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2013 MLB All Star Game: Studs and Snubs - NL Edition

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Preview the NL All-Star roster and check out the top picks/flop picks

Catchers

Yadier Molina* - St. Louis Cardinals
He's the "no doubt" pick at this position and makes a strong case for the title of best catcher in the MLB. Representing the NL in the All-Star game for the 5th consecutive season. He currently leads all catchers in WAR (4.0) and is tops in batting average as well (.344). Molina does not possess elite power, but reaches base at an exceptional rate and does not often strike out. Currently at a career-high in OPS+ (142) and sits at second for catchers in OPS. Could miss the game due to a knee injury, in which case Russell Martin or Brian McCann look like top candidates to replace him.

Buster Posey - San Francisco Giants
He and Molina are in a class of their own atop the catcher position. Difficult to pick between Posey or Molina as the starter, but Molina got the nod anyway, possibly because Posey does pick up some innings at first base. He has the more potent bat, leading the way with a .928 OPS and 167 OPS+, but is behind Molina defensively (which in turn has him a mere 0.1 behind in WAR). Posey will make his second straight All-Star appearance.

Question Marks: None.

Snubs: None. You could make a small case for Russell Martin as a reserve, but Molina and Posey are unparalleled. The NL roster contains just two catchers, but this isn't a major concern.

First Base

Joey Votto* - Cincinnati Reds
Perpetual OBP leader at first base and has posted .400+ for 4.5 straight years. A knee injury shortened his season last year, but he's already exceeded his homer total from 2012 (over 21 fewer games). Third overall in WAR at first base (3.5) and has a position-best 15.8 BB%. Votto wields a perennially All-Star caliber bat and was rewarded with a fourth consecutive appearance.

Paul Goldschmidt - Arizona Diamondbacks
One could make the case for him to start at first for the NL, as he is both the better hitter and better defensive option. Instead, Goldschmidt (making his first ASG appearance) is the likely NL designated hitter. Considering that Votto has a longer track record, you won't hear too many complaints about this. Goldschmidt got off to a slow start in 2012, but finished hot and has continued that success into 2013. He is second overall in WAR with 3.9 (first in the NL) and leads all NL first basemen with 21 homers.

Allen Craig - St. Louis Cardinals
Craig makes his first ASG appearance in his third MLB season. He currently sits third in WAR for NL first baseman (1.7), just slightly ahead of Adrian Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman. He doesn't have the power typical for a first baseman (10 HR), but has a quality .865 OPS and a K% lower than both bopper Goldschmidt and OBP king Votto. He's likely due for some second half regression, considering that his BABIP is about 30 points higher than his career average, but he's not a terrible reserve selection.

Freddie Freeman - Atlanta Braves

After winning the fan vote, Freeman makes his first ASG appearance. Although his power numbers lag behind competitors, he sports an OPS+ of 136 and ranks 3rd among NL 1B in OBP and wOBA. He's doing all of this with the highest BABIP (.377), but his career average is fairly high as well.

Question Marks: Craig has similar numbers to both competing options (Gonzalez and Freeman), yet has the fewest innings at 1B out of the three.

Snubs: None. Pretty big drop between your top two and the remaining members of the NL first base class.

Second Base

Brandon Phillips* - Cincinnati Reds
The NL second base crop has not been incredible this season (7 of the top 10 in WAR are AL players), opening the door for Phillips to grab the starting nod. He's well behind the NL 2B WAR leader, but is the most accomplished member of the team at this position. Phillips appears to have ridden a solid April/May onto the roster, as his numbers have dropped significantly throughout June and July. He is, however, among the top (if not the best) fielder at this position. Phillips will make his third All-Star appearance.

Matt Carpenter - St. Louis Cardinals
Keith Law wasn't a big fan of this selection, as Carpenter is something of a first half outlier. That said, he's in his first full season with the MLB team, so the history on him is short. Additionally, the NL 2B crop is fairly weak this season, so there's no doubt, at 4.1 WAR, that Carpenter deserves his first ASG appearance. Carpenter is also highly versatile and can fill in at other positions as needed.

