Every team in baseball has played more than 40 games, at this point. And, you know what that means . . . we’re half way to the All-Star break! So, I thought it was about time to discuss who is looking like an All-Star this year. Emphasis on this year. Unlike some voters, I don’t really care what a guy did last season, and whether or not he was “snubbed” from the Mid-Summer Classic a year ago. How are you performing right now? Are you putting up All-Star numbers? If not . . . better luck next year. Well, that, or you have about another month or so to get your act together if you want my vote(s).
Since it’s still early in the season, we won’t spend a ton of time discussing each position. But, I do think it’s worth taking a look to see who is actually performing like an All-Star. Because, there may very well be some surprises. Keep in mind, the stats listed are all prior to last night’s games.
AL – This is always one of the more difficult positions for me. Trying to find the appropriate balance between offensive production, and defensive prowess is debated more behind the plate than anywhere else on the diamond. At this point, though, in the American League, the decision is fairly easy: Matt Wieters (BAL) – .283/.330/.455, 4 HR, 16 RBI. There’s only one catcher in the AL with more than 100 PA’s that is legitimately out-performing Wieters offensively (McCann), and Wieters is lightyears ahead defensively. On the flip side of that coin, there’s really only one catcher in the AL that is significantly better than Wieters behind the plate (Perez), and Wieters is head and shoulders ahead of him offensively, at this point. So, for now, I believe Weiters is the best balanced candidate in the AL.
NL – The catcher position in the National League is perhaps a little easier to decide: Wilson Ramos (WSH). Ramos is far and away the best offensive catcher in baseball, at this point. His .347/.389/.525 slash line is especially impressive at a position that doesn’t really emphasize offense as much. And, Ramos is middle of the pack defensively. Depending on the metrics, there are about half a dozen catchers in the NL performing better than Ramos behind the plate. But, only 2 of those are even having slightly above-average seasons offensively (Posey & Castillo). For now, Ramos’ offense is so much better, that I think he deserves the vote. But, if Posey heats up offensively, or if Molina or Lucroy make strides on defense to surpass Ramos, there could be a lot of fluctuation here.
AL – The choice here is easy: Miguel Cabrera (DET). Now, while I said it was an easy choice – that doesn’t mean it isn’t close. Hosmer is just a notch behind Cabrera in pretty much every offensive category. And, Cabrera even has him beat defensively at the moment. Cabrera is quietly having another impressive season – .315/.388/.537, 9 HR, 26 RBI.
NL – Another choice that was pretty easy, but still very close: Anthony Rizzo (CHC) – .240/.379/.526, 11 HR, 34 RBI. The bizarre thing about Rizzo’s stat line is that his OBP, and ultimately his OPS (which leads all NL first basemen), are both very high, in spite of the fact that his batting average is as low as it is. But, that just further proves how obsolete of a stat batting average is becoming. Rizzo is also one of the top fielding first basemen in the league.
AL – Wow. There are some second basemen in both leagues that are having really impressive seasons, but likely won’t get close to starting in the All-Star game. Mainly because there are two guys having unbelievable seasons. In the AL, it’s Jose Altuve (HOU) – .328/.413/.582, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 15 SB. If he keeps this up, he could be in the MVP discussion. Well, if Houston doesn’t continue to tank, that is.
NL – Potential MVP candidate in the NL: Daniel Murphy (WSH) – .387/.420/.607, 6 HR, 28 RBI. He’s playing so well, I don’t think there’s more than one second basemen in the NL that has a shot at catching him before the break.
Other to watch: Ben Zobrist (CHC)
AL – What a loaded position this is in the American League! And, loaded with youth, which means we get to enjoy this for several years to come. Right now, my vote goes to: Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – .346/.397/.495, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB. Bogaerts is also an excellent fielding shortstop. His overall numbers are leading, but not necessarily overshadowing, others at this position. So, there could be a decent amount of fluctuation between now and July.
NL – While this is another position that often places an emphasis on defense, the two best offensive shortstops in the NL are so far ahead of everyone else, I’m going to ignore the fact that they are both a little below average with the glove. Right now, my vote goes to a guy you’re going to have to write in: Aledmys Diaz (STL) – .352/.386/.599, 6 HR, 23 RBI. Taking the place of the injured Peralta, Diaz has played his way into the starting job, regardless of what happens to Peralta in my mind. And, while Story had the hot start to the season, Diaz is batting almost 70 points higher, and his OPS is 40 points higher. Plus, Story is striking out at an alarming 31.9%, while Diaz only 9.2%
AL – Two more no-brainers here. In the American League, we’re looking at another potential MVP candidate: Manny Machado (BAL) – .308/.367/.610, 12 HR, 26 RBI. And, Machado is arguably one of the best gloves in the game – regardless of position.
NL – Nolan Arenado (COL) – .307/.383/.620, 14 HR, 34 RBI, and another excellent fielding third baseman. Arenado isn’t as far ahead of the rest of the pack as Machado is, but it’s enough to say he’s the clear choice. But, don’t be surprised if one or more of these others catch up with him.
AL – It kinda makes me chuckle that no one is even talking about Trout, in spite of the season he’s having (.321/.411/.564, 10 HR, 31 RBI). It’s almost like we just expect that from him now. But, probably even more surprising was my third choice in the outfield: 1) Jackie Bradley, Jr. (BOS) – .342/.413/.618, 8 HR, 33 RBI; 2) Mike Trout (LAA), and . . . 3) Michael Saunders (TOR) – .322/.388/.570, 8 HR, 15 RBI. Be honest – who saw that coming? And yet, he is the clear choice, as everyone else is well behind him in overall offensive production.
NL – I don’t think there are any surprises here, other than perhaps the order: 1) Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) – .298/.381/.660, 14 HR, 35 RBI; 2) Dexter Fowler (CHC) – .316/.435/.533, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB; 3) Bryce Harper (WSH) – .260/.451/.565, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 7 SB. Braun is neck-and-neck with Harper in overall offensive production, but lags way behind in defense, which is why Harper definitely gets the nod here.
And, if you don’t know who to vote for at DH . . . you probably need to start reading a different blog. Hahaha. Let’s just say it’s your last chance to see him in the Mid-Summer Classic. Happy voting!