The American League had the Mid-Summer Classic on lock for what felt like an eternity. They ran up a record 13 All-Star Game undefeated streak, until the National League took control back two years ago a few years back.
Fast forward to this time around the bases, and the AL may have as talented of an offering has they have since before that initial streak started. From a staff of dominant arms, to a lineup that boasts the likes of at least five MVP candidates that would miles ahead over in the NL, the home of the DH is going to be a few handfuls to get through.
There are sure to be some slights in the end, as there definitely were more than a few I to accept in putting this together. But as it would stand today, a ticket to ride to New York in July for the AL means you’ve been a world beater all year so far. Here’s the best as they shake out today from my seat towards the field:
Catcher: Joe Mauer (Twins)*, Carlos Santana (Indians)
Mauer is back at the top of his game, and thus putting distance between himself and the rest of the AL catching pack. His .330 average is by far the tops at the position, and 9th in the AL this season. Santana has kept his offense at a solid level in his full-time return behind the plate, hitting eight home runs, along with a .284 average.
Davis has proved that his power swing is truly a coming of age, not a flash in the pan. He has led the AL in home runs all season (currently at 17, along with 47 RBI), and isn’t looking like that’s going to change any time soon. His tremendous season has been somewhat put in the shadows, due to Miguel Cabrera’s onslaught. On his heels is Encarnacion, who has heated up recently and is third in the AL in both home runs and RBI.
Second base is one of the best positions in the league this year. Cano did an incredible job not only holding the Yankees together, but somehow making them the most surprising team in baseball. Pedroia is healthy and playing the best ball since his MVP year of ’07, with a .332 average. Altuve is in the mix as well, and his 60 hits prove he’s not just the obligatory Astro.
While second base has been great, third has been absurd. Cabrera’s effort needs no introduction, as he’s making his Triple Crown year look like light work so far. Yet Evan Longoria and Manny Machado have been huge for their respective clubs as well. Longoria has been the catalyst for reviving the Rays offense (.320 average, 30 RBI), while Machado’s breakout season thus far shows that he deserves a spot in the best prodigy in baseball convo. With a MLB best 23 doubles and a .335 average, he’s legit.
Peralta has swung a very potent bat to start the season off, sitting at third in the AL with a .339 average, and cleaning up the lower half of the Tigers brutal lineup. Andrus has shown why he was worth the investment and the long-term vote of confidence for the AL-best Rangers as well. He’s stolen 13 bases, and had his usual superb glove work as well.
Outfield is coming together in a nice way in the AL. The do-everything encore season for Trout has started to fall in place; he’s third in the AL in total bases and has just started heating up. Gordon and Rios are carrying two struggling clubs in the Central, while Joey Bats has shown his wrist is just fine, busting 12 long balls over the fence as he tries to salvage the Jays year. Not to be overlooked Jones, with his 17 double/10 home run campaign thus far.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz (Red Sox)*
Ortiz started off disabled but came back to be the final piece in the Red Sox shocking push into contention this season. He started the year with a 27 game hitting streak, and proved he’s the best DH of his era still for a reason.
Pitcher: Matt Moore (Rays), Clay Buchholz (Red Sox), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Yu Darvish (Rangers), Max Scherzer (Tigers), Anibal Sanchez (Tigers), Chris Sale (White Sox)
A good season isn’t enough to slide onto into the ASG over here this year, because virtually every arm in the mix has been dominant this season. Verlander and King Felix’s efforts are to be expected, but Moore, Buchholz and Scherzer are yet to taste defeat this season (combined 22-0). Darvish is on pace to become the first pitcher to hit 300 strikeouts in 10 years, while Sale and Sanchez both have one-hit outings on their resumes.
Rivera is having a hell of a comeback/farewell tour. The ninth inning G.O.A.T., has 18 saves added to his historical tally. Win early out West, as the division has a trio of dominant ninth inning guys in Nathan (16 saves), Balfour (28 consecutive saves) and Wilhelmsen (0.41 ERA).
For more on the run up to Citi Field and the All-Star field developing in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan