We're finishing our posts on the Beyond the Box Score All-Star Game picks with the National League reserves! These players have submitted the finest performances of the 2015 season, and we (as a group) are pleased to consider them worth of All-Star status.
First, let's recap our NL All-Star starters.
Not so bad! Only Paul Goldschmidt and Todd Frazier return as starters from our 2014 squad, though Scherzer and Posey made the team as 2014 reserves. To read more, check out the post on our starters here.
To recap, here's our process for deciding on the reserves:
That's it. So let's get to it — our National League position player All-Star reserves!
Here's a rundown on each of the players who've made the team.
Yasmani Grandal - C
Grandal has been a coup for the Dodgers, as the team both offloaded Matt Kemp's salary (and lately-bad performance) and added a catcher who's both a plus framer and an elite bat. So far, Baseball Prospectus's framing metrics rate Grandal as the best in baseball at turning balls into strikes, with 14.3 framing runs added this season.
But beyond the leather, there is wood. And this year? So much wood. Grandal has a reputation as an above-average catcher, but in 2015 he's killing it. You expect the high OBP (.390 this year) because of his patience, but he's already knocked 14 homers as well. He's doing it all ... and still juuust beat out the man who replaced him in San Diego -- Derek Norris -- in our backup catcher voting.
Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Rizzo is getting to be an expert at playing the second banana. Despite a dynamite offensive season (.408 OBP and .546 slugging), he's stuck behind the otherworldly Paul Goldschmidt in our voting for the second straight season. At least Rizzo is the biggest young star in Chicago, right? There's no way that he would be overshadowed by Kris Bryant or Addison Russell. Oh. Nevermind.
Joey Votto - 1B
This just in: when Joey Votto is healthy, he is one of the best bats in the bigs. You may have forgotten that due to his 62-game effort battling injury last season, but this year he's already back on track. Of course, he's still a base-reaching machine who only pops out once a year or so -- but he's on pace for 30 homers as well. So that should put a damper on those Cincy talk radio hosts that say he needs to be "more aggressive" or that his contract is too bloated, right? Oh. Nevermind.
Freddie Freeman - 1B
No sir, I do not agree with this choice, personally. I mean, of course Freeman is a talented offensive player who's consistently played at an All-Star level (wRC+ of 140 or better) over the past three seasons. But this year, he didn't get very many votes in our wild card system ... he only made the team because the Braves needed a representative. And Shelby Miller was at least as good of a choice (No. 5 in baseball in BP's Deserved Run Average), and not yet another first baseman.
And yet ... there's no crime in selecting Freddie Freeman to an All-Star team. There's a decent chance that guys like Rizzo and Goldschmidt and Votto lock up this spot on the All-Star diamond for several years down the road. This may be Freddie's best chance to hang a piece of hardware over the mantel.
Dee Gordon - 2B
The NL starter at the keystone -- at least for the real ASG -- has had a great start to the season, again. Just like in 2014, Gordon was a blazing-hot bat to start the season, using his speed and hit tool to log a wRC+ of 151 in April. Gordon was still strong in May, but his wRC+ dropped down to 124. In June, it continued to fall to 92. July has been a disaster, at least so far -- his wRC+ is -5 for the first week-plus of the month. As Sweet Dee's BABIP goes, so does his offense -- and his BABIP has fallen by over 200 points as the season's gone on.
But early performance still counts, and though Gordon is fading fast, he's still given his team a lot of value this season. His defense, only considered average-ish by major metrics last season, gets raves now both from metrics like UZR and the eye test. There's the off-chance his WAR metrics won't rise much as the season goes on ... but he's already been quite valuable to the Marlins.
Nolan Arenado - 3B
Nolan Arenado is basically the National League version of Manny Machado, except maybe he's better? This season, he's posting wild numbers, including 24 homers and a .598 slugging percentage. And while those stats are a bit inflated by his home park, Arenado is crushing the ball on the road, pushing a 152 wRC+ away from the friendly confines of Coors Field. Of course, everywhere he goes, he brings a phenomenal glove -- Arenado is the nearly-unquestioned leader in hot corner defense in the National League.
