Weekly Hit Ground Ball: All-Star selections

WHGB11The online 2014 MLB All-Star ballot is open until 23.59 Eastern Time on Thursday (just before 5 a.m. on Friday for us in the UK).

This year’s Mid-Summer classic is being held at Target Field in Minnesota. My ballot is explained below and we’ll see how close to the target it is compared to all the other voters when the rosters are announced next weekend.

American League

Catcher – Salvador Perez (Kansas City)

There isn’t an outstanding option on the ballot this year now that Minnesota’s hometown hero Joe Mauer has moved out from behind the plate (it would have been difficult not to vote for him to start at Target Field). Perez is a very underated player as he provides a lot of value defensively whilst also putting up decent numbers with the bat. Brian McCann was the pre-season favourite for this spot, but his slow start to life as a New York Yankee means his previous performances don’t quite justify him getting the chance this year.

First base – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)

Only a length injury would have prevented this selection as soon as it was confirmed that Cabrera would move across the diamond from third base for the Tigers this season. He’s the best hitter of his generation and he’s putting together a strong case to be put in the group of the best of all-time. Jose Abreu gets an honourable mention for his seamless start to life in the U.S. after his switch from Cuba over the offseason.

Second base – Brian Dozier (Minnesota)

Put his strong start to the season alongside his position as an All-Star hometown player and Dozier deserves to enjoy some national limelight for the first time. Ian Kinsler presents a strong candidacy too whilst the previous exploits of Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia will ensure they get plenty of votes too. Houston’s Jose Altuve should have his name mentioned in the running as well.

Shortstop – Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)

Unashamedly a sentimental selection; if any one player has been ‘the face of MLB’ over the past 15 years or so it has been the Yankees’ captain and as there isn’t another overwhelming candidate based on performances so far this season, voting him onto the All-Star team again in his final season is an easy choice to make.

Third base – Josh Donaldson (Oakland)

The A’s deserve to have at least one starter on the AL’s roster and there’s no better candidate than Donaldson. He’s been an excellent player with the bat and the glove for a couple of years now and an All-Star start would be fully deserved, especially as he has the misfortune of competing for the MVP award with Cabrera and Mike Trout.

Outfielders – Mike Trout (LA Angels), Jose Bautista (Toronto), Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland)

Trout and Bautista are hard to argue with based on 2014 so far and previous performances, making the third outfield slot the tricky choice. Cespedes is a slightly biased A’s fan selection but last year’s Home Run Derby champ would be a good bet to do something spectacular again, whether at the plate of by showing off his outstanding throwing skills. Alex Gordon and Adam Jones would both be good shouts for Cespedes’ slot, with Nelson Cruz being an interesting test of how All-Star voters few the candidacy of a player who has very recently sat through a drugs ban.

Designated Hitter – Victor Martinez (Detroit)

I’m not a fan of voting for a DH; however it’s on the ballot so I’ll add to the lineup the other half of the Tigers’ devastating duo. It was understandable that Martinez started slowly in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 season, so those looking to write him off were extremely premature. So it has proved: he found his feet as the season went on and has got even better this year.

Starting pitcher – Felix Hernandez (Seattle)

Pitchers aren’t on the voting ballot, but if I could vote for one then I’d give the ball to King Felix. There are other candidates who I wouldn’t strongly argue against, not least Masahiro Tanaka, but I love watch Hernandez pitch and he is once again putting together an outstanding season to little national fanfare.

National League

Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee)

A bit like Perez in the AL, Lucroy isn’t a star name yet but he certainly deserves to get much more attention and what better way to start than beating out popular and talented candidates in Yadier Molina and Buster Posey to become the NL’s starting catcher. The Brewers have the best record in the league and Lucroy’s contribution to that – on both sides of the ball – should not be underestimated.

First base – Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona)

The D-Backs’ first baseman has continued to put up excellent numbers despite all those around him struggling through the first half of the season. The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo has arguably had the best 2014 so far of any first basemen on the senior circuit and he could well grab the position in 2015. For now, I’ll give Goldschmidt the edge based on his outstanding 2013 campaign.

Second base – Dee Gordon (LA Dodgers)

There are a few candidates for this position, ranging from the surprising rise of Milwaukee’s Scooter Gennett and the welcome return to form of Chase Utley. Gordon edges it based on his success on the bases and the way in which he’s kept working on his game after bouncing down to the Minors as a shortstop and getting his young career back on track at second base.

Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado)

One of the easiest selections across the two teams. It’s the usual story with Tulo: if he stays injury-free then you know he’s going to perform as one of the very best all-round players in the Majors. The Cubs’ Starlin Castro deserves an honourable mention for – hopefully – turning a corner this year and finally starting to convert his talent into consistent production.

Third base – Anthony Rendon (Washington)

The hot corner selection is very close between Rendon and Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier. The latter slightly has the advantage across most of the hitting stats, yet I see Rendon as the slightly better player overall (i.e. adding in his fielding) and he’s also had to cope with being shifted around during his blossoming Major League career, something that now seems to be a thing of the past with him rightfully taking third base duties away from Ryan Zimmerman in Washington. It’s a bit of a coin-flip, but I’ve ended up going for the younger player.

Outfielders – Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh), Yasiel Puig (LA Dodgers), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami)

This is a case of having four players I wanted to vote for and only three spots to fill. In the end, I couldn’t look past the reigning MVP winner in McCutchen, the thrilling talent of Puig and the staggering raw power of Stanton, leaving Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez as the unfortunate odd-man-out.

Starting pitcher – Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers)

There can be only one: the best starting pitcher in MLB today.

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