Marco Scutaro - San Francisco Giants
At 37 years old, Scutaro will make his first ASG appearance. He currently ranks 10th in WAR for second basemen, tied with Brandon Phillips. He's got a solid .368 OBP, fueled by a career-high .333 BABIP. Scutaro is a pure contact hitter, with miniscule walk, strikeout, and home run rates. Scutaro was selected by his own manager, Bruce Bochy.

Question Marks: Scutaro. Tell me why, with the NL 2B class so weak, a third guy was needed at that position? Although he's ranked third in the NL at his position, this spot was much more deserving to one of the many qualified OF candidates.

Snubs: None. Not much going on in the world of second base.

Third Base

David Wright* - New York Mets
Wright is the unquestioned leader at the 3B position in the NL. At 4.7 WAR, he's well ahead of the remaining field. Wright has had some injury issues in the past, but he's currently posting a solid .923 OPS. He's a complete package at third base, hitting for both power and average. Not to be overlooked is his speed. He's swiped 14 bases this year, which leads the entire MLB 3B class (next on that list is Manny Machado with just 6 SB). At 30 years old, he's making his 7th ASG appearance.

Pedro Alvarez - Pittsburgh Pirates
Chosen by the players to make his first ASG appearance. Alvarez is currently 10th overall in WAR for third basemen, a number largely floated by his 23 home runs. He possesses an exceptional power stroke (.271 ISO is behind just Miguel Cabrera at the position), but with that comes a 33.4 K% (tops in the field among qualified hitters).

Question Marks: Are home runs alone enough to justify a selection? Raw power numbers have obscured Alvarez's .312 OBP and mediocre defense.

Snubs: You could make a solid case for Ryan Zimmerman. His inability to make regular throws to first without alerting air traffic control have destroyed his value (1.1 WAR), but his overall batting numbers and solid history should put him ahead of Alvarez. Injuries likely did not help his cause.

Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki* - Colorado Rockies
Easily the top NL shortstop before making his annual visit to the disabled list. Accrued 3.9 WAR in 61 games, edging out two other candidates at the position. He's hit 8 homers both at home and in visitor parks (33 games at Coors vs. 28 on the road). Likely to see some regression when he returns, as his .353 BABIP is well above his .316 career average. Tulowitzki is both a solid hitter and fielder, posting league bests at SS in homers, OPS, and UZR. It is possible that he is activated from the DL this week, so he could potentially suit up for the ASG (his third selection). If not, expect Ian Desmond to make the roster.

Everth Cabrera - San Diego Padres
Just behind Tulowitzki in WAR at the NL SS position, Cabrera will make his first ASG appearance as the Padres lone representative. Although he possess little to no power, he is solid OBP guy who leads all qualified MLB shortstops in BB% and OBP. Additionally, he's got solid wheels, swiping 31 bases.

Jean Segura - Milwaukee Brewers
Like Cabrera, Segura is also a speedster on the base paths, notching 27 SB. He's not much of a fielder (only member of the top 5 SS with a negative UZR), but he does possess decent power (11 HR) to match his speed and quality OBP. Takes very few walks, but does not strike out often. Will make his first ASG appearance.

Question Marks: Nothing major.

Snubs: Ian Desmond. He's essentially on pace to replicate his 2012 season, in which he was an All-Star selection. He also currently ranks above Segura in WAR (3.2 vs. 2.9). Segura is the better base stealer and does not strike out as much, but Desmond is a better fielder and is behind only Tulowitzki in power. Tough choice for NL shortstops.

Outfield

Carlos Beltran* - St. Louis Cardinals
Voted to his team-leading 8th ASG. Currently ranks 25th overall in WAR (13th in the NL). Although he's not posting career-bests, his bat his been solid this season (5th overall in homers) and his poor defense has dragged down his overall value. Additionally, he's among the league leaders in wOBA and runs created.

Carlos Gonzalez* - Colorado Rockies
Voted into his second ASG as the Rockies second starter. He leads all NL players in HR and OPS, as well as coming in at third overall in WAR for eligible OF. At 24 HR, he's already exceeded his total from 2012 and is second only to Chris Davis in ISO.

Bryce Harper* - Washington Nationals
Although missing a full month with a knee injury, Harper was voted into his second straight ASG. He doesn't have enough AB to qualify among league leaders, but his 1.7 WAR is identical to that of Carlos Beltran (in 27 fewer games). He's clearly still learning to play in the outfield, but he posts solid power numbers (he'd rank third among OF in ISO) and has a very good eye at the plate.