Even though it's just his age-24 season, and even though he's sometimes overshadowed by guys like Machado and the next hitter on our list, Arenado is a top talent in the league, and a no-brainer to back up Todd Frazier on the NL All-Star squad.
Kris Bryant - 3B
With the amount of hype following Bryant's Incredible Hulk-style smashing of minor league pitching, you could see who anything less than an All-Star level of performance would be a disappointment. Well, Bryant hasn't fully tapped into his unreal raw power -- he's only hit 12 homers in the first half of this season, whereas most people had a prediction of 1.2 zillion -- he's doing other things than just hammering the ball. He's playing the outfield on occasion. He's adding almost half a win of value on the basepaths. He's playing much better defense (at least by the numbers) than people may have thought.
Basically, he's not the hitter (yet) that the early results in pro ball had us imagining ... he's only really good (and improving) there. But he's demonstrating significant all-round skills to go with that sweet, sweet bat. Heaven help the Cubs' opposition if Bryant continues to make adjustments at the plate.
Justin Turner - 3B
I'm super-happy that Turner made the team ... he was actually our last player in through the wild card selection process. Turner, since moving to the West Coast, has been a an undeniable offensive force. Last year, a little bit of that was due to an over-.400 BABIP, but this year he's ramping up the power and maintaining world-class offensive production (.395 wOBA). Best of all, he can play multiple infield positions (albeit not very well), making him something like a very, very rich man's Brock Holt.
Brandon Crawford - SS
Truth time, with the benefit of hindsight, Crawford might have been a better choice to start for the NL team. His offensive come-up this year -- the benefit of an unexpected age-28 power surge -- has made him a legitimate threat as a hitter. Where he was once viewed as a defense-only shortstop and a liability at the plate, he's now a defensive star at short who can more than hold his own in a lineup. While it remains to be seen if the power will stick at this level, Crawford has done plenty to assert himself as a top-5 shortstop in baseball over the last year or so.
Nori Aoki - LF
Truth time, Nori Aoki probably isn't worthy of the label "All-Star." Sure, he's a fine player, and the Giants got an amazing deal when they inked him to a crazy one-year, $4 million contract this offseason -- but he's likely not on the same level as other guys who missed our squad, like Matt Carpenter or Adrian Gonzalez. However, Aoki plays left field (sometimes). And more than anything else, Aoki has the ability to repeat his unique skill set like clockwork, season after season. This year, his boring-but-effective strategy of never striking out or hitting for power, but reaching base with alacrity (.383 OBP in 2015), has been highly useful for a here-and-back-again Giants offense.
Andrew McCutchen - CF
Remember how Cutch was less than impressive to start the 2015 campaign? Me neither. It's possible that Cutch is -- despite Bryce Harper's gonzo 2015 -- still the best player in the National League. No other player combines three things: offensive dominance, defensive adequacy at a critical position, and old-school consistency in the way that Mccutcheon does. He's very close to the same rate stats he had last season, with a .392 OBP and a .500 slugging percentage, making him a top-five hitter in the Senior Circuit. The defensive numbers will pitch and roll with time, but he's well on his way to his fourth consecutive season worth more than six and a half wins by fWAR.
Hot new names are coming up the ranks, but Andrew McCutchen is still a premium performer, and is showing precious little sign of decline.
A.J. Pollock - CF
On pace for a five-win season of his own, Pollock is peaking as a hitter and fielder at exactly the same time. His offensive output -- never special in the minors -- has been turned up over the past two years in Arizona. This season, Pollock is a legitimate threat for a 20/40 season, and his defense is something pretty special in center field. Between Paul Goldschmidt and himself, the Diamondbacks are featuring two legitimate, excellent All-Stars in their prime. Let's hope it doesn't go to waste.
