Like I said with the American League All-Star team, I don't like to second-guess. I like to first-guess. So here's my first guess at the National League All-Star team:
National League All-Star Team
C -- Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves. He had the game-winning hit in last year’s All-Star Game. Can he help give the NL home-field advantage in the World Series for a second consecutive year? He's leading the NL in most offensive categories for catchers, including OPS, homers and RBIs.
2B -- Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers. This is the closest call of all position players in the NL. Brandon Phillips is a far superior defender, but I gave it to Weeks because of his OPS and better power numbers. They should split the game at second base.
SS -- Jose Reyes, New York Mets. He’s led the league in hits, on-base percentage and slugging almost all season. His range to both sides and consistency on defense have been huge improvements. He should start over Starlin Castro and Troy Tulowitzki.
3B -- Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies. He has been the best third baseman over the first half of the season. Injuries to the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman and the Mets' David Wright have opened the door for him to be the starter.
RF -- Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals. He’s been leading all NL outfielders in OBP most of the season despite spending time on the disabled list. He gets the nod to start, slightly over the Reds' Jay Bruce.
P -- Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies. Hamels has been magnificent. He’s back painting his 93 mph fastball, and his dead-fish changeup continues to keep hitters off balance.
C -- Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals. He is the best overall defensive catcher in baseball.
2B -- Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds. He is the best defensive second baseman in the NL.
SS -- Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies. Tulowitzki continues to be one of the best all-around players and leaders in the game. The face of the Rockies and the NL.
SS -- Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs. The Cubs found their long-term solution at shortstop. One of the most exciting young shortstops in baseball, on offense and defense.
3B -- Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves. On his way to the Hall of Fame, he gets one more All-Star Game appearance.
OF -- Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds. Like Matt Kemp, he is having his best offensive year, and right now he is the best all-around right fielder in the NL.
DH/OF/1B/INF -- Mike Morse, Washington Nationals. He is having the best year of his career and has found a home with the Nationals. He can play multiple positions and will be the lone representative for the Nationals.
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves. He has been pounding the low, outside corner of the strike zone with the best fastball command of his career.
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies. He is on pace to win 20 games again.
Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks. His manager, Kirk Gibson, was criticized when he announced on Opening Day that Kennedy would get the start over Daniel Hudson. Kennedy has proved in the first half that he is the Diamondbacks' best pitcher.
Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds. His blown saves in 2010 are in the rear-view mirror for Cordero, who continues to be nails in save situations this year.
Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates. He is the only closer in the NL with 10 or more saves to not yet blow a save.
Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves. He is the best left-handed reliever in baseball. Nasty. Filthy.
Heath Bell, San Diego Padres. The only question is, will he still be wearing a Padres uniform at the All-Star Game?
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals. He’s another Cardinal who will be a comeback player of the year candidate. His fastball command is back.
Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves. He is one of the most dominating pitchers in the NL. If he is injured, I would replace him with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. Both should win Cy Young awards before their careers end.
Dillon Gee, New York Mets. One of the best stories of the year for the Mets. Gee still hasn’t lost a game this year.
J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks. He has changed the endgame for the Diamondbacks. With the game being played in Arizona, he should be near the top of the list of pitchers who should replace either injured pitchers or pitchers who throw the Sunday before.
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals. He's had an All-Star first half, just not enough numbers to put him on the team.
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers. He has helped keep the Brewers at the top of the division; he consistently gets it done.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers. He would be the first pitcher I would put on the team when another pitcher needs to be replaced.
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies. His strong finish to the first half has him back on the radar for the All-Star team.
Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates. The best pitching story in baseball in 2011. He has a new delivery, which has resulted in dramatically improved deception, and that has been the key.
Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates. You can’t put him on the team ahead of Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips.
Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins. I would like to see him invited to the Home Run Derby. He’s a year away from the All-Star Game. He has the most raw power of any hitter in baseball right now.
Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks. I love having hometown players in the All-Star Game, but you just can’t put him ahead of Bruce, McCutchen or Pence.
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets. We need to put him in the conversation. If the knee holds up, he should be wearing another uniform by July 31.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies. He is one of the best overall players in baseball, but he is having a subpar first half. Next year for CarGo.
Here are some of the problems with this team:
1. There are too many first basemen on the team.
2. Kershaw and Lee didn’t make the team.
3. There is only one left-handed pitcher (Venters).
4. The two best third basemen in the league (Zimmerman and Wright) didn’t make the team because of first-half injuries.
5. Too many top relievers are being snubbed.
Now comes the fun part: Tell me what you’d do differently -- before the real rosters are released.
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