With 2012 All-Star voting coming to an end, it is time to name the next group of players to join the uber-exclusive club known as the 2012 ALL-SNEDDEN N.L. All Star Team. My annual selection of the most deserving players for the Mid-Summer Classic is based on one thing, and one thing only: Merit. There are no feel-good entries here, no veteran/future Hall of Famer token players. Big market and small market does not exist in this world. The ALL-SNEDDEN All Star Team is all about the men who deserve to be in Kansas City in a few weeks to represent baseball and its fans in the best All Star game played by any of the four major professional sports leagues.
Today, I will announce my National League ALL-SNEDDEN All Stars, which include three very deserving Buccos.
The rules for the roster of the ALL-SNEDDEN team are as follows (slightly different than the MLB roster set-up):
– Each team must be represented by AT LEAST one player.
– NO TEAM can have MORE than THREE total players on the roster.
– Rosters are 35-man rosters.
So without further ado – and because I know how filled with anticipation you all are to hear what a virtually unknown blogger for a middling website thinks about the All Star Game – I give you, The 2012 ALL-SNEDDEN National League All Star Team.
Starting Lineup (Including DH in American League Park)
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies – Ruiz has had by far the best overall season by a National League catcher, and his offense has carried the Phillies through the injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. While he was always a nice little player, the gritty Ruiz has turned into a phenomenal hitter in 2012, hitting .364 with 11 homers and 43 RBI. His OPS is a staggering 1.021.
First Baseman: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds – Votto is a machine. The heart and soul of the Slightly Smaller Red Machine, Votto has been an extra-base monster in 2012. He currently has 32 doubles on the season to add to his .353 BA, 14 homeruns, and 47 RBI. His OBP is .478, and he walks more than any player in the game. Votto is an MVP candidate, and should be filling this spot in many All Star games to come.
Second Baseman: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros – The shortest player in MLB at 5’5″, Altuve has been a very bright spot in an otherwise dismal final National League season for the Astros. Altuve was handed the starting job in the spring, and he has not looked back. Hitting .309 with 27 extra-base hits, including five homeruns and four triples, Altuve is also a threat on the basepaths – swiping 12 bases. When Houston heads over to the junior circuit in 2013, they will be led by this 22-year old phenom.
Third Baseman: David Wright, New York Mets – The five-time All Star makes his sixth appearance based off of an incredible comeback season. After an injury-riddled 2011 scared Mets fans into thinking their franchise player was starting to fade, Wright has come back with a vengeance in 2012. His .357 average and 47 RBI have been key reasons for the Mets shocking run at the N.L. East this year. Wright was hitting over .400 well into May, and returns to the All Star Game in 2012.
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs – There hasn’t been much to cheer about on the North Side this year, but the 22-year old Castro has at least given the Wrigley faithful a reason to keep showing up. When a rumor circled earlier this season about the availability of Castro on the trade market, the Cubs had drooling General Managers from all over the league calling their offices. The odds of Castro ending up anywhere but Wrigley Field are slim – although the dreams about him wearing Black and Gold still wake me up at night – and the Cubs will be represented well by their shortstop for the second straight year. Hitting .301 with six homeruns and 39 RBI for a potential 100-loss team, Castro has the potential to be one of the top players in the game for years to come.
Outfielder: Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants – The veteran Cabrera is playing with his fourth club in four seasons, and at 27-years old he is enjoying the best season of his career for the Giants. Acquired by San Francisco after a solid season with the Royals in 2011, Cabrera has become the catalyst of a much-improved offense. His .351 average leads all major league outfielders, and his 106 hits leads the entire league. A much-deserved All Star nod for a very underrated ballplayer.
Outfielder: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals – Where would the Cardinals be had they not signed Beltran this past winter? After losing Albert Pujols in free agency, the Redbirds were desperate to add pop to their lineup. They took a flyer on Beltran, who had not enjoyed an injury-free season since 2008. The 35-year old veteran has responded nicely to his new surroundings, and is on pace for his best offensive season since hitting a career-high 41 homeruns for the Mets in 2006. His .312/20/59 line has him leading the league in homers and RBI, and he has been the anchor in a St. Louis lineup that has battled injuries all season. Beltran returns to the All Star Game for the sixth time in his 15-year career.
