Last week, we heard that Giancarlo Stanton officially accepted the invitation by NL Home Run Derby Matt Kemp to the Derby. Stanton's season has been an excellent one thus far, and in terms of power he is a clearly deserving candidate for the Home Run Derby. I fully expect a grand show when he steps up to the plate.
Now it turns out Stanton will get even more honors during the All-Star break, as he will be the team's lone representative at the All-Star Game at Kaufman Stadium this season. Stanton's selection is the first of his career and it is a well deserved one. Through yesterday, Stanton is hitting .282/.362/.554 on the season, good for a .391 wOBA that ranks 18th in the league. In addition, Stanton has been solid defensively after some early season struggles, as many of the zone statistics once again rate him as a positive in 2012. Each of the major Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metrics have Stanton at around 3.0 WAR this season, which puts him on pace for a five-win campaign that would best his 2011 season.
So Stanton will be making the All-Star team. But did he deserve to be the starter?The three starting outfielders in the National League were all deserving All-Star candidates. Take a look at their lines.
As you can see, no one there has a bad batting line. Cabrera has the worst offensive performance among the three of them, and it is essentially even with Stanton's. The initial reaction is to say that Cabrera should not be starting, mostly because he is Melky Cabrera and you do not expect him to be playing this well. But the truth is that Matt Kemp, the best player in baseball through mid-May, should probably not be the starter on the team. Unlike Cabrera and Carlos Beltran, Kemp has missed significant time dealing with a hamstring injury, and even with his extremely hot start, he has not produced enough to be considered one of the three best outfielders in 2012. Of course, there is the argument that the All-Star game is about talent, and Kemp of course has it in spades, but then Cabrera should not be the selection over a number of other likely more talented outfielders, including Stanton.
So the consensus is that, were the starters based solely on statistics or talent, we would expect one of those outfielders to yield his spot. Stanton would certainly be a deserving candidate. The problem is that the National League has a lot of other worthwhile candidates.
As you can see, there are at least two other guys whose performances outstripped even Stanton's excellent season thus far. This is no front to Stanton but rather an accomplishment by Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom have been ridiculous all season as well. Of the players involved, I would have selected McCutchen to start in place of Kemp, as both are center fielders. But either Braun or McCutchen would be worthy replacements for one of those players in the starting lineup.
Of course, none of that is really all that important. The important thing is that the National League has a myriad of good options in the outfield, and to have to make that choice is actually quite a good problem to have. Since the game in an American League park, the National League will have to choose a designated hitter, and there is a good chance Braun will get the honor of playing the DH to start the game. But both McCutchen and Stanton would also be well-deserving candidates to start this year, and the Fish should be happy that they have an All-Star that matters as their lone representative this season.