May 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

AL All-Stars At The Quarter Mark

As with the National League, the American League has not fallen short on breakout seasons, surprise teams, and disappointments. As unfortunate as it is, the MLB season is already around 25% of the way through, so it is imperative to take a look at what players would make the starting American League All-Star Team if the team was selected today.

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Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Perez was one of the many young, up and coming stars to break out last season. Playing for a Royals team that is rising to become a force in the AL Central, the now 24-year old Perez is a large part of the future to look forward to for Royals fans. After being named an All-Star last year and placing 22nd in the AL MVP voting, Perez has not slowed down since.

In 39 games played thus far, the young catcher has comprised a .268/.327/.430 slash, which may seem mediocre at first, but with a very high contact rate, as he has only 18 strikeouts in 149 AB’s, Perez is due for positive regression. Along with a bat ready to break out, Perez leads all AL catchers in put-outs, assists, and games played, providing strong defensive value for the Kansas City Royals.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox

First Baseman: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

In 2012, it was Yoenis Cespedes.

In 2013, it was Yasiel Puig.

In 2014, it is Jose Abreu.

After being highly touted as a Cuban star, he took a 6 yr/$68M deal with the White Sox, who had no idea how much he would electrify a team that had lost 99 games just one year ago. Storming into the MLB, Abreu has put up 15 HR and 42 RBI, both leading the AL, and also providing a monstrous .595 SLG, which is also an AL lead. Despite his current ankle injury which has Abreu placed on the 15-Day DL, no other first baseman has rivaled Abreu’s performance thus far, which won him AL Rookie and Player of the Month in April.

The 27 year old star may be a rookie, and if he stays healthy, this year will be the first of many productive years in the MLB.

Honorable Mention: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Second Baseman: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

He’s received harsh criticism across the board. Pundits, Yankees fans, and even Mariano Rivera . Despite the Safeco Field power outage that Cano has gone through, there is no doubt that he is still the same Robinson Cano that dominated the Bronx for the past 9 years.

Putting aside Cano’s measly 1 HR, he has managed a very strong .318 average, combining that with 54 hits in just 43 games. Another strength that Cano has utilized thus far is his patience at the plate, which bleeds through with just 21 strikeouts in 170 AB’s. Cano has all the talent in the world, and excluding the power he has lost, the season Robinson is putting together is vastly overlooked.

Honorable mention: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

Third Baseman: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics

The former Chicago Cubs 48th overall draft pick was certainly a late bloomer. Yet last year, Donaldson had one of the most remarkable breakout seasons in recent memory, leading the A’s to a division title, and individually placing 4th in AL MVP voting.

Last year, Donaldson hit extremely well for average, hitting .301, and this year, despite a dip in average to .280, he has already put up 10 HR and 35 RBI, which are very substantial numbers considering his 24 HR, 93 RBI finish in 2013. Donaldson has proven to be invaluable to Oakland, and has managed the hot corner extremely well. In turn, the A’s appear as one of the most complete teams in baseball, and Donaldson is glaring evidence as to why.

Honorable Mention: Yangervis Solarte, New York Yankees

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox If one asks if Ramirez has any chance at actually starting the All-Star Game, I’d probably say his chances are extremely slim. With the special circumstance surrounding Derek Jeter, he will most likely be starting in Minneapolis this summer.

Which is completely fine, as Jeter has undoubtedly been one of the greatest to ever play the game. Yet if this were to be based on pure performance this year, the AL has been dominated by Alexei Ramirez.

The South Side hero this year has 55 hits through 45 games, a .320/.353/.477 slash line, and a strong 2.0 WAR to support what has been a career year for Ramirez thus far.  Chicago’s SS has also improved in the field, only making 4 errors to this point, a far cry from the .968 FLD% which included 22 errors in 2013. Jose Abreu may be the spark plug to the South Siders’ offense, but Ramirez has been able to keep it all together, and has quietly been having a career year. Ramirez may not be able to start, but he is undoubtedly an All-Star caliber player.

Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

Outfielders: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays, Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

While it seems that the senior circuit is simply more talent packed this season, the AL is far superior in the outfield, making the task of pinpointing the top 3 quite difficult.

I would be remiss to ignore the comeback season that journeyman Melky Cabrera has put together. Melky has mustered the AL lead in hits with 58, and has amassed a ridiculous .310/.350/.481 slash, accompanied well with 6 HR and 20 RBI, bringing outstanding and balanced production in the outfield north of the border.

Mike Trout, on the other hand, is still Mike Trout, and while the argument can be made that he’s actually struggling to his standards, Trout is still putting together quite the campaign.

Despite leading the AL in strikeouts with 55, Trout has also captured the AL lead in triples and remains a strong producer with 8 HR and 28 RBI. There is plenty of cause for concern with the superstar, as he’s striking out much more than normal. Yet Trout has continued to provide unmatched offensive and defensive value, and is certainly due for positive regression.  Trout’s season has been far from bad, and it’s due to improve.

Jose Bautista fits in well with Josh Donaldson, as both of them emerged as stars quite a bit later than most players do.

Bautista, despite being 33 years old, is having a stellar 2014 season. The outfielder has refined his approach to the plate, and has seen some of that work come to fruition, with the AL lead in walks, mustering 38 thus far. His 11 HR, 30 RBI, and insane .983 OPS are all near or at the top of the American League. Bautista was previously known for power, yet he’s expanded his horizon as a hitter and matured into one of the more offensively versatile players in the MLB.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Rios, Texas Rangers, Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

It has gotten difficult to put anyone else into this role.

David Ortiz has established himself well into Red Sox history throughout the past 10 years as one of the most clutch hitters the game has ever seen. The age 38 monster is not done yet, however.

Ortiz continues to tear apart AL pitching, doing so with an impressive .299/.394/.565 slash, accompanied by a menacing .959 OPS. Ortiz is still the same force at the plate that he was in 2004, and his refined approach to hit for more average has truly come to fruition this year.

The Red Sox look much weaker than the World Series champions they were last fall, yet one of the few constants has been the stellar performance of Big Papi.

Honorable Mention: Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles

Pitcher: Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays

Unfortunately, it’s not as clear cut in the American League as it is in the National League on who is currently the best starting pitcher. There have been several pitchers who have emerged with great seasons in 2014, but none have come back and resonated to the degree that 35 year old Mark Buehrle has.

The former White Sox southpaw looked to be somewhat on the decline, but all doubts regarding his performance as a pitcher have been strongly silenced in the first quarter of 2014. Buehrle is having perhaps the best season of his career thus far, posting an impeccable 7-1 record, 2.11 ERA, and a career best 3.13 FIP.

The Jays haven’t had too much to look up to this year, but Buehrle has been able to not only bring a bright spot, but to put together a Cy Young worthy campaign thus far.

Honorable Mention: Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

Once again, thank you for reading, and make sure to comment your picks on who should be taking the field to start this year’s Midsummer Classic.

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