The other day, I told you who should be starting for the American League in this season’s summer classic. Today we look towards the senior circuit: the Nation League. The NL has been full of pleasant surprises this season (most notably the Mets and the Dodgers) and plenty of competition throughout the three divisions. While plenty are deserving of the starting nod, here are the ten players I’ve deemed most deserving to get the start in Kansas City.
Yadier Molina, Catcher - Molina has been arguably the league’s best defensive catcher for a few years now. After helping St. Louis win the World Series last season, he bas started 2012 off with an impressive offensive display. He’s hitting .317 with 12 home runs, 15 doubles, 44 RBI, 33 runs scored and seven stolen bases. He has had a strong past 12 months with a shiny new World Series ring and a $75 million extension. A starting All Star nod is just as deserved.
Joey Votto, First base - This really isn’t debatable. Votto has been other worldly for the Cincinnati Reds this season. A .353 average to go along with and .478 OBP, a .673 SLG, and a 1.121 OPS. Out of his 89 hits, 45 have been for extra bases (31 doubles and 14 home runs). Votto has scored 49 runs while driving in an additional 47. Votto is having an MVP type season and has zero competition at top first baseman in the NL, especially with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder now in the American League. Votto is the choice here. Zero doubt about it.
Jose Altuve, Second base - Every team must send a representative to the All Star Game, but in this case Altuve deserves the selection. The 5’5″ 20-year old has come on strong during his first full season as a starter and is a true bright spot for the Astros. Altuve is the only qualifying NL second baseman to hit north of .300 (.309). He has hit five home runs, four triples, and 18 doubles out of his 88 total hits this season. Altuve has become a bit of a figure head for a cult following which has even sparked creative Twitter handles. My personal favorite (@HowManyAltuves) converts units of measurement into Altuves. Brilliant. How many Altuves should be starting the the All Star Game? Just one, and his name is Jose.
David Wright, Third base - Hanley Ramirez has transitioned nicely to the hot corner, but his numbers do not warrant a start. David Freese has carried his postseason momentum into 2012 and has stayed healthy during the regular season for the first time in his career. But there is only one David who should be starting for the NL this season, and that’s David Wright. While his home run numbers have stayed down since the Mets moved to Citi Field, he has adjusted nicely this season and his numbers are off the charts. Wright is hitting .354 with a .554 SLG and a 1.000 OPS, all tops among NL third baseman. His 92 hits, 24 doubles and 47 runs are also tops in the NL. He has drawn four more walks than strikeouts (44:40) and he has also swiped eight bags. Not to forget, Wright’s offensive production has been a catalyst for the Mets’ success thus season. He will get the start, as he should.
Starlin Castro, Shortstop - While the Cubs have been a mess this season, Castro continues to shine bright during his third professional season. The first professional ball player born in the ’90s has yet to finish a season under .300 and he is on pace to finish his third season above .300 yet again. Castro is currently hitting .301 with 10 doubles, seven triples, and six home runs. 69 of his hits have been singles which have helped his 16 stolen base total. Castro is perhaps the least spoken about young star in all of baseball but should be rewarded with a starting nomination to this season’s All Star exhibition.
Melky Cabrera, Left field - While left field was relatively weak in the AL, it is incredibly tough to choose just one in the NL without snubbing multiple others. Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Ryan Braun, and Matt Holliday all have legitimate cases to start this season’s ASG but Melkey Cabrera and his 105 hits deserve the selection. For one, his Giants are playing better right now than the Rockies, Braves, Brewers, and Cardinals. His .352 average is .021 points higher than Gonzalez as Cabrera has collected 15 more hits on the season. While he only has 29 extra-base hits, he has scored 52 runs and swiped 10 bags. He has been a major reason for the Giants resurgence and deserves the trip back to Kansas City, the place where he revived his career just last season.
Andrew McCutchen, Centerfield - If Matt Kemp had stayed healthy, this would be a tougher choice. Even if Kemp had stayed healthy, I’m not sure he would have been more deserving than McCutchen who has been carrying the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense on his back while playing A+ defense in centerfield. McCutchen has been a rising star for a few years now but has often been overlooked because he plays for the Pirates. This season, he is forcing you to take note. McCutchen is hitting .341 with 14 homers, 48 RBI, 42 runs, 15 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases. He is currently on pace for 30 homers, 30 stolen bases, and 30 doubles. Hell, if the Pirates make the postseason for the first time in a score, he should be handed the MVP. No need to vote, just give it to McCutchen. Yes, Pittsburgh’s pitching has been a huge reason for their success thus far this season, but the 25-year old is the catalyst of this club and the obvious choice for starting center fielder in Kansas City.
