Inside the ballot: My NL All-Star team

More: Stan McNeal’s American League All-Star picks

There are three days until the 2010 All-Star rosters will be announced. You know what that means? Time to pick your team.

Guideline No. 1: It isn’t always about the most deserving players. Because every team must be represented, some deserving players will miss the chance to play in Anaheim on July 13.

Despite tough competition at first base, Joey Votto has earned a place on the All-Star team.
Despite tough competition at first base, Joey Votto has earned a place on the All-Star team.

Other guidelines:

• Fan voting, which closes tonight on mlb.com, determines the AL’s starting nine and the NL’s starting eight (no DH on the NL ballot).

• Players vote for backups at each position, five starting pitchers and three relievers.

• Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel fill out the rosters, which are comprised of 21 position players and 13 pitchers (including at least three relievers).

• A new wrinkle: Any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the game will not be eligible to pitch in the game. He still will be on the team and a replacement will be added to the roster. Add these last-minute pitchers and injury replacements (there will be a bunch this year) and the 34-man rosters could swell closer to 40.

My 34-man NL roster:

First base (5): So many are having strong seasons at this position that Albert Pujols, the game’s best player, doesn’t deserve to start. He should be behind Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto. But with Pujols as the fans’ runaway choice, look for Votto to be the starting DH with the slick-fielding Gonzalez backing up Pujols. Having the DH also allows Braves MVP Troy Glaus and Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to make the team. Sorry, Adam Dunn, James Loney and Prince Fielder. There just isn’t room for eight first baseman/DH types.

Second base (2): With fans’ choice Chase Utley (thumb) injured, Manuel will be able to start the Braves’ Martin Prado, who leads the NL with a .333 average. Brandon Phillips makes the club, too, and Kelly Johnson could if Manuel chooses him as the Diamondbacks’ representative.

Third base (3): David Wright is having a season that will put him in the top five in MVP voting and deserves to be the fans’ choice, though he will need a last-gasp push to pass the injured Placido Polanco (elbow). Scott Rolen and Ryan Zimmerman are worthy backups.

Shortstop (2): Hanley Ramirez has the numbers (if not the hustle) to warrant being the fans’ choice. But Jose Reyes will have more to say about that next year. This year, Reyes at least deserves to be a backup. He ranks in the top 10 in the NL in runs, stolen bases and — this is great to see after last year — smiles. A broken wrist makes Troy Tulowitzki an unfortunate omission.

Outfield (7): This isn’t exactly a position of strength for the NL. Ryan Braun has cooled off since April, and Andre Ethier hasn’t regained his power since returning from a broken pinkie. But if the fans want them, I’ll take them, too. Jason Heyward, second in the fans’ voting, should start a bunch of All-Star Games, but he has had his share of rookie moments (five strikeouts in a game) and his numbers have tailed. Besides, he has said he will go to Anaheim but won’t play because of his thumb injury. Good for him for putting his team first.

Corey Hart, top two in the NL in homers and RBIs, should replace Heyward in the starting lineup. Andrew McCutchen is having a breakout season and is the obvious — and deserving — choice from the Pirates. Marlon Byrd has been a rare bright spot for the Cubs and gets the nod over Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol as his team’s lone rep. Michael Bourn is the most deserving Astro, which isn’t saying that much (no matter how overrated wins are, it still is difficult to consider a pitcher with a 5-10 record as having an All-Star season. So, sorry, Roy Oswalt).

Choosing a worthy Diamondback is another tough task, but I’ll take Chris Young over Justin Upton in a coin flip. Cases also can be made for Jayson Werth, Matt Kemp and Carlos Gonzalez, but they lose out because of the "every team is represented" rule.

Catcher (2): Yadier Molina had a comfortable lead in the latest fans’ voting and while he isn’t hitting as well as a year ago, his defense has been even better. He is the starter on my team, too. Because of the catcher’s re-entry rule, only one backup makes my squad: Miguel Olivo over Rod Barajas, barely.

Starting pitchers (9): Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Mike Pelfrey and Tim Hudson are easy. Matt Cain has a better ERA than teammate Tim Lincecum, but Cain’s hard luck continues and he loses out to Lincecum because of the name factor. You probably haven’t heard much about the Padres’ 22-year-old Mat Latos, but he has been the best starter on the NL’s best pitching staff.

No Stephen Strasburg for me. If he had dominated in his last start, maybe. But if there isn’t room for N.L. strikeout leader Yovani Gallardo, there isn’t a spot for Strasburg. If he dominates in his next two starts, however, and is named as a replacement starter, there will be no griping from me. Having him in the game definitely would boost the buzz factor.

Relief pitchers (4): The Padres deserve more than one reliever, but they are so balanced that there is no obvious second choice. I’ll take Luke Gregerson over closer Heath Bell because of Gregerson’s 51-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.60 ERA. Arthur Rhodes went more than two months without allowing a run and has been key in the Reds’ climb to first place. Because this is Billy Wagner’s last season, he is an easy pick for sentimental reasons. Being 16-for-18 in save chances with a .167 batting average allowed and 1.15 ERA makes the choice even easier.

Despite his Sunday night implosion against the Yankees, Jonathan Broxton has established himself as an elite closer and makes my team ahead of his teammate, Hong-Chih Kuo, and fellow closers Brian Wilson, Francisco Cordero and Ryan Franklin.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

More: Stan McNeal’s American League All-Star picks

There are three days until the 2010 All-Star rosters will be announced. You know what that means? Time to pick your team.

