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MLB All-Star Game 2014: The 2014 BtBS NL All-Star Reserves

Justin K. Aller

The Beyond the Box Score staff has voted, and now we're presenting this year's NL All-Star Game reserves!

Now that the real All-Stars have been selected (and we can complain about them ad nauseam), it's time for the writers at Beyond the Box Score to announce what we would have done if we were in the role of the players / managers who decide All-Star reserves.

We're finishing out our posts on our All-Star game picks with the National League reserves! But first, let's recap our NL All-Star starters.

Name Position Team
Jonathan Lucroy C MIL
Paul Goldschmidt 1B ARI
Chase Utley 2B PHI
Todd Frazier 3B CIN
Troy Tulowitzki SS COL
Seth Smith LF SDP
Andrew McCutchen CF PIT
Giancarlo Stanton RF MIA
Yasiel Puig DH LAD
Clayton Kershaw SP LAD

Not a bad collection, though Mr. Smith stands out a little bit. Note to the National League: hire better left fielders.

To recap, here's our process for deciding on the reserves:

  • We use a two-phased process of choosing All-Star reserves that's meant to match the player-voting and manager-selection phases in the real All-Star game.
  • During the first phase, we asked our contributors to vote on a backup at each fielding position, aside from pitcher. That takes care of eight reserves, with the player getting the highest vote total making it to the All-Star team. In addition, each voter was asked to vote for five starting pitchers and three relief pitchers. Those eight pitchers receiving the most votes make it to the All-Star team as well.
  • During the second phase, each roster gets an additional eight players to bring the total count of players for each team up to 34. While usually we would asked the voters to vote for a player on any teams that did not, as of yet, have a representative in the game -- we actually didn't have any this year! So all eight additional roster spots were open to "Wild Card" voting. For the NL, the eight players with the most votes earned a spot on the team -- and we had a trade replacement as well.

Not too tough to follow, right? Let's have it -- our National League position player All-Star reserves!

Name Position Team
Devin Mesoraco C CIN
Buster Posey C SFG
Yadier Molina* C STL
Anthony Rizzo 1B CHC
Freddie Freeman 1B ATL
Daniel Murphy 2B NYM
Dee Gordon 2B LAD
Hanley Ramirez SS LAD
Anthony Rendon 3B WAS
Matt Carpenter 3B STL
Jason Heyward RF ATL
Hunter Pence RF SFG
Carlos Gomez CF MIL
Billy Hamilton CF CIN
Corey Dickerson LF COL

* - Trade replacement for -- well, you know.

Here's a rundown on each of the players who've made the team.

Devin Mesoraco - C

After three partial seasons of hitting poorly, Devin Mesoraco has chosen 2014 as the year in which he completely changes the conversation about his bat. Mesoraco's 2013 slugging percentage? .362. His 2014 slugging percentage? .634. That's Jose Abreu power. Actually, that's better than Jose Abreu power. It may be completely unsustainable, and only racked up over 203 plate appearances -- but the staff at Beyond the Box Score is down with giving Devin the credit for what he's done with the bat so far this year.

Buster Posey - C

Yawn. It's just another All-Star season for a guy who will be in this position for years and years. Right now Posey isn't the hitter he was in 2012's standout MVP campaign, or even in 2013 ... but he's still a great hitter at the game's premier defensive position. And while he isn't the same overall defender as the Yadier Molina's of the world, he's had a tremendous season in one regard: pitch framing.

Based on Baseball Prospectus's (regressed) pitch framing metrics, Posey's been worth a staggering 12 runs just based on his framing skills. You could consider that almost a full win and a third added to his value. That's plenty of value, and adds even more to an already-elite package.

Yadier Molina - C

Yadier makes this team by the very skin of his teeth, taking the spot opened up by a trade. He's hitting for a bit less power -- and a bit less effectively overall since last season (.333 wOBA) -- but he's still a crackerjack defender and the most critical piece of the St. Louis Cardinals steamroller.

