Without further ado, here are my All-Star Game starter selections for the National League.
C: Yasmani Grandal – Los Angeles Dodgers
More than any other position, defense matters behind the plate. For a while, I debated between Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Yasmani Grandal of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Entering Monday, Posey is the major’s best hitter (.352) and he is second in on-base percentage. The rest of his team has not helped the veteran catcher out and the Giants are 19.5 games back of first place in the NL West, but Posey’s individual performance deserves some recognition.
Grandal is having an above average offensive season, relative to his position, with a .357 average. The Cuban has scored 21 runs and driven in 25. After a so-so April, Grandal carried the Dodgers at the plate in May to the tune of a .337 average. In addition, Grandal is the best pitch framer in baseball and arguably has been the best defensive catcher this season. (9.0 FanGraphs Def rating).
In my mind, defense separates Grandal from Posey.
1B: Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
First base in the National League is filled with stars, but Goldschmidt is having the most valuable year of any position player in the National League.
“America’s First Baseman,” who made his debut in 2011, is one of the most complete players in the game and is having a career year in 2017. Goldschmidt is tied with Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees in runs scored (60) and is second to teammate Jake Lamb in RBIs (57).
Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals leads the fan balloting and is having a great season, as are Joey Votto of Cinncinati Reds. But, in terms of WAR, Goldschmidt is second in all of baseball to Judge and to this point, should be the NL MVP favorite.
2B: Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals
Murphy and his .345 batting average is the obvious choice at second base. Known for his obsession with launch angles, he is ahead of Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs by more than a million votes. The fan ballot was updated Monday.
Since the last update, Murphy has 12 hits in 28 at-bats (.429) further cementing his place. Compared to the first half of 2016, Murphy’s numbers are eerily similar.
SS: Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds
The 31-year-old is putting together a Comeback Player of the Year Award season in 2017 for a Reds team that has surprised everyone.
The Reds have hit a rough patch, but the Reds stayed in contention for a while because of a loaded offense. At least one player from Cincy deserves to start in Miami, and Cozart is the logical choice.
Despite playing in just three games last week because of injury, Cozart still paces NL second baseman in OPS and is hitting .320. In terms of WAR, Cozart is tied with his teammate Joey Votto for third in the NL (2.8).
3B: Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies
Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant is pacing the fan ballot at third base, but there are a couple of players behind him that have a better case to start.
Nolan Arenado had a great week for the red-hot Colorado Rockies. The defensive wizard at the hot corner capped off a .394 average week with a game-winning and cycle-capping three-run home run on Father’s Day, Justin Turner came off the DL and all he has done is continue to hit. When he got injured, Turner was leading the league in hitting and hit .400 last week.
Anthony Rendon continues to hit but his season but playing in the nation’s capital will not help him get attention. Jake Lamb of the Diamondbacks deserves more attention. “Lamb Chops” has hit in the cleanup spot all season and all he has done is lead the majors in RBI (59).
Arenado is only four RBIs behind Lamb and his defense separates him.
OF: Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Marcell Ozuna
Nobody in the NL has more All-Star Votes than Harper, who is approaching three million. Going for his fifth career all-star selection at the age of 24, he leads all NL outfielders in OPS and is having a resurgent season after a disappointing 2016.
Batting in the middle of the Nationals dangerous lineup, Harper has 18 home runs and 56 RBIs and is probably considered the most feared hitter in baseball.
Blackmon might be a leadoff hitter but the Rockies center fielder is producing more like a three- or four-hole hitter. Blackmon entered Monday with 15 home runs, a .328 average, 54 runs batted in and 59 runs scored. Talk about production.
In terms of WAR, the Marlins Marcell Ozuna is second among all NL outfielders in WAR, 0.1 ahead of Blackmon. Ozuna hit .333 last week and is a clear choice to start. Jason Heyward is the leading vote getter in left field and while he is having a resurgent season for the Cubs, Ozuna is more deserving.