Giancarlo Stanton - RF
Another freak injury is eliminating Stanton from playing in the All-Star Game this year, but before that, he was just doing his thing. His thing, by the way, is hitting baseballs impossibly hard. Now frozen at 27 home runs, it's possible that Stanton could threaten the HR title this season after he returns from his wrist injury. Of course Stanton isn't all power -- his approach at the plate is solid, and his defense may be better than it's ever been. But the power is already a thing of legend, and will ever overshadow all else about the man and his play. He's a player living in the shadow of an 80-grade tool, and one of the finest hitting specimens in baseball. Get well soon.
Ryan Braun - RF
This legitimately surprised me. Not because of Braun's previous PED suspensions -- those are old news by now. But through this process, the Brew Crew didn't warrant an All-Star through two rounds of selection, so our team was forced to pick a player from the team. There were actually a few good candidates: Francisco Rodriguez and Will Smith have been effective relief options, and Adam Lind has substantially out-hit Braun this season.
Nevertheless, Braun is still a diminished version of his old self -- the self that was an MVP winner and perennial All-Star. He's still a bat-first outfielder who's a complete liability in the field, and he's still packing enough power and patience to be a substantially above-average hitter. But his wRC+ of 126 this season is the lowest among all NL outfielders who didn't get a job just because they were left fielders (sorry, Mr. Upton and Mr. Aoki). Actually, Aoki's a good comp. Braun is hitting about as well as Nori Aoki, just in a wildly different way. And Braun's an awful outfielder.
But ... he's also an All-Star! Life has a way of surprising us sometimes.
Now, it's on to the pitchers!
Jacob deGrom - SP
Only one starting pitcher was a unanimous selection amongst our crew, and it was the Mets' surprise ace. Jacob deGrom has, with little warning, unseated Matt Harvey as the best pitcher in Queens, following a version of Harvey's blueprint to success. He's doing everything right currently, supplementing a solid strikeout rate with pinpoint control, all moving towards a miniature 2.14 ERA and 2.63 FIP.
There's a non-zero chance that two or three Mets starters make next year's All-Star team, as Harvey is still a star and youngsters Steven Matz and Noah Sydergaard have enormous potential. But right now, deGrom is the best of a tremendous bunch, and likely the second- or third-best starting pitcher in the National League today.
Clayton Kershaw - SP
Kershaw missed unanimity among our staff by a single vote, which is quite a sight better than the turn he took from the real-world selection committee. Clayton has had an uncharacteristically high ERA this season, especially in the early going, but he has since settled back in as an unquestioned force at throwing hard objects past the most skilled athletes on the planet. His 32.7 percent strikeout rate this season is a career high, impressive even by his own lofty standards. Now in his peak, he's about a season or two away from amassing enough value to be considered for the Hall of Fame, which could put him on track to just bank stats in his 30s and take his place among the all-time greats.
He's pretty much the very definition of an All-Star.
Gerrit Cole - SP
It's pretty damn hard to live up to the hype of a first overall pick, but Gerrit Cole is starting to make it look easy. There's an argument to be made that Cole isn't even the best pitcher on his own team this year (A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano are dealing as well), but Cole has made the jump to front-of-the-rotation stalwart on his own. His strikeout rate is finally catching up to his powerful stuff, and he's nearly fanning a batter per inning. At the same time, he's leveraging a very tasty ground ball rate of 52.7%, and that's the kind of number that makes your strikeout stuff play up and gets you out of jams.
Is it fair that the Pirates have an embarrassment of riches right now, with Cole and Liriano and Burnett in the rotation, with Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon on the way. Yeah, probably. Remember the '90s and '00s? Yeeeesh.
