Eye On Baseball Divisional All-Stars: NL East
Division-by-division All-Star teams! Up this time is the circuit that features such names as Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey and Brian McCann.
With the real All-Star teams having been named, the Eye on Baseball crew is in the midst of naming an ad hoc All-Star team for each of MLB's six divisions. It's just a quick, fun exercise we can use for comparison's sake -- i.e. "which division would win in a round-robin format tournament?" -- or for purposes of making you angry. Either one works.
This time around, it's the National League East ...
Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves
The six-time All-Star and five-time Sliver Slugger has done nothing but hit since returning from the disabled list. This season, McCann is batting .294/.371/.518, while the average major-league catcher checks in at .246/.313/.396.
First base: Freddie Freeman, Braves
Freeman owns a healthy OPS+ of 131 (a career high if it holds), and he's a plus defender at the position. It also appears he's headed to the All-Star Game via the Final Vote.
Second base: Chase Utley, Phillies
He's injury-prone and in his decline phase, but Utley remains a strong performer. He's batting .276/.339/.504 this season and is still a defensive asset at the position.
Third base: David Wright, Mets
Wright has rather easily been the NL's most productive third baseman this season, so it follows that he gets the nod for his division.
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Nationals
So far, Desmond's breakout 2012 isn't looking like a fluke. This season, he's on pace for 27 homers and 41 doubles. Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive shortstop in the division, but that doesn't make up for Desmond's huge edge with the bat.
Left field: Domonic Brown, Phillies
Brown, finally given regular playing time, has responded in a big way. He's at 23 homers and counting, and he ranks third in the NL in total bases and fifth in extra-base hits and SLG.
Center field: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Yes, I'm cheating a bit. Harper is a left fielder these days, but in his young career he's spent 727 2/3 defensive innings in center. So I'm sacrificing a bit of defense in order to get Harper's bat in the lineup. Worthy true center fielders are hard to come by in this division.
Right field: Justin Upton, Braves
To state the obvious, Upton came crashing back to earth after his magma-hot start to the season. With that said, he's still batting a solid .251/.350/.461 with 16 homers. As well, Upton has shown signs of life recently, as he's hitting .306/.340/.501 over the last two weeks. He gets the nod over Jayson Werth but not by much. Normally, this spot would go to Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, but he's not hitting up to his usual standards this season.
Designated hitter: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
While Zimmerman's throwing from third base has looked much better of late, he gets bumped to the DH spot by Wright. A strong 126 OPS+ means his bat has a place in this lineup. Chris Johnson's strong season is duly noted, but I fully expect him to regress at some point.
And here's the lineup I'd trot out, with a priority on staggering lefty and righty bats ...
Right-handed starter: Matt Harvey, Mets
The NL East isn't hurting for right-handed starters, what with names like Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Kris Medlen and Jose Fernandez peppering the rosters. But this honor goes to Harvey, the likely NL starter in the All-Star Game.
Left-handed starter: Cliff Lee, Phillies
Cliff Lee is turning in a vintage Cliff Lee campaign: 2.73 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 5.67 K/BB ratio. Only once this season has he failed to make it at least six innings in a start.
Setup man: Luis Avilan, Braves
The 23-year-old lefty is on pace to work 67 2/3 innings, and he owns an ERA of 1.43. The strikeout rate is improbably low, but he's yet to allow a home run on the season. Avilar's also limiting the opposite side to an OPS of .468.
Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Let's keep it simple: Kimbrel owns an ERA of 1.62, and he's struck out 37.4 percent of opposing batters.
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