The Midsummer Classic is approaching, and all-star voting ends at 11:59 tonight on mlb.com. It was, as always, very difficult to choose one player at each position in each league to give a vote to send to Minneapolis for the game on July 15. Whether an individual position had several sluggers, all-around hitters, defensive specialists, base stealers, or all of the above, weeding through the numbers and seeing the strengths of each player has shown that, in almost every case there is more than one deserving player. That being the case, there were some tough decisions to be made as I made out my ballot.
Note: since only position players are on the fan’s ballot, and the players and coaches pick the all-star pitchers in addition to reserve position players, I have only included my position player picks for the All-Star Game.
1B: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers, .311 BA, 14 HR, 67 RBI)
Miggy is easily one of the best all-around hitters in the game, and is the two-time defending AL MVP. He is the spearhead of the Tigers offense, as they lead the AL Central, and has become a sure-fire hall-of-famer, even if his career ended today at the age of 31. It was tough to pass up Jose Abreu, however, as the rookie is tied for the MLB lead in homers, even after missing time with injury.
Also considered: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox, .280 BA, 26 HR, 67 RBI), Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels, .254 BA, 17 HR, 50 RBI)
2B: Jose Altuve (Houston Astros, .343 BA, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 37 SB)
Altuve is a different kind of player. The 5’5” Venezuelan will never be a 20 HR, 100 RBI player for the Astros. His role is to get on base in front of the team’s power-hitting prospects, and he does. His 118 hits lead all of baseball, and his 37 steals lead the American League. Unfortunately, he plays on a bad Astros team, and doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves.
Also considered: Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners, .323 BA, 6 HR, 51 RBI), Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers, .308 BA, 10 HR, 43 RBI)
SS: Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox, .294 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI)
While baseball fans certainly need to thank Derek Jeter for his contributions to the game, as he appears to be headed for the start in his final all-star game, the best shortstop in the American League today is Alexei Ramirez. He began the year on a hot streak on the south side of Chicago, where he is enormously popular, and has continued to put up strong offensive numbers while playing strong defense at a position not traditionally known for producing offensive stars.
Also considered: Erick Aybar (Los Angeles Angels, .277 BA, 6 HR, 42 RBI), Derek Jeter (New York Yankees, .271 BA, 2 HR, 20 RBI)
3B: Josh Donaldson (Oakland Athletics, .245 BA, 18 HR, 61 RBI)
Somehow, someway, Donaldson is flying under the radar while leading the Oakland Athletics to the best record in baseball to this point. He actually doesn’t lead his own team in any of the major offensive categories, but he is certainly a leader in that clubhouse, and could lead them to a deep run in October. Passing on the talented young Kyle Seager and the veteran Adrian Beltre was difficult.
Also considered: Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners, .283 BA, 13 HR, 59 RBI), Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers, .335 BA, 9 HR, 44 RBI)
C: Derek Norris (Oakland Athletics, .309 BA, 8 HR, 35 RBI)
Norris didn’t even begin the year as the starter behind the plate in Oakland, sharing duties with John Jaso. Jaso hasn’t played poorly, if you look at his numbers, so Norris clearly earned the starter’s role. He’s played so well, both offensively and defensively, he may have earned the starter’s role in Minneapolis, too. Matt Wieters is currently the leader at this position in the fan voting, but is out for the year with an injury, so he was left off my ballot.
Also considered: Brian McCann (New York Yankees, .224 BA, 10 HR, 37 RBI), Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners, .223 BA, 12 HR, 32 RBI)
DH: Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto Blue Jays, .281 BA, 26 HR, 69 RBI)
This may have been the toughest call of all, as three really good players all deserve this honor, and it’s hard to believe none of them are named David Ortiz, who is also having a great year. What gave Encarnacion the nod over Nelson Cruz was literally 1 RBI and 1 point on his batting average, while leading a team that leads their division. Comparing those two to Victor Martinez was tough, since it’s apples and oranges; Victor’s power numbers aren’t as good, but his average is 40 points higher. Encarnacion has been the hottest lately, so he just barely has the edge.
Also considered: Nelson Cruz (Baltimore Orioles, .280 BA, 26 HR, 68 RBI), Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers, .323 BA, 20 HR, 52 RBI)
OF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels, .311 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI), Yoenis Cespedes (.272 BA, 14 HR, 55 RBI), Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians, .312 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI)
Trout, as most of you already know, may be the best all-around player in the game, combining a great power bat with a high average, good speed, and good defense, and his numbers prove it. Cespedes is on pace for his best year yet at the plate (which says a lot) in his third major league season, and has made a few jaw-dropping defensive plays as well. Brantley is mostly under the radar, almost singlehandedly leading the Indians back to around the .500 mark after a terrible start. And as you’re about to see, there are many other deserving outfielders, in every facet of the game.
