A player’s first trip to the All-Star Game is always special.
Some guys might downplay the experience because, y’know, they’re trying to be cool and all, but being selected by either the fans, their peers or a manager is a rewarding feeling. Some guys get there all the time; others not so much (did you know Corey Kluber didn’t make his first All-Star team until two years after he won his Cy Young award?). It’s such an imperfect selection process, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.
What we’re going to do is try and pick potential first-time All-Stars for each team. On Tuesday, we looked at possible American League first-timers, and now we’ll follow up with the NL.
Let’s get going, shall we?
Braves: SS Dansby Swanson
Why him? The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft was pretty impressive in his first taste of the majors last year, batting .302 with an .803 OPS, three homers and three stolen bases in 38 games. He’s a favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pick up an All-Star nod along the way.
Or maybe this guy: CF Ender Inciarte. He’s always had the glove, and he’s hit .297 over the past two seasons combined.
Brewers: 2B Jonathan Villar
Why him? He had a pretty outstanding 2016 season for Milwaukee, though not many folks outside Wisconsin noticed. Villar led the NL with 62 stolen bases and added 19 homers while batting .285 with an .826 OPS. It would be nice if he cut down on the strikeouts (178 last year), but he already has a pair of homers this season.
Or maybe this guy: 1B Eric Thames. He became a legend in Korea with a couple of amazing seasons, and it wouldn’t be surprising ifsuccess transferred to MLB.
Cardinals: LF Randal Grichuk
Why him? He’s been a pretty streaky player early in his career, but if he hits a long-ish locked-in streak at some point in the first half, he could put up numbers worthy of a spot in the All-Star Game (he had an .881 OPS and 12 homers in the final two months of 2016, for example). His outfield teammate Stephen Piscotty hasn’t been yet, either, but he’s probably not as likely to put up the eye-popping numbers.
Or maybe this guy: SP Mike Leake. If the Cardinals can give him decent defensive support, Leake could roll up solid numbers.
Cubs: LF Kyle Schwarber
Why him? Cubs fans eagerly anticipate watching a healthy Schwarber setting the tone for Joe Maddon’s offense. And with everything he’s done already, who’s going to bet against him making the All-Star team? Not us.
Or maybe this guy: SP Kyle Hendricks. No, he’s probably not going to duplicate his NL-best 2.13 ERA this year, but he could make his first All-Star team.
Diamondbacks SS Chris Owings
Why him? He improved significantly at the plate from 2015 (minus-0.9 offensive rWAR) to 2016 (1.7 offensive rWAR) and he’s off to a strong start. He already has four stolen bases, and if he keeps up that pilfering on the paths, that could help him earn a spot.
Or maybe this guy: 3B Jake Lamb. So very close last year. Maybe this time it’ll happen.
Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner
Why him? He’s been a star for the Dodgers pretty much from the moment he put on Tommy Lasorda’s favorite uniform, but he’s yet to represent the franchise in the All-Star Game. Expect that to be remedied in a couple of months.
Or maybe this guy: 2B Logan Forsythe. The trade from the AL (where 2B is packed with superstars) to the NL can’t hurt his chances.
Giants: CF Denard Span
Why him? It’s pretty much Span by default. Look at this: Of the 14 primary spots (eight starting position players, five starting pitchers and the closer), 12 of those guys have made an All-Star team at some point in their careers. So we’re left with Span, a solid veteran leadoff man, or the current left-field combo of Jarret Parker and Chris Marrero, who are a combined .071 on the season (they’re both 1-for-14) and struggling to the point that the team signed Blue Jays castoff Melvin UptonJr., to take their place soon. So, yes, we’re going with Span, who is past his career peak but has four seasons of an rWAR of 3.7 or better in his career.
Or maybe this guy: RP Hunter Strickland. He’s a hard-throwing reliever in his Age 28 season; itwouldn’t be stunning if he puts up sparkly numbers.
Marlins: CF Christian Yelich
Why him? Honestly, I was kinda shocked that Yelich hadn’t made an All-Star team yet. He’s one of baseball’s best 25-and-under players, with four seasons in the bigs under his belt, including a 5.3 rWAR season for the Marlins last year (21 homers, 98 RBIs, .859 OPS).
