My good friend , and big-time Cardinal fan, Patrick Pisani, pinch-hit for me on what a potential National League All-Star team would look like if the game really counted. Take a look:
Patrick’s All Star Team, agree with it or you’re wrong
Catchers – Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Ruiz: Philadelphia Phillies
Ruiz is the best offensive catcher in the National League right now, sporting the highest WAR for offense of ANY catcher in fact. With his .350 clip thus far it’s a no brainer that he’s on the team. Where would the limping Phils be without his production so far? However, the Card’s Molina, fresh off his sparkly new contract is having career highs in offence, and when you combine that with being widely regarded as the best defensive player in the game, it’s hard to argue that Yadi shouldn’t start. It’s like having a pitching coach behind the plate and here’s the kicker: he’s clutch… clutch… CLUTCH at bat. Also, if you wanna stop the American League running game, you should start the catcher who throws out 44 percent of base stealers for his career.
1st Basemen – Joey Votto: Cincinnati Reds, Paul Goldschmidt: Arizona Diamondbacks
The 1B talent in the National League took a huge hit last off season watching Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols jump to the enemy. Joey Votto has been doing all he can to maintain the status quo. His WAR is 4.5, that’s 2nd among all offensive players in the National League. Oh yah, he’s also batting .340 and has a OPS well over 1.0. Does an argument actually have to be made for him to start? To back up Votto? How about Paul Goldschmidt who sadly was not sent to Kansas City this year. A name that maybe popped into your head for a second 1Bman is Freddie Freeman, and though he’s been no slouch this year, Goldschmidt just has the better numbers with a batting average over .300, 42 RBIs, and has an OPS over .900. Not to mention he’s swiped 8 bases. He brings the most to the table after Votto.
2nd Basemen – Brandon Phillips: Cincinnati Reds, Jose Altuve: Houston Astros
The race between which of these two players should start is very close, as the pool for 2B talent is tiny this year, really these two are the only viable choices. Dan Uggla has more power than both, but Phillips and Altuve combine, speed, average, some power, and very good defense. Phillips gets the starting nod here for more consistency, just having played longer, and having slightly more RBIs. Phillips is, however, batting just .280 compared to Altuve’s .302. It will be interesting in years to come to see how the young 2B man from Houston develops.
3rd Basemen – David Wright: New York Mets, David Freese: St. Louis Cardinals
The veteran Met, and after Reyes’ departure very much the face of the franchise, is coming back from and injury plagued year in 2011. You would never have realized that, however, as David is posting 4.7 WAR for position players, the 2nd highest in all of baseball. He’s also batting .351 with an OPS of 1.004. It is a true shame that the Panda got the start over Wright, who is battling his team into steady contention this year in the NL east. Backing up Wright, I’ve chosen last season’s NLCS and World Series MVP David Freese. His line this year is not particularly outstanding in terms of power, he’s producing with an average above .290 and 51 RBIs. No stranger to tense situations, Freese would be seemingly steady if called upon for a big hit late in the ASG. He can hit to all parts of the field and the chicks dig him.
Shortstop – Rafael Furcal: St. Louis Cardinals, Jed Lowrie: Houston Astros
When the Cardinals traded for Furcal in the middle of 2011 there was a distinct feeling of desperation. The position had been a concern for the Cards all year with the sub-par performance of Ryan Theriot and they needed an upgrade immediately. Furcal ultimately helped the Cards win their 11th title, but this year, he’s showing why he was once considered the premier leadoff man in the game. His on base % is .337 just a bit down from his performance out of the gate but he is also on pace to match career highs in walks and almost 200 hits. As long as his knees hold out and he continues to show off his range and staggering throwing arm, he remains THE All Star short stop in the NL. An interesting backup for Furcal is Jed Lowrie, a young shortstop who has been considered among top prospects for years now. Though you could argue that his numbers are somewhat mediocre, most agree that the ceiling is high for this man, and with 14 home runs in the spacious Minute Maid Park, it’s obvious he has a little pop in his bat.
