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Tag:Hunter Pence
Posted on: July 26, 2011 1:41 am
 

Astros latest team to fall victim to U2

U2By C. Trent Rosecrans

Count the Houston Astros among the growing number of teams none too thrilled with U2.

Following Monday's loss to the Cardinals, several Astros complained about the new grass surface at Busch Stadium. U2 held a concert at Busch Stadium on July 17 and the team stripped the outfield of grass and re-sodded it afterwards. With the high temperatures, it was difficult for the grass to take root in time for Monday's game, the first post-Bono game held at Busch Stadium, Derrek Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.

The Edge and company helped the home team in the second inning, when Astros right fielder Hunter Pence slipped on the new sod, allowing St. Louis' Nick Punto to cruise to a triple and drive in a run. St. Louis added another with a one-out fielder's choice by starter Kyle McClellan.

"We knew there was a new sod and ground balls were going to be tougher," Pence told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. "We really didn't expect all the slipping to go down."

Center fielder Michael Bourn said he had trouble all game.

"If you try to plant good, you'll end up falling," Bourn told Levine.

He added, "You could tell it's very new out there. The cracks are still in the ground, which means the grass had just been planted. We just had to try to get used to it. It's real hard to keep your ground out there. It's real hard to keep your feet underneath you."

Manager Brad Mills said the team was "not thrilled" with the state of the field.

"You want the sure footing and so forth, but it wasn't there and it cost us a little bit," Mills said.

U2 has already given the Mariners an unfair advantage in its series with the Marlins, with three of Florida's "home games" being played at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners won two of the three games.

A U2 concert at Angel Stadium in Anaheim forced the Angels to go on a 12-game road trip that covered more than 8,000 miles. The Angels went 8-4 on the trip and showed no ill-effects on their next homstand, winning 11 of 13 upon their return.

Oakland didn't have quite as long of a road trip as their AL West brethren, going on just a 10-game trip because of U2's concert in Oakland. However, they didn't handle it as well as the Angels, going 1-9 on the 10-game trip to facilitate the band, that like the A's peaked in the late 80s and early 90s.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 1:02 am
Edited on: July 26, 2011 8:21 am
 

Monday's trade rumor roundup

By C. Trent Rosecrans

As the non-waiver trade deadline looms on Sunday, the rumors are coming fast and furious -- with some make sense and others not so much. Much of what you hear at this time of year is a smokescreen, but baseball fans love gossip more than junior high school girls, with less regard to the truth. So, to help satisfy that desire, we're rounding up the day's rumors in one place.

• The Rays won't deal James Shields, our own CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler reports. Tampa Bay has told other teams that they won't discuss Shields, David Price or Jeremy Hellickson. That said, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are available, as is B.J. Upton.

MLB Trade Deadline

• The Rays are also offering closer Kyle Farnsworth to anyone interested, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

• CBSSports.com's Scott Miller says he's also heard that the Phillies have "way cooled" on acquiring Carlos Beltran, backing up Knobler's report from Sunday.

• Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets the Rangers and Giants are ahead of the Phillies and Braves as of Monday.

• The chance of the Rockies dealing Ubaldo Jimenez is "around 50/50" FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi writes, citing a "major-league source close to the talks." He adds the Reds are still involved and the Tigers are interested as well. Morosi reports one team has exchanged names with the Rockies.

• The Reds are drawing interest on right-hander Edinson Volquez, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets.

• The Cardinals and Nationals have talked about sending Todd Coffey -- a former Red and Brewer -- to St. Louis. The team would like to keep Tyler Clippard, but if someone wows them, they're open, Morosi tweets.

• The Yankees won't move top prospects -- such as left-hander Manny Banuelos, right-hander Dellin Betances or catchers Jesus Montero or Austin Romine -- unless they get an ace-type pitcher in return, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.

• The Phillies are "aggressive" on Heath Bell and Mike Adams of the Padres, but are surprised they aren't getting more interest fron the Yankees, Cardinals and Reds, Sherman tweets.

• Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is available, but with $40 million left on his contract, another general manager tells Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, "nobody's going to touch Wandy."

• Hiroki Kuroda would consider waiving his no-trade clause if he's sent to the Yankees or Red Sox, "a baseball official"  tells ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. However, the teams "hottest" on Kuroda are reportedly the Indians, Tigers and Rangers, according to Rosenthal.