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates are once again scaring the National League as first-half contenders, and everything this team does right revolves around “Cutch”. The numbers say it all: .342 average, 14 homeruns, 48 RBI, 14 stolen bases, .456 average against left-handed pitching, .397 with RISP. Those are MVP-type numbers right there, and more than deserving of a spot in the starting outfield for this All Star team. The last Pirates outfielder to start a Mid-Summer Classic was Andy Van Slyke in 1993, I would say it is safe to assume that reign will end for “Slick” very soon.
Designated Hitter: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers – Since 2010, the DH has been used in the All Star Game regardless of where it is being played. This allows the National League to add another big bat to their lineup, and this year it means adding the controversial Ryan Braun. Braun, who became the first MLB player to successfully challenge a positive drug test result this winter, has responded to his critics by getting right back to form this season. Hitting .311 with 20 longballs and 52 RBI for the disappointing Brewers, Braun has done all he can to offset the loss of first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency. He is well on pace to another .300/30/100 season after winning the NL MVP in 2011.
Starting Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets – A truly remarkable story has unfolded for the Mets knuckleballer in 2012. Dickey is leading the league in wins, has three complete games, two one-hitters, and a 2.31 ERA. Opposing hitters are managing just a .196 batting average against him, and his control has been amazing – his .91 WHIP is second only to Matt Cain amongst starting pitchers. There are quite a few pitchers having great seasons in the National League, but the improbability of a 37-year old journeyman having this kind of success is worthy of a start in the All Star Game. With a knuckleball that is as unpredictable as his career path, the story of R.A. Dickey may only be beginning.
C – Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals – Molina makes his forth All Star appearance, hitting .316/12/44 and once again having a tremendous season behind the plate.
C – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants – After missing most of 2011 with an injury, Posey is back in form. Hitting.300 with 40 RBI and adding first base to his defensive flexibility.
1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks – The 24-year old Goldschmidt is coming into his own after a tough April, battling back up to a .285 batting average. His raw power should develop into 40+ homeruns a season very soon.
1B – Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals – The usually slow-starting LaRoche has had the best first-half of his nine-year career, leading the first place Nationals with 15 homeruns and 47 RBI, earning his first All Star nod.
2B – Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds – Phillips will never be a popular selection outside of Cincinnati, but he continues to be a force for the Reds. He is hitting .289 and his 46 RBI lead all NL second basemen.
3B – David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals – The World Series hero has continued to build on his success, leading third basemen with 47 RBI and hitting .285 as the new king of St. Louis.
3B – Chase Headley, San Diego Padres – The only legitimate offensive threat for San Diego has his statistics numbed down by PetCo Park. He has been on-base in all but eight games in 2012, and leads the Friars with 37 RBI.
SS – Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros – Houston has both of their middle infielders on the All Star team for the first time since 1970. Lowrie is leading the team with 14 homeruns and is putting together a fantastic first season for the Astros.
OF – Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers – Ethier has kept the Dodgers afloat without Matt Kemp around, and his team-leading 55 RBI is twice as many as any other player on the club. He is an All Star for the third time.
OF – Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – Car-Go simply rakes, with a stat line of .333/17/54 and adding double-digit steals. He is a true five-tool player who gets his first All Star nod despite a .303 career batting average.
OF – Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins – Power, power, and more power. A Stanton by any name is the strongest player in the game. After blasting 34 dingers in 2011, he is on pace to eclipse 40 this year for the Marlins.
OF – Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves – The premier lead-off man in baseball is hitting .309 with 20 stolen bases and playing centerfield with style.
OF – Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves – Prado is one of the most valuable players in baseball, hitting .317 and playing 1B/3B/OF with the ability to play 2B if needed. A second time All Star who is invaluable to Atlanta.
P – Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals – Acquired in the offseason, Gonzalez has been on point for the Nats all season. Currently 10-3 with a 2.78 ERA and holding hitters to a .191 batting average against.
P – Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies default ace is making a great case for a major payday this winter, racking up a 10-3 record along with his usual low ERA and keeping the Phils on the map.
P – Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants – “Mr. Perfect” has done more than just throw one gem in 2012. His 9-2 record, 2.27 ERA and ridiculous .90 WHIP gets him the Giants third All Star nod over teammate Madison Bumgarner.
