The Nationals will be in an interesting situation this July. While they may or may not still be in first place, they will have spent at least the first two months of the season in or near the top spot. With only another month to go, there is a good chance that they will get multiple guys to the All Star game. So who is gonna end up there? Let’s start with the hitting:
The shortstop is hitting .268/.293/.455 – the low OBP is an issue but it has been mitigated by serious power and stellar defense. While he is tied for the lead among NL SS in terms of HRs with 8, he is behind in overall numbers to quite a few guys. The SS leaders include Furcal (.332/.391/.461), Tulowitzki (.288/.362/.486), Lowrie (.280/.354/.484), Castro (.313/.322/.443) and Ruben Tejada (.305/.362/.400), so he’s got some real competition.
LaRoche is in a bit of a slump, but he’s still got 7 HRs and is hitting .282/.378/.515. This ranks him 3rd in OPS in the NL, but far behind Votto (.321/.460/.595) and Brian LaHair (.312/.402/.596), but it’s a pretty solid third compared to what comes after. He needs to get hot again, but there is a better case for him among his peers than Desmond, probably.
Harper’s numbers have caught up to some of those expectations, thanks to a few hot weeks. He’s now batting .284/.368/.523 with 4 HRs (and 4 triples). That OPS actually ranks him 11th in the NL among outfielders, and there are definitely more than a half a dozen guys that are more deserving than him (Kemp, Braun, Beltran, Melky, Ethier, CarGo, McCutchen, Stanton…), but his numbers certainly show he wouldn’t be an awful pick, so fan voting could bring him along because of popularity. Then again, the NL manager could choose to do so for the excitement it would add.
That’s all I thought even deserved mention in terms of offense. So, on to the pitching:
Gio’s been the Nats best starter by almost all measures, and one of the best in the league. He’s 3rd in ERA (2.04) behind Beachy and Kershaw, 2nd in Ws (7) behind Hamels and Lynn, and 1st in Ks. The case could be made that at this point, he’s been the best starter in the NL, although quite a few other guys could also win that argument.
Despite a few non-perfect starts recently, Strasburg has seen his ERA fall to only 14th best in the NL (2.64), but it’s happened fast. His 5-1 record still looks nice, and he’s 3rd in the league in Ks (70). His next few starts will likely determine if he’s going back into the top 10 or falling further out, or possibly even taking a few weeks vacation.
The third member of this team’s big three has the third best ERA among them, and it puts him 17th in the NL. His strikeout numbers aren’t impressive, ranking down at 48th in the league, and his record isn’t gonna help either, as thanks to a complete lack of run support he’s only 3-5. Then again, since fans don’t pick pitchers, someone could get creative and bring all three of the top pitchers.
The Nats are no strangers to sending late inning relievers who aren’t closers to the All Star game. Stammen’s managed to compile a 3-0 record with a 1.65 ERA, and in 27 1/3 innings he’s struck out 29 and only walked 6. Although Clippard has gotten the most attention (both because Tyler’s been very good and because he was so good last year), Stammen has been the dominant force in this team’s bullpen.
Those are, in my opinion, the most realistic possibilities for the All Star team at this point in the season. There are other guys who could do something in the next month and raise eyebrows, but as of now, these guys have been the best on the team.
I think it is tough to imagine Desmond making it at this point, due to the strength of the competition. LaRoche has a better shot, but I’m not sure he’ll make it. Harper might if he keeps this up, and because it would create some buzz. I think Gio is a shoe-in at this point. Strasburg I am less confident in – but I think he’ll come out with a few strong starts and make it. Like Harper, he is a guy people want to see, and he’ll have numbers to justify selection, even if he pushes out a pitcher or two who are more deserving. Stammen is a nice story, but his role isn’t prominent enough – remember last year Clippard was “The Setup Man” whereas Stammen is a reliever that they use when they want a guy to get outs.
So in the end, I’m picking three guys – Gio, Strasburg and Harper. Of course we have another month of baseball to determine who goes, but at this point, what do you think?