The Active Future Hall of Fame Player on Every MLB Team

With the 2017 Hall of Fame class set to be announced on Wednesday, January 18th, I began to think about the active players around Major League Baseball who are inevitably going to find their way to the Hall of Fame. There are quite a few, with a wide range of teams having strong candidates. However, as I was pondering, I began to wonder: Could I name a player from every single team with a chance at the Hall of Fame? It took me a good amount of time, but I was finally able to do it.

Now, keep in mind, some of these players you will definitely agree with, but some you will question my sanity. Admittedly, some of my picks are extremely unlikely to make their way to Cooperstown, but there are some teams that are so young or sparsely-talented that I had to go with a long-shot pick or extreme projection. But the wild predictions for certain young stars is part of what makes this conversation so much fun.

With all of that said, here is my take of the top Hall of Fame player from each of the thirty MLB teams (active players only; free agents not included):

Marlinssuzuki

The Marlins have quite a few standout players who very well could be headed towards Cooperstown if they can keep up their stardom over the next decade or so, but the one player on their roster that’s already a guaranteed inductee is Ichiro Suzuki. Coming over from Japan in 2001, Suzuki has long been one of the best players in baseball, notching over 3,000 hits in his MLB career to this point and subsequently receiving countless awards. As such, he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Rays

This isn’t as easy of a pick as the one of Ichiro Suzuki, but the one player on the Rays roster with enough of a track record to suggest as being on a Hall of Fame track is assuredly Evan Longoria. Hitting a career high 36 homers in 2016, and recording his most RBI’s since 2011, the next few years will tell the tale. But at only 31 years old, Longoria is the surest H.O.F. bet of all of the players currently on the Rays.

freemanBraves

He has an extremely long way to go, but with the stats he has produced over the course of his career, Freddie Freeman is well on his way to making it into Cooperstown. At just 27 years old, Freeman is theoretically in his prime, as was evident in his posting of 31 home runs last season. If he can post even a few more of those, the Braves’ All-Star first baseman could be on a very promising path towards the Hall of Fame.

Orioles

He may not be well into his 20’s quite yet, but Manny Machado is well into his Hall of Fame career. Sure, it’s a bit early to be typing up Machado’s induction speech, as anything can happen in baseball, but the Orioles’ third baseman has recorded back-to-back 30 homer seasons each of the last two years, and is posting numbers rivaling those of a previous Baltimore third base superstar: Brooks Robinson.

NationalsMLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals

It may seem a bit of old hat to be naming Bryce Harper as the Nationals current best shot at the Hall of Fame, but it’s absolutely true. Despite having a poor season by his standards last year, Harper — who will be 24 years old all of the 2017 season — already possesses 121 homers. If Harper can have a bounce-back season this coming year, the Hall of Fame may be in the cards for him when all is said and done.

Mets

The Mets’ player I feel is the most likely to put together a Hall of Fame career when he decides to hang up his spikes is Noah Syndergaard. (Yes, you read that right.) I’m well aware that Syndergaard only has 55 career starts under his belt, but with David Wright succumbing to injuries that derailed his overall chances, and guys such as Yoenis Cespedes not having enough games remaining to put together a case, Syndergaard is my long-shot pick.

chapYankees

Gary Sanchez — no, I’m just kidding. But the player I do have slotted to be a Hall of Famer down the road isn’t all that much older than Sanchez. With Aroldis Chapman dominating the opposition for so long, it can be easy to forget that Chapman is just heading into his age-29 season. With a career 2.08 ERA thanks to his blazing fastball, as well as his ability to lock things down in the ninth, Chapman is on the fast-track to the Hall if he can continue to blow batters away.

Phillies

With the departure of Ryan Howard, and the Phillies being in a drastic youth movement, it was very hard for me to land on a single player who stands the best chance at the Hall of Fame. But even so, I decided to go with Maikel Franco. He is still extremely young, and is still adjusting to the bigs. But the potential for 30+ homer power is definitely there, and that could lead to a bright future for Franco and the Phillies.

Red SoxSTON2433.JPG

The Red Sox just lost a future Hall of Famer in David Ortiz, but picking the next player to follow in his footsteps wasn’t all that difficult. Keeping with the theme of young players with big futures, I tabbed Mookie Betts as the player on Boston’s active roster with a chance at Cooperstown. I hate to make a selection with such a small track record, but after what Betts showed the baseball world last season, a superstar has been born.