• It's not a trade, but a player acquisition -- the Brewers, Giants, Mariners and A's are interested in Wily Mo Pena, who was released by the Diamondbacks on Sunday, Heyman tweets. He makes the most sense in the American League where he doesn't need a glove. [Heyman]

• Aaron Harang had been mentioned in some trade talks, but there are reports that San Diego would like to keep him and re-sign him, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Harang, a San Diego native, would love to stay there -- and keep pitching in Petco Park.

• The Phillies are interested in Colorado's Jason Giambi, Rosenthal tweets. Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post tweets the Pirates are interested in Giambi as well. He's hitting .263/.360/.632 with 10 homers in 111 plate appearances. Giambi had talked about possibly moving to an American League team to DH, but he could still be a valuable left-handed bat off the bench for a National League team. [FoxSports.com and Denver Post]

• The Braves are still interested in the Astros' Hunter Pence, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.

• Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer the team probably wouldn't make a big move at the trade deadline, instead hoping the team can improve from within -- especially with the addition of Fernando Rodney from the disabled list.

• Texas manager Ron Washington called the bullpen a "priority" at the trading deadline, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.

• One reliever who won't be available to the Rangers, or anyone, is Seattle closer Brandon League. Chuck Armstrong tells Morosi a trade involving League is not likely.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 24, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Could Hunter Pence be a fit with Mariners?

Pence

By Evan Brunell

Over the last two games, I had the pleasure -- if one could call it that -- of watching the Mariners battle the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

To no one's surprise, Seattle lost the first two games, running its losing streak to 14. It's gotten so desperate out in Seattle that manager Eric Wedge lopped off his enormous handlebar mustache to try to shake things up.

Unfortunately, the loss of Wedge's mustache won't mitigate the brutal offense of the team. In fact, there's only one player in Seattle's regular starting lineup that would have a prayer of cracking Boston's lineup. That's second baseman Dustin Ackley, who bats third for Seattle. The problem is, while he would certainly supplant shortstop Marco Scutaro in Boston's lineup, he can't play short and Dustin Pedroia isn't stepping aside for Ackley.

Seattle was a historically inept offensive club last season, and while its improved this year, it's not by much. Before this losing streak, Seattle was right in the thick of the division race, but it's hard to stay in the hunt when you just can't push runs across. Improving the team's offense is of the highest priority int he offseason, but why wait there?

Hunter Pence of the Astros would be a great fit for Seattle, and the Mariners can bring Pence in immediately to at least try to end the season on a high note.

There are three ways Pence fits with the Mariners. First is his offense, obviously. Second is his position of right field, and lastly is his age and contract.

If the Mariners acquired Pence, he would certainly start batting third or fourth in the order on the strength of his .309/.354/.474 mark. While it's not a career-best line, it is his best offensive performance relative to the league, as his .322/.360/.539 mark back in 2007 was in a healthier offensive climate. The ways that Pence would upgrade Seattle are clear -- it's the same way Pence would upgrade every other team. He's a strong hitter with the ability to steal 20 bases in a season and is also a strong fielder.

Speaking of fielding, Pence plays right field, a position occupied by Ichiro Suzuki. That's not a problem, though, because Pence could easily shift to left field and then become Ichiro's eventual replacement, should Pence remain with the Mariners at the time. Mike Carp is currently the (new) starting left fielder, so isn't exactly blocking anyone as a Quad-A player trying to make good in the bigs.

The negative -- if you can call it that -- on Pence is his contract. He's making $6.9 million on the season and has two more years of arbitration to go. Given Pence will likely crack $10 million in arbitration earnings next season, that means his price is rising, and rising fast. On the other hand, Pence offers two additional years of team control beyond 2011, which would be a must in Seattle's case.

It's not about 2011 anymore; it's about 2012 and beyond for Seattle. The pitching is rounding into shape, and now it's time for the offense to take hold. Prince Fielder has been linked to Seattle in the past, but free agency is never a sure bet. Besides, even with Pence on the team, it wouldn't preclude a run at Fielder, which would suddenly give Seattle something resembling a solid offense. People forget, but Seattle is a big-market team that hasn't played big market for a few years. Back in 2008, its $118 million payroll ranked ninth in all of baseball. In 2011, the Mariners are 16th with an $84 million payroll. Seattle has money to play with, so Pence's salary isn't as important as the fact Seattle would control him through 2013 at the earliest.