Molina actually tied for votes with two other players ... Zack Greinke, who was selected for the team, and Tony Watson, who was not. I picked Greinke over Watson and Molina, but Molina swings his way in anyways. Sorry, Tony.

Anthony Rizzo - 1B

Rizzo has finally begun to deliver on the massive promise he's shown as a prospect in Boston, San Diego, and Chicago. This season, he's turned into an offensive force possessed of both power (17 HR) and patience (13.5% walk rate) at the plate. He's likely to stick around for the next great Cubs team, which given the state of their farm system at this point, might be 2015 or 2016.

Freddie Freeman - 1B

National League first base used to be a wasteland, just a few years ago. Now, there are at least three very deserving All-Stars from the BtBS writer pool, and that's with Joey Votto having an off year. The newly-rich Freeman is showing an almost identical line to last season, posting a .294/.385/.501 triple-slash. That is good enough to place him almost exactly 50% better than league average with the bat, which is impressive at any position.

Daniel Murphy - 2B

It's not usually the New York Mets that require a "token" selection, but here we are. The Jacksonville native has done a very fine job at the pivot this year, consistently improving his defense at his adopted position. Now that he's a scratch defender at second, Murphy can leverage his consistent hit tool (and a slight uptick in walk rate) into a very solid all-round player.

Dee Gordon - 2B

Before the season started, I wouldn't have picked Dee Gordon to play in the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game, let alone the MLB version. But here we are. He's transformed himself from a bad hitter to a good hitter, thanks to slightly improved power and a great batting average on balls in play. And -- bonus! -- he's the best baserunner in baseball by FanGraphs' BsR metric, due in no small part to his 42 (not a typo) stolen bases. While he's not the world's most efficient base-stealer, he sure is fun to watch.

It's okay if you've been a horrible hitter for the past two seasons. Sometimes one good half-season is all that counts, provided that one good half-season is at the beginning of the season, and it's really good.

Hanley Ramirez - SS

He's not Troy Tulowitzki, so that's a bummer. He's not even Hanley Ramirez from 2013, and that's a bummer too. Having roughly the same plate appearances this year as he had last year,he's 2.6 fWAR behind his 2013 performance. So despite being *half* as valuable as he was in the same time last year, he's still a ridiculous talent and a scary bat, especially for a shortstop. He's on pace to be a 20-homer, 20-steal guy for the sixth season in his career.

Jhonny Peralta actually tied Ramirez in our voting for backup SS, ten votes to ten. Ramirez gets the nod based on Managing Editor's discretion, which I recognize is not a scientific process. But I chose Ramirez over Peralta because I think Hanley's good offense is more sustainable over the rest of the season than Peralta's good defense, and because Hanley's end of 2013 was head-and-shoulders better than Peralta's.

Anthony Rendon - 3B

It wasn't too long ago that Rendon was a questionable draft choice by the Nationals due to his injury concerns. Flash-forward about three years later, and it seems that Rendon is the only Nationals player WITHOUT injury concerns, and the uber-talented Rendon has surely supplanted franchise cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner. Rendon's capable of playing both second and third, but the Nationals won't care where he fits on the diamond as long as he keeps hitting .284/.340/.491 while adding value on the basepaths (3.7 runs) and on defense (2.2 runs).

Matt Carpenter - 3B

From non-prospect to legitimate All-Star, Carpenter might be the most surprising emergent star in baseball. An on-base machine with a great hit tool and good patience, Carpenter's power is slightly down from his ridiculous 2013, but the move back to his old stomping grounds at third base has turned him into a plus defender. He's been worth nearly three wins already this season, and if he keeps chugging along at this pace, he could be the most valuable player on that loaded Cardinals roster -- for the second season in a row.

