Big names looking to make first Midsummer Classic
Veterans across the big leagues could make their All-Star debuts this year
Each year, there are players who make an initial splash in the baseball world. Typically, they're thought of as rookies. Up-and-coming stars like Yasiel Puig, Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar headline this year's group of top-notch rookies.
But there are plenty of impact players who have been around for at least a year, who are just starting to come into their own. There's a first baseman in Baltimore who's been in the game for six years but is just now putting up MVP-caliber numbers. And let's not forget about a handful of relatively experienced pitchers who could be starting in their first ever All-Star Game.
As we get set to unveil the 2013 All-Star Game rosters, here's a list of some players who have been around for a little while but could be looking at their first All-Star appearance thanks to a stellar first half.
• Matt Harvey: What a story it would be for the Mets ace's first All-Star Game appearance to be a start, and to do it at Citi Field. Harvey's outings have been must-see TV since he showed flashes of potential in his debut season last year. His sterling 2.00 ERA is second in the National League, and he's averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
• Jordan Zimmermann: Last season, his fourth with the Nationals, Zimmermann was largely overshadowed by rotation mates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, who also put up exceptional numbers. But Zimmermann was practically unhittable from the end of June through July. In those seven starts, he went 6-1 with a 1.02 ERA. He's been Washington's most reliable starter this year, and is tied for the Major League lead in wins (12).
• Max Scherzer: Should either of them get the nod to start the All-Star Game, it's entirely possible Zimmermann or Harvey would be squaring off against fellow first-timer Max Scherzer. Also in a rotation headlined by another starter (Justin Verlander), Scherzer has emerged as Detroit's dominant hurler this season with an astounding 12-0 record to accompany his huge strikeout rate. He's always been a pitcher to rack up Ks (he averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine last year), and he could make a push to keep the strikeout title in Motown after Verlander earned it the last two seasons.
• Patrick Corbin and Jeff Locke: These are two young pitchers whose debuts (Corbin's last year and Locke's in 2011) were so inconspicuous that they seem like they belong in the 2013 rookie class. Though neither of them qualify for that status, they're both in the running to be some of the most inexperienced non-rookies selected for Bruce Bochy's NL squad. Locke is 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 16 starts for the surging Pirates, while Corbin has been almost perfect in the desert, rolling to a 9-1 mark to begin the year with a 2.49 ERA and 0.9 home run per nine innings ratio.
• Edward Mujica: This journeyman -- in an eight-year career, he's played for four teams -- has settled down nicely in St. Louis. He's been crucial to the Cardinals' success after the loss of Jason Motte for the season and since Mitchell Boggs has struggled. Mujica is tied for third in the NL in saves (21) and is on pace to post an ERA (2.20) far better than any of his other season averages.
• James Russell: Someone has to represent the Cubs in the All-Star Game, and Russell is a fine candidate. The four-year veteran has been one of a select few bright spots in the Cubs' bullpen, posting a 3.06 ERA through 40 games (32 1/3 innings). He's been Dale Sveum's go-to reliever in tough situations and leads the team in appearances as we near the All-Star break.
• Jason Grilli: Here's another journeyman, who has found a secure spot in the back end of the Pirates' bullpen. Grilli has pitched for six teams, with some stops (Tigers, Marlins and White Sox) more forgettable than others. But it's safe to say he's settled in with Pittsburgh, where he leads the NL with 27 saves as his club makes a strong push in the NL Central.
• Jesse Crain and Bobby Parnell: Here are a couple candidates to be setup guys in the Midsummer Classic -- though Parnell has 14 saves for the Mets this year -- thanks to particularly excellent first halves. Crain has been most dominant, with a 0.74 ERA through 38 games for the White Sox, allowing only a remarkable three earned runs in 36 2/3 innings. Parnell, too, has been reliable in the back end of New York's bullpen, with a 2.68 ERA.
• Carlos Gomez: After signing a contract extension during Spring Training, Gomez has proven to be an All-Star-caliber player on offense and defense. He is second in the NL in WAR (4.8) and has fine numbers across the board: 46 runs, 18 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 37 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .309 batting average.
• Domonic Brown: After three quiet partial seasons with the Phillies from 2010-12, Brown has helped anchor the heart of the Philadelphia lineup. He was named the NL's Player of the Month in May after leading the league in home runs (12), RBIs (25) and total bases (89) and finishing second in slugging (.688).
• Edwin Encarnacion: It's been an up-and-down year for the Blue Jays and some of their superstars, but Encarnacion has remained steady throughout. He leads the surging Jays in RBIs (66) and home runs (23), and is second in doubles (15) and offensive WAR (2.2).
• Chris Davis: This one is about as easy as it gets. Davis has been one of the most feared hitters in baseball this season, posting monster numbers already as we head into the Break. He's fighting Miguel Cabrera for the Triple Crown, as Davis leads the league in home runs (31) and sits second in average (.329) and RBIs (80). In his sixth big league season, Davis is on pace to demolish all of his previous season-best marks.
• Matt Carpenter: The Cardinals had to do a bit of infield shuffling when shortstop Rafael Furcal was lost for the year, but Carpenter has been instrumental in making it a smooth transition. The utility man, who finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting last season, is hitting .321 with 24 doubles, 32 RBIs and an .878 OPS while playing four defensive positions and hitting in five spots in the order.
• Manny Machado: The young Orioles third baseman showed some promising signs in his debut last year but nothing like what he's demonstrated in this breakout season. He's on pace for a record number of doubles -- already with 38 -- and has driven in 42 runs for the O's while batting .321. Machado leads the American League in WAR, ahead of former MVPs Miguel Cabrera, Dustin Pedroia and Joe Mauer -- and also teammate Chris Davis.
• Paul Goldschmidt: The D-backs first baseman quietly had a strong 2012 season but is on pace to easily top it this year. He leads the NL in RBIs (69) and is tied for third in home runs (20), while checking in at eighth in NL WAR (4.0).
• Josh Donaldson, James Loney, Allen Craig: These corner infielders could all lend a hand for their respective leagues in New York. Each of them is hitting at least .316 in at least 78 games played, while Donaldson (sixth) and Loney (31st) both rank among the AL's top 40 in WAR.
• Salvador Perez: The Royals backstop has been among the team's promising crop of young talent and has made a tremendous impact from behind the plate -- and at it -- this year. He ranks fifth among Major League catchers in WAR this season -- tops for any backstop who has never appeared in a Midsummer Classic -- with great offensive numbers across the board. More so, Perez is a defensive force, throwing out 12 of 35 baserunners (fifth in caught-stealing percentage) and not allowing a single passed ball this season. He's one of just three catchers in baseball with a Defensive WAR of 1.0 or better.