Major League Baseball released its ballot for the 2011 All-Star game this past week. It may be a little early to label a player's 2011 season as All-Star caliber, but nevertheless votes casted today are worth just as much as those in late June.
Last season, we saw a noticeable shortage of star talent at the National League outfield spots. There were so few All-Star worthy outfielders in the N.L. that Atlanta Braves rookie Jason Heyward was voted into the game, despite a mediocre first half in which he hit just .251 with 11 home runs.
On the other hand, there appear to be several N.L. outfielders that are poised to have great 2011 seasons. Currently, five different N.L. outfielders possess an OPS greater than 1.000, namely Matt Holiday, Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. All five of them are hitting at least .350 with 13 or more RBI.
Berkman is the most surprising of the bunch. The five-time All-Star is coming off an injury-ridden 2010 season, in which he hit just .248 with 58 RBI in 122 games. He turned 35 years old before the season and is looking to make his first All-Star appearance since 2008.
Meanwhile, both Kemp and Ethier had disappointing 2010 seasons for the Dodgers, but have responded in a big way in the early going. If the two of them are voted into the All-Star game by the fans, it will be the first time that the Dodgers have had two All-Star starters since 1995 when the battery of pitcher Hideo Nomo and catcher Mike Piazza each started the Midsummer Classic.
Assuming that Kemp and Ethier are each named All-Stars one way or another, Los Angeles would have two All-Star outfielders for the first time since 1991. Also of note, the last time that two Dodger outfielders were voted into the All-Star game was back in 1954 (Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson).
If not for the early success of Kemp and Ethier, the Dodgers (13-13) could already be far out of playoff contention. The two outfielders have combined for nearly one-third of the Dodger hits this season, as well as eight of the 20 team home runs.
Besides Kemp and Ethier, none of the other Dodger hitters have been particularly impressive. The Dodger pitching has been solid overall, but there has been no standout up to this point. Therefore, unless one of the Dodgers not named Kemp or Ethier tear it up over the next couple of months, we may see just two Dodgers in the Midsummer Classic.
Currently, Braun and Holiday appear to be the front-runners to finish No. 1 and No. 2 in N.L. All-Star voting among outfielders, but it is far too early to tell.
The 2011 MLB All-Star Game will be played on July 12th at Chase Field in Phoenix.