Of course, what the M's would have to give up in a trade has to be considered. It's safe to say that Michael Pineda won't go anywhere, but the M's have a deep enough farm system that they could get a deal done if they so desired.

Here's where we mention that there hasn't been anything linking Pence to the Mariners whatsoever. Either that's because there's nothing there or both teams are doing a stupendous job keeping quiet about it. But it's a move Seattle needs to consider to upgrade its offense. Dabbling in free agency won't be enough. Seattle has to strike soon to bolster the offense and give the team a chance to win.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Trade Deadline Primer: NL Central

By Eye On Baseball Team

We're approaching the one-week mark in the countdown to the trade deadline, and on this Friday afternoon we'll take a look at the one division in baseball with six teams. In addition to having six teams, the NL Central also shows four teams that are 100 percent in contention, so things should be quite interesting here as we move closer to July 31. Let's dive in.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Status: Buyers (now that just looks weird, no?).
Needs: Big bat -- likely corner infielder or right fielder -- setup reliever, shortstop.
Notes: The best news for Pirates fans is the increased attendance will help the budget and that the Pirates are looking to buy -- and they'll even trade prospects to help the present cause. That's quite the change, but a good one. Hunter Pence is the hot name here, but there are conflicting reports about whether he's available (see Astros below). Josh Willingham and Conor Jackson have been connected to the Pirates. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN adds Ryan Ludwick to that list, and ESPN's Buster Olney throws in David DeJesus. Remember, the Pirates don't really need a right fielder, but acquiring one would allow them to move Garrett Jones to first base and take Lyle Overbay's spot. Could Carlos Beltran be a fit? It's been reported he's a possibility. At first, the Pirates are reportedly not interested in Carlos Pena (Fox Sports). They haven't really been rumored to be in on other first basemen, either, so it would appear they prefer to move Jones from right. Some relief pitching names in the mix: Koji Uehara, Rafael Betancourt, Grant Balfour, Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch (via John Perratto). Olney reports the bullpen is the main focus. Finally, as if to rain on the parade, Olney reports that the Pirates are actually being pretty careful and don't want to cough up "major assets." So if everything is true, it sounds as if we'll see the Pirates add a lesser bat and some middle relief, but not make a huge splash.

MLB Trade Deadline
Milwaukee Brewers
Status: All in.
Needs: Shortstop, third base and outfield depth.
Notes: The most likely outcome this coming offseason is Prince Fielder signing elsewhere, so the Brewers are pushing all their chips into the pot for a run at the 2011 World Series. The farm system has very few trading chips, but the Brewers will still do pretty much anything they can to get better for the short term. Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee definitely show as weaknesses for this season, so the Brewers are looking for upgrades. They were looking at Wilson Betemit, but the Tigers snatched him up. Jamey Carroll could be a fit, and the Brewers have asked about him (Olney via Twitter). The Brewers have had "internal discussions" about Clint Barmes (Crasnick via Twitter). Also, it appears the Brewers will seek outfield help now that Carlos Gomez is injured (Tom Haudricourt), but no names have surfaced -- and they most certainly don't have the resources to get Beltran.

St. Louis Cardinals
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Pitching, possibly middle infield.
Notes: Colby Rasmus' name won't go away in terms of trade speculation, but the Cardinals continue to insist the young center fielder isn't going anywhere (Olney via Twitter). If the Rays worked up some creative proposal sending B.J. Upton and James Shields to the Cardinals for a package that included Rasmus and some prospects, however, that tune could always change. For now, though, we'll set that aside and concentrate on more realistic scenarios. The Cardinals are reportedly aggressive in trying to get a starting pitcher, with names like Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis being in the mix. Those names aren't really sexy, and that's likely because the Cardinals' budget is tight (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Some reports make it seem as if the Cards are desperate for a right-handed reliever (Olney). How about former closer Jason Isringhausen, who said he feels as if there's "unfinished business" for him in St. Louis (Post-Dispatch)? Also, the Cards have reportedly shown interest in Blue Jays relievers -- such as Jon Rauch and Jason Frasor.

