Who will represent the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game?
The Brewers sent three players to the All-Star Game last year, the fifth straight season the Brewers sent at least three players to the game. How many Brewers will head to Arizona for the Midsummer Classic this year?
There are seven or eight Brewers with legitimate shots at receiving All-Star Game selections. Last year, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, and Corey Hart made the cut.
Here is my list of those who will fall short in 2011, followed by the stars who will have to cancel those fishing trips in July.
Casey McGehee had a breakout season for the Brewers in 2010.
He was voted Brewers Most Valuable Player, led the team with 104 RBIs, and set career highs in home runs, RBIs, doubles, hits and runs.
Despite solid production in those categories, McGehee saw his numbers slip in other areas. His batting average, on base percentage and slugging fell off from 2009 levels.
There is too much competition at third base in the National League. McGehee will need to establish himself for another couple of years before he is seen as a legitimate All-Star candidate.
Shaun Marcum is better than most fans realize. He was the Blue Jays Opening Day starter last season, and could be the ace on many MLB pitching staffs.
Marcum set career highs in wins, innings, and strikeouts in 2010. His stamina has also improved, as he started more than 25 games for the first time in his career.
Despite solid numbers, Marcum is unlikely to outshine his teammates Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke. He has the potential to be an All-Star at some point, but 2011 is probably not going to be that year.
Like Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks had the best season of his career in 2010. He set career highs in home runs, RBI, doubles, runs and hits, mainly due to finally putting together a relatively injury-free season.
Chase Utley's knee problems could lead to an extra opening for second basemen on the NL All-Star squad. For Weeks to claim that spot, he will have to avoid the injury bug and beat out the likes of Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips and Martin Prado.
Weeks is an exciting young player and will be productive when healthy, but I'm not confident enough in his ability to avoid the DL to predict he'll make the All-Star roster.
Corey Hart is a two-time All-Star, representing the Brewers in 2008 and 2010. Last year he set career highs in home runs, runs scored and RBI.
Despite Hart's excellent year in 2010, I don't think he'll make a repeat trip to the Midsummer Classic in 2011. Hart strikes out often (140 times in 2010), and his stolen base totals have fallen dramatically the last two seasons.
There are too many good outfielders in the NL. Hart is good, but he doesn't stand out. With a career batting average of .275, Hart is just one of a large group of very good outfielders in the National League.
Yovani Gallardo made the All-Star team for the first time in 2010.
The one question mark about Gallardo is his stamina (he averaged under 6 innings per start last season), but it is possible for a young pitcher like Gallardo to improve his stamina over time. He has top-level talent, and there is no question that Yovani Gallardo could become a perennial All-Star.
However, I do not believe Gallardo will be an All-Star in 2010.
First, he is likely to be overshadowed by the Brewers' big offseason acquisition, Zack Greinke. Gallardo could have a hard time making the headlines now that the former Cy Young winner is in town.
Second, Gallardo has stated that if he is selected to the All-Star team he will not play in the game, because of Arizona's controversial immigration law. For that reason alone, Gallardo is unlikely to be asked to play unless he is having a Cy Young-caliber season.
Prince Fielder had a subpar season in 2010, recording career lows in average, slugging, doubles, and hits.
He is primed for a comeback in a major way in 2011.
Fielder is entering a contract year, and his production is likely to return to its usual levels. With the added incentive of free agency, Fielder will be motivated to outshine fellow NL first basemen Ryan Howard, Joey Votto, and Albert Pujols (if such a thing is possible).
I predict that Fielder will make the second All-Star Game appearance of his young career in 2011. Brewers fans should enjoy it while the season lasts, but will have to hope owner Mark Attanasio can come up with a lot of money if they want to see Fielder in a Brewers uniform in 2012 and beyond.
Zack Greinke arrived with the Brewers amid much hype and fanfare over his potential. I predict he will deliver as expected and then some.
After struggling in 2010, Greinke will benefit from the move to the lighter-hitting National League and return to the form he displayed in 2008, when he won the AL Cy Young Award.
Without the pressure of being the only star on a team desperate for success, Greinke will fit in nicely in small-town Milwaukee and quickly become a fan favorite.
The rib injury Greinke suffered while playing basketball is of some concern, but after missing his first few starts, Greinke should be just fine. If all goes well, he will be selected as one of the Brewers representatives on the NL All-Star team.
Ryan Braun has established himself as one of baseball's elite players during his four year career.
Braun hits for both power and average, is efficient on the basepaths, and is well on his way to becoming one of the Brewers' all-time greats.
Although his power numbers dipped in 2010, Braun led the Brewers with 45 doubles and set a career low in strikeouts. He made his third All-Star team, becoming the first Brewer ever to be voted to three straight All-Star teams.
2011 will be no different.
Braun will join Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke at the 2011 All-Star Game. Brewers fans can only hope that Braun, 0-7 in three All-Star appearances, will somehow manage to get a hit this year.
Thoughts on my predictions? Leave a comment below to express your opinion.