Selecting MLB's All-2013 Team, Position by Position
There are still a few days left in the season, but this year's stars have already made their cases at this point, so let's go ahead and say it's not too early to name the 2013 All-MLB team.
While the NFL has the All-Pro team and the NBA has the First-Team All-NBA, the MLB does not name an official All-MLB team when the season wraps up each year.
We'll do that here today, though, as we select the top player at every position in the field, as well as one starting pitcher and one reliever to round out the squad. Only 2013 performance was considered, and while WAR numbers from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference are included, they were not the deciding factor.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Long the elite defensive catcher in the game, Yadier Molina has stepped his offensive game up the past few seasons, and as a result he now ranks as the best all-around backstop in the game.
He missed some time in August with a knee injury, and the Cardinals scuffled with him on the sidelines, as there is little doubt he is the heart and soul of a very good St. Louis team.
Like much of the Cardinals lineup, he's hit really well with runners in scoring position, posting a .364/.429/.496 line, and he'll look to continue that on into October.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
First base was perhaps the toughest call to make, as a strong case can be made for Chris Davis and his lofty power numbers (52 HR, 136 RBI) and for Freddie Freeman (.315/.393/.500) and his consistency in the middle of the Braves lineup.
However, with Davis slumping in the second half and striking out quite a bit and Freeman's run production numbers not quite stacking up, Goldschmidt was the choice here.
After putting up solid numbers in his first full season in the league last year, Goldschmidt has taken his game to another level this season. He's been a consistent force in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup, and he's a big part of the reason for the success the team has managed to enjoy this year.
Second Base: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Robinson Cano remains the premier run-producing second baseman in the game, but for the sake of 2013 performance alone, the choice here has to be Matt Carpenter.
A super utility player last year, Carpenter made the move to second base in the offseason and has done a fantastic job as a table setter atop the Cardinals lineup where he has been a legitimate MVP candidate this season.
He leads all of baseball in hits and runs and his .396 on-base percentage is the best mark among second baseman. As Carpenter goes so has the Cardinals offense this season, and that coupled with surprisingly solid defense at a new position earns him the top spot here.
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
A .262/.400/.328 line and just one home run in September has kept Miguel Cabrera from making a run at a second straight Triple Crown, but he remains the best hitter in the game and the clear choice here at a position loaded with talent.
His .347 average is a full 23 points ahead of Mike Trout and Joe Mauer, as he's a lock to win his third straight AL batting title, while his 137 RBI are also tops in the American League by one over Chris Davis.
He's not playing at 100 percent, battling a strained groin, and likely won't be at full strength the remainder of the season. He's still a potent bat, though, and he'll be counted on come October.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Once one of the most dynamic players in the game, Hanley Ramirez fell off over the past two seasons to hit a combined .252/.326/.416 in 249 games after batting .313/.385/.521 over the first five seasons of his career.
The Dodgers bought low on him last July when the Marlins made him available, giving up right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and reliever Scott McGough, and that has paid of handsomely this season.
After missing time early with thumb and hamstring injuries, he was back at full strength on June 4 and has been the Dodgers' best hitters since. The team has gone 53-25 with him in the lineup since then, and he would be a legitimate NL MVP candidate had he not missed that time.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
After turning in perhaps the most dominant rookie season in MLB history in 2012, Mike Trout has been just as good if not better this year, and one of the few bright spots on what has been a terribly disappointing Angels team.
Trout hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs and 49 steals last season, and while the power and speed numbers have not been quite as good this season, he's seen his on-base percentage spike from .399 to .431 as he leads the AL with 105 walks.
Still only 22, Trout could continue to get even better in the years ahead, and there may already be no more dynamic player in the game of baseball today.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
After single-handedly carrying the Pirates offense for the first half of the 2012 season, Andrew McCutchen fell of a bit in the second half and came up short in his bid for NL MVP, finishing third in the voting.
The Pittsburgh offense has been more balanced this season, but he has still been the driving force in their attack, especially in the second half where he's hitting .346/.445/.566 with 26 extra-base hits.
The 26-year-old is one of the game's true superstars at this point in his career, and has a real chance to take home the award this time around, as the face of a Pirates team that finally got over the hump with a winning record and is in position to make its first postseason appearances since 1992.
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds
The first two outfield spots were lay-ups, but the third one was a much tougher choice. Michael Cuddyer is having a great season at the plate, Jayson Werth has shot up the rankings with a terrific second half, and Carlos Gomez is still among the WAR leaders thanks to his terrific all-around game.
However, the choice here is Shin-Soo Choo, who was acquired from the Indians in the offseason and immediately filled the team's pressing need for a leadoff hitter and a center fielder.
Teammate Jay Bruce is again among the top power threats in the game and has topped the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career, but Choo gets props here for what he has brought to the Reds this season.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
There have been a number of impressive pitching performances across the league this season, but Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is in a league of his own this season and the clear-cut choice as top starter in the league this season.
The 25-year-old went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA in 2011 to win NL Cy Young honors and claim the pitching Triple Crown, and he finished as runner-up to R.A. Dickey last season when he was 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA to win the ERA title for a second straight season.
He could wind up as the first $200 million pitcher once the Dodgers decide to extend him, and he should be a perennial Cy Young candidate for the next decade.
Relief Pitcher: Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Most view Craig Kimbrel as the most dominant reliever in the game, and he's been great once again this season, going 49-of-53 on save chances with a 1.27 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 64 innings of work.
While he has five less saves, Greg Holland actually bests Kimbrel across the board as far as peripheral numbers are concerned, as he's been lights-out in his first full season in the closer's role.
At the end of the day, though, the choice here has to be Uehara, who has gone 17-of-18 on save chances with a 0.23 ERA since July 1. He rattled off a stretch of 37 straight batters retired that ended last week, leaving him four short of Bobby Jenks' record, and he has been among the most pleasant surprises of 2013 after signing with Boston in the offseason.