Cincinnati Reds
Status: Buyers.
Needs: Starting pitching, middle relievers, possibly shortstop or left field.
Notes: The Reds have been connected to the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez rumors, but Jeremy Guthrie is much more likely, per Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. The interesting new name is James Shields, as the Rays are reportedly at least considering moving the All-Star starter who outdueled CC Sabathia last night. Hiroki Kuroda and Francisco Liriano could also surface, but those are long shots. Something to watch: Catcher Ramon Hernandez is having a good season and is a free agent after the season. Devin Mesoraco could be ready to step in, making Hernandez someone the Reds could part with, and several contending teams could use a rental catcher. The prospect-rich Reds could certainly make a huge splash if they wanted to -- and they're definitely buying (MLB.com) -- but the inability to add tons of salary might prevent a blockbuster.

Chicago Cubs
Status: Sellers, kind of.
Players available: Not nearly enough.
Notes: General manager Jim Hendry is insistent that the Cubs can be competitive next season, so he's holding on tightly to far too many players. You want left-handed reliever Sean Marshall or utilityman Jeff Baker? Nope. Can't have them. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza are also reportedly unavailable, per Peter Gammons of MLB Network. Aramis Ramirez has publicly stated on several occasions he wants to remain with the Cubs and won't waive his no-trade clause for anyone. Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano said he'd waive his, but he has an albatross of a contract. Still, the Cubs are reportedly willing to eat a large chunk of his remaining salary just to move him (ESPN Chicago) -- the only question is if he's attractive enough to anyone to add. An American League team could make him a DH and just hope he gets hot, as he's been known to do for stretches. Marlon Byrd and John Grabow do appear to be available, and the Indians have reportedly shown interest in Kosuke Fukudome. Still, the most interesting storyline with the Cubs appears to be Hendry holding on to so many players so tightly. Shouldn't Starlin Castro be the only truly untouchable player?

Houston Astros
Status: Sellers
Players available: Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers ... Hunter Pence?
Notes: There have been conflicting reports on Pence's availability for the past week or so. Every time someone says the Astros are shopping Pence, another reporter has a source say they really aren't. Jon Heyman of SI.com reported Friday that the Astros were asking for so much for Pence that opposing general managers weren't sure he was being seriously shopped. Heyman did note the Astros are working much harder to move Rodriguez and Myers, even willing to absorb salary in order to trade either. Gammons reported the Astros want as much for Rodriguez as the Rockies do for Ubaldo Jimenez, which doesn't seem realistic. As for Michael Bourn, he doesn't seem available. One reporter noted the only reason you hear his name is that reporters keep asking about him.

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Posted on: July 18, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Pence to Pirates is hot new trade rumor

By Matt Snyder

As the Ubaldo Jimenez speculation fire continues to burn, we now have our next hot trade rumor: The Pirates have scouted Hunter Pence (PittsburghLive.com). Pence is hitting .321 with 11 homers, 61 RBI and an .852 OPS. He also has a great throwing arm, as we saw in the All-Star Game.

Now, just as with the Jimenez talk, let's not get carried away here. Scouting a player doesn't mean the teams have exchanged names or will ever talk about a trade. It's just the first of many steps. Still, this could make sense for both teams.

The best argument for the Astros to keep Pence is that they need to rebuild around someone and he's their obvious best player. You can say he's young, but he's 28. The Astros aren't anywhere near contention, so he could be 31 (or older) before they're ready to make a run at the NL Central again. Why not deal him and get a big prospect package back? I feel like that would make more sense, because the likes of Carlos Lee and Brett Myers aren't landing much in return at this point. Pence and Wandy Rodriguez are the ones who need to be moved in an effort to start the rebuilding process.

As for the Pirates, first of all, it's pretty cool to see them as buyers. Variety can be good and the Pirates fans have suffered for quite a while. But let's talk baseball.

There are more pressing needs than right field for the Pirates. Shortstop and third base are weak -- unless Pedro Alvarez all of a sudden is promoted and explodes -- and Lyle Overbay could be upgraded at first. A catcher upgrade would help, though there aren't really many, if any, good ones available. Some extra help in middle relief couldn't hurt either. But if the Pirates could get a star like Pence, it would enable them to move Garrett Jones to first and it does strengthen the lineup as a whole in a pretty big way. Plus, Pence still has a decent chunk of his prime left and the Pirates' cornerstones would be a duo of outfield stars with Pence and Andrew McCutchen.

So, yes, this feels like a move that could benefit both teams, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen or is in the works. Just a rumor, for now.

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Posted on: July 13, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: July 13, 2011 4:01 am
 

Clippard 'vultures' win thanks to Pence's throw

Brian McCann

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Tyler ClippardThere will be no hiding of the truth when Tyler Clippard tells the tale of his victory in the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix. The Washington Nationals right-hander threw just three pitches in the game and gave up a hit to the only batter he faced, but that was enough to pick up the W in the National League's 5-1 victory on Tuesday.

