Picking the Major League Baseball All-Star Game rosters is an inexact science, of course. Every summer, there is always controversy about the voting process and the reserve selections, not to mention the pitching staffs and the starting pitcher himself. And because of the “every team has to have a player on the All-Star roster” rule, sometimes the players who get chosen aren’t even the most valuable players on their own team.
So let’s take a peek at the 2014 mid-year MVPs for each National League team. We’ve picked one position player and one pitcher from each team, the guys who would be on the All-Star team in a perfect world.
Things aren’t good in the desert, but first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is awesome (.313 average, 16 HR, 59 RBI). He doesn’t have a lot of protection in the lineup, but he keeps stroking the ball anyway. It’s tough to find an MVP on the mound for the Diamondbacks, but Josh Collmenter (7-5, 3.98 ERA) has the pitching staff’s only complete-game shutout this year, and he also notched a save. Manager Kirk Gibson can’t ask much more of a pitcher than that.
Rookie second baseman Tommy La Stella has stepped into the starting lineup, and over his first 130 major-league at-bats, has hit .292 while drawing more walks than strikeouts. You have to like that, even if he has little power or speed. He’s been the spark plug to push the Braves to the top of the NL East. Likewise, it’s a young pitcher taking the ace reins for the Atlanta staff. Julio Teheran’s 2.29 ERA is stellar, even if his 8-5 record is a little underwhelming. He’s tossed the only two complete-game shutouts the team has had in 2014.
Sure, the Cubs still are rebuilding, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo is delivering on his promise this year to be one of the foundational blocks for the North Side boys. He has 18 home runs, 47 RBIs and 50 walks this year, and he’s only 24 years old. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are gone now, but what remains is this: Jake Arrieta. He was out-pitching those two guys, anyway, albeit in fewer innings. Arrieta is 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts on a team going nowhere in the second half of 2014.
The Redlegs have the misfortune of being in the toughest division in the NL, and they’re in fourth place. Joey Votto is not hitting like the MVP he once was, and Brandon Phillips isn’t having the same year he did in 2013. But third baseman Todd Frazier has stepped up his game with a .293 average, 17 home runs, 48 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Those are MVP numbers, in truth. And on the mound, how do you not have props for a starter with a 1.99 ERA? Maybe Reds fans can finally forgive Johnny Cueto for missing the 2012 playoffs, because he’s having a Cy Young-worthy season for an average team (hence, his 8-6 record with that miniature ERA).
The Rox are having another disappointing season, as they never seem to be able to put it all together in Denver. Maybe they should trade shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a team he can actually win with in his career. His average has come down from loftier heights this year, but his offensive line is impressive: .349, 18 home runs, 47 RBIs and a 1.044 OPS. At age 41, closer LaTroy Hawkins (15 saves, 2.70 ERA) has given Colorado every chance to secure wins, defying time in the process. The Rockies will probably trade him as they fall further in the NL West standings.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
For all the hype, the Dodgers do have a lot of talent on this team. Which is why second baseman Dee Gordon stands out as the guy who wasn’t even supposed to be there this year. But he’s filled in nicely, stealing 42 bases so far and hitting 30 points above his career average (.272). And starter Zack Greinke held the fort down (11-4, 2.66) while Clayton Kershaw was out with an injury early on. Without Greinke, the Dodgers would not be in first place right now.
Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is a monster, which is why every contending team wishes they could trade for him. He’s hitting .305 with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs. Stanton’s even stolen eight bases this year without getting caught once. And he’s still just 24 years old. Where do the Marlins find these guys? Meanwhile, Henderson Alvarez just keeps on getting outs from the mound. His 2.27 ERA isn’t duly represented by his 6-3 record, but the guy who no-hit the Detroit Tigers on the last day of the season in 2013 has picked up right where he left off this year.
It’s doubtful that anyone pegged the Brew Crew as the best NL team in spring training, but that’s why they play the games. The lineup is balanced, but catcher Jonathan Lucroy is putting up exceptionally good numbers (.326, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 37 BB) from a position that doesn’t really require it of him. That makes a difference in the standings. And making it all count on the other end is closer Francisco Rodriguez — you remember K-Rod from the 2002 World Series, right? He’s still out there, with 27 saves and a 2.34 ERA in 2014.
New York Mets:
How you can not call them “The Mess”? When first baseman Lucas Duda is your offensive MVP of the first half, maybe the name fits. At age 28, Duda is finally hitting somewhat, with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. It’s just not making much of a difference on this team. Neither are the stellar contributions of reliever Jeurys Familia. But with over 42 appearances in this first half of the season, his numbers are excellent: 2.18 ERA and just one home run allowed.
The Phanatic must be going crazy, because outfielder Marlon Byrd is carrying this team at age 36. He has 18 home runs and 52 RBIs currently, and is the only regular in the lineup with an OPS over .800 (just barely, at .804). That’s why the Phillies are in last place. Starter Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, is doing his best to keep the rotation afloat, but his 3-5 record reflects the team’s strength more than his 2.87 ERA does. Remember when Philadelphia was on the cusp of three straight NL pennants back in 2010? Seems like a long time ago now.
Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is carrying this team like it’s 2012 all over again. The good mojo from last year’s playoff run is gone, but McCutchen remains with a .319 average, 13 home runs, 54 RBIs and 13 SBs. That’s another MVP-worthy season. And new closer Mark Melancon has stepped in to bolster the bullpen’s back end, with 16 saves and only six walks in 40.2 innings pitched. The Pirates still have a shot at the postseason thanks to this version of the M&M boys.
San Diego Padres:
In the NL West, it’s basically the Dodgers, the Giants and everyone else now. Journeyman outfielder Seth Smith has been the team’s sole offensive stalwart, and even that is a strong term. His nine home runs and 26 RBIs are not great totals, but on this team, they’re the best. Pitcher Tyson Ross may have gotten the Padres’ All-Star spot, but starter Andrew Cashner has thrown the ball well, even though he’s currently injured. His 2-6 record reflects the offensive issues, but his 2.36 ERA over 12 starts screams for recognition. And he’ll get it here.
San Francisco Giants:
When the team got off to its hot 42-21 start, it was because the Giants were scoring runs. They’ve cooled off lately, but the lineup has still been more potent than in recent years. The props have to go to outfielder Michael Morse, signed cheaply off the injury pile of 2013. He brought some new power (14 HR, 46 RBI) to the scene at AT&T Park. And at age 38, veteran starter Tim Hudson is experiencing a comeback from his nasty ankle injury last year, posting a 7-5 record with a 2.53 ERA, to lead the S.F. rotation — which is not what it used to be.
St. Louis Cardinals:
The defending NL champions are chasing the Brewers, but they’ve still got some great talent on their roster. First baseman Matt Adams is mashing the ball to the tune of a .331 average in 2014. Throw in 10 home runs and 36 RBIs, and this is how the Cardinals are staying ahead of the Pirates and the Reds in the NL Central chase. Starter Adam Wainwright also plays a part in that reality, with his 11-4 record and 1.79 ERA. He’s given up just 94 hits in 131 IP this year.
Another team trying to get back to 2012’s magic, the Nationals are chasing the Braves in the NL East. Former Atlanta first baseman Adam LaRoche is hitting .288 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI to lead the team on offense. At age 34, his leadership is filing the void left by Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper injuries. Meanwhile, closer Rafael Soriano is shutting down opposing hitters, giving up just a .157 average to the other team, while piling up 21 saves in 2014.