Or maybe this guy: C J.T. Realmuto. No, not just because he’s off to a blistering start to the 2017 season (11-for-22 with a 1.451 OPS, two homers and six RBIs in five games). Realmuto was really good for the Marlins last year, too, posting a .303 average and .771 OPS with 11 homers and 12 stolen bases in 137 games.
Mets: 2B Neil Walker
Why him? Walker has been a solid-but-not-spectacular player his entire career in the bigs — his rWAR has ranged from 2.0 to 3.9 over the past seven years — but maybe this is the time he earns that first All-Star berth. Feels like he should get there at some point, doesn’t it?
Or maybe this guy: RP Addison Reed. With Jeurys Familia coming back soon, Reedwon’t be the closer much longer, but he was an outstanding setup man for the Mets last year (1.97 ERA/FIP) and puts up the type of strikeout numbers that can earn a spot.
Nationals: SS Trea Turner
Why him? Turner's such an easy choice that thisfeels almost like cheating. Turner was outstanding once he was called up for good last season, batting .342 in 73 games (70 after the All-Star break) with 13 homers and 33 stolen bases. If his current hamstring issue is minor (as expected), I’d be surprised not to see him in Miami for the Midsummer Classic.
Or maybe this guy: CF Adam Eaton. No All-Star nods for Eaton yet, despite three seasons with rWARs of 5.2, 3.9 and 6.2.
Padres: RF Hunter Renfroe
Why him? He’s a solid prospect who has a limited sample size in the majors, but he’s performed well in that sample size — .328/.338/.672 with 6 homers in 19 games over 2016-17. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll be in the lineup everyday for the Padres, which gives him a chance to put up numbers.
Or maybe this guy: CF Manuel Margot. Same thing goes for Margot, who hit two homers against the Giants in his fifth game of the season.
Phillies: SP Jared Eickhoff
Why him? The right-hander was really good last year for the Phillies. Like, really darn good for a starting pitcher who missed qualifying for the rookie of the year award by one little inning (he had 51; the cutoff is 50). In 33 starts, Eickhoff had a 3.65 ERA and 3.98 K/BB ratio. If he can cut down on his home runs allowed (he gave up 30 last year) he could earn a spot in Miami.
Or maybe this guy: 2B Cesar Hernandez. Another overlooked Philly youngster, Hernandez had a .294 average, 11 triples, 17 stolen bases and a 3.3 rWAR last year.
Pirates: SP Jameson Taillon
Why him? His road from No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft to the majors was long and arduous, but he showed he was ready when he finally arrived. Taillon had a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts as a rookie, and tossed seven shutout innings in Boston against the Red Sox in his 2017 debut. Excellent.
Or maybe this guy: SP Ivan Nova. Cut by the Yankees last year, Nova has a 2.80 ERA in 12 starts with the Pirates, including six shutout innings in his first start this season.
Reds: SP Amir Garrett
Why him? Sure, he’s made just one big-league start so far but it was one heck of a start. In his MLB debut, the lefty shut out the Cardinals for six innings (on two hits) in St. Louis, raising expectations for the former St. John’s basketball player and continuing his upward career trend. Pitching solely for Cincinnati’s high-A team in 2015, Garrett produced a 2.44 ERA in 26 starts, then fashioned a 2.55 ERA in 25 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
Or maybe this guy: RP Raisel Iglesias. He’s been outstanding since his move to the bullpen, and he’ll get plenty of save opportunities this season.
Rockies: SS Trevor Story
Why him? This season has started a little differently for Story. Last year, he hit seven homers in his first eight games (the first eight of his big-league career) and this time he only has four hits total (no homers) in the first eight games. This is, of course, where we point out that small sample sizes mean almost nothing and a player such as Story is too good to keep struggling for long.
Or maybe this guy: LF Gerardo Parra. He was a big disappointment last year after the Rockies gave him a free-agent deal; maybe this year he turns it around.