Guideline No. 1: It isn’t always about the most deserving players. Because every team must be represented, some deserving players will miss the chance to play in Anaheim on July 13.

Despite tough competition at first base, Joey Votto has earned a place on the All-Star team.
Despite tough competition at first base, Joey Votto has earned a place on the All-Star team.

Other guidelines:

• Fan voting, which closes tonight on mlb.com, determines the AL’s starting nine and the NL’s starting eight (no DH on the NL ballot).

• Players vote for backups at each position, five starting pitchers and three relievers.

• Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel fill out the rosters, which are comprised of 21 position players and 13 pitchers (including at least three relievers).

• A new wrinkle: Any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the game will not be eligible to pitch in the game. He still will be on the team and a replacement will be added to the roster. Add these last-minute pitchers and injury replacements (there will be a bunch this year) and the 34-man rosters could swell closer to 40.

My 34-man NL roster:

First base (5): So many are having strong seasons at this position that Albert Pujols, the game’s best player, doesn’t deserve to start. He should be behind Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto. But with Pujols as the fans’ runaway choice, look for Votto to be the starting DH with the slick-fielding Gonzalez backing up Pujols. Having the DH also allows Braves MVP Troy Glaus and Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to make the team. Sorry, Adam Dunn, James Loney and Prince Fielder. There just isn’t room for eight first baseman/DH types.

Second base (2): With fans’ choice Chase Utley (thumb) injured, Manuel will be able to start the Braves’ Martin Prado, who leads the NL with a .333 average. Brandon Phillips makes the club, too, and Kelly Johnson could if Manuel chooses him as the Diamondbacks’ representative.

Third base (3): David Wright is having a season that will put him in the top five in MVP voting and deserves to be the fans’ choice, though he will need a last-gasp push to pass the injured Placido Polanco (elbow). Scott Rolen and Ryan Zimmerman are worthy backups.

Shortstop (2): Hanley Ramirez has the numbers (if not the hustle) to warrant being the fans’ choice. But Jose Reyes will have more to say about that next year. This year, Reyes at least deserves to be a backup. He ranks in the top 10 in the NL in runs, stolen bases and — this is great to see after last year — smiles. A broken wrist makes Troy Tulowitzki an unfortunate omission.

Outfield (7): This isn’t exactly a position of strength for the NL. Ryan Braun has cooled off since April, and Andre Ethier hasn’t regained his power since returning from a broken pinkie. But if the fans want them, I’ll take them, too. Jason Heyward, second in the fans’ voting, should start a bunch of All-Star Games, but he has had his share of rookie moments (five strikeouts in a game) and his numbers have tailed. Besides, he has said he will go to Anaheim but won’t play because of his thumb injury. Good for him for putting his team first.

Corey Hart, top two in the NL in homers and RBIs, should replace Heyward in the starting lineup. Andrew McCutchen is having a breakout season and is the obvious — and deserving — choice from the Pirates. Marlon Byrd has been a rare bright spot for the Cubs and gets the nod over Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol as his team’s lone rep. Michael Bourn is the most deserving Astro, which isn’t saying that much (no matter how overrated wins are, it still is difficult to consider a pitcher with a 5-10 record as having an All-Star season. So, sorry, Roy Oswalt).

Choosing a worthy Diamondback is another tough task, but I’ll take Chris Young over Justin Upton in a coin flip. Cases also can be made for Jayson Werth, Matt Kemp and Carlos Gonzalez, but they lose out because of the "every team is represented" rule.

Catcher (2): Yadier Molina had a comfortable lead in the latest fans’ voting and while he isn’t hitting as well as a year ago, his defense has been even better. He is the starter on my team, too. Because of the catcher’s re-entry rule, only one backup makes my squad: Miguel Olivo over Rod Barajas, barely.

Starting pitchers (9): Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Mike Pelfrey and Tim Hudson are easy. Matt Cain has a better ERA than teammate Tim Lincecum, but Cain’s hard luck continues and he loses out to Lincecum because of the name factor. You probably haven’t heard much about the Padres’ 22-year-old Mat Latos, but he has been the best starter on the NL’s best pitching staff.

No Stephen Strasburg for me. If he had dominated in his last start, maybe. But if there isn’t room for N.L. strikeout leader Yovani Gallardo, there isn’t a spot for Strasburg. If he dominates in his next two starts, however, and is named as a replacement starter, there will be no griping from me. Having him in the game definitely would boost the buzz factor.

Relief pitchers (4): The Padres deserve more than one reliever, but they are so balanced that there is no obvious second choice. I’ll take Luke Gregerson over closer Heath Bell because of Gregerson’s 51-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.60 ERA. Arthur Rhodes went more than two months without allowing a run and has been key in the Reds’ climb to first place. Because this is Billy Wagner’s last season, he is an easy pick for sentimental reasons. Being 16-for-18 in save chances with a .167 batting average allowed and 1.15 ERA makes the choice even easier.

Despite his Sunday night implosion against the Yankees, Jonathan Broxton has established himself as an elite closer and makes my team ahead of his teammate, Hong-Chih Kuo, and fellow closers Brian Wilson, Francisco Cordero and Ryan Franklin.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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