2011 MLB All-Star Game: Who are the early favorites to represent the AL & NL starting lineups?
Its never too early to start talking about the mid-summer classic.
We're just over a month through the 2011 MLB regular season, and it's safe to assume nothing will be predictable as the divisional races heat up.
Nevertheless, we'll try our hand at projecting the starting lineups for both the American and National leagues for the 2011 All-Star game in Phoenix, Ariz.
*Please note that all statistics are through May 14, 2011*
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American League: Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
Statistics: .273 BA, 24 RBI, 6 HR, .858 OPS
This is one of the closest calls of all the starting positions, as any number of catchers deserve the starting role.
However, if you're looking for who has been the most productive for his respectable team, look no further than Avila.
With the most RBIs (24), doubles (8) and best slugging percentage (.527) of all AL catchers, Avila is clearly the best choice at this point in the season.
National League: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Statistics: .289 BA, 16 RBI, 2 HR, .752 OPS
Like the American League, the National League also boasts a plethora of worthy candidates.
The two most-likely competitors at this point would either be Atlanta's Brian McCann or St. Louis' Yadier Molina—both are virtually neck and neck when it comes to sheer dependability.
Nevertheless, a decision must be made—Molina has put forth more respectable numbers than McCann.
American League: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
Statistics: .329 BA, 31 RBI, 8 HR, .959 OPS
Coming into the season, any number of potential nominees could have competed for the starting lineup in the mid-summer classic.
When it comes to pure production on the diamond however, did you expect anyone other than Gonzalez?
Though the Red Sox began their 2011 season on a rough note, Gonzalez's productivity hasn't hindered—putting him atop many offensive categories compared to his AL competition.
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Statistics: .346 BA, 22 RBI, 5 HR, 1.037 OPS
Another close call, Votto stakes his claim as the most-fitting suitor to start for the National League.
Leading in OPS (1.037), OBP (.471), SLG (.566), SB (4), and BB (32), Votto presents the most complete résumé to start for the National League.
American League: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
Statistics: .293 BA, 27 RBI, 8 HR, .947 OPS
Though he'll probably never receive the credit he deserves, Zobrist is every bit impressive as any second baseman the American League has to offer.
From an offensive standpoint, Zobrist leads the league in OPS, SLG (.579), RBI,and doubles (12).
Defensively, he lives up to his reputation as being one of manager Joe Maddon's favorites, carrying a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Convinced yet?
National League: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Statistics: .326 BA, 23 RBI, 5 HR, .863 OPS
This isn't even close.
Hounded by his critics as being inconsistent and undependable the past few seasons, Phillips answered those pundits by putting together a solid first month of the 2011 regular season.
Phillips leads the league in RBI and is second in OPS (.862) and OBP (.377).
American League: Wilson Betemit, Kansas City Royals
Statistics: .317 BA, 17 RBI, 1 HR, .850 OPS
Another solid group with many viable candidates, Betemit gets the benefit of the doubt by putting together the most thorough résumé of all AL third basemen.
Through just over a month of play, Betemit boasts a league-leading .850 OPS, 12 doubles, three SB, .465 SLG, and .385 OBP.
National League: Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies
Statistics: .354 BA, 24 RBI, 2 HR, .848 OPS
Polanco has always been known for his impressive batting statistics, but his performance to this point in the season has come as a complete shock to the entire league.
Leading all NL second basemen in BA, OPS, RBI, H (52) and SO (8), Polanco is by far the most deserving contestant to start in the mid-summer classic.
American League: Jed Lowrie, Boston Red Sox
Statistics: .327 BA, 16 RBI, 3 HR, .864 OPS
Flying under the radar for the better part of his four-year career, Lowrie has batted his way towards respectability thus far in his 2011 campaign.
Leading all AL shortstops in BA, SLG (.500) and OPS (.864), Lowrie carries a very respectable résumé into the bulk of the 2011 season.
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Statistics: .261 BA, 24 RBI, 10 HR, .884 OPS
Offensively, teams have yet to solve Tulowitzki's arsenal of production. Defensively, teams can't seem to put the ball past him.
This season, Tulowitzki has put together one of the most deserving résumés to start at shortstop for the National League, and he will showcase his talent with both the bat and the glove.
American League: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Statistics: .293 BA, 23 RBI, 3 HR, .825 OPS
Carl Crawford hasn't lived up to the hype engulfing him before the start of the season, leaving space for a plethora of worthy candidates available to start for the American League.
Josh Willingham, David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Luke Scott all present modest cases, but Gordon clearly has the most put-together résumé.
Leading all AL left fielders in OPS, OBP (.349), SLG (.468) and RBI, Gordon looks to be the favorite heading into the mid-summer classic.
National League: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Statistics: .394 BA, 28 RBI, 5 HR, 1.090 OPS
The Cardinals have quickly defied their critics by jumping out to a hot start, in part due to Holliday's exceptional production.
Among all NL left fielders, Holliday has the best BA, OBP (.476), SLG (.614) and OPS.
Whether you believe it or not, Holliday can rake as well as anyone else in the game today.
American League: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
Statistics: .280 BA, 26 RBI, 12 HR, .980 OPS
A league filled with many feasible candidates, Granderson clearly takes the cake when it comes to driving in runs with a big bat and speedy legs.
To this point in the season, Granderson leads all AL center fielders in OPS, SLG (.622), RBI, HR and R (26).
If he keeps this pace up, we might be talking MVP once the season ends.
National League: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Statistics: .336 BA, 25 RBI, 7 HR, .958 OPS
After a disappointing 2010 season, Kemp quickly developed one of the most complete offensive résumés in all of baseball.
Leading all NL center fielders in BA, OBP (.421), SLG (.537), OPS, RBI and H (50), Kemp separates himself from the competition with relative ease.
American League: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Statistics: .358 BA, 23 RBI, 13 HR, 1.315 OPS
After hitting a MLB-high 54 home runs last season, Bautista once again leads the majors with the long ball.
Not only that, Bautista also leads all AL right fielders in OPS, SLG (.798), OBP (.517), BB (35) and is just .002 points behind Matt Joyce for the league-lead in BA.
National League: Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
Statistics: .342 BA, 33 RBI, 10 HR, 1.104 OPS
As awkward as it might sound, Lance Berkman should (and will) be starting in right field for the National League in the mid-summer classic.
How is this possible?
Berkman leads virtually every offensive category among NL right fielders, and—for the most part—has been a reliable defender for the Cardinals to this point in the season.
American League: Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians
Statistics: .340 BA, 16 RBI, 5 HR, .932 OPS
Hafner has never been known for his impressive batting average, but his 2011 season may well in fact prove to be his "breakout" year.
Leading all designated hitters in OPS, SLG (.528) and OBP (.403), Hafner isn't the clear-cut favorite. However, he presents a case that may be too good to pass up.
American League: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
Statistics: 6-3. 2.26 ERA, 61 SO, 0.94 WHIP
This is unquestionably the most difficult selection featured on our list.
After beginning his 2011 campaign in historic fashion, Weaver has seen his impressive ERA slip ever so slightly. However, that should not take away from what he's accomplished thus far.
Weaver is essentially ranked in the top five of every pitching category amongst American League starters, and he has the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.3:1) of all pitchers.
National League: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Statistics: 5-2, 2.05 ERA, 66 SO, 0.96 WHIP
Although Josh Johnson, Jair Jurrjens and Tim Lincecum all maintain impressive statistics, "Doc" Halladay remains the most accomplished pitcher in the league today.
The best strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.3:1) of all MLB starters, Halladay has both the statistics and reputable performances to stake his claim as the most worthy starter for the National League in the mid-summer classic.