In a shocking development, San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval has beaten out David Wright to start at third base for the National League at this year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Sandoval has hit .307 with a .366 on-base percentage, .482 slugging percentage, and .848 OPS with six home runs and 25 RBI in 166 at-bats over 44 games for the Giants this season.
Wright is second in the Major Leagues with a .355 batting average, second with a .449 on-base percentage, and third in OPS at 1.013. Wright has nine home runs and 50 RBI in 273 at-bats this season.
If you didn’t cast your 25 votes for Wright, then don’t complain…
Original Post 9:00 AM
Later today, Major League Baseball’s All Stars will be announced. Just under the gun, I’ll regale you with my personal selections (starters in bold).
Catcher – Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey. This is an easy one. Catching across baseball is pretty thin, so when you look up and see three catchers with batting averages north of .300 and on-base percentages north of .360, there’s not much debate. Carlos Ruiz is having a ridiculous year and you have to wonder where the Phillies, who already sit dead last in the NL East, would be without his contributions. Yadier Molina is living up to the rich deal he inked a few months ago, putting up Bengie-like offensive numbers. Buster Posey is having a great bounce-back year after missing most of 2011 with a gruesome ankle injury. Posey will probably get better as the ankle gets stronger. The best part about these three offensive catchers is that they’re three of the best defensive catchers, as well.
First Base – Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt. It’s Joey Votto’s world; we just live in it. Goldschmidt is quietly having a great season in Arizona. A very highly touted rookie, Goldschmidt showed flashes last season as a rookie, but seems to have put most of it together so far this season. He’ll get better, too. Bryan LaHair of the Chicago Cubs has had a real good season so far, and might have gotten the attention of Tony LaRussa as a reserve if the Cubs hadn’t benched him recently in favor of prospect-extraordinaire Anthony Rizzo.
Second Base – Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Jose Altuve. Hill is lighting it up in Arizona. Among NL second basemen, he’s second in batting average, one measly percentage point behind the OBP leader and leads slugging percentage by a wide margin. He’s tied for the most home runs, has seven stolen bases to his credit, and is a solid defender. Phillips is second behind Hill in home runs, third in runs scored and leads in RBI. He’s also by far the best defensive second baseman in the league. Altuve leads in batting average and is third in both OBP and SLG%. He’s second in runs scored and has stolen the most bases. I wrestled with Dan Uggla, too, despite his .235 average. His plate discipline is off the charts, so his OBP actually leads all NL second baseman, and so do his runs scored. His power is unmatched at the position and believe it or not, he’s actually played a good second base. Altuve’s defense reminds me of…well…Dan Uggla. Altuve gets the nod, though, because given another viable option, I don’t think the NL wants Uggla anywhere near an All-Star team.
Third Base – David Wright, David Wright, David Wright.
Just kidding, but not really. Wright’s had a Votto-esque season thus far, and due to the injury to stalwart Ryan Zimmerman earlier in the year, there’s just not much competition. I’m going to go Chase Headley as my backup, for two reasons. I actually like Headley a lot as a ballplayer. He’s a very solid hitter and possibly the best defensive third baseman in the game. In a weak season for third basemen, he’s actually very deserving as the second-best in the league. He plays in San Diego, though, so no one’s ever heard of him. The second reason I’m picking him is that the Padres are worse than the Astros. If not for Headley, the Padres should just fold.
Shortstop – Jed Lowrie, Starlin Castro. Lowrie is realizing the potential he showed as the Red Sox hot prospect a couple of years ago. Riddled with injuries, the Sox moved on and dumped him for a AAA reliever. Suckers. Lowire is mashing, leading all NL shortstops in home runs, OBP and SLG%. Castro is as fun a player to watch in baseball. He’s a terrific fielder, though mental lapses sometimes get the better of him. He is only 22-years-old, however. He leads all shortstops in hits, is tied for first in batting average and stolen bases and is even third in SLG%
Outfield – Carlos Beltran (RF), Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (CF), Michael Bourn, Ryan Braun (LF), Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera. I won’t detail each player here much. Beltran is having a resurgent season, Braun is showing no ill-effects of his offseason drama and McCutchen is perhaps the most exciting young player in the game. Heyward’s defense is criminally underrated because of his offensive prowess and Stanton has as much raw power as anyone in the game. Bourn is second among NL outfielders in hits, has the most stolen bases and plays centerfield like Mays. Carlos Gonzalez is a Rockie. So he’s in. The .338/.396/.609 slash line helps a bit. Cabrera was statistically one of the worst hitters in all of baseball as a Brave in 2010, so what he’s doing now is literally a minor miracle.
