April's Baseball All-Stars: Robinson Cano, Ubaldo Jimenez Headline Leagues
In picking Major League All-Star teams, I prefer to select players that are not only top performers, but who are also recognizable and certain to maintain their production through September.
Here are my April 2010 All-Star teams, starting with the AL.
Catcher: Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
Lots of people doubted in spring training that Jorge Posada would be able to continue his production into the season he turns 39 in, but so far so good. Posada has hit .316 with five home runs and 12 RBI, easily making him the most productive catcher in the American League through April. Joe Mauer has hit well but doesn't have the power production so far that Posada does, with only a marginally better batting average.
First Base: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Morneau missed the playoffs and half of September last season but has bounced back well from injury as he has hit .352 with a huge .495 OBP with a solid four home runs. Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko may also have started off hot, but without the good peripheral percentages that Morneau is maintaining.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Leading the Major Leagues in batting average thus far (.390), Robinson Cano has been off to a sizzling start. He's mashed an AL-high eight home runs and has shown more activity on the basepaths, stealing two bases in four attempts. Dustin Pedroia has been hot as well, but he loses to Cano in most offensive categories.
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Collectively, American League third basemen have really been cold to start the season, but Longoria is the exception, with a .325 average and four home runs to support his .958 OPS. Adrian Beltre may have a good average too (.320) but hasn't produced at all power-wise.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays
For lack of a better option at short, Gonzalez is your American League All-Star shortstop. Gonzalez leads AL shortstops in homers (five), slugging (.582) and doubles (10), as well as providing inspiring defense. Derek Jeter has been underwhelming with a good .306 average and Jason Bartlett has been playing okay, but Gonzalez is clearly the slight favourite.
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians; Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays; Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
Choo's hitting a great .338 with 15 walks, and he has homered four times—clear numbers for an All-Star through April. Wells has homered seven times with a good average (.333) and a fantastic OPS of 1.112. Nelson Cruz, in only 62 at-bats, has hit seven homers to go along with his .323 average.
Honorable Mention: Scott Podsednik has played great so far, with great on-base skills (.424 OBP). However, he hasn't hit for much power and only has eight runs to show for his prolific speed.
Starting Rotation: Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins; John Danks, Chicago White Sox; Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners; Matt Garza, Tampa Bay Rays; Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
Liriano, seen by most as the leading bounce-back player of the year candidate coming into the season, has really come into form, leading AL qualified starters in ERA (0.93). Danks (1.55 ERA) and Pettitte (1.29 ERA) have both flown under the radar, but they have track records to suggest they can support such success to a degree.
Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez (2.23 ERA) and Matt Garza (2.17 ERA), two of the American League's premier pitchers, have started off hot and Felix Hernandez may ride his streak the AL Cy Young Award.
Closer: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Rivera seems to go under the radar with his performance of late since it's not exactly news that Mariano Rivera is pitching well. Relying on one pitch, Rivera has six saves this season without allowing a run.
Catcher: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
No question about it, Molina has been the National League's best catcher so far in 2010. With a .350 batting average, nobody comes close. He only has one home run so far, but really the NL catching crop isn't much at all.
First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
He's leading NL First Basemen in batting average (.333), home runs (seven), runs batted in (19), hits (28), OPS (1.071) and other statistics. And he's Albert Pujols, the most consistently amazing batter of this generation. Adrian Gonzalez (1.063 OPS) has also started off hot, but not quite Pujols-esque production.
Second Base: Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Last year, Johnson was a sleeper for fans, but busted out with the Braves. However, he found a new home with the Diamondbacks, and has put up huge numbers thus far, with nine home runs and 18 runs batted in (both highs among NL second basemen), as well as a superb .320 average. Martin Prado's played well too, putting up a .360 average, but that's been mostly composed of singles, not homers like Johnson.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
Sandoval may not have the RBI totals as his All-Star compatriots (only nine so far), but he's leading the National League in batting average with .373, and has two more walks than he has strikeouts. Casey McGehee and Chase Headley have also had fantastic starts, but they're not going to be able to maintain their starts much longer, and don't have the great peripheral numbers that Sandoval has.
Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like the American League, there really isn't a shortstop in the NL that has stood out, as nobody has more than two home runs, and while some have good averages, everyone has holes in their statistics. Furcal, while without a homer and only six runs batted in, has a .309 average with eight stolen bases with an even walk to strikeout ratio.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals; Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryan Braun is having a great season so far, with five home runs, six stolen bases, and his NL outfield-high .356 average. Rasmus has also put up great power numbers (.754 SLG) to go along with a decent average (.344). Ethier and Kemp form two-thirds of the sport's strongest outfield, as they have a combined for 12 home runs and 37 runs batted in. Ethier's hit a great .333 and while Kemp has been a bit of a letdown with his .290 average, the rest of his statistics still add up to All-Star quality.
Starting Rotation: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies; Mike Pelfrey, New York; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco; Brad Penny, St. Louis Cardinals
Jimenez has already thrown a no-hitter to go along with an amazing 0.79 ERA, and a league best 5-0 record, while Pelfrey has put up an even better ERA of 0.69 and a 4-0 record with a save in that crazy 20-inning game.
Halladay had a bad (for him) start against San Francisco on Monday resulting in a loss, but he's still 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA. It wouldn't be crazy to think that Halladay could continue that pace through September and battle Lincecum (who's 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA) for the NL Cy Young award.
Along with Jaime Garcia (who came close to this list), Brad Penny has been helped tremendously by St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, who's aided Penny to his 3-0 record with a 0.94 ERA.
Closer: Matt Capps, Washington Nationals
Capps has been lights out as a closer in April, with a major-league high 10 saves, with only one earned run in 13.1 innings, and a 15:6 strikeouts to walks ratio. Nobody comes close to his statistics, as Francisco Cordero has eight saves, but he's blown a chance and has a 2.92 ERA.
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