Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Knurve's American League All-Star Ballot

Shalom Everybody!

Ever since they made the All-Star game "mean something" by having it decide homefield in the World Series, I've had mixed feelings about the game. I'm pretty comfortable saying that the person the San Francisico Giants have to thank the most for winning last year's World Series (not getting there) is not Tim Lincecum, not Cody Ross, not Brian Wilson, not even Brian Wilson's beard, but......Brian McCann?!?!?

McCann's bases clearing double in the All-Star game propelled the NL to victory and gave the Giants homefield where Jonathan Sanchez, Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain were stupendous last year. I should also mention that I'm a huge believer in the Home Run Derby ruining a players swing for the second half, so I never want my fantasy hombres to be in the contest. I will say I'm looking forward to the bombs that are going to be dropped in Arizona.

So it is with this frustration in mind that I give you my American League All-Star starters, but I'll have two names under each position. The first name is who it WILL be and the second name is who it SHOULD/COULD be, just like this game SHOULD/COULD be an exhibition. If I say it "should be", then you know I feel strongly about the 2nd name, but if I say "could be" then you know a case could be made.

It will be: Victor Martinez
He qualifies there, so it will be him. This one's all in the name for Victor. He is not the best catcher on his team (hint, hint...) but he's hitting solidly over .320 and is producing runs at a pretty solid clip. His production is a big reason the Detroit Tigers are in good shape to take a very winnable division.

It should be: Alex Avila
Now Avila is the best catcher on the Tigers and he's having a breakout year. I passed on the chance to pick him up in one of my leagues in favor of Wilson Ramos, and that's been my biggest regret so far this fantasy season. He's showing great flashses of power, has 10-steal potential, and is an even bigger reason than Martinez, and maybe even Miguel Cabrera, that the Tigers are where they are. Avila is the MVP of the Tigers this season because without his production, this team would be as average as every other team in the AL Central seems.

First Base
It will be: Adrian Gonzalez
This one is pretty straighforward. Gonzalez has been the most complete hitter in the AL and it's not even close. He's scoring runs, hitting for power, hitting for average, driving runs in at a ridiculous clip, and has carried the Red Sox, at times. People forget that he started somewhat slow, hitting a paltry .314 in April. What? David? That's not paltry!!! It is when you consider he hit .341 in May and .404 in June with 15 dingers in those two months. The man is a stud.

It should be: Paul Konerko
This is not a knock on Gonzalez, Cabrera, or Mark Teixeira at all, but Konerko has done everything but steal bases for the White Sox when the rest of their offense has been as useless as bacon to someone who keeps kosher. Like V-Mart, it's refreshing to see Konerko put these past two seasons together and bounce back to the stud he was when the White Sox won it all last decade. Think about the White Sox offensive potential in Alex Rios, Juan Pierre, Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham. When you consider none of those guys have been hitting and it's been Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin keeping this underperforming team in the race. Many players can fold under that pressure, but Konerko has excelled.

Second Base
It will be: Robinson Cano
I don't have many qualms with this. I have really enjoyed watching Cano's career blossom in the way that it has. He hit .342 in his second full year in the bigs with just 15 homers. He has evolved his game to hit for power and not feel like he has to pull everything, which I think is rare for a young player who is entering his prime. I also like the fact that Cano was a homegrown Yankee. The fact that he came from their farm system is refreshing. He's hovered around .300 the whole season despite not being the most patient hitter, but he makes it work. This is a pretty clear choice.

It could be: Ian Kinsler
I only say this because Kinsler is Jewish. Just kidding. Seriously though, when Kinsler is healthy, he gives such an unbelievable boost to the Texas Rangers. His batting average is down a little bit this year, but with double digit homers and steals, already. His BABIP is 40 points lower than his career mark, so I can see him having a big second half if he's healthy. His run production is also down, but there's only so much he can do since he's been leading off five out of every six games.

It will be: Asdrubal Cabrera
He's been the rock of the overperforming Indians offense. He's been hitting for power, stealing bases and simply doing it all for the Cleveland Indians. I don't think there's much of an argument here. Jeter's days as an All-Star are done. Who better to fill his shoes than a player as similar to him as Cabrera. Cabrera has a touch more power than Jeter did but he's also a stud defensively, which us fantasy players have to take into account, as boring as that may be.

It could be: Jhonny Peralta
There are a lot of options here, including J. J. Hardy, Erick Aybar, and Elvis Andrus, but I think Peralta has been a critical performer for the Tigers. He's on pace for around 25 HR/95 RBI and gets on base at a pretty decent clip. If you told the Tigers at the beginning of the season these would be Peralta's halfway stats, then they'd have given you a hot dog. Chubby Jhonny Peralta could be eating tons of hot dogs in Arizona.

Third Base
It will be: Jose Bautista
Is there really any argument here? He is head and shoulders better than any other third baseman in the AL. This is the weakest position, by far, in fantasy and the majors this year, so what's to argue with here? I chronicled in one of my "Knurve to Say" articles that Bautista was having a brutal June, but his April and May will put him in the All-Star game. He's on pace for 10 steals, he takes walks, scores runs, he does it all. I boldly predicted the Toronto Blue Jays to get the Wildcard, and I truly believe this team has it all. Bautista is the anchor.

It should be: Jose Bautista
Is there really any arguing here? Sure Alex Rodriguez has a case, but I can't see any possible scenario where America would feel A-Rod gets the nod over Bautista, who is finally getting the recognition for what he's been doing.

It will be: Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki
I'll start with the two locks: Granderson and Ellsbury. Is there even any question? These two guys are studs who you got for pretty cheap on draft day compared to the levels they have performed. AL Outfield is so weak this season that these two are shoo-ins. The pragmatist in me wants to be realistic and say Ichiro's going to get the votes to become an All-Star because he always does. He is starting to pick it back up, so it's not a completely lame assertion. B. J. Upton has hit 11 more dingers with the same number of steals and significantly worse batting average, so it might be six of one half a dozen of the other.

It should be: Granderson, Ellsbury and Upton
As for Upton, people want to rip on his batting average, and that's pretty easy because it's THAT terrible, but if you look at his counting stats, he's on pace for another 25 HR/45 SB season, which makes the batting average much easier to swallow. Considering the other possible names for this list are Alex Gordon and Brennan Boesch, I think we can be confident in this tandem.

Starting Pitcher
It will be: Justin Verlander
I think Verlander is well-liked enough across the country that he has to be the favorite here. As much as CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester will garner a ton of votes, I'd hope baseball fans can appreciate Verlander's dominance this season. With this being another "Year of the Pitcher", it's not easy to pick this spot, but Verlander leads the majors in K's, WHIP, and Wins. His ERA is a full run higher than Weaver's, but the defense behind Verlander is 24th in the majors in Fielding Percentage whereas the Angels are 4th in the AL (8th in the majors).

It could be: Jered Weaver
There's certainly a great case to be made for Weaver. His April was Zack Greinke-esque (circa 2009) and he has established himself as a dominant starter in the AL. Along with Verlander, he's proven himself durable and reliable. Aside from one slight hiccup against the Indians, he's been as good as they come. When you're 6'7", throwing downhill is much better, especially when you're able to locate your off-speed stuff as well as he has.

So there it is... thoughts? Tweet me @TheKnurve. I'd love some feedback!
-David Kaplan

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