Domonic Brown - Philadelphia Phillies
Brown rode a career-best first half of the season to his first ASG selection. In his first three seasons with the MLB club, he hit just 12 home runs. He already has 23 this season and ranks 8th among OF in runs created. Doesn't walk much (reflected in his .327 OBP).

Carlos Gomez - Milwaukee Brewers
Makes his first ASG appearance following an outstanding first half. His OPS+ (138) ranks 10th in the NL and he leads all NL OF in WAR at 4.9. Some of that can be attributed to his 13.9 UZR, but he's also 4th in the NL in runs created (4th in wOBA, as well). His success might not last throughout the second half, as he doesn't walk much, has a relatively high K%, and is riding an extremely high BABIP, but he's deserving of an All-Star spot after his exceptional first half.

Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh Pirates
Ranked 4th overall in WAR for OF. Doesn't have immense power, but is makes good contact. His K% of 14.0 puts him in the top 15 among qualified OF. Can steal bases and plays a solid CF to go along with a solid bat. Making his third ASG appearance and is the only CF on the NL roster.

Michael Cuddyer - Colorado Rockies
Enjoying a healthy season at Coors Field which has been phenomenal for his batting numbers. He's riding career-highs in BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS+. Ranks third among all OF in runs created. WAR takes a hit from poor defense. Has played in just 70 games (almost 20 fewer than most competing OF), but it was still enough to get him to his second ASG.

Question Marks: Harper is a solid player, but he's not deserving of a start when you compare him to Gomez. He might finish with better numbers overall, but he missed a month and should start on the bench. Cuddyer is not a good defender and ranks 22nd overall in WAR. The fact he's played in just 70 games is also a huge question.

Snubs: Starling Marte, Dexter Fowler, and Shin-Soo Choo. All three were probably better picks than Cuddyer. The more advanced statistics seem to favor Cuddyer, but based on WAR alone, the three listed rank higher.

Starting Pitchers

Madison Bumgarner - San Francisco Giants
Although he ranks 32nd among SP in WAR (1.8), Bumgarner has solid numbers. He ranks 14th in the NL for ERA and 16th in FIP. He does, however, allow a lot of homers and is currently pitching to a .229 BABIP, which is far lower than the other starters on the ASG roster. Seems to have ridden a solid April to his first ASG appearance, as his numbers have gone downhill (to a degree) since then.

Patrick Corbin - Arizona Diamondbacks
10-1 record is flashy at first glance, but he's got other numbers to back it up. Ranks 14th in the NL for FIP and 5th for ERA. He's also 9th in the NL among SP for WAR. He's stranding a lot of runners and pitching to a low BABIP, but his first half is definitely enough to get him to his first ASG.

Jose Fernandez - Miami Marlins
This is a reach pick, but somebody from Miami had to make it. It may as well be Fernandez, since he's the rising star of that team and is just 20 years old. His stock has been soaring lately after he's posted some gaudy strikeout numbers. Making his first ASG appearance.

Matt Harvey - New York Mets
Harvey is the third of four rookie pitchers to make the NL roster. He sits just behind Wainwright in WAR (4.7 vs 4.3) and posts even better strikeout numbers. Possesses a miniscule 2.17 FIP. Possible that his .264 BABIP could see a jump in the second half, but the number isn't unreasonable when compared to many other NL starters.

Clayton Kershaw - Los Angeles Dodgers
Considering the payroll of the team and the star names, it seems crazy that Kershaw is the lone All-Star. He's the NL's premier LHP and will make his third ASG appearance. Has the lowest ERA in the NL, although his FIP is a touch higher. Falls in right behind Harvey and Wainwright at 3.6 WAR. Currently pitching to a BABIP approximately 30 points below his career average, although his remaining numbers aren't far off from career norms.

Cliff Lee - Philadelphia Phillies
Right behind Kershaw in WAR is Cliff Lee. He's top 10 in ERA and top 5 for FIP. Continues to hum along at age 34, posting an ERA+ of 136 and a WHIP below 1.000, which are both improvements over last season. Maintains a strikeout rate greater than Wainwright, although he generates far fewer ground balls and tends to walk more. His HR/9 is relatively high for an elite pitcher.