Pitchers – R.A. Dickey, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel (CL), Aroldis Chapman, Matt Belisle, Tyler Clippard. Dickey’s having a magical season. There’s some debate over who should start, with both Strasburg and Gonzalez getting some love, and I cannot argue their merits. However, both pitchers have so many years ahead of them. Dickey literally reinvented himself in his mid-30’s and may never again have an opportunity to add All-Star Gamer starter to his résumé. Kimbrel is light’s out in the bullpen and is one of the more reliable relievers in the game, and there’s not many. Should any of the starters not be able to pitch due to his team’s rotation, James McDonald, Madison Bumgarner and Wade Miley are all worthy replacements.
Catcher – Joe Mauer, AJ Pierzynski. Like the NL, there’s not a lot of debate here. Welcome back, Joe. Mauer’s comeback is in full force, although the power’s not quite there. Pierzynski’s power surge is a little surprising but it’s accompanied with a respectable batting average and OBP.
First Base – Paul Konerko, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn. I had to. I didn’t really want to, but I had to. No Prince Albert. You can argue that Dunn’s .215 average doesn’t deserve it, but his OBP and SLG% are All-Star worthy, as is his home run and RBI total. Albert just doesn’t match up there. What’s not arguable is that Konerko is the right choice. The ageless slugger never stops hitting and Fielder, while seeing the effects of the more pitcher friendly Comerica Park, is still raking.
Second Base – Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis. Cano is up there on the short list of best players in the game outright. His numbers dwarf everyone else’s, and Kipnis and Kinsler are really good players. Kipnis is second behind Cano in home runs and pairs that with more stolen bases than any other second baseman in the league. Kinsler has the sexy power/speed combo I love so much. Ben Zobrist held me up a little, but I stuck with Kinsler due to the speed. Zobrist is no slouch though, with seven stolen bases. Zobrst is also more of an outfielder.
Third Base – Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Mike Moustakas, Edwin Encarnacion. Cabrera is one of the best pure hitters in the game and the move back into the field hasn’t been as adventurous as expected. Sure, he’s no gold glover, but he hasn’t been terrible, and most thought he would be. Beltre is possibly the best all-around third baseman in baseball. I shouldn’t have to sell him. Mike Moustakas gets the nod over Brett Lawrie because he’s a Royal. That rule again. To be honest and fair, though, Moustakas is every bit as deserving and Lawrie. Statistically, it’s a toss-up. Each deserves and one isn’t more deserving than the other. But the Blue Jays will be well-represented and the Royals, after Moustakas, has Alex Gordon. A fine player, but not quite Edwin Encarnacion, who I think will start at DH.
Shortstop – Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Derek Jeter. I’m not foolish enough to think Jeter isn’t getting voted in to start, but I wanted to recognize that Andrus and Cabrera are better players right now, especially Andrus. I think he’s vastly underrated. Besides leading all AL shortstops in on-base percentage and stolen bases (a deadly combination in front of the Rangers sluggers), he’s neck and neck with Jeter in batting average and has more runs scored by a wide margin. He’s also notched merely seven fewer RBI than Cabrera, despite ten fewer home runs.
Outfield – Jose Bautista (LF), Josh Reddick (RF), Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton (CF), Adam Jones. A smaller pool than the NL outfield, but there’s a lot of versatility here. Trout, Hamilton and Jones are three solid centerfielders, and the corners can rotate. I want to note than Reddick isn’t a “rule” pick, because he plays for a miserable Oakland team. Among right fielders, he’s as good as Torii Hunter out there and is third in home runs and slugging. For good measure, he’s got eight stolen bases. Trumbo and Trout forced themselves into the Angels’ lineup, and Trout is actually a legitimate MVP candidate right now if he can maintain his pace. Adam Jones, albeit a little late, is finally playing like the kid Seattle coveted, and then traded away for Erik Bedard’s elbow surgeon.
Pitchers – Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, David Price, Yu Darvish, CJ Wilson, Jake Peavy, Joe Nathan (CL), Fernando Rodney, Scott Atchison, Chris Perez. I’m giving Sale the start. He’s third in wins, but only two off the pace, and leads the league in ERA. His peripherals suggest his numbers are legit. Case in point, he actually has a better strikeout-per-nine ratio than Justin Verlander. Joe Nathan has been a revelation in the Rangers bullpen, pitching better now than in his best years in Minnesota.
So there is it. Two 32-man rosters, every team represented and accounted for, and legitimately, too. There’s not one undeserving name in the bunch. Later today, we’ll see just how far off I am. Who did you pick?