Carlos Beltran, Right field - One deserving Carlos will not be able to start in the ASG this year (Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez). And while he is deserving, Beltran deserves the nod for a few reasons. For one, did anyone out there think that the 35-year old Beltran had this kind of production left in the tank? 20 home runs, 59 RBI, 47 runs scored, .312 average, .400 OBP, .582 SLG, and a .982 OPS have made Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak look like a genius. Beltran is in the midst of one of his best seasons as a professional baseball player, which says more than you think when you go back and look at his numbers. Many people have the image of Adam Wainwright freezing Beltran with a trip to the World Series on the line stuck in their head while they forget the all time great postseason Beltran produced while he was a member of the Houston Astros. Beltran has been one of the most pleasant surprises in 2012 and he deserves to be rewarded for his play on the field with a trip back to where he made a name for himself.
Bryce Harper, Designated Hitter - “What?!? Harper hasn’t proven himself yet! There are so many more deserving guys who should be in the ASG! He’s too young! He’ll make plenty of All Star appearances over the course of his career, there’s no reason to give him a spot on this team! Let alone START!!” Listen… shut up. While I agree, the National League has more than it’s fair share of deserving outfielders who deserve the nod over Harper, this is where the AL park comes into play. As you may have heard, the NL does not play with a DH. Shocking, I know. Because of this, this is a makeshift position come time to play the All Star Game in American League ballparks. This loophole should earn Harper the starting nod for a few reasons. 1) At the end of the day, the MLB needs ratings more than anything. Yes, the ASG techinically means something but Harper can certainly hold his own. The prospect of having the MLB’s most touted prospect in decades at the summer classic is too tantalizing not to have happen. 2) Harper is no slouch. Through 203 at bats, Harper is holding a respectable .281 average with seven homers, 20 RBI, and 34 runs scored. Harper has also stolen eight bases and has a more than respectable .841 OPS. 3) Harper has been a key contributor for the first place Nationals in the toughest division in the NL. Yes, the Nats have won because of their pitching, but if their offense remained as stagnant as it has been in years past, they would not have a 3.5 game lead over the Braves. Harper has been a big part of their offensive success and to have the young gun on the All Star team not only makes sense from a marketing standpoint but from a baseball one as well. If this were in a National League park, I probably would not push so hard to get the kid on the team. Luckily, that is not the case.
R.A. Dickey, Starting Pitcher - Matt Cain has been phenomenal this season. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasberg have been dominant for the Nationals. Cole Hamels is racking up millions each time he takes the mound. Brandon Beachy has established himself as the ace of the Braves for the foreseeable future. Hell, a case could be made for Lance Lynn or Johnny Cueto as well. But no one has displayed the dominance of Dickey this season. Dickey currently leads the entire league in wins with 11 (he only has one loss on the year). He is currently tied for sixth in all of baseball with 106 strikeouts (to only 24 walks). His 2.31 ERA is tied for eighth with Jered Weaver, who I have starting for the American League. From May 27 through June 18, Dickey yielded ZERO earned runs through 41.2 innings pitched. During that stretch he through three complete games including back to back one-hitters. Dickey is no young, up-and-coming arm at age 37. The knuckle baller may never have an opportunity to earn the ability to start an All Star exhibition ever again. To me, Dickey is the obvious choice, especially after his pitching has kept the Mets competitive when many experts had them pegged for no higher than last place in the NL East coming in to the season. Give Dickey the nod and allow the masses to watch his 80-mile per hour knuckle ball baffle American League hitters for two innings.
There you have it folks, you now know the should be starters for both leagues when they take the field in Kansas City next month. Hopefully, the fans and the managers will get it right and put the deserving players in the game. After all, who doesn’t want home field advantage in the World Series?
Disagree with my selections? Debate me on Twitter @ColeyMick and tell me who I overlooked.