The 2014 season has not been shy of surprising people thus far. Unexpected breakouts, surprise team performances, both positive and negative, have grabbed headlines to start out the newest year of baseball. With an abundance of outstanding performances to start out the year, today I’ll take a look at who would be starting in the All-Star Game for the National League at the quarter mark.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals It would be difficult to find a player as valuable to his team as Yadier Molina is to the St. Louis Cardinals. Molina has posted a slash line thus far of .327/.353/.462, and has also amassed 4 HR and 22 RBI. Coming off of two straight top five finishes in the NL MVP race, Molina has not only proven to be the National League’s finest catcher, he may very well be the National League’s best player.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
First Baseman: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks Perhaps no position in either league is as talent packed as the National League is at first baseman. Yet emerging out of the strong company that includes Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman, is none other than Paul Goldschmidt. Despite being on one of the MLB’s worst teams thus far, Goldschmidt has picked up where he left off last year, and some.
A .317/.368/.559 slash, which includes 9 HR and 32 RBI, packing quite the punch. Not to mention, he’s also leading the MLB in doubles with 18 to this point. Even with all of the NL 1B talent, none have quite matched up to Goldschmidt.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Second Baseman: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies At age 35 with a World Series championship six years behind him, many would argue that Chase Utley is past his prime. His 2014 performance proves quite the contrary. While Utley’s meager 22 RBI doesn’t display him as much of a run producer, Utley has quietly put together one of his best seasons to this point.
Riding off of a strong .338 batting average, his 1.9 WAR and 23 extra base hits have already proven Utley to be a major player in the All-Star race.
Honorable Mention: Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
Third Baseman: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies The hot corner may not be as talent packed as first base in the National League, but Nolan Arenado did not shy away from being a strong breakout candidate to start off 2014. After immediately making noise with a 28 game hitting streak near the beginning of the year, the 23-year-old Rockies 3B is just a small sample of the young talent flowing into the game.
While his average has since dipped to .292, Arenado remains a strong weapon in the most offensively packed lineup in the MLB.
Honorable Mention: David Wright, New York Mets
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies I don’t think I should have to say much about this one. In perhaps one of the most dominating performances to start off a season in the history of the game, Tulowitzki is not looking back, and only looks to be getting better.
With a .393/.494/.764 slash, the Rockies shortstop has been nothing short of a menace at the plate, and has also found new power, with a healthy 13 HR and 35 RBI, and a 4.6 WAR, topping the MLB. Some of this may be attributed to the thin air in Denver, but make no mistake, Tulo is the real deal.
Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
All three of these stars have been outstanding to start off 2014, and they all continue to break out as bigger names in the MLB. First of these is the man with perhaps the most raw power in the league, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has been a run producing machine thus far, amassing 12 HR and 43 RBI, remaining a bright spot for a Marlins team that is struggling after the injury to Jose Fernandez. He would also be quite an exciting player to see in the Home Run Derby (Home Run Derby tickets from Select-A-Ticket.)
McCutchen, on the other hand, enjoyed his breakout year last season, which was culminated in winning the NL MVP award. McCutchen is yet to slow down and continues to drive a Pirates team that is performing well below expectations. His .425 OBP is good for 3rd in the senior circuit, and a healthy .301 average contributes heavily to a team that struggles to score.
Gomez has picked up from his breakout year in 2013. Despite being out with an injury right now, when GoGo plays, his presence is certainly felt. Following a top 10 MVP finish in 2013, Gomez has raced out to 9 HR and 21 RBI in 39 games played. Along with converting seven out of eight stolen base tries thus far, his 151 OPS+ and .924 OPS are good enough for career highs.
Gomez may have broken out last year, and the 28-year-old will only get better.
Pitcher: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds I was unaware that the Reds found a way to bring 2000 Pedro Martinez 14 years into the future to become their staff ace. With the level of domination that Cueto has shown, that comparison can actually be justified. An insane 3.6 WAR, which is best among all pitchers and 2nd in the MLB only trailing Troy Tulowitzki, Cueto’s value this season is nothing short of insane.
Ignoring the pedestrian 4-2 win-loss record, Cueto’s 1.25 ERA, 2 complete game shutouts, along with 76 K’s in just 72 IP, the Reds’ ace is legitimately drowning in league leads. Oh, I failed to mention the .708 WHIP and 296 ERA+, which are all the more impressive when he leads the NL in batters faced, with 264. Other pitchers have been good, some have been great.
None can even remotely approach what Cueto has done thus far.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
Thank you for reading, and feel free to comment on your picks. I will put out my picks for the AL All-Star Team later this week, in culmination of an extremely exciting first quarter.
Tags: Johnny Cueto