Jason Heyward - RF

Upton here, Upton there, but the best outfielder in Atlanta is still Jason Heyward. Almost an afterthought after so much up-and-down performance with his bat, Heyward is anything but up-and-down as an elite defensive outfielder. All he really needs to do is hit at a league-average clip to be a very valuable asset -- and that's exactly what he's done so far in 2014. If he bumps up his power and his average just a hair, he goes from a borderline All-Star to a serious threat to the rest of the NL East.

Hunter Pence - RF

Hard to watch, easy to love. He's basically a lock to show up 155-162 games per season, and there's something about his time in San Francisco that agrees with his bat (.301/.360/.472 this season). He's also turned into a truly elite baserunner, adding an additional half a win with his legs in just half a year. In a year chock full of talented right fielders, Pence deserves a seat at the table too.

Carlos Gomez - CF

Gomez, last year's starter among the Beyond the Box Score All-Stars, swaps places with Andrew McCutchen as a reserve this year. His offense has actually risen since his breakout last year, thanks to an improving walk rate, but the advanced defensive metrics don't quite love him as much as 2013. Nevertheless, he's an awesome center fielder in the midst of a very impressive peak.

Billy Hamilton - CF

Much has been written about Billy Hamilton, one of the most exciting and dynamic young players in baseball. And while his speed is his calling card, the potential Rookie of the Year. He's -- kind of surprisingly -- hitting somewhere close to a league-average mark (94 wRC+), and that means his tremendous speed on the basepaths and defense make him a very valuable asset.

No National League player received more votes in the "wild card" round of voting than Hamilton (13 of 19 possible votes), and that could perhaps be due to the excitement he brings to the field. But it also could be because he's a deserving candidate.

Corey Dickerson - LF

Coming into the season, Dickerson probably wasn't even the fourth-most-likely Rockies outfielder to make the All-Star team. But he's outshone everyone on the squad, albeit in limited action, and there's a good chance he's a better option than real-life All-Star Charlie Blackmon. Dickerson's hit for loads of power -- even for a guy working at Coors Field -- and is walking about 10% on the season. He's been an offensive load, and even though it might not continue, he's been good enough to warrant consideration among a weak left field crop.

On to the pitchers!

Name Position Team
Adam Wainwright SP STL
Johnny Cueto SP CIN
Stephen Strasburg SP WAS
Madison Bumgarner SP SFG
Jeff Samardzija* SP CHC
Jordan Zimmermann SP WAS
Zack Greinke SP LAD
Craig Kimbrel RP ATL
Steve Cishek RP MIA
Aroldis Chapman RP CIN

* - Voted in, replaced due to a trade to an American League team (Oakland Athletics).

Adam Wainwright - SP

It's almost boring how good Adam Wainwright is. It was an extremely close vote between Wainwright and Kershaw for the starting spot among the NL starting pitching crop, and while Kershaw has posted ridiculous peripherals among a smaller crop of innings, Wainwright has posted slightly-less-ridiculous peripherals over 131 innings. His ERA (1.79) and his FIP (2.50) -- along with his propensity to rack up sick innings counts -- scream "true ace"

There may be a *slight* chance Wainwright will regress in the second half, as he's benefitting from very low BABIP (.251) and home run-to-fly ball rates (3.5%) -- but regression from Wainwright will probably just turn him into a very good #1 starter, instead of a great one.

Johnny Cueto - SP

He's probably still the most under-the-radar ace in baseball, but count on the BtBS writing staff to give the Reds hurler his due. Cueto has bounced back from an injury-marred 2013 to return to his groundball-inducing ways, but he's also amped up his strikeouts and dragged his ERA for the season down to 1.99. Yes, Cueto's FIP sits nearly a full run higher than his ERA, but over the past few years he's pulled the Matt Cain maneuver of high-FIP / low-ERA, and it could possibly be a skill in Cueto's case. Regardless, he can't be ignored.

