Phase one of MLB’s All-Star fan vote gets underway today and with eight weeks of the 2021 season in the rearview mirror, the players worthy of a trip to Denver for the Midsummer Classic are starting to separate themselves from the pack. The players who are still struggling are running out of time to claim a “slow start”. The guys who jumped out of the gate hot and have kept it rolling are no longer the beneficiaries of small sample sizes – Memorial Day has passed us and we’re in the thick of it now, folks.
As things crystalize, we’re getting a better idea of who might represent their club at Coors Field on July 13th. Even clubs without any standout performances this year will see their logo in the Mile High City thanks to a league mandate requiring at least one player from all 30 teams. Let’s take a look at one player from each National League squad that best stands to add “All-Star” to their list of accolades in 2021.
NL East: The “Everybody’s still in it” Division
New York Mets: Jacob deGrom - Pitcher
Even if Francisco Lindor, the biggest offseason acquisition of last winter, hadn’t struggled to adjust to the bright lights of the Big Apple, this would be a no-doubter. DeGrom isn’t just pitching at his two-time Cy Young-winning level. He’s blowing those years out of the water. Despite spending some time on the injured list, he’s gone 4-2 on the season, with an incomprehensibly low 0.71 ERA. That’s the lowest through May since 1964.
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr. - Outfielder
Leading the league in home runs with seventeen is just one of the many things the 23-year-old phenom is doing to help the Braves navigate their early-season difficulties. Acuña is also second in slugging percentage and third in OPS. You’ll be seeing his name on these lists for many years to come.
Philadelphia Phillies: Zach Wheeler - Pitcher
No disrespect to Bryce Harper, who’s having his best season since his MVP campaign in 2015, but Zach Wheeler has been the number one player on this Phillies team so far. His 4-2 record, like deGrom’s, is nothing spectacular, but his 2.52 ERA and 92 strikeouts (good for sixth in all of baseball) tell a different story.
Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm - Second Baseman
If the name “Jazz” isn’t enough to send the Marlins’ second baseman to Denver, his play on the diamond this season certainly is. Despite only playing 30 games so far, Chisholm has a .275 average to go along with nine stolen bases. Trevor Rodgers and his 1.87 ERA may be more worthy, but the NL East has so many star pitchers that I decided to go another route.
Washington Nationals: Trea Turner - Shortstop
Juan Soto was supposed to be an MVP candidate this year, but injuries and a slow start have prevented him from reaching the level he’s capable of. With Soto and offseason pickups Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell struggling, the Nationals’ offense has been a one-man show starring Trea Turner. He’s got a .311 average this season, ten home runs, and a team-high 2.1 fWAR.
NL Central: The “Hey, the Cubs are good again?” Division
Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant - Third Baseman
Kris Bryant is playing like it’s 2016 again (when he won the NL MVP award), and boy did he pick a good time to do it. He’s heading into free agency this coming winter and has been the center of trade talks for the last two years. Given that he’s almost single-handedly powered the Cubs to the top of the division, they might want to keep his .317 average and 12 home runs on the North side of Chicago.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty - Pitcher
Honestly, I just needed to pick anyone who wasn’t Nolan Arenado, and Flaherty is a more than worthy choice. He leads the majors in wins with eight and his 2.90 ERA is the best in the rotation. He landed on the IL two days ago, but as long as that doesn’t turn into a long-term stint on the shelf, he’ll be representing St. Louis at the All-Star Game.
Milwaukee Brewers: Brandon Woodruff - Pitcher
If you haven’t noticed, the NL has a lot of great pitchers. The Brewers alone have three hurlers who could crack this roster. Freddy Peralta has a 2.38 ERA, the 13th best in baseball, and Corbin Burnes started the year by setting the record for most strikeouts without a walk to start the season. Unfortunately for them, their co-ace Brandon Woodruff is second in the MLB with a 1.27 ERA, a historically good figure that’s been overshadowed by Jacob deGrom.
Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos - Right Fielder
This may have been the most challenging pick yet. While most NL teams are overflowing with pitching talent, the Reds, who have had a myriad of issues on the mound this year, can claim an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of things. Nick Castellanos gets the nod here since his .361 average leads the league and is twenty points ahead of second place. Who holds that spot? His teammate Jesse Winker - yeah, you really can’t go wrong with either of these two.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Adam Frazier - Second Baseman
If you caught the Rockies-Pirates series last week and didn’t know anything about the 2021 season, you might think the Pirates were one of the top teams in baseball. However, as fans of the Rockies, we often check the lower parts of the standings and know the Pirates are right there with us. They can’t blame Adam Frazier - he’s got the most doubles in baseball (19) and is hitting .335 on the year.
NL West: The “I can’t believe the Giants are still keeping pace” Division
San Francisco Giants: Kevin Gausman - Pitcher
Many things have gone right for the Giants this year, but Kevin Gausman’s emergence as a bonafide ace has to top the list. Gausman was just named the NL Pitcher of the Month for May (the first San Fran pitcher to win the honor since 2014), and it’s easy to see why. On the year, he’s 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 83 strikeouts in just 70 ⅔ innings pitched.
San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. - Shortstop
You have to be a unique talent to be your team’s best player when you’ve missed 17 games out of 56, but you don’t need me to tell you just how exceptional the Padres shortstop is. He’s effectively the new face of baseball, thanks to home runs like this and impressive baserunning tricks like this. It’s always tough when a superstar powers a division rival, but Tatis is just so fun to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing him at Coors Field on July 13th.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy - First Baseman
Max Muncy is the poster boy for the Dodgers’ ability to turn guys you’ve never heard of into all-star caliber players. Muncy broke out by hitting 35 homers in 2018 and 2019 after hitting five in his career previously. This year, he’s third in all of baseball with a 2.8 fWAR thanks in part to his league-leading 44 walks and .433 on-base percentage.
Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon - Second/Third Baseman
If this is not your first time on our site and you’ve seen our Twitter account, you knew this was coming. We love Ryan McMahon and everything he’s done for this team filling in for Arenado. He’s been towards the top of the league’s home run leaderboard all season thanks to his 13 jacks, and his fielding has been otherworldly. I could go on and on, but for the sake of letting you get on with your day, I’ll stop here.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Carson Kelly - Catcher
Sorry Buster Posey, but we now have our first catcher on the list! The Diamondbacks have struggled mightily this season, sinking to the NL West basement, but Carson Kelly has been phenomenal. Through 36 games, the Snakes’ backstop is hitting .295 with a .935 OPS, which would be good for first in the majors if he hadn’t played so few games.
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We’re certainly not complaining that this year’s game got moved from Atlanta to Denver, but the same can’t be said for the Job Creators Network (JCN), a group of business owners who are suing MLB for the location switch. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, as that’s a surefire way to go down the political rabbit hole, but the lawsuit does call for $100 million in damages, a punitive award that could go as high as $1 billion, and the return of the game to Atlanta. On that last part, it is unlikely that the legal process could play out in time for the game to be moved back to Atlanta.
Lou Gehrig has long been honored as not only one of MLB’s best players, but one of its most inspiring figures. Yesterday, Major League Baseball celebrated the first ever Lou Gehrig Day, remembering the Yankee great and raising awareness for ALS, the disease that took his life. “4-ALS” signs were peppered across stadiums, players donned Lou Gehrig Day jersey patches, and special ceremonies throughout games highlighted the ALS community. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has all the details, including a breakdown of the various charitable initiatives the league took on to honor the “Iron Horse”.
On the farm
Double-A: Bowie Baysox 2, Hartford Yard Goats 1
The Yard Goats dropped a close one to the Bowie Baysox last night, falling 2-1 to bring their record on the year to 7-19. The boys from Hartford got off to a great start throwing a run up in the first, but couldn’t plate anyone else the rest of the night. Two runs for the Baysox in the following inning were the difference as the pitching from both sides shut it down the rest of the way.
The Spokane Indians, like their Double-A counterparts, got off to a hot start scoring five runs in the first inning, but their early success was more than enough to bring them a win last night. Second baseman Aaron Schunk and third baseman Kyle Datres both went yard in the opening frame and the Indians never looked back, cruising to a 9-1 win.
The Fresno Grizzlies were the only minor-league affiliate of the Rockies not to get on the board in the first inning Wednesday night, but that didn’t stop them from getting the win – in walk-off fashion no less. Despite falling behind 3-2 in the top of the tenth inning, the Grizzlies battled back to plate two in the bottom of the frame and come away with a huge win and a 16-10 record.
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