Well, I covered the AL yesterday, and so as promised, I'm here to present my present-day NL All Star ballot. As I said before, these are guys who I think have been the best so far. These aren't the players that I actually believe are the best in the game, but they were the best in game at their respective position from the start of the season up to today.
Basically, just think of these guys as the 2006 Chris Shelton All Stars. Some of these guys are quite literally the best players at their positions, but some of these guys are likely to be overtaken by a superior player before the year's over. Either way, as I stuff the ballot today, here are the players who I think have been the best of the best in the NL so far.
NL Catcher: Miguel Olivo, Colorado
I know, I know, I'm as shocked as you are. Miguel Olivo is quietly going crazy in Colorado right now, he's easily been the best catcher in the NL so far this season. The NL's best offensive catcher so far, Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit, has also been the worst defensive catcher in baseball in 2010, while Olivo's offensive marks are nearly as impressive and he's known as a good defender behind the plate as well.
The most interesting aspect of Olivo's season are his 14 walks, which puts him on pace to destroy his career-high of 20 walks from 2004. Compared to his minuscule 4% career walk rate, his 11% mark for this season makes him a completely different hitter. He's always been a guy with huge raw power ( .184 career ISO), but this season he's shown a significantly more patient approach than ever before.
NL First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
This is probably the first time in like five years that there's been a reasonable argument for anyone other than Pujols, as Cincinnati's Joey Votto has a slim lead over Pujols in fWAR among NL first basemen. But Pujols seems highly likely to surpass Votto soon enough, and the differences between their respective numbers at the moment are minimal.
Votto has hit for more power and has graded out slightly better defensively, but Pujols has a better batting average, better OBP and significantly less strikeouts. Considering that Votto has hit home runs on a quarter of his fly balls and he hasn't hit an infield fly once this season, he's almost a guarantee to decline some from here, while the indications are that Pujols doesn't really have anywhere to go but up from here. You could certainly argue that Votto has been better so far, but not by nearly enough to displace the best player in the game.
NL Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
It's Utley, and it's not really close. Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson and David Eckstein (I know, right?) have all had impressive seasons, but Utley continues to show that he's the best second baseman of this generation. He's already been nearly a win better than Uggla, with offensive numbers that would be the best of his career and his usually elite defensive numbers. He was worth roughly 7.4 WAR per season over the past five years, and there's little reason to believe that will discontinue in 2010. We're watching something special with this one.
NL Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
Zimmerman is one of those guys that probably should be regarded as one of the best players in baseball, even though he's constantly omitted from that group. He's always had one of the best gloves in baseball at third base, but his bat has really come along over the years. His .398 wOBA and +8 DRS on the season are the best among NL third basemen, so it shouldn't be surprising that he's the best third basemen in the NL. That might be offensive to fans of David Wright and Pablo Sandoval, but neither of them has matched Zimmerman's combination of plus offense and defense so far.
NL Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
Tulowitzki is out to prove that his monster 2009 wasn't the peak of his career, and he's doing a pretty good job. He leads all NL shortstops in fWAR and he's second in wOBA, behind Arizona's Stephen Drew. He's the anchor of that lineup and while he probably hasn't quite caught up with Hanley Ramirez as the best shortstop in the NL yet, the gap seems to be closing. Although at this point, I think that both Tulowitzki and Drew would be better selections than Ramirez.
NL Outfielders: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago, Andre Ethier, Los Angeles and Jayson Werth, Philadelphia
I felt pretty weird writing in the name "Soriano"; I expected his presence in left field to irritate me and other Cub fans all season, but he's been downright scary the past month or so. His .434 wOBA is the worst of the three outfielders I chose, but it's actually the third-best mark in the NL because the two guys in front of him happen to be the next two guys I'll talk about. Despite his slightly inferior offensive numbers, though, his defense has graded out better than the latter two so his fWAR is currently the best of the three. Soriano's teammate, Marlon Byrd, is actually the fWAR leader among NL outfielders, but his lack of plate discipline is worrisome and his UZR is center field is rather sketchy given his iffy track record there over the years.
Ethier actually has the worst fWAR of any of these guys, easily, because UZR hates his defense so much. But his -10 UZR mark for this season isn't remotely reflective of his skill, there's probably some small sample size or batted ball distribution stuff going on there that's distorting the number's accuracy. Ethier is certainly a below average defender, but if you adjust his numbers so he's a -5 to -10 defender rather than a -58 defender (which is what his UZR projects to over 150 games), he's been arguably the best outfielder in baseball so far. He leads the NL in OBP, slugging, OPS and wOBA by sizable margins, and he's second in the NL in home runs and RBI's despite already having a stint on the 15-Day DL. He's been an absolutely monster with the bat so far.
Werth was touched on yesterday in Lar's debut post here at BtB (a good read, by the way), but he didn't go into much detail on how great Werth has been in 2010 already. He's second in the NL in wOBA and OPS, behind Ethier of course, and his fWAR puts him fifth in the NL, just two runs away from second-place. There just isn't a whole lot of competition behind him, as the only other guy to match him offensively, Ryan Braun, doesn't grade out nearly as well with the glove.
NL Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
This might've been the hardest one, with the seasons that Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson are having. But I just can't quite justify choosing anyone other than Doc here.
His 2.6 fWAR is second in the NL overall and easily the best among NL pitchers. Only Lincecum beats Halladay in FIP and xFIP, but Halladay has already pitched 16 more innings than Lincecum this season. Halladay doesn't miss bats like Lincecum does, but he has superior command, induces more grounders, and eats up more innings. At this point, I just gotta go Halladay. And honestly, of all of the award races this year, I think that the NL Cy Young race is going to be the most interesting. There are some really freaking great pitchers in that league right now.
So we've got a little more diversity here than in the AL, with three players from Philly, two from Colorado, and one each from four other teams. But just like with the AL, we see a solid variety of players, with some potential future Hall of Famers, like Pujols, Utley and Halladay, and some really good players having really great seasons, like Soriano, Werth and Ethier. Then again, there's not really an AL-equivalent of Miguel Olivo, so things aren't exactly identical here. Either way, there are my NL All Stars as of today.