"No, I'm going to say I grooved an 0-2 heater to [Adrian] Beltre and Hunter Pence threw him out at the plate to vulture a win in my first All-Star Game," Clippard said. "I don't think that story gets any better."

It was certainly enough for Pence, who was playing left field for the first time since 2005 when he was a member of the South Atlantic League Lexington Legends. Pence had a single in the game as well, but it's the throw he'll remember.

"Taking runs away and playing baseball, that's what it's all about, being a complete player," Pence said. "These days in the National League, that's what we're known for, being able to play small ball."

The National League trailed 1-0 when Clippard came in to relieve Cliff Lee and face Beltre with Bautista on second and Josh Hamilton on first and two outs.

"I had a weird intuition that he was going to hit a line drive and I was like, OK, if he's going to hit a line drive, I'm going to make a good throw. I was kind of anticipating it a little bit. McCann was right in position, made a good catch and tag -- that's not easy to do. It happened the way I envisioned it."

Beltre hit a one-hop liner to left and Pence fielded the ball a split second before Bautista touched third base and made a perfect play to McCann, who had time to set up and tag the sliding Bautista to end the inning.

See the play here.

In the bottom of the inning, Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer to give the National League a 3-1 lead and ultimately make Clippard the second National in a row to earn the All-Star win. Last season Matt Capps picked up the victory, like Clippard recording just one out.

"It's one of those weird things that has taken place. Coming into the game right there, that crossed my mind," Clippard said. "I was trying to get out of there without any damage.  We scored at the right time and it happens."

So who is getting the win for the National League in Kansas City?

"[Drew] Storen," Clippard said. "Storen's getting it next year."



For complete All-Star Game coverage, keep up with Eye on Baseball in Phoenix

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Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 11:41 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Under-the-radar All-Star version



By Matt Snyder


PHOENIX - One quick note: We're not going to use Prince Fielder or Roy Halladay as "up" guys because they have separate stories up on them. We'll spread the love a bit.

Hunter Pence, Astros. Pence had a single and scored a run, but that's not why he's here. In the top of the fourth, Adrian Beltre singled to left. Jose Bautista was on second and was sent home to score. Pence apparently didn't like that because he cut Bautista down easily at home with a perfect strike (see above). It didn't even bounce. That throw was the highlight of the night for me.

Heath Bell, Padres. The Padres closer only faced one hitter, but he got his jersey dirty. That's because Bell came sprinting out of the bullpen in Todd Coffey fashion. But when Bell got to the infield, he slid into the infield grass. He even left a huge divot. He was having fun and, dammit, that's what this game is all about. And he did retire the one hitter he faced, too, as Jhonny Peralta popped out.

Starlin Castro, Cubs. The youngest player in the game made his All-Star debut when he pinch-ran at first base for Troy Tulowitzki. Castro made the most of his opportunity, as he stole second and third. It made him the first player to steal two bases in the Midsummer Classic since Kenny Lofton in 1996. We'll just forget about that pesky strikeout and error.



C.J. Wilson, Rangers. The right-hander was tagged with the loss after allowing three hits and three earned runs in his inning. The big blow of the game -- Fielder's go-ahead three-run blast -- came off Wilson, too.

Alex Avila, Tigers. He gave up three stolen bases in one inning. There were Castro's two, and Rickie Weeks also got in on the action. Maybe it was working with an unfamiliar pitcher, but no catcher ever wants to cough up three in one inning.

The fans who booed (which was the majority of the crowd). Now, before I say more, I'll make sure to lay it all out there so there's no misunderstanding. Fans pay to see the game and have every right to boo if they want. I'm not angry about the fact that the fans booed nearly every player that wasn't a Diamondback. I'm shocked. I just don't get it. The All-Star Game is a chance for your city to see all the best players in the league. Instead, the booing was ferocious, even for players where it made absolutely no sense. I'd suggest these fans lighten up and have fun -- like Heath Bell. And no, it's not like that in any other stadium for the All-Star Game. Fans usually just boo rivals and that's it. Of course, I'm sure lots of people think booing is fun -- the same people who think it's awesome to slander people on Twitter and message boards.

For complete All-Star Game coverage, keep up with Eye on Baseball in Phoenix

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

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