Baseball fans around the nation can tell that it's that time of year again. From the great tailgating weather to the rise in home runs in cities like Cincinnati and Milwaukee, the signs of summer baseball are everywhere. And nothing defines summer baseball better than the Midsummer Classic, the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The yearly process through which players make or are left off All-Star rosters is time-consuming for fans, players, and most importantly, each league's All-Star manager. Although I may not have the final say for Bruce Bochy, the National League's manager in 2011, here are my month-early picks for the National League All-Star team.
C: Brian McCann, Braves (.302, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 19 R, .371 OBP)
Why? No surprise here. McCann, a perennial All Star, leads all NL catchers in RBI and is second among NL catchers in home runs. He is also the safest pick in terms of production in the game itself, as he was named the MVP of last year's All Star game in Anaheim.
1B: Joey Votto, Reds (.336, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 42 R, .465 OBP)
Why? The reigning NL MVP leads the majors in OBP, reaching base nearly half the time. Despite lower power numbers, he is still hitting .336. Votto gets the nod in a competitive position over Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Howard.
2B: Rickie Weeks, Brewers (.288, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 43 R, .862 OPS)
Why? In a year in which production among second basemen has been down—partially due to the injury to the Phillies' Chase Utley—Weeks has blasted 11 homers, tied for the league lead at his position. He also leads the National League with 43 runs scored, just one back of Drew Stubbs as of Tuesday.
SS: Jose Reyes, Mets (.337, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 41 R, 10 3B, 19 SB)
Why? This one is a no-brainer. Reyes leads the league in batting average and triples and is second in stolen bases. Even with Troy Tulowitzki having a great season in Colorado, his doesn't compare to the campaign Reyes is having thus far.
3B: Placido Polanco, Phillies (.319, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 19 R)
Why? Polanco is the only one of the bunch deserving of the All-Star nod, and, currently leading fan voting, is in a good position to get the start. He is the only third baseman with enough plate appearances to officially qualify who is also hitting over .300.
OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers (.309, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 43 R .402 OBP, 14 SB)
Why? We should be used to this by now; Braun is on the verge of starting his fourth straight All-Star game in only his fifth season in the Bigs. His average, power, and speed make him one of the best in the game, and there's no reason he shouldn't start this year for the National League.
Why? Bruce leads the NL in homers with 17 following a recent power surge, and ranks fourth in the league with 46 RBI. He is an early MVP-candidate and a definite All-Star.
OF: Lance Berkman, Cardinals (.329, 12 HR, 40 RBI, .444 OBP, 35 R)
Why? Berkman ranks third in the league in average, seventh in home runs, seventh in RBI, third in OBP, and first in SLG. Just when it looked like Berkman was becoming a mediocre middle-of-the-order hitter, he has exploded with one of the best seasons in his career. The Cards' left fielder beats out Matt Kemp for the final starting nod for the National League.
SP: Jair Jurrjens, Braves (7-2, 1.75 ERA, 1.014 WHIP, 44 K)
SP: Roy Halladay, Phillies (8-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 4 CG, 97 K)
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies (7-2, 2.83 ERA, 0.968 WHIP, 82 K)
SP: Kevin Correia, Pirates (8-4, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
SP: Shaun Marcum, Brewers (6-2, 2.78 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 74 K)
SP: Tim Lincecum, Giants (5-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, 93 K)
SP: Josh Johnson, Marlins (3-1, 1.74 ERA, 0.978 WHIP, 5.8 H/9 IP, 56 K)
SP: Anibal Sanchez, Marlins (5-1, 2.97 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 79 K, 2 CG)
SP: Tommy Hanson, Braves (6-4, 2.82 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, 69 K)
RP: Heath Bell, Padres (2-1, 1.80 ERA, 16 SV)
RP: Brian Wilson, Giants (4-1, 2.89 ERA, 17 SV)
RP: JJ Putz, Diamondbacks (1-1, 1.73 ERA, 17 SV)
RP: Leo Nunez, Marlins (0-2, 3.41 ERA, 19 SV)
RP: Craig Kimbrel, Braves (1-2, 2.79 ERA, 17 SV)
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
1B: Prince Fielder, Brewers
1B: Ryan Howard, Phillies
2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
SS: Starlin Castro, Cubs
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
3B: Chipper Jones, Braves
OF: Michael Morse, Nationals
OF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
OF: Andre Ethier, Dodgers
OF: Hunter Pence, Astros
Just Missed the Cut:
C: Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
OF: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
OF: Justin Upton, Diamonbacks
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
OF: Ryan Ludwick, Padres
2B: Martin Prado, Braves
2B: Neil Walker, Pirates
SP: Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
SP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
SP: Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
SP: Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
RP: John Axford, Brewers
RP: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets