position to possibly accomplish that feat. While injuries have brought down Chipper’s numbers of late, a late season push could possibly bring his batting average to the .400 range. It is a long shot, but just the possibility of it occurring is a story in and of itself.
Catcher: Dioneer Navarro
A one time catching prospect in the Yankee organization, Navarro has been considered a disappointment since landing with the Rays. However, he has broken out in 2008 with an All- Star season, improving considerably both offensively and defensively.
Outfield: Carlos Quentin
Before this season, few fans likely knew his name. However, after a breakout first half of a season, Carlos is not only the clear starting center fielder of the White Sox, but he is also an all star.
Outfield: Rick Ankiel
Who says pitchers can’t hit? Once a huge pitching prospect and Major League rising star, Rick Ankiel has since re-made himself as a Major League outfielder. Rick’s underdog story gave him a big fanbase of supporters last year, but who would have thought he could be this good. We aren’t even at the All Star break yet, and yet Ankiel already has 20 homeruns.
Infield: Alexi Casilla
This season, minor league callup Alexi Casilla has teamed up with Carlos Gomez to form one of the most devastating 1-2 base-running tandems in all of baseball. He steals bases at will, and consistently bunts for hits, even when he has two strikes on him. His numbers don’t reflect it quite yet, but this kid will be big.
Catcher/Outfielder: Ryan Doumit
Hidden in the abyss known as Pittsburgh, Doumit has secretly put together an All Star worthy season. With a .327 average and 11 homeruns, Doumit’s numbers are huge for a catcher. Furthermore, his ability to play the outfield as well only adds to his value.
Very Honorable Mention: Ryan Ludwick
Simply stated, he came out of nowhere, and now he's an all star.
Starter: Justin Duchscherer
Many fans may still not know this kid’s name, but he is leading the Majors with an ERA well under 2. Yes, that’s right, under 2. Furthermore, he is doing it in the American League, where he actually has to face a DH rather than an easy out at the pitcher’s slot.
Starter: Edison Volquez
As good as Josh Hamilton has been this season, you can’t say that the trade didn’t work out for the Reds. With an ERA in the low 2’s and a ridiculous strikeout count, Volquez is putting together a dream season. In fact, many experts feel that he just may be the next Pedro Martinez.
Starter: Tim Lincerum
At 170 pounds and with a 98 mph fastball, Tim is a freak of nature. He currently boasts a 2.66 ERA and a league leading 126 strikeouts. We knew he would be good, but this good?
Starter: Cliff Lee
In previous years, if a fan was asked to describe Cliff Lee’s game in one word, they would likely respond with “average”. However, I don’t think any of those fans expected Cliff Lee to boast a 12 and 2 record with a 2.31 ERA at the All Star break. At this point, Cliff is on pace to be heavily in contention for the Cy Young award at season’s end.
Starter: Joba Chamberlain
Last season, fans all around the country knew Joba’s name for his prolific production as an 8thinning setup man. This year, Joba has moved to the starting rotation, and he has already begun dominating major league batters. With a 2.62 as of this date, Joba is certainly off to a pretty good start.
Long Relief: J.P Howell
As a reliever for the surprising first place Rays, J.P Howell has a 2.68 ERA and a 6-0 record.
Middle Relief: Jose Veras
With the Yankees bullpen already in trouble, and with Joba Chamberlain moving from his 8thinning role to the starting rotation, many expected the Yankees rotation to be left in shambles. However, that turned out not to be the case, as a couple of young relievers truly stepped up for the Yanks. With a 2.87 ERA and a 98 mph fastball, Jose Veras is one of them.
Middle Relief: Edwar Ramirez
The other Yankee reliever who really stepped up this year is Edwar Ramirez. With a 2.73 ERA, and averaging more than a strikeout per innings, Ramirez has truly come into his own this year. At 160 pounds, he may be a small guy, but his changeup is already said to be among the best in the game.
Setup Man: Troy Percival
At one point, Troy Percival was retired and ready to begin a coaching career in baseball. However, when the Rays offered him a chance to close for them, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Setup Man: Brandon Morrow
With a 1.80 ERA and 8 saves, there is no question that Morrow is the Mariner’s closer of the future. And, if J.J Putz cannot return healthy, it just may be Morrow’s job to keep write now.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez
With 37 saves on the season prior to the All Star break, Rodriguez is on pace to break the all time record for saves in a season.
The incredible switch pitcher for the Staten Island Yankees has pitched 10.2 innings already and has yet to allow a run. If he keeps up this torrid pace, he may one day follow in Mariano Rivera’s footsteps as closer of the New York Yankees.
The star shortstop prospect that was traded to the Indians for C.C Sabathia was hitting at an incredibly prolific rate at the time of his trade. The Brewers may have gotten themselves a new ace, but the Indians may have found themselves with a franchise shortstop for years to come.
The Ray’s number one overall draft pick from a year ago has been taking the minors by storm. Scouts have said that he has as much talent as any pitcher they have ever seen, and it would not be unreasonable to see him on the Ray’s Major League roster by September.