After looking at the American League yesterday, today I make my picks for the Senior circuit team.
Once again, don’t forget that you have until 4.59 on Friday, British time, to submit your 2009 MLB All-Star ballot(s) at MLB.com.
C – Brian McCann. He has missed playing time due to a worrying problem with his eyesight, but the Braves’ backstop continues to set the standard for National League catchers. McCann is an above .300 hitter with some power and has a reputation as a very good defender. What more could you want? Honourable mention: Yadier Molina. Arguably the best fielding catcher in the Majors, the youngest of the Molina clan has worked hard on his batting and is now much more than just a good glove behind the plate.
1B – Albert Pujols. The easiest selection of them all and that has nothing to do with the All-Star game being played in his home ballpark. We are blessed with some amazingly talented ballplayers at the moment, but if I had to pick one to build a team around, I would choose Pujols every time. Quite simply, he’s the best player in the Majors. Honourable mention: Adrian Gonzalez. Consistently puts together strong seasons despite playing in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. Joey Votto also deserves a mention as a promising young player who has been through some tough times recently.
2B – Chase Utley. Another straightforward pick. The Phillies’ second baseman is a .300 hitter with excellent power for his position. He played a crucial part in Philadelphia’s World Series success last year and his continuing good form means that he’s the obvious choice here. Honourable mention: Freddy Sanchez. Playing for the Pirates doesn’t appear to be a very rewarding experience. Sanchez may soon find out what it’s like to play elsewhere if he keeps performing like this and Pittsburgh continue to trade away any established player of value.
3B – David Wright. Mets fans are obsessed with Wright’s sudden drop in power, and maybe the blame can’t be totally pinned on Citi Field, but he’s still making a big contribution to the team. A good defender and a leader on the Mets’ roster, he’s another player you would want to build a team around. Honourable mention: Pablo Sandoval. Many a fantasy owner drafted Sandoval as he is also eligible as a catcher in most competitions. He’s having a good year at the plate regardless of where he’s playing in the field.
SS – Hanley Ramirez. He’s been the most productive shortstop in the Majors so far this season and no one else in the National League has mounted a strong challenge for the starting role. Jose Reyes has missed a month of action due to tendinitis in his right calf, while Jimmy Rollins has been nothing short of terrible. Honourable mention: Miguel Tejada. Some thought that he might be finished, but Miggy has been one of the very few bright spots for the Astros.
OF – Ryan Braun. Like all Brewers fans, I was worried about my first round fantasy pick’s back problems during Spring Training. Thankfully, those concerns haven’t hurt his regular season performance much. He’s only missed a couple of games and he’s played to the high standard we’ve quickly come to expect.
OF – Raul Ibanez. I’ve purposefully missed out the honourable mention above because the main candidate would be Raul Ibanez; however, I can’t leave him out of the team so I’m going to pick two left fielders and stick one of them in right field. Let’s hope the pitchers can stop the AL batting lineup from hitting too many fly balls. As I stated on MLBlogs, Ibanez’s performances for the Phillies have forced me to eat some humble pie so I can’t begrudge him an All-Star start. Honourable mention: Justin Upton. I would just barely put Braun and Ibanez ahead of the younger of the Upton brothers for the 2009 All-Star team. I’m already having second thoughts about it, but Upton will make plenty of All-Star teams in his career.
OF – Carlos Beltran. As I’ve gone for two left fielders, I need a genuine centre fielder in the team (Mark decided that Upton could do the job and he may well be right). Beltran’s current stint on the DL obviously could disrupt these plans, and it does look like he’s going to miss the game, however all things being equal he would deserve to start. Beltran’s 2009 so far doesn’t immediately jump out at you because you expect him to be a leading player. Like many of his Mets colleagues, his home run total looks a shade light, but his overall contribution has been excellent. Honourable mention: Matt Kemp. With Manny on the sidelines, the younger players have had to step up to fill the void. Kemp has done just that.
Additional honourable mention: Brad Hawpe. I needed to nominate another outfielder and Hawpe just came out on top. His numbers are helped by the thin air in Denver, but you shouldn’t downgrade his performances too far. He’s been a large reason why the Rockies have done better than expected so far this season.