Jeff Locke - Pittsburgh Pirates
Making his first ASG appearance in his first full year in the MLB. Second behind Kershaw in ERA. Generates a ton of ground balls and strands almost 85 percent of runners that reach base. Keeps the ball down and doesn't allow many homers (0.5 HR/9). Walking 3.88 per 9 innings and pitching to a BABIP well below most of the other All-Star pitchers.

Adam Wainwright - St. Louis Cardinals
Hard to be critical of anything he's doing right now. If he continues his current success, he could end the year with more wins than walks. Leads all SP with 4.7 WAR and allowing a miniscule 0.32 homers per 9 innings. Doesn't strike out scores of hitters, but he generates ground balls at a solid rate. His HR/FB ratio is below his career average, so it's possible that could see a jump in the second half, but his current BABIP is actually above career norm. He's going to pitch on Sunday, so will not be available in the ASG.

Travis Wood - Chicago Cubs
Enjoying a breakout season since entering the league in 2010 and will make his first ASG appearance. A fly ball pitcher all the way, generating grounders just 34% of the time. Not a big strikeout guy and pitches to contact, but finds a way to keep the ball in the park. Currently 8th in the NL in ERA and 12th in WAR. Generally pitches to a low BABIP, but his current average of .214 is far below his career average.

Jordan Zimmermann - Washington Nationals
Making his first All-Star appearance despite being a top NL pitcher for his third straight season. Currently 7th in the NL at 2.6 WAR and ERA. His FIP is good for 9th in the NL. Not much for strikeouts like his fellow Nationals teammates, but has exceptional control (walks just over 1 batter per 9 innings) and generates grounders at a solid rate. Currently third behind Kershaw and Harvey in WHIP.

Question Marks: Jeff Locke and Travis Wood both scream "luck." Locke has the league's third lowest BABIP and highest strand rate. In terms of FIP, he's not in the top 25 for the NL and ranks just 30th in WAR. His 1.7 run difference between ERA and FIP are by far the most for any member of the All-Star roster. Meanwhile, Wood may not even be the most dominating starter on his team, but he benefits from a .214 BABIP. He's the Cubs lone All-Star, however.

Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey. Bailey and Latos are 5th and 6th in the NL in WAR and have FIPs below 3.00, something only four other NL starters can boast. Bailey also recently tossed a no-hitter. Meanwhile, Strasburg has posted dominating strikeout numbers and maintains low ERA/FIP numbers. His ground ball rate puts him 10th in the NL. A strong case could be made for Shelby Miller (and possibly Lance Lynn, Mike Minor), as well.

Relief Pitchers

Craig Kimbrel - Atlanta Braves
The Braves have one of the best records in the NL, yet Kimbrel is one of the team's two All-Stars. He's a solid choice to make his third All-Star appearance. Kimbrel sits at third in the NL for saves (24) and posts massive strikeout numbers to match a dominating 1.62 ERA. He strands a whopping 94.3% of runners. There may be a few other relievers pitching better than him this season, but Bochy made a solid choice in selecting one of the league's most dominating closers over the previous seasons.

Jason Grilli - Pittsburgh Pirates
The NL saves leader makes his first ASG appearance. Strikes out 14.2 per 9 innings and keeps walks to a minimum. FIP is a tiny 1.28, best in the NL. He's also leading the NL in WAR.

Aroldis Chapman - Cincinnati Reds
Another solid choice, as he leads all NL relievers in K/9. He's also among the NL saves leaders and posts a WAR of 1.0, 5th best in the NL. Has control issues and allows homers at a heavy clip for a reliever, but has absolutely overpowering stuff.

Question Marks: None

Snubs: You can't really complain with these choices. I like that Bochy selected the minimum three relievers with such a large pool of deserving SPs. However, Mark Melancon, Bobby Parnell, and Sergio Romo have been doing great things. Melancon, although not a closer, is right behind his teammate Grilli in WAR (1.5), which is 2nd best for the NL. Parnell is third with 1.3 and has been a bright spot for the otherwise....lacking....Mets.

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