Also considered: Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles, .307 BA, 16 HR, 52 RBI), Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays, .304 BA, 17 HR, 51 RBI), Melky Cabrera (Toronto Blue Jays, .301 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI), Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels, .313 BA, 5 HR, 21 RBI in limited at-bats due to injury), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals, .309 BA, 3 HR, 35 RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees, .288 BA, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 23 SB)
1B: Justin Morneau (Colorado Rockies, .315 BA, 13 HR, 58 RBI)
I don’t understand why Morneau isn’t getting more attention, like his teammates who are (keep reading). He is leading all NL first baseman in RBI, is second in batting average, and is fifth in HR. And yet, he isn’t in the top five in the fan voting, as other, more popular first baseman are leaving guys like him in the dust. Here’s to you, Justin, and the credit you deserve.
Also considered: Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks, .305 BA, 15 HR, 53 RBI), Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs, .281 BA, 17 HR, 44 RBI)
2B: Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals, .280 BA, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
Rendon is a guy who is even under the radar on his own team, at least to an extent, with other, bigger stars around him. But all he does is help the Nationals win. He can play at second or third base, although he spends the most time at second, and is often as good defensively as he is with the bat.
Also considered: Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies, .288 BA, 6 HR, 38 RBI), Dee Gordon (Los Angeles Dodgers, .295 BA, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 40 SB)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies, .351 BA, 18 HR, 47 RBI)
This was the probably the easiest pick of all, as Tulowitzki is easily a MVP candidate in the NL. While the Rockies haven’t been able to sustain their hot start and remain in playoff contention, Tulowitzki hasn’t dropped off a bit from his crazy start that had people talking about whether or not someone playing half their games in Denver (at altitude) could hit .400 for the season (it would be easier than anywhere else). In making this pick, I passed over arguably the best defensive player in the game, Andrelton Simmons.
Also considered: Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs, .288 BA, 11 HR, 48 RBI), Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta Braves, .255 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI, .982 fielding pct. with only 3 errors)
3B: Casey McGehee (Miami Marlins, .312 BA, 1 HR, 49 RBI)
It’s not often a player with only 1 homer on the year deserves an all-star bid, but in this case, McGehee does. He played in Japan last year because no one wanted him, then signed with the Marlins this year to be a veteran leader. He’s been more than that, batting behind Giancarlo Stanton for most of the season and helping lead the Marlins into a division race in the NL East no one expected them to be in. With a good second half, he could wind up with 100 RBI for the year.
Also considered: Todd Frazier (Cincinnati Reds, .289 BA, 17 HR, 47 RBI), Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies, .305 BA, 6 HR, 28 RBI)
C: Devin Mesoraco (Cincinnati Reds, .314 BA, 15 HR, 41 RBI)
This was a tough call, as Mesoraco and Evan Gattis have similar numbers, and have both been hot lately. Gattis is temporarily out with a back injury, but I would have likely picked Mesoraco anyway as his numbers are in less at-bats, and he has had a flair for the dramatic, helping the Reds in key situations (then again, Gattis does too). Johnathan Lucroy’s numbers aren’t bad.
Also considered: Evan Gattis (Atlanta Braves, .290 BA, 16 HR, 39 RBI), Johnathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers, .331 BA, 8 HR, 43 RBI)
OF: Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins, .313 BA, 21 HR, 61 RBI), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates, .313 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI), Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies, .295 BA, 12 HR, 46 RBI)
Stanton was an easy call, and would even have my vote for MVP if the season ended today. He is among the league leaders in every offensive category. McCutchen is the defending league MVP, and he is having a better year offensively, and is also invaluable for the Pirates defensively. Blackmon is the one unusual pick. He has come from out of nowhere to hit over .300 for most of the season, and has impressive power numbers as a leadoff man for the Rockies offensive juggernaut (yes, I know they’re in Denver). It was very close between Blackmon, Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, and Ryan Braun, with Blackmon’s defense helping to give him a slight edge.
Also considered: Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee Brewers, .306 BA, 13 HR, 45 RBI), Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers, .314 BA, 11 HR, 46 RBI), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers, .293 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI), Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves, .271 BA, 16 HR, 46 RBI), Michael Morse (San Francisco Giants, .273 BA, 13 HR, 44 RBI), Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds, .279 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 35 SB)