Outfielders – Carlos Gonzalez: Colorado Rockies, Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburg Pirates, Matt Kemp: Los Angeles Dodgers, Carlos Beltran: St. Louis Cardinals, Giancarlo Stanton: Miami Marlins, Michael Bourn: Atlanta Braves
Ok, Matt Kemp, no explanation needed, he’s been injured for almost half the season and just look at where his numbers are at. The other two starters are Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez. The Pirates are in first place at the break and have the best record at this point in the season since 1992. That would not be the case without McCutchen. In addition to playing excellent center field defense McCutchen has stunning .364 average to lead the NL, 14 stolen bases, and an OPS over 1.0. And he looks just like a Pirate. One of the only things that Rockies fans have going for them this year is CarGo’s blistering production. On a team that can’t figure out how to pitch at this level, CarGo remains a mainstay of baseball greatness in the mountains with 17 HRs, 58 RBIs, and a .330 batting clip. Backing up these three starters are three outfielders that could easily start as well. Beltran, like many of the Cardinal’s key players, is aged, injury plagued, and ultimately a gamble at this point in his career, but you wouldn’t know it if you asked him, as he is putting up MVP type numbers, tied for 2nd in HRs in all of baseball. Stanton has to be in there. The guy can absolutely murder the ball already at 19 HRs. If he could get the average a little up and the 80 strikeouts a little down he’d be a viable starter. Lastly Michael Bourne of the Braves rounds out the outfield roster. One word: speed. Bourn has 25 steals already this year, pacing the NL, which puts him on pace to match some of his career highs. Combine that with being one of the best leadoff men in baseball, he’s a lock as an All Star.
Designated Hitter – Pedro Alvarez: Pittsburg Pirates.
This might be a controversial pick considering the Pirates’ slugger’s first part of the season. However, the hope and future of every Pirate’s baseball fan has really been turning it on lately for his first place club. They need him to hit, they want him to hit, and FINALLY, he’s starting to hit. His average is still low and his strikeouts are still high but he’s pushed his way to 17 HRs, putting him up there with the NL leaders. He’s shown an ability to hit in the clutch and he obviously has power. Throw the Pirates a bone for God’s sake.
Starting Pitcher – James McDonald: Pittsburg Pirates
Look, Dickey is the guy everyone wanted to see start the All Star Game this year but I’ll throw it out there and just say that I’m one of those guys that thinks his recent success if fleeting, only time will tell and hell, it’s working right now but I’ve chosen McDonald to get the starting nod. Again, the Pirates are in 1st place and they wouldn’t be without this man. He is 9 and 3 at the break with an ERA of only .237. If you haven’t watched him pitch, do it. He’s a nasty right hander who’s also been racking up strikeouts (100 so far). Oh yah, and he has a WHIP under 1.
Starters – Johnny Cueto: Cincinnati Reds, Kyle Loshe: St. Louis Cardinals, R.A. Dickey: New York Mets, Matt Cain: San Francisco Giants, Gio Gonzalez: Washington Nationals.
You have to have Dickey on the team this year, he’s leading all pitchers in the NL in ERA, Ws, WHIP, etc. enough said. Since having his forearm surgery, Kyle Loshe has settled back in to being a very effective pitcher with the Cardinals, quietly among the league leaders in wins, era, etc. Gonzalez, along with his fellow National rotation mates, are carrying that team, perhaps to a World Series Title. Matt Cain = only perfect game this year. Cueto was the most difficult starter to add to this list, given Strasburg, Dempster, Grienke, and Kershaw could all be in there. But Cueto, despite being a turd, has the second highest WAR for NL pitchers behind Dickey at 3.6. He does tend to give up walks and hits, but his ERA is a stellar 2.39.
Relievers – Craig Kimbrel: Atlanta Braves, Joel Hanrahan: Pittsburg Pirates, Aroldis Chapman: Cincinnati Reds, Santiago Castilla: San Francisco Giants, Jonathan Paplebon: Philadelphia Phillies.
There are no big surprises on this list. Kimbrel’s your saves leader with 25. Chapman can throw 105 mph, Hanrahan the hammer, Castilla has put the Giants on pace with the Dodgers in the west, and Paplebon’s face isn’t as annoying in the NL.