2011 MLB All-Star Game: Who Should Represent the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2011

2011 MLB All-Star Game: Who Should Represent the Pittsburgh Pirates?

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 11:  Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates follows through on a delivery against the New York Mets in the ninth inning during the game on June 11, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Pirates defeated the Mets 3-2
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    With a record currently standing at 35-36, the Pittsburgh Pirates are exceeding expectations so far in 2011.

    With less than a month until the All-Star Game in Phoenix, Ariz., it is not to early to take a look at who could represent the surprising Pirates.

    The team's success has been led by pitchers, with a few of the young nucleus of bats producing.

    Some may argue that either Clint Hurdle or Ray Searage are the real candidates, but coaches are not voted on.

    Here are five players in the hunt to represent Pittsburgh on July 12th:

Kevin Correia, SP

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 17:  Kevin Correia #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 17, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    2011 statistics: 8-6, 8 QS, 1.22 WHIP, 3.60 ERA

    With a record of 8-6, Kevin Correia is one win behind the leaders in the National League.

    He has allowed more than four runs just one time, and currently has a 3.60 ERA.

    Signed as a free agent over the offseason, Correia seems to have found a home in Pittsburgh and has been steady as the Pirates ace.

    He doesn't overpower hitters, but rather relies on control and the ability to mix his pitches.

    With eight quality starts on the season so far, Correia has turned into a potential All-Star candidate.

    His next few starts will decide whether he gets the nod for Phoenix.

Neil Walker, 2B

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    CINCINNATI - MAY 26: Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is at bat during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 26, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2011 statistics: .260 BA, 8 HR, 46 RBI, .734 OPS

    Neil Walker has turned into one of the more reliable hitters among National League second baseman.

    His 46 RBI put him first among National League second baseman, and tied for eighth overall in the National League.

    Walker is quietly putting together a solid campaign at the plate and continues to improve defensively at a still-unfamiliar second base.

    If Walker can keep his batting average at .260 or above, look for Walker to be a serious All-Star candidate.

Charlie Morton, SP

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 10:  Charlie Morton #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the New York Mets during the game on June 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    2011 statistics: 7-3, 3.21 ERA, 9 QS

    At this rate, Charlie Morton could be the MLB's Comeback Player of the Year.

    If Ray Searage were allowed to be an All-Star, Morton would be a prime example of why he deserves it.

    In 2010, Morton was 2-12 with an ERA over 7. Nothing more needs to be said about this truly remarkable turnaround.

    Morton is an expert at inducing easy ground-ball outs, and his command continues to improve.

    His confidence is back, and so is his sinker. Look for Morton to continue his ways, and also continue to make the Atlanta Braves groan at the thought of Nate McLouth.

Andrew McCutchen, CF

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 29:  Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 29, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2011 statistics: .276 BA, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 14 SB

    Andrew McCutchen is a true five-tool player, and he continues to hone his craft as his young career wears on.

    Despite getting off to a slow start in 2011, McCutchen has battled back and raised his average up to .276. Combine that average with bigger power, and McCutchen continues to become more versatile at the plate.

    Capable of contributing from any spot in the order, McCutchen may be at his best once he is on the base paths, where he has 14 steals.

    McCutchen is becoming, if he isn't already, the best center fielder in the game today. If he can continue to play at a high level, look for his first All-Star appearance to come very soon.

Joel Hanrahan, Closer

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    PITTSBURGH - JUNE 07:  Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the game on June 7, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2011 statistics: 32.1 IP, 29 K, 19 SV, 1.39 ERA, 0.99 WHIP

    To put it simply, Joel Hanrahan has been flat-out dominant for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Sporting a nasty combination of a high-90s fastball and a sharp slider, Hanrahan has shut the ninth inning down for the Pirates.

    Going 19 for 19 in saves thus far in 2011, Hanrahan has looked untouchable at times, and currently sits one behind the National League leader in saves.

    Hanrahan continues to progress and has evolved from a wild gunslinger into an incredibly powerful closer who also knows how to pitch.

    If Hanrahan continues his late-inning dominance, look for him to get plenty of votes to travel to Phoenix.