The National League is very interesting this year. It’s full of great starting pitching, and has much more high quality relief pitching. The offense is surprisingly much more weaker than in the AL. The NL outfield is stacked, but the infield lacks depth. As a result there are guys on this team that wouldn’t be good enough to make the AL team. There are AL snubs who won’t make the team who are stronger than some of the NL All-Stars. But the game should be interesting because of how strong the pitching in the NL is. Here are my 2011 National League All-Star picks.
NL Starters: As voted for by the fans, these are the guys currently leading the voting.
C- Brian McCann (ATL)- The only great catcher in the NL since Posey is injured.
1B- Prince Fielder (MIL)- Albert Pujols is leading, but obviously he won’t be able to play. Votto is second in voting, but Fielder is having a better season. He will be chosen to start at 1B. He is having a career contract year, hitting for a good average, and putting up more HR and RBI than almost anyone in baseball.
2B- Rickie Weeks (MIL)- As of yesterday he passed Brandon Phillips in the voting. Weeks deserves to get the start because he has been the best 2B in the NL for two consecutive years.
3B- Placido Polanco (PHI)- I guess so. As I said in the intro, there really aren’t any good 3B’s in the NL since Wright and Zimmerman were both injured all year.
SS- Troy Tulowitzki (COL)- He’s been the second best SS in the NL this year. Reyes deserves the start, but I’m okay with Tulo getting the fan support. He should be the face of Major League Baseball and will be after Jeter is gone.
OF- Ryan Braun (MIL)- He is extremely good. Matt Kemp deserves to be a starter because he’s been the best player in the NL this year, but he’s not in the top 3 in voting. Braun obviously deserves to be 1 of the 3 starters with the monster numbers he’s put up this year.
OF- Lance Berkman (STL)- He’s had a comeback season. I’m not sure he deserves to be a starter, but he deserves to be on the team.
OF- Matt Holliday (STL)- Here’s someone who doesn’t deserve it. He was injured a few times and his numbers just aren’t there. He really shouldn’t be on the team. Mike Stanton is bumped from the team because of him.
C- Ramon Hernandez (CIN)- He’s had a nice year. Ramon is hitting for an elite average, and has shown just as much power as any other catcher in the NL. It’s been awhile since he’s made this team.
C- Yadier Molina (STL)- He really only makes it because he is a very strong defensive player. None of the catchers really have strong offensive numbers, but at least he’s hitting for average.
1B- Joey Votto (CIN)- Last year’s MVP is starting to put up HR’s to go along with his very high .330 ish AVG. He is repeating last year’s numbers and will be an MVP candidate for the second straight year.
1B- Gaby Sanchez (FLA)- One of the more underrated players in baseball. Gaby is over a .300 AVG with double digit HR’s and half way to 100 RBI on the season. Logan Morrison and his twitter campaign to get Gaby on the All-Star team will be proud.
2B- Danny Espinosa (WAS)- He’s exploded to put up more HR before the All-Star break than any rookie 2B ever. Not only does he make the team, but he makes it even over the next guy below.
2B- Brandon Phillips (CIN)- He has had a bit of a down year, but he’s still hitting for average and is producing a whole lot of runs. The HR power isn’t there, but it really doesn’t have to be for this position.
3B- Pablo Sandoval (SF)- What I did was research every team and write down every deserving player based on their numbers. Once I finished every team I realized I did not have a backup 3B in the NL. I went back through and looked and found Pablo and Aramis Ramirez had the best numbers of any of them. Then when I factored in that Bochey would be selecting this spot, and that Pablo’s numbers are better than Aramis’ even after Pablo missed 6 weeks, he became the clear choice.
SS- Jose Reyes (NYM)- He has been electric all year. He makes things happen for his team and brings life to their dismal offense. He should be the starter.
SS- Starlin Castro (CHC)- It’s so bizarre than Hanley Ramirez isn’t on this list this year. Castro has been a young Hanley this year. His average is ridiculously high and if he can repeat things in the second half he can be fighting for a batting title. Starlin is the Cubs only representative this year, and not be default either.
OF- Matt Kemp (LAD)- The best player in baseball this year. He may be the 5th guy of all time to have 40 HR and 40 SB in one season. That’s why he should be starting.
