It’s hard to believe, but by the end of this week, we will already be 1/3 of the way through the 2013 season. That means a lot of things: 1) I believe we should be seeing the teams that are legitimate playoff contenders emerge. There are going to always be a couple teams that fade or catch fire the last month or so of the season, and make things interesting. But, for the most part, we’ve seen enough of each team to see who they really are going to be in 2013. 2) With just two months left until the non-waiver trade deadline, it’s time for some teams to start thinking seriously about whether they will be buyers or sellers. That might be a little premature for teams hovering around .500 who have had a little bad luck here and there. But, most teams know who they are, and can recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and should know what kind of season they will be able to sustain with their current lineup. 3) We’re just a little more than a month from the All-Star game!
I was in Cincinnati last Saturday to see the Reds and Cubs play each other, and it caught me off guard when the usher handed me an All-Star ballot. How quickly this season has already gone! So, it’s time for us to take a look at the players who deserve to be the starters in the All-Star game.
C: Carlos Santana (CLE) – this is an incredibly close race right now. Santana and Joe Mauer (MIN) are clearly the two to choose from right now (though, J.P. Arencebia might have something to say before the voting is over). Santana leads Mauer in HR (8-4), RBI (22-16) SLG (.512-.484) OPS (.909-.892) and wRC+ (150-143). Mauer’s defense is a good bit better, but I can’t ignore the fact that he only leads Santana in OBP (by .011) and batting average, offensively. It’s a tight race – and one that will be fun to keep watching.
1B: Chris Davis (BAL) – he has been unconscious so far this season! An incredible 1.165 OPS, 17 HR, and 47 RBI through just the first 1/3 of the season. He is well on his way to the best season of his career, which could be 40+ HR, 120+ RBI fairly easily at his current rate. At this point, Davis is the only option that makes sense. But, if he falters over the next month, there are some who could overtake him (Edwin Encarnacion, Nick Swisher, and Prince Fielder, to name a few).
2B: As usual, the debate comes down to Dustin Pedroia (BOS) or Robinson Cano (NYY). Pedroia has the OBP edge, while Cano has the SLG edge, which is why their OPS’s are only .015 apart. Cano has the HR & RBI edge, but Pedroia has the SB, batting average, and fielding edge. So, the tipping point for me came down to wRC+ – a stat that measures the player’s ability to produce runs for his team. Both are doing very well, but at the moment Dustin Pedroia has a slight edge over Cano (136-132). Obviously, this could change fairly easily over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on this race. And, don’t snooze on Ian Kinsler, either. He’s playing very well.
SS: Jhonny Peralta (DET) – .339/.389/.494 . . . that’s really all I need to say. Peralta leads the league in every one of those stats. He also leads the league in wRC+ (138). J.J. Hardy may be the big home run hitter (10 HR, 32 RBI), but Peralta has him beat in every other offensive category. Plus, Hardy’s measly .284 OBP demonstrates the weakness in his game – it’s an all-or-nothing type of swing. I would consider voting for Jed Lowrie (OAK), before Hardy at this point. But, Peralta is the clear choice for now.
3B: Miguel Cabrera (DET) – were it not for Chris Davis and his 17 home runs, guess who would be leading the league in all 3 Triple Crown categories again? .373, 14 HR, 57 RBI. As great of a season as last year was for Cabrera, he’s on pace for an even better one this year. There are some other guys at this position having excellent seasons right now (Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado), but no one holds a candle to Cabrera at this point.
OF: Jose Bautista (TOR – .299, 12 HR, 28 RBI, .995 OPS, 166 wRC+), Kelly Johnson (TB – .299, 10 HR, 33 RBI, .931 OPS, 154 wRC+), and Mike Trout (LAA – .299, 10 HR, 37 RBI, .932 OPS, 154 wRC+). Johnson is probably the only surprise here. I doubt many outside of Tampa realize how well he’s playing. As for other contenders, keep an eye on Adam Jones (BAL – .318, 10 HR, 35 RBI, .880 OPS, 134 wRC+), Alex Gordon (KC – .333, 6 HR, 31 RBI, .869 OPS, 136 wRC+), and Alex Rios (CHW – .289, 10 HR, 28 RBI, .867 OPS, 130 wRC+). Overall, though, this was a much easier decision than I expected.