Blue Jays

I’m not sure Josh Donaldson has enough big seasons left in him to put together Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but he stands the best shot of all of the players north of the border. While some youngsters such as Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are off to amazing starts to their career, Donaldson has become an absolute star. With back-to-back 35+ home runs season, Donalson will at the very least become a Toronto all-time great.

cutchPirates

If Andrew McCutchen can turn things around from a year ago to have another superstar season in 2017, he will also be back on track to a Hall of Fame career. The best player on the Pirates’ roster when he’s at the top of his game, McCutchen is a five-tool athlete in every sense of the word. Although the stats of McCutchen aren’t overwhelming upon first glance, when you look closely, a compelling case is certainly being made.

Indians

The newest member of the Indians is also their top Hall of Fame candidate at the moment. Edwin Encarnacion may not have the numbers yet, but he very well could get there before his career is over. Averaging 39 homers a year over the past five seasons, Encarnacion could theoretically join the 500 home run club if he can play until age 40 and blast a tick over 27 home runs per season.

Tigerscab

The Tigers have quite a few great players, despite it not showing up in the standings last season. But the one player that is an absolute Hall of Fame player is Miguel Cabrera. The former Triple Crown winner is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball, and is well underway to making it to Cooperstown. At just 34 years old on April 18th, Cabrera is one of the few must-see players before they retire currently in baseball.

Reds

It’s going to be close, but the current Cincinnati Red who has shown any chance at a shot at the Hall of Fame is Joey Votto. The on-base-machine falls right into the coveted 3-4-5 slash line with a career .313/.425/.536 line, despite his hit numbers and homer stats sitting a bit low when compared to those players already in the Hall of Fame. But the overall play of Votto is definitely worth Hall of Fame consideration.

reyesCardinals

How weak is the Cardinals current active roster? So weak that I went with rookie Alex Reyes as their best shot at the Hall of Fame. In fact, I actually had to skip the Cardinals and come back to them when writing this, frankly because I don’t view any of their active roster with any confidence as to them having even a chance at the Hall of Fame. But having to pick a player, I ended up going with the 22-year-old Reyes, who showed a ton of potential in 2016 and is expected to breakout in 2017.

Cubs

I originally placed Jon Lester (of all people) as the Cubs’ active future Hall of Fame player, as he is somewhat underrated as a starter, especially when you look at his career numbers. But it’s hard to overlook Kris Bryant, who broke out last season to hit 39 home runs. With his 40+ homer potential, if Bryant can put together multiple big seasons in a row, his case for the Hall of Fame will begin to build.

White Soxfraz

The White Sox have made it evident that they are currently in a huge rebuild mode, trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton so far this offseason, with other moves expected before Opening Day. With that in mind, I ended up picking Todd Frazier as their Hall of Fame path player. Although Frazier has a somewhat weak case at the moment, if he can continue to produce numbers much like those he has posted in recent history, Frazier will be very close by the time he retires.

Brewers

I’m not the biggest Ryan Braun fan after what went down a few years ago, but there’s no denying his talent. Following a few down seasons, Braun bounced back again in 2016. If he can continue to keep his track record going, Braun could be a very compelling candidate for the Hall after his playing days are over. As the best player on the Brewers, he also claims the slot as their best chance at the Hall of Fame.

mauerTwins

There are several different ways I could’ve gone with this. If Byron Buxton produces to his full ability the way he has been hyped, he would be the top pick; the same with Miguel Sano. If Brian Dozier hit over 40 homers for a few more seasons, he would line up on that path as well. But I ended up going with the safe choice of Joe Mauer, who is a bit low in some of his career stats, but has enough great seasons to deserve some consideration.

Royals

Catchers get little recognition for just how difficult their jobs behind the plate is, and Salvador Perez has proven to be one of the best. One of the biggest low-risk high-reward examples in recent history, the Royals have a star in Perez, and he could very well be on the patch to Cooperstown as a slugging backstop. With 20 homers a year and a cannon for an arm, Perez has the whole package you’re looking for from a catcher.

Astrosbeltran

Jose Altuve is undoubtedly the biggest superstar on the Astros, with Carlos Correa and George Springer quickly joining him. But while newly acquired slugger Carlos Beltran would be all too easy to overlook, it’s important to view Beltran for the player he is. With 2,617 hits and 421 homers, one more solid season from Beltran very well could sway those who are on the fence about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

Rangers

While others don’t seem to agree, I feel that Adrian Beltre is a no-doubt Hall of Famer no matter how you slice it. Assuming he can stay healthy, Beltre will become the 31st player to reach the 3,000 hit mark in 2017, and that is all but a guarantee for enshrinement in my mind. One of the all-time best third baseman in the history of baseball, Beltre is an easy Hall of Fame pick.

nolanRockies

Nolan Arenado is as close to a complete player as you’ll find in the game today. Winning a Gold Glove each of his first four seasons, his future Hall of Fame case will extend far beyond his defense, as he belted over 40 homers and recorded over 130 RBI’s each of the past two seasons. Despite playing in Colorado — seen as a negative by many — Arenado would be a superstar in any ballpark. For that reason, he should still be seen as the future Hall of Fame player he likely is.

