Major League Baseball 2006: The National League All-Star Team

As the MLB 2006 All Star game in Pittsburgh approaches on July 11th, it is time to look over the leading vote getters in the National League balloting and determine whether or not their popularity ties into how well they are doing statistically. On the whole, the choices below are in the top five of balloting, but for reference sake, the leading vote getter for each position is in parentheses. It is obvious that in bigger places like New York and St. Louis, their players are going to get more votes from their fans around the nation. However, a look at those near the top statistically at these positions shows that the All Star game could be much more balanced.

First Baseman- Albert Pujols- Albert Pujols is leading the way in balloting for the NL first base position and with good reason. Pujols, who has been as explosive player the last few years as any in the past couple of decades, is hitting .315 and hitting 26 homer runs and 67 RBIs. Considering how young Pujols is, his achievements in MLB so far are impressive. Look for Pujols to cruise to pretty much every MLB All Star game over the next dozen seasons or more.

Second Baseman- Brandon Phillips (Chase Utley)- Chase Utley has had a solid 2006 season so far, but Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds has been a standout performer for an improving Reds team. Phillips has stolen 14 bases, is batting .313, and has proven to be a solid fielder for a young player. Phillips will be the cornerstone of a new Reds organization and this should be the first of many All Star games for Phillips.

Shortstop-Bill Hall (Jose Reyes)- While Jose Reyes is an excellent defensive shortstop and coming into his own as a hitter, Bill Hall has been a clutch player for an improving Milwaukee Brewers squad in 2006. While Hall is only hitting .277 in the first half of 2006, he has hit 15 home runs and 36 RBIs, many of which were game tying or winning for the Brewers early in 2006. Hall has also shown his versatility by playing outfield and pinch hitting, giving the Brewers a more dynamic lineup day in and day out.

Third Baseman-David Wright- David Wright, another Mets player who shows the incredible talent of the team in 2006, is leading the NL balloting at third base and should be a candidate for 2006 National League MVP. Wright has hit 18 home runs and 64 RBIs from third base and has developed into a clubhouse leader for the Mets, with hard nosed play and solid defense.

Outfield- Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman (Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Bay)- While Beltran and Soriano may be popular players in the National League, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Lance Berkman would make for the best NL outfield in the 2006 MLB All Star Game. Holliday is hitting .611 slugging percentage with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs for the Colorado Rockies. While batters get some benefit from the thin air in Colorado, Holliday is a solid player and deserves some recognition for his excellent play this season. Jason Bay of the Pittsburgh Pirates should get some benefit from the hometown fans in the 2006 MLB All Star game and Bay deserves such recognition. Bay has hit 20 home runs and 55 RBIs this season and has shown the effort and grit that manager Jim Tracy wants to make part of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. Houston Astros outfielder Lance Berkman has hit 21 homeruns and 65 RBIs in the first half of 2006 and his combination of great fielding and solid power hitting makes him a good addition to any All Star squad. Like their AL counterparts, the NL fielders have some athleticism, some pop, and good mixture of complimentary skills.

Catcher-Paul Lo Duca- Lo Duca is leading the NL catchers in All Star balloting and his career in Los Angeles and New York has aided him in drawing fans to his All Star candidacy. Lo Duca has been an outstanding team leader with both teams and with the Mets contending for the NL pennant, his play at the plate and behind it should be recognized in the 2006 MLB All Star game.

Pitcher- Brandon Webb- Webb should be the NL All Star starting pitcher and is making an early push for the NL Cy Young award with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Webb is 8-3 this season with a 2.48 ERA and has a 85/17 strike out/walk ratio. While the Diamondbacks do not reflect the talent that players like Webb have, Webb will have a great career whether he is in Arizona or elsewhere.

Bench Player- Dan Uggla- Uggla, the second baseman for the Florida Marlins, is having an impressive season for a Marlins team that was gutted in the offseason. While the Marlins have been showing some promise over the last month, Uggla has been consistent throughout the first half of the 2006 MLB season. The young second baseman is hitting .313 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs and if the Marlins want to develop their team instead of sell it off any further, Uggla will be an important piece.

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