OF- Jay Bruce (STL)- The three NL OF starters should be Kemp, Braun, Bruce. They have been the top 3. Bruce is hitting for average and showing a ton of power. He’s gained the nickname “Mr. Clutch” after getting a half dozen game winning hits in the first half. People forget he is only 24 years old too.
OF- Andrew McCutchen (PIT)- Surprisingly he is not the Pirates only All-Star. But he is a 5 tool guy who is producing big time in every category.
OF- Justin Upton (ARI)- Same as above. Another 5 tool guy producing in all 5 categories. He is certainly living up to his hype.
OF- Carlos Gonzalez (COL)- Getting a bit repetitive. 5 tool guy. Performing in all 5. Seriously Cargo, McCutchen, and Upton are all putting up similar numbers. So they all deserve to be in. He is really picking it up lately with 2 HR on Monday. He may have to win the last chance vote to get in because of all the outfielders.
OF- Hunter Pence (HOU)- The Astro’s only representative. He is their best player. I don’t think he would have made the cut if every team didn’t have to be represented, but thats only because of the depth in the NL outfield this year.
UTIL- Michael Morse (WAS)- 2 Nationals this year?? He has been the best hitter on the team all year. He also fills the utility qualifications as he can play most positions. He may be needed at 3B actually.
SP- Roy Halladay (PHI)- When doesn’t he deserve to start an All-Star game. He’s having the same old Cy Young caliber season. The best in the league….again.
SP- Jair Jurrjens (ATL)- 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA. It can be argued that he deserves to start the All-Star game. I’m torn between him and Halladay. Great season for Jair.
SP- Cole Hamels (PHI)- He’s actually been the Phillies’ second best starter this year. Having a career year himself, he’s been more talked about that Lee and Oswalt.
SP- Cliff Lee (PHI)- 3 Phillie starters. Of course. What did you expect? If Oswalt wouldn’t have been away from the game so much this year I’m sure they woulda had 4. Lee has really picked it up as of late to solidify his spot.
SP- Tommy Hanson (ATL)- 2 Starters for the Braves as well. Hanson is having himself a a miniscule ERA, a good win total, and has been striking out a whole lot of batters in his last 10 or so starts. All-Star material for sure. Cy young contender? Maybe.
SP- Clayton Kershaw (LAD)- The young ace has finally put himself amongst the elites in baseball. He’s been lights out all year at such a young age.
SP- Ian Kennedy (ARI)- He’s led the D-Backs rotation to being a contender. 8 wins, a good ERA, and a lot of K’s. He’s an ace now.
CL- Joel Hanrahan (PIT)- Who would have believed he would be the best closer in baseball this year? Well, he has been. Lowest ERA of any closer and one of the highest save totals.
CL- Brian Wilson (SF)- There’s magic in his beard.
CL- JJ Putz (ARI)- Yet another reason why this team is contending this year. He shuts the door every outing. Not many blown saves at all.
CL- Heath Bell (SD)- The Padres only representative, and he does deserve to be in.
CL- Craig Kimbrel (ATL)- Rookie closer phenom. Rookie of the year candidate and possible winner.
Close Calls: The Atlanta Braves have the best bullpen in baseball. Not only do they have Kimbrel, but they have Jonny Venters, who is the best setup man in the game. He deserves to be on the team, and hopefully he is before the game comes. Francisco Cordero of the Reds is also worthy in the pen. After those guys it should be Huston Street, Carlos Marmol, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Ryan Madson, and Leo Nunez. I told you that the NL relief pitching was stacked. The closest starter is Jhoulys Chacin. His most recent outing knocked him out. Anibal Sanchez also has a great chance. Shaun Marcum, Kyle Lohse, and Jordan Zimmermann are honorable mentions. 3 Giants pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Ryan Vogelsong are all on the bubble too. Jaime Garcia, Kevin Correia, and Dillon Gee are long shots but deserve mentioning. Offensively Mike Stanton and Ryan Howard have similar numbers and are on the bubble. Michael Bourn is leading the league in steals and has a nice average so he could have a chance to edge out Hunter Pence. Drew Stubbs, Andre Ethier, and Shane Victorino are all close calls and shows you how deep the NL OF is. Miguel Montero is the catcher on the bubble. Jimmy Rollins and Aramis Ramirez are the only other infielders with an honorable mention.
That’s it. I think the AL will easily take this one this year. Their offense is much too strong.