Stephen Strasburg - SP

Welcome to the post-hype world where Stephen Strasburg is no longer the new hot pitching thing. He's not Jose Fernandez, he's not Matt Harvey, he's the "old man" who's simply shoving it during his age-25 season. Stras is healthy (119 and 1/3 innings so far), his strikeout rate is hot (28.2%), his walk rate is down (4.8%), and despite dealing with a crazy BABIP (.341), he's performing as one of the top-5 pitchers in the NL this season.

Madison Bumgarner - SP

Since coming to the big leagues, Bumgarner has been steady as they come. Compared to his career numbers, his ERA- is slightly worse (90 ERA-), and his FIP- is slightly better (82 FIP-), but he's basically the same pitcher he was last season, and the season before that. He's about 10-20% better than the league average, and with Matt Cain going and Tim Lincecum gone -- at least in terms of performance -- it is nice that the Giants have one consistent All-Star at the top of their rotation.

Jeff Samardzija - SP

Yes, we voted Jeff Samardzija into our All-Star team before his transition to the Bay Area. The Shark was solid in 108 innings in Chicago, despite his lack of run support. He's not been quite as dominant as, say, Clayton Kershaw -- but he's posted the lowest ERA (2.83) and FIP (3.07) of his rising career.

Samardzija will appear on our AL team as an honorary member of the team, but he was replaced on our NL roster by Yadier Molina, who received the next-most votes in our final round of voting. No, the NL team doesn't have a whole lot of pitchers on it, but arbitrary rules are arbitrary rules.

Jordan Zimmermann - SP

Perennially overlooked as part of a stacked Washington rotation, Zim has improved from being a three-win starter over the past three years to being a three-win starter ... in the first half of 2014. Since he doesn't have flashy strikeout stuff (21.4% strikeout rate this year), he doesn't hit the highlight reels quite as often.

You know what? I think Alex Skillin should explainjust how good Zimmermann has been and give me a break.

Zack Greinke - SP

Greinke was actually the final selection for this team before Jeff Samardzija's trade opened up a slot for Yadier Molina. His success this season is almost boring, as he's posting similar numbers to his previous season with the Dodgers while -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- amping up the strikeouts. All-Star.

Craig Kimbrel - RP

All hail the best reliever in baseball! When the BtBS writers had to select three relief pitchers to make up our All-Star team, Kimbrel was a near-unanimous selection. Over the last 3.5 seasons, Kimbrel has been on a Rivera-esque run, except with more strikeouts and less postseason experience. As long as relievers have a place on the All-Star team, Kimbrel has a place there too.

Steve Cishek - RP

The Marlins' closer sneaks onto the All-Star team as a result of solid peripherals -- including a good strikeout rate -- and a host of high-leverage innings. I'm actually a little surprised another Marlin made the squad after Giancarlo Stanton's selection, yet here we are. Only three relievers made the team, so that's saying something very positive about Cishek's season thus far.

Unfortunately, Cishek has given up six runs in his last five outings -- and all of a sudden this looks like a less impressive pick for our staff. As far as relievers go, there are certainly worse choices.

Aroldis Chapman - RP

We finish up with one of the best stories of the season: Aroldis Chapman's comeback from a terrifying head injury. The Cuban lefty has always been a flamethrower, but this season PITCHf/x is telling us that his average fastball velocity is up to 100 miles per hour. With that comes an unbelievable strikeout rate of 50.5%. Let's state that again: Aroldis Chapman is striking out more than half the batters he faces.

His ERA (2.55) hasn't caught up to his peripherals (0.80 FIP) yet; if it did, he'd be a legend. Chapman's current FIP- of 20 means he's 80% better than league-average -- a feat only matched by Joakim Soria of the Rangers.

All of our ballots through both phases of the voting can be found in a Google Doc here.

In the comments below, we want to hear from our readers. Who is the biggest omission on our NL team? Would you have voted the same way as any of our contributors? Leave us a comment below, or hit us up on Twitter, and we'll be happy to respond.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.

Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @bgrosnick.

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