MLB All-Star Game: Updated Look at the American League's Ideal Starting Lineup

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 14, 2012

MLB All-Star Game: Updated Look at the American League's Ideal Starting Lineup

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    The 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is now less than a month away. If you haven't already gone and cast your votes, you should do so now.

    But wait just a second. Don't be in such a hurry. We have much to discuss. 

    Before you go do your voting over at MLB.com, you should at least know which players actually deserve your votes. Since the blasted game actually counts, baseball fans should be responsible for picking the best players in each league as opposed to their favorite players in each league.

    The current voting totals suggest that American League fans couldn't care less about which players actually deserve to start for the Junior Circuit at the All-Star Game. They apparently just want to see a starting lineup consisting primarily of Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

    There's still time to fix this. If you haven't done your All-Star voting yet, here's a look at which American League players you should be voting for.

Catcher

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

    It doesn't surprise me to see Napoli leading the way in the voting at catcher. He gained a lot of fans during the postseason last year, and so far this year he's hitting for plenty of power. He's up to 11 home runs, tied for the most among AL catchers.

    But Napoli isn't strictly a catcher, as he's also logged some time at first base this season. To boot, his .833 OPS is second among AL catchers. According to FanGraphs, his WAR of 1.2 is actually fourth among AL catchers. 

    There's at least one better option out there.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

    Pierzynski has spent more time behind the plate than any other catcher in the AL this season, and his .858 OPS is tops among all qualified AL catchers. He's also tied for the home run lead with Napoli, and he leads AL catchers with 40 RBI.

    His WAR of 2.0 is the best among AL catchers. So please, vote for him.

First Base

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

    Fielder is having a fine first season with the Tigers. He's currently hitting .314/.384/.500 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI. He's on pace to hit roughly 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs, production that the Tigers will gladly take.

    As good as Fielder's been, though, he's not close to being the AL's top first baseman.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

    Konerko is hitting .366/.444/.605 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI. His .366 batting average and .444 OBP lead the American League, and he ranks third in slugging and second in OPS.

    He has a WAR of 2.8, according to FanGraphs, which is tops among AL first basemen by a wide margin.

    Give him your votes. That's an order.

Second Base

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

    Kinsler is another guy who's having a solid season. He's hitting .274/.337/.427 with seven home runs, 31 RBI and eight stolen bases. He's well on his way to having a typical Ian Kinsler season.

    His numbers are good, but they're not the best among AL second basemen.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

    This is a case where voting for a Yankee is actually warranted. Cano may be having issues with runners in scoring position this season, but his other numbers are all quite good.

    So far, Cano is hitting .294/.348/.522 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI. He leads all AL second basemen in average, slugging and OPS. Thanks in large part to his solid fielding, FanGraphs has him leading AL second basemen in WAR, too.

    Before you ask, Jason Kipnis is also having an excellent season. Cano gets the edge over him because of his average, slugging and OPS numbers, as well as his fielding.

    Still, I'd say Kipnis deserves votes more than Kinsler, if that makes you Indians fans happy.

Third Base

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

    Honestly, I'm surprised it's not Miguel Cabrera. You'd think the people voting for Fielder would be voting for Cabrera, too.

    The bandwagon fans favor Beltre, apparently, and truth be told his numbers aren't bad. He's hitting .296/.325/.483 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI, and he's once again playing solid defense at the hot corner.

    Nonetheless, there's one guy out there who's not getting the love he deserves.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    Statistically, Mike Moustakas is the best third baseman in the AL this season.

    On offense, he's hitting .270/.341/.475 with an OPS of .816 that ranks second among AL third basemen behind Cabrera. Defensively, FanGraphs has his UZR at 8.5, which is tops among qualified AL third basemen.

    The same goes for his 2.4 WAR.

Shortstop

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

    Sigh...

    Listen, I know his name is Derek Jeter, and I know he was batting .400 earlier in the season, but Jeter does not deserve to start the All-Star Game for the AL. He's hitting .253 in his last 35 games with a tiny .295 slugging percentage (h/t Baseball-Reference.com). Worse, FanGraphs has Jeter's UZR at minus-11.7, by far the worst among AL shortstops.

    Jeter is an all-time great, but he's not the player he once was.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

    Andrus is hitting .288/.365/.399 with nine stolen bases and 38 runs scored, and his 2.5 UZR places him among the AL's top defensive shortstops.

    Combine his offense and defense, and you get a 2.1 WAR that ranks first among AL shortstops. He's one Ranger worth voting for.

Outfield

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

    Hamilton has slumped lately, but he's still hitting .335/.395/.683. He leads the AL in slugging and OPS, as well as home runs and RBI.

    So yeah, good choice.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

    Carry on.

Outfield

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

    Granderson can definitely hit home runs. I'll give him that much.

    After hitting a career-high 41 bombs last season, Granderson is already up to 19 home runs this season. That ties him for third in the AL with Jose Bautista.

    Granderson just can't do much else. He's only hitting .254, he's not stealing bases, and he's playing subpar defense in center field. FanGraphs has his UZR at minus-10.4, the lowest mark among AL center fielders by far.

    He's not a bad player, mind you. Like most Yankees, he's just overrated.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

    The fact that I have to tell people to vote for Adam Jones depresses me. He should be right up there with Hamilton in terms of votes. 

    Jones is hitting .307/.352/.582 with 18 home runs and 39 RBI, and he's been playing very good defense in center field all season. 

    Per FanGraphs, the only outfielder in the AL with a higher WAR than Jones is Hamilton. He deserves to start. Period.

Outfield

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    Leading Vote-Getter: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

    Cruz hasn't been his usual self this season. He's hitting just .260/.313/.429 with a .742 OPS. He has eight home runs, putting him on pace to hit about 20.

    It's good to see him staying healthy for a change, but he's not having an All-Star-caliber season.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    Mike Trout is the definition of the word "awesome." 

    In just 42 games, Trout is hitting .341/.401/.541 with six home runs, 26 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He's played Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield, and he's energized an Angels team that very much needed an energy boost when they called him up.

    You'll have to write him in on your ballot, but Trout is well worth the extra trouble.

Designated Hitter

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    Leading Vote-Getter: David Ortiz

    Good choice. Big Papi is hitting .307/.389/.589 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI, and he ranks in the top 10 in the AL in virtually every offensive category. He's on pace to have his best season since 2007.

    Should-Be Leading Vote-Getter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

    It's a tough call because Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion also deserve votes. The issue with them is that they're not full-time DHs like Ortiz is.

    Honestly, you really can't go wrong with any of the three, so do as you please.

Ideal AL Starting Lineup

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    1. Mike Trout, CF

    2. Robinson Cano, 2B

    3. Adam Jones, RF

    4. Josh Hamilton, LF

    5. Paul Konerko, 1B

    6. David Ortiz, DH

    7. A.J. Pierzynski, C

    8. Mike Moustakas, 3B

    9. Elvis Andrus, SS

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