DH: David Ortiz (BOS) – no big surprise here, since the DH position has been fairly weak over the last few years. I honestly have no idea why we’re voting for a DH All-Star, when there won’t even be a DH in the All-Star game (played in a NL park). But, be that as it may, Ortiz’ stats are pretty good – .339, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 1.000 OPS, 162 wRC+. Kendrys Morales (SEA – .300, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .852 OPS, 139 wRC+) and Travis Hafner (NYY – .258, 8 HR, 25 RBI, .886 OPS, 138 wRC+) are the only legit contenders with Ortiz right now.
C: Buster Posey (SF) – for now. His stats are at the top of the league for catchers, offensively (.304, 7 HR, 31 RBI, .906 OPS, 153 wRC+), and he’s throwing out 21% of base-stealers which is about league average. But, there are three other catchers that have legit arguments at this point. 1) Evan Gattis (ATL) – the only reason I don’t have him as my vote right now is because he has only played about half as many games behind the plate as the rest, so his defensive stats are inconclusive with so little data. But, offensively, he’s a beast – .271, 12 HR, 32 RBI, .946 OPS, 155 wRC+. 2) Yadier Molina (STL) – as usual, he’s throwing out better than 41% of baserunners, but his offense is lagging behind the others – .346, 3 HR, 27 RBI, .862 OPS, 141 wRC+. 3) Russell Martin (PIT) – very impressive defensively, throwing out more than 41% of baserunners, and currently has a spotless fielding pct. (1.000). But, his offense is even a notch behind Molina – .255, 6 HR, 12 RBI, .802 OPS, 127 wRC+. Keep an eye on this race!
1B: Joey Votto (CIN) – at first glance, you would think the choice should be Paul Goldschmidt (ARI), with his stats: .324, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 1.002 OPS. And, his HR & RBI numbers are definitely ahead of Votto. But, Votto leads Goldschmidt by 30 batting average points, nearly 30 OPS points, and has a significant edge in wRC+ (183-169). His low RBI total (just 26) has more to do with the runners ahead of him than his ability to drive them in. Goldschmidt is having a great year, but for now, I’ll give the nod to Votto.
2B: Matt Carpenter (STL) – 4 HR and 18 RBI doesn’t usually sound like All-Star talent. But, Carpenter’s .309/.394/.455 stat line is the best combination at this position in the NL. And, at the moment, he leads NL second basemen in wRC+ (142), while playing very well in the field. But, there are several waiting in the wings, if his stats falter in the slightest: Brandon Phillips (CIN), Chase Utley (PHI), Nick Punto (LAD), and Jedd Gyorko (SD).
SS: Jean Segura (MIL) – this is a very tight race between Segura and Troy Tulowitzki. Segura leads the way in wRC+ (168), batting avg. (.365), OBP (.400), and SB (14 – and Tulo doesn’t have a single stolen base). He also has 8 HR, 22 RBI, and a .969 OPS. Tulowitzki has the lead in HR (10), RBI (40) and OPS (.982), which combined with his .327 batting average and 155 wRC+ puts him just a hair behind Segura.
3B: Eric Chavez (ARI) – that’s right – the 35-year-old veteran who hasn’t played a full season since 2005. He’s having a ridiculously good year: .325, 7 HR, 25 RBI, .956 OPS, 153 wRC+. Right behind him, though, is David Wright (NYM): .295, 7 HR, 30 RBI, .893 OPS, 153 wRC+. Chris Johnson (ATL) is playing very well, and might close the gap over the next month, but for now it’s between Chavez & Wright.
OF: Shin-Soo Choo (CIN – .296, 10 HR, 20 RBI, 5 SB, .982 OPS, 173 wRC+), Bryce Harper (WSH – .287, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 2 SB, .973 OPS, 166 wRC+), and Carlos Gomez (MIL – .326, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 10 SB, .966 OPS, 165 wRC+). The top of the league is so bunched together at this position, that I decided to just sort them by wRC+, and go with the top three. The list of other legit contenders at this point includes: Justin Upton (ATL), Michael Cuddyer (COL), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), and Ryan Braun (MIL). Then, there’s a group just barely on the outside looking in, who could make a run over the next month: Carlos Beltran (STL), Carl Crawford (LAD), Lucas Duda (NYM), and Starling Marte (PIT). An intriguing race for sure.
So, that’s my vote . . . for now. Your thoughts??