P – A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates – Burnett has been top notch for the Pirates, both on and off the field. His leadership has been huge, but his eight straight wins and stellar K/BB numbers are what gets his first All Star bid.
P – Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers – Finally back to full health, the former 18-game winner has found a home in Chavez Ravine. His 9-2 record and 8.1/Ks per 9 are a major reason for the early 2012 success of the Dodgers.
P – Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals – The first All Star appearance for the phenom. The 9-2 record is nice, but the league-leading 118 K’s in 90 IP are his bread and butter. The third and final National on this team.
P – Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks – Miley has been a pleasant surprise for the D-Backs, and could contend for the ERA title if he keeps his current pace. At 9-3, he is the new ace of the Arizona rotation.
P – Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers – Greinke could have his Brew Crew days numbered, but he hasn’t let that affect his performance. He is 9-2 with 102 K’s despite a rough season in Milwaukee.
P – Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves – Kimbrel is just dominating as the Atlanta closer. His 22 saves lead the league and his 47 K’s in 28 IP have led to a miniscule .79 WHIP.
P – Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates – “The Hammer” earns the third Pirates nod with his 20 saves and 2.10 ERA. Another 40-save season seems to be on the docket in 2012.
P – Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds – He’s not longer unhittable, but even after a few rough outings he still sports a 1.98 ERA and unreal 15.9/K’s per 9. The move to closer was a natural fit for the Cuban Missile.
P – Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers – Jansen has been consistent since his 2010 debut, but since taking over the closer role he has flourished like never before. A .147 BAA and .87 WHIP has led to 12 saves.
Obviously, any time you are selecting all star teams there will be tough decisions to be made. As much as I wanted to make SP James McDonald one of the Pirates representatives, I simply could not overlook the eight-game winning streak for A.J. Burnett. Without the one horrific inning in St. Louis earlier this season, Burnett would be knee-deep in Cy Young Award discussion. If he keeps up his current pace, he will be in that discussion by September. He makes the team based on his statistical season, but also for the effect he has had on the Pirates as a whole.
The San Francisco Giants have three starting pitchers who are all having All Star caliber seasons, but SP Matt Cain gets the slot based on his overall numbers (specifically his .95 WHIP and 2 CG shutouts, including a Perfect Game). Left off the roster were Ryan Vogelsong ans Madison Bumgarner.
The St. Louis Cardinals SP Lance Lynn does not make the team because of the qualifications of three other Cardinal players – OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, and C Yadier Molina. All three offensive players are having seasons that place them in the top three at their individual positions, and despite a 10-4 record for Lynn, he has not pitched all that well as of late.
The defending N.L. Cy Young Award winner, Los Angeles Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw, did not make the squad. He is having another fine season, and is a “big name” player. However, SP Chris Capuano is having a tremendous season on the mound, leading the Dodgers in wins and ERA. Capuano was a forgotten man this past offseason when L.A. signed him to a deal, a former 18-game winner who had been battling injuries for much of his career. He makes his second All Star game appearance six years after his first.
Leaving Cincinnati Reds SP Johnny Cueto off this team was another tough decision. The Reds have many players who are enjoying All Star caliber campaigns, and leaving Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, or Aroldis Chapman off the roster was not an option. Chapman was untouchable for a while this year, and has since been roughed up a few times. However, the idea of having Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, and Joel Hanrahan in the bullpen for the National League was just too good to pass up. If the game is close in the later innings, those three closers can each toss a shutout frame to close out the game for the National League.
Arizona Diamondbacks OF Jason Kubel is having a solid season, hitting .298/11/50 for the resurgent D-Backs. His numbers pale in comparison to the reserve outfielders chosen for my squad, so he gets left off the team. The same goes for Colorado Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer, who has been very solid in his first National league season.
Surely, there are other players who could be argued as being deserving of a spot on this team, but I feel that I have selected the 35 most deserving players for this team. I believe that all teams should be represented, and limiting the total number of players from each team makes for a much more diverse roster. Being selected to an All Star game is an honor, and too often we see players being added to the teams simply because they play for a big-market team. Not here, the ALL-SNEDDEN team is equal opportunity!
So what would you have done different? Go ahead and leave your comments in the section below the article and I will follow up on each one individually.
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