The All-Star Game in Denver is on July 13, and in many cases it’s becoming pretty clear who’ll be suiting up that night at Coors Field.
So here’s a look at which players I’d pick for the starting spots in the National League right now, as well as the ones who might still make a late run.
No surprise in this year of the pitcher, Spider Tack-aided or not, the toughest call is likely going to be leaving off some deserving starters simply because there are so many having dominant seasons.
Mets starters Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman both could find themselves in that category, in part because Jacob deGrom will be an obvious selection – and the likely choice to start the game depending where his last start before the break falls.
Otherwise, the Mets won’t fare well on the position-player side, due to injuries and underperformance with the bat. Pete Alonso is making a push of late and may be the only one with a realistic shot.
With all of that in mind, here are my picks:
FIRST BASE: MAX MUNCY, LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Still In The Running: Pete Alonso, Jesus Aguilar, Rhys Hoskins
Right now Muncy is a lock to be the starter, with a .926 OPS that separates him from the field to go with his 13 home runs and 31 RBI. He has started playing some second base since the Dodgers acquired Albert Pujols, but Muncy has played enough first base to earn the nod.
Of the others still contending for a spot, either as starter or reserve, Alonso is making the biggest push with a hot bat lately to get to 10 home runs and an .850 OPS. Also, defending NL MVP Freddie Freeman is hitting only. 228 but does have 14 home runs and could still make a push with a long-ball surge.
SECOND BASE: ADAM FRAZIER, PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Still In The Running: Ozzie Albies, Ryan McMahon
Frazier doesn’t get much recognition playing for the lousy Pirates, but he’s quietly become one of the better contact hitters in baseball. He doesn’t have much slug, with only two home runs, but he’s hitting .329 with 22 doubles and an .862 OPS.
After a slow start, Albies is making a push with the Braves and McMahon is another player who goes under the radar, playing for the Colorado Rockies. But he’s got some pop, with 13 home runs and 13 doubles this season.
THIRD BASE: KRIS BRYANT, CHICAGO CUBS
Still In The Running: Austin Riley, Nolan Arenado, Justin Turner
Bryant actually has played more games in the outfield this season, but he’s on the official ballot at third base so that’s where he’ll earn his starting spot as he enjoys a big comeback season, hitting .307 with 13 home runs and a .575 slugging percentage/.959 OPS. Interestingly, Bryant has recaptured his past former NL MVP form partly by changing his swing, becoming more of a line drive hitter by lowering his launch-angle, which had been among the most extreme in the majors for years.
Arenado, meanwhile, has made good on the trade to the Cardinals, proving he can put up numbers outside of Coors Field, as his .513 slugging percentage suggests. The surprise of sorts is Riley, who is blossoming into a star for the Braves, hitting .300 with 11 home runs and an .896 OPS.
SHORTSTOP: FERNANDO TATIS JR., SAN DIEGO PADRES
Still In The Running: Brandon Crawford, Trea Turner
Crawford is something of a sentimental favorite, having a spectacular season at age 34 for the surprising San Francisco Giants, with 14 home runs, a .912 OPS, and his ever-dependable defense, but it’s impossible not to pick Tatis, the 22-year-old superstar who has 17 home runs, 13 stolen bases, and a .996 OPS. Tatis does have 15 errors because he plays a bit carelessly at times, but he’s such an electric talent and the All-Star Game should be a showcase for that.
Turner is quietly having an excellent season for the Nationals, but somewhat surprising is that some of the other big names -- Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story among them -- aren’t having All-Star-type seasons.
CENTER FIELD: RONALD ACUNA JR., ATLANTA BRAVES
Still In The Running: Chris Taylor, Bryan Reynolds, Ketel Marte, Starling Marte
Acuna has only played a few games in center field this season but MLB groups all outfielders together on the official ballot, so I’m taking advantage of that to include the players having the best seasons. With 18 home runs and a .989 OPS, Acuna is continuing to make the case that he’s one of the very best players in the game.
Taylor and Reynolds, each playing a lot of center field, are having strong seasons for the Dodgers and Pirates, respectively, and the only knock on the two Martes is that they’ve missed a lot of games due to injury. But as true center fielders, both could still make a push, as Ketel is hitting .365 with a .977 OPS for the Diamondbacks, and Starling is hitting .360 with a 1.054 OPS for the Marlins.
LEFT FIELD: JESSE WINKER, CINCINNATI REDS
Still In The Running: Tyler O’Neill
There aren’t a lot of left fielders having big seasons, but Winker has emerged as a force for the Reds, hitting .346 with 17 home runs and a .645 slugging percentage/1.057 OPS.
O’Neill, meanwhile, actually has a slightly higher WAR than Winker, likely because he plays better defense as the left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. And he has a case to earn the starting spot, hitting .291 with 15 home runs and an .974 OPS.
RIGHT FIELD: NICK CASTELLANOS, CINCINNATI REDS
Still In The Running: Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts
You knew Castellanos could hit but who would have bet he’d be outdoing the other big names listed here by such a wide margin? Hitting .357 with a .624 slugging percentage, he’s looking like practically a bargain for the Reds, who signed him to a four-year, $64 million deal as a free agent before 2020.
Soto and Harper, meanwhile, have been hampered by injuries, but still have solid numbers and could wind up on the team as backups. After getting such acclaim for helping the Dodgers win a championship during his first season in LA, Betts has been more puzzling, hitting just .255 with six home runs.
CATCHER: BUSTER POSEY, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Still In The Running: J.T. Realmuto, Yadier Molina
Posey is one of the great stories of this season so far, having a renaissance season behind the plate for the Giants after opting out of 2020 for Covid-related reasons and mostly struggling offensively in recent years. He’s hitting .336 with 10 home runs and a .988 OPS -- a huge reason the Giants have outperformed expectations this season.
Realmuto has missed significant time due to injury but is mostly living up to his billing as the best all-around catcher in baseball these days, hitting. 291 with an .893 OPS for the Phillies. And Molina is a sentimental favorite at this point in his career, always hailed for his defense but also putting up solid numbers offensively, hitting .273 with an .806 OPS.
STARTING PITCHER: JACOB DEGROM, NEW YORK METS
Still In The Running: Kevin Gausman, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Trevor Rogers, Max Scherzer, Taijuan Walker, Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler, Marcus Stroman
It’s a long list of starters having superb seasons, which will make for some tough choices rounding out the staff, but there’s no question that deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball. For all the dazzling numbers around the league, his 0.62 ERA, 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings, and his 0.57 WHIP stand out as by far the best in baseball.
All the other names listed as still in the running are having outstanding seasons, but some probably won’t make it on the All-Star staff of 12 that usually includes a handful of relievers. As such, the other two Mets -- Walker and Stroman -- are probably going to have a tough time making it.
CLOSER: MARK MELANCON, SAN DIEGO PADRES
Still In The Running: Craig Kimbrel, Josh Hader, Alex Reyes, Kenley Jansen, Edwin Diaz
More and more the Braves must be regretting letting Melancon walk as a free agent. For while they’ve had their share of bullpen problems, Melancon at age 36 is proving to be quite a $3 million bargain for the Padres, leading the league with 19 saves while posting a 0.66 ERA in 27 1/3 innings.
The others in the running listed ahead of Edwin Diaz have more saves and better overall numbers, so whether the Mets’ closer makes it probably depends how many relievers Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decides to take for the NL team.