We’re less than a month away from the Midsummer Classic and the voting results are starting to give us a good idea of who is vying for a starting spot when the two teams meet in San Diego. Today, we are going to focus on the National League. Today, MLB released the latest voting totals for All-Star voting in the NL:
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 15, 2016
The Chicago Cubs have the best record in baseball and Cubs fans are showing their appreciation by voting in as many hitters as they can. While you can understand why they would do such a thing, it’s actually a really dumb thing to do. Why? The Cubs currently have the best chance of reaching the World Series according to, um, everyone really. Whether it’s Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, or any futures market, the Cubs are the favorites this year.
The Cubs (and their fans) have more at stake in the All-Star game than any other team given their current playoff odds. So instead of voting for their favorites, Cubs fans would be wise to vote the best possible team. Now it may only be the difference of an at-bat here or there and may not make a difference at all if the game is a blowout. After all, the Royals stuffed the proverbial online ballot box last year and the American League still won the game. In a one-game sample anything can happen, but if you are a fan of any National League team, you would want to try to increase your team’s chances as much as you can.
So who should be voted in? I’m glad you asked. Here are the best hitters at each position this season in the National League according to wRC+. What the hell is wRC+? It is a way to rate all hitters on the same scale regardless of what park they play in, who protects them in the lineup, and any other factors that may prop up a hitter’s numbers on the surface. With that explanation out of the way, here’s the batting leader at each position:
First Base – Brandon Belt (Giants)
Belt is not a household name, but he’s been an offensive force this season with a .412 on-base percentage. His eight home runs are going to raise a lot of question marks, but it’s not his fault he plays in the spacious AT&T Park that is a deathtrap to home runs. The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo has roughly three times as many votes and he’s not a bad choice in any sense, but Belt would be the better one.
Second Base – Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
Again, a Cubs player leads the vote here as Zobrist has nearly half a million vote lead on Murphy. Zobrist actually has the 4th best wRC+ in the league so he’s a fine choice and an obvious All-Star. The problem is that Murphy tops that list (and a whole bunch of others too). Murphy currently has a .361/.402/.593 line and looks like one of the steals of the offseason after signing a 3-year deal.
Third Base – Matt Carpenter (Cardinals)
The voting is hotly contested between Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado, but the best choice would be neither as Carpenter has the 3rd best wRC+ in the league at 154 (dismissing defense obviously hurts Arenado as he is one of the better defenders in the league but we’ll stick to offense for now). I imagine telling Cubs fans to vote for Matt Carpenter instead of Kris Bryant should go over very, very well.
Shortstop – Corey Seager (Dodgers)
This is the position where the Cubs fans are really reaching. Addison Russell is not even league average as a hitter and shouldn’t even make the roster, much less start the game. The better choice would be Corey Seager from Los Angeles. Seager has 15 home runs and has been 32% better than league average this season. He made his debut last year and made an immediate impact and has not slowed at all this season.
Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers)
Perhaps you aren’t watching any Brewers games this year and I can’t say that I blame you. While Molina and Posey have the championship pedigree, Lucroy has been the best catcher in the NL this year. Assuming he doesn’t get traded to the American League in the next few weeks, he’s the clear choice to start behind the dish this year.
Outfield – Yoenis Cespedes (Mets), Christian Yelich (Marlins), Gregory Polanco (Pirates)
Cespedes is getting his due and is currently in the top three of the fan vote (playing in New York helps of course). Yelich will never get enough votes playing in Miami which is a shame because he’s having a tremendous season including a .405 on-base percentage. Polanco is currently 14th in fan voting so more people are noticing him than Yelich, but it’s still improbable that he passes the big names like Bryce Harper, Ryan Braun, or even his teammate Andrew McCutchen.
There are plenty of great players to choose from on the ballot, and if the Cubs fans want to improve their chances of winning the ultimate prize in October, perhaps they should look outside of Chicago to build the best possible team.