Zack Greinke - SP
The real-world NL All-Star starter is quietly dominating, as per his modus operandi. His peripherals aren't where they were back in '09, or even where they were in '14, but Greinke is stranding almost every runner he lets aboard. His 89.5 percent strand rate is the kind of thing that even closers dream about, and it makes up for 22.8 percent strikeout rate that's a bit below his recent excellence.
There's really only one number that matters to the All-Star Game discussion with Greinke: his 1.39 ERA. It really doesn't matter how you get there, if you put up that tiny number over the first half of a season, you're going to the mid-summer classic, full stop.
Jake Arrieta - SP
Someone is trying to convince me that his 2014 performance was not a fluke, and he is certainly succeeding. To the chagrin of Orioles fans everywhere, Arrieta is continuing to live up to his top prospect potential, just about three years too late for those in Baltimore. The Cubs' ace is posting numbers strikingly similar to last season, with only a slight uptick in FIP differing much. But when "uptick" means "you're still keeping it below 2.75", you're allowed to have all the upticks you like. The only thing remaining to be seen is if this performance can continue during what will likely be the largest workload of his career.
A.J. Burnett - SP
It's a little funny how a guy so maligned for being such a poor fit in New York when pitching for the Yankees could be such a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. After a year on the eastern side of the state, Burnett returned to the scene of his rebirth, and is putting up the best season of his long career. His ground ball rate has risen, his walk rate has returned to it's previous levels, and he's proving that while you may not be able to run out the clock forever, you can still be a very, very effective starter into your late 30s.
Madison Bumgarner - SP
I have unpopular opinions about Madison Bumgarner. I believe that he's a very good pitcher, but not the kind of earth-saving, senses-shattering ace that some others believe him to be. I believe he's a guy who's pitching very well at the peak of his powers right now, but as we close in on his age-30 season, his combination of stuff and skill may make him look more like John Candelaria than Randy Johnson. I believe his commercials for pants are a little much.
Nevertheless, he probably deserves some credit for one of the finest post-season pitching runs in recent years -- perhaps even more credit than he's already received. And his consistency certainly warrants consideration in the All-Star discussion. Bumgarner may not be one of the 10 best pitchers in the National League right now, or even this year so far, but he's a very good one with quite the track record, and I believe that's why he made this team.
Cole Hamels - SP
It's time for our token Phillie! With apologies to Maikel Franco, who is putting on a clinic on how to be an effective (and overlooked) rookie hitter, the world's most talked about trade chip is the best player on the worst team in baseball. Hamels may be having the worst season among our All-Star starters -- I personally believe Johnny Cueto, Shelby Miller, Francisco Liriano, and maybe half the Cardinals' rotation may deserve a spot over him -- he's still pitching at a very high level despite what must be some of the worst conditions in the sport.
It's bad enough pitching in the bandbox in Philly when your team is good, but doing it during a lost season such as this one? Hopefully Hamels will find himself in a fresh start somewhere else before 2015 is out.
Aroldis Chapman - RP
I'm just gonna put this here.
A.J. Ramos - RP
At Beyond the Box Score, you can never question our commitment to putting dudes named "A.J." on the NL All-Star team. Our third A.J. is definitely the most unexpected, a sudden emergence from the depths of the Miami bullpen. Now the closer for the Marlins, Ramos has been nigh-unhittable, posting a 1.11 ERA in 40 innings of work. He's also posted 19 shutdowns against just four meltdowns.
Trevor Rosenthal - RP
Last, but not least, is Rosenthal. After almost running himself out of town last year, the Cardinals' flame-throwing righty has been much more reliable this season. In 2014, he had 13 meltdowns, almost a 1:3 ratio with his 37 shutdowns. That marks him as a guy only three times as likely to put out the fire as to light it back up. This year, he's got five meltdowns to 22 shutdowns, and the ratio looks closer to 1:4.5. Rosenthal may not have his same gaudy strikeout totals this year from previous seasons, but he's giving up fewer runs and showcasing his reliability. My guess is that St. Louis fans will take it.
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, and we'll be happy to respond.
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