2011 MLB All-Star Game: Predicting the Starting Lineup for the NL
After a 14-year drought, the National League finally beat the American League in the All-Star game last summer.
Next Tuesday, the NL will try to make it back-to-back wins, when they take on the AL at the 2011 All-Star Game, which is set to take place at Chase Field in Phoenix.
As always, fans were given the responsibility of choosing the starting lineups. While some may disagree as to whether Placido Polanco of the Philadelphia Phillies is having an All-Star caliber season, for example, there isn't a whole lot that can be changed at this point.
Barring any sudden injuries, the starting lineup for the NL will likely be as follows.
1. Matt Kemp, Of, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kemp had a very disappointing year in 2010. Just one year removed from a very nice 2009 season, in which he finished 10th in NL MVP voting as a 24-year-old, the Dodger outfielder regressed in just about every offensive category.
Luckily for Kemp, 2011 has been a different story. He is on pace to shatter nearly all of his career highs and has emerged as an NL Triple Crown candidate (.324, 22 home runs, 64 RBI).
A true five-tool player, Kemp leads all NL players in WAR (5.3) and would be extremely effective as the leadoff man for the NL next Tuesday.
2. Lance Berkman, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
After a frustrating 2010 season, in which Berkman dealt with a nagging knee injury, he has miraculously returned to his All-Star form.
The former Houston Astro has tailed off a bit after a great April, in which he hit .388 with eight home runs, but he still leads the NL in home runs (23) and slugging percentage (.612).
A five-time All-Star, Berkman possesses the ability to hit for power and get on base via the base on balls, which would make him a great fit to bat second for the NL.
3. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun is having a typical Braun-like season, which means another spot on the NL starting roster.
After an unbelievable rookie campaign, in which Braun missed the first 47 games but still hit .324 with 34 home runs, the Milwaukee left fielder has done nothing but pump out big seasons and get voted into the All-Star game year after year.
This season, Braun is hitting .320 and ranks among the NL leaders in every relevant power hitting category.
Assuming that Braun's calf injury isn't serious, he would be a natural No. 3 hitter for the NL.
4. Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
The middle of the NL starting lineup could shake up to look exactly like the Milwaukee Brewers' everyday starting lineup.
Fielder is having another big year and will likely hit fourth for the NL during the Midsummer Classic. Through 87 games, the big first baseman is right near the top of the NL leaders in home runs (22), RBI (71), on-base percentage (.417) and slugging percentage (.590).
Still just 27 years old, Fielder will be making his third All-Star appearance but far from his last.
5. Matt Holliday, DH, St. Louis Cardinals
Holliday was well on his way to being voted into the starting lineup by the fans, but a quad injury sidelined him during the first half of June and prevented him from putting up even better numbers in the first half than he did (.320, 12, 44).
However, Holliday was voted in by the players and has a great chance of being added into the starting lineup as the designated hitter.
The only other hitter that would make sense to throw in as the DH would be 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto.
While Votto has a slightly higher on base percentage than Holliday (.432 compared to 416), his slugging percentage is considerably lower (.497 compared to .569).
And since the league who wins the game will have home-field advantage in the World Series, it may be a smarter move for manager Bruce Bochy to throw Holliday in the starting lineup than Votto due to the fact that he has more All-Star experience (five appearances compared to two).
Either way, Holliday and Votto would both be great additions to the NL starting lineup, particularly in the No. 5 spot.
6. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki was recently named to the NL All-Star team as the replacement for injured shortstop Jose Reyes, and he is expected to start.
Coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he finished among the top five in NL MVP voting, Tulowitzki is having a slightly down year for his standards (.271, .339, .495). However, the Colorado shortstop still has very good power numbers (17 home runs, 18 doubles) and is easily the best hitting shortstop in the NL after Reyes.
With elite NL hitters like Kemp, Berkman, Braun, Fielder and Holliday all expected to be in the starting lineup, it would make the most sense for manager Bruce Bochy to bat Tulowitzki sixth.
7. Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves
With McCann, Placido Polanco and Rickie Weeks rounding out the NL starters, McCann is the obvious choice to be the No. 7 hitter.
Last year's All-Star Game MVP, McCann is having a very solid year (.312, .384, .513) and is arguably the best hitting catcher in the game today.
Still just 27 years old, McCann is already a six-time All-Star but was never voted into the All-Star game by the fans until this year.
Assuming that Holliday or Votto are added into the starting lineup, McCann would clearly be the seventh best hitter among NL starters and therefore the No. 7 hitter.
8. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Normally, the Milwaukee Brewers are content with having just one All-Star starter, but this year they have three.
While Braun and Fielder receive most of the media attention, Weeks has quietly put up an All-Star caliber season, which the fans have done a great job of recognizing.
Weeks leads all second baseman in home runs (15), runs (61) and slugging percentage. He may not necessarily be an elite hitter, but he is certainly having a better season than the guy who figures to bat ninth.
9. Placido Polanco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Polanco (.274, .331, .346) is having a down year and truly should not have been voted in by the fans.
While the Phillies third baseman has had a nice career, he is actually on pace to finish the season with the lowest OPS of his career (.676). But at the same time, it is not like All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones (.256, .342, .419) is having a much better year.
Chicago Cubs' third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.295, .340, .487) and Chase Headley (.306, .393, .406) are each having better seasons than Polanco or Jones, but it is possible that neither of them will make the NL All-Star squad.
Unless Polanco comes down with an injury, he will likely bat ninth for the NL with home-field advantage on the line.