Diamondbacks

Over the course of Paul Goldschmidt‘s career to this point, he has shown a pattern of having one great season followed by a merely average season. However, if he can find a way to produce some of the superstar level seasons he has previously, Goldschmidt will have a legitimate Hall case. Given, Goldy may not be able to produce on the level needed for the Hall of Fame, but he currently stands the best shot in Arizona.

Padresmyers

Will the real Wil Myers please stand up . . . That’s the sentiment of many around the baseball world. Following a Rookie of the Year season in 2013, Myers hadn’t produced on the same level through last season. But in 2016, Myers absolutely broke out, earning his first All-Star selection and hitting 28 blasts. With the power he possesses, he has the ability to carry the Padres on his back, and if he indeed does that, could be walking towards Cooperstown.

Dodgers

Adrian Gonzalez has been great for a long time, and Corey Seager is on a rapid ascent into stardom. But let’s face it — Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. Year in and year out, Kershaw is among the finalists for Cy Young and has consistently been the Dodgers’ best pitcher since his poor rookie season in 2008. As such, Kershaw is undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers.

pujolsAngels

Mike Trout receives an extremely high honorable mention, as baring any unforeseen issues Trout is on a clear path to Cooperstown. But credit has to be given where it’s due, and therefore Albert Pujols falls as my pick for the Angles’ Hall of Fame active player. With him sitting just nine homers back of 600, Pujols is already an all-time great player, and should be fully appreciated as such while he’s still playing the game.

Giants

Buster Posey is a fantastic player and will likely continue to be for the Giants for years to come. But the player I chose as the most on a Hall of Fame path is Madison Bumgarner, who has proven time and time again the caliber of pitcher that he is. With a career ERA of 2.99, Bumgarner has been a big part in the Giants three World Series titles over the last seven seasons. As such, he is on a very special career path.

Athleticsgray

The Athletics aren’t the best team in baseball, and therefore don’t have the best selection of above-average players. But even so, Sonny Gray stands out as their best chance at fielding a Hall of Famer player down the road from their current roster. His 2016 stats of a 5.69 ERA over the course of 22 starts hurt what was beginning as a special career, but if he can rebound in 2017, Gray can get back on that track.

Mariners

With a perfect game, it is already evident that Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher. But when you take the time to dive into his career numbers, you get an idea of just how special he is. Already nearing Hall of Fame stats, Hernandez will be just 31 for all of the 2017 season. He still has numerous more seasons to add to his 2,264 career strikeouts and improve upon his 3.16 ERA. But no matter what, Cooperstown likely awaits him.

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Surprisingly Good and Bad Performances from 2016

In baseball — much like in life — surprises can be really good or they can be really bad. A good surprise in baseball might be a player or team having an unpredicted breakout season, while a bad surprise may be defined as a team or player destined for great things having a below average year. The 2016 season has had plenty of both throughout the entire stretch.

With just over a week left until the last games of the season leading up to the playoffs, a lot has taken place that can be deemed as good surprises or bad surprises. Having said that, I wanted to take the time to go over six hitters, six pitchers and six teams who surprised the baseball world in good or bad ways, keeping in mind that it is by no means a record of all the players who fit each category, nor is it the very top options in some cases. It’s simply a broad overview meant to recap the season as a whole.

HITTERS

Surprisingly Good: Brian Dozier, Brad Miller and Adam Duvall

Over the past several seasons, Brian Dozier has been one of the best second basemen in all of baseball. However, this season, he has broken out as arguably the best second baseman in baseball. With a previous career high of 28 home runs coming last year, Dozier has been even better this season, having knocked 42 so far — the most in American League history for a second baseman. Despite the Twins having the worst record in baseball, Dozier has been a huge surprisingly bright spot in Minnesota.miller

On the same theme, Brad Miller has been the biggest standout on the Rays, with the exception of All-Star Evan Longoria. Hitting 30 homers to this point in the year, Miller has blasted more round-trippers this campaign than he had over the past three seasons (343 games) combined. For that reason, Miller has been a great surprise to Tampa Bay. Whether Miller will be this type of player moving forward or is simply having a career-year, there is little argument that he wasn’t expected to be this good when the season began.

The final player on my list is Adam Duvall. After winning a World Series ring with the Giants back in 2014, Duvall has spent the last two years in Cincinnati, where he has turned out to be an extremely productive player. After playing in just 27 games last season, in which Duvall managed to hit just 5 home runs, this season has seen Duvall breaking out to record 31 blasts. It surely was surprising to see Duvall break out in the way he did, but it certainly was of the good surprise variety for the Reds and their fans.

Surprisingly Bad: Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper

Mark Teixeira announced earlier this season that 2016 would be his final year, but he’s not going out with a bang as many of baseball’s greats have before him. Unlike his fellow retiree David Ortiz, who has recorded one of the best years in baseball history for a player 40 or older, Teixeira hasn’t been able to hit even a mere .200 and has notched only 13 homers and 38 RBI’s in 2016. Following 2015, in which Tex managed 31 homers, his year has definitely been a bad surprise for the Yankees. Even so, he is still one of the best players in recent baseball history, having hit over 400 homers in his career.heyward

When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract leading up to this season, he was obviously expected to put up All-Star numbers for Chicago. However, he has somewhat surprisingly been pretty horrible, quite frankly. Only managing to record seven home runs and a .230 average, Heyward has yet to get things going, now nearly six months into the season. Given, Heyward can turn things around with the playoffs looming, but it would take a lot for that to happen where things stand now.

Bryce Harper’s 24 home runs and 82 home runs would be a great season for any number of players around Major League Baseball. But by Harper’s standards — set last season with his MVP-earning 42 homers — Harper is having a surprisingly bad year, seeing his batting average drop nearly an entire 100 points from a year ago. There have been rumors that Harper has been playing through an injury all season long, but that’s being denied by Harper. Whether or not it’s true, Harper — who was expected to be in the running for a second straight MVP — is still having a surprisingly down year by all accounts.

PITCHERS

Surprisingly Good: Kyle Hendricks, Tanner Roark and Steven Wright

Part of a rotation that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks has surprisingly been the best pitcher of the Cubs’ entire rotation. Over the course of 28 games started for the Cubs, Hendricks has notched a mere 2.06 ERA — the best in all of baseball. By doing so, Hendricks has helped to lead the Cubs to the best record in baseball and what looks to have all the makings of a postseason run. Although it’s yet to be seen whether or not this is actually the year for the Cubs, it has certainly been the year for Kyle Hendricks.roark

Tanner Roark has been an average to above average pitcher for the Nationals over the past few years, but this season Roark has truly broken out. Holding a 2.70 ERA over 200.1 innings pitched, Roark has kept the Nats push towards October strong, despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg for a good chunk of the season, and inevitably the final several weeks. It very well may come down the Roark’s ability to keep his surprisingly good performance going in order to keep the Nationals going deep into the postseason.

I’ve been bringing up the name Steven Wright all season long, and for good reason. Despite being a knuckleballer, Wright has been one of the top surprises in terms of pitchers this season for the Red Sox. Although his historic start to the season has slowly dwindled away as the year progressed, Wright’s 3.30 ERA is still good enough to make this list. Although he is currently working to battle his way back from an injury, Wright has still recorded enough innings to prove himself to all of baseball that he is a true weapon moving forward.

Surprisingly Bad: Chris Archer, Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke

Chris Archer broke out in 2015 to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and was set to be the Rays’ ace moving into this season. But after getting off to a poor start to begin the year, Archer hasn’t been able to get much of anything going with only one more start remaining. The strikeouts are still there, as he has produced over ten strikeouts per nine innings on the year; and with the Rays’ poor collective season, Archer’s 19 losses are somewhat deceiving. But his 4.02 ERA can’t be ignored, especially following his Cy Young eligible season last year.miller

Being traded to the Diamondback’s this past offseason in exchange for Dansby Swanson, who has gone from 2015 first overall draft pick to star in the big leagues, Shelby Miller has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this year. Having never recorded a full-season ERA above 3.74 heading into this year, Miller has posted an ERA of 6.47 over 19 starts. Following Miller’s 3.02 ERA with the Braves last season, many expected Miller to help get the Diamondbacks back into the postseason, but he has been virtually no factor whatsoever.

Joining Shelby Miller as part of the D-back’s rotation, Zack Greinke was expected to help make their rotation one of the greatest in the majors. After all, with Greinke posting a historically-low 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers in