In addition to the championship match-ups that have been taking place, I've been following the first half of the MLB season. I'm rooting hard for the Braves to stay healthy enough to remain within striking distance of the Phillies, and I hope we see some competitive division races for the second half of the season. Since the deadline for filling out an All-Star Ballot is approaching and we now have a substantial chunk of the season to rate players, I decided to cast my votes over the weekend. Here are my picks for the National League:
2B: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers: Weeks was on his way to having a breakout year last season, but had a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the year. He has returned this year, and has provided that rare combination of power and speed to the Milwaukee lineup. It also doesn't hurt that the 2B position in the National League has been rather weak this season, with Chase Utley being injured and Dan Uggla being historically bad.
SS: Jose Reyes, New York Mets: After struggling with injuries during the past couple seasons, Jose Reyes is healthy and back in form. He has weathered criticism from his owner and dealt with trade talk all season long and has kept the Mets competitive with a .500 record. Reyes is doing what he does best - getting on base and creating havoc with his speed.
3B: Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves: Chipper hasn't really played like an all star this season, but neither has anyone else that plays 3B. And even though he is constantly battling injuries and always seems to be a step away from the DL, there's not a 3B that means more to his team than Chipper. He is the leader of the Atlanta clubhouse, which is still quite young, and has come up with a number of timely hits this season.
C: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves: I think McCann has been the best catcher in the game this season. I'm not glad Buster Posey is injured, but I do hope that McCann receives the attention he deserves because he was outperforming Posey before the injury anyway. McCann has been excellent with the bat and he's been extremely consistent and durable, which is quite unusual for a catcher.
OF: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Dude has been a freak. It seems like I read a "Matt Kemp gets game winning hit" headline once a week and he's been crushing the ball lately. He has triple crown-like numbers and is carrying a Dodgers team that is dealing with a ridiculous amount of distractions. It appears that Kemp has shed the "lazy" label and is showing his potential as a complete player.
OF: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks: A couple years ago, people were talking about B.J. Upton being one of the next great young outfielders in the game - they were talking about the wrong Upton. Justin Upton has been one of the keys to this turnaround year for the Diamondbacks and deserves to have a spot on this year's All Star team.
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: It feels like someone from the Pirates belongs in the starting lineup and I think McCutchen has earned it. He's unbelievably fast on the bases and in the outfield, and he's improved his plate discipline and power. The Pirates have been one of the great stories in baseball this year and McCutchen is one of the exciting pieces they are building that team around.
*You only vote for 3 outfielders on an All Star Ballot, not specific positions (CF, LF, RF)
**There is not an option for voting for pitchers, but my choice for the SP for the NL would be Jair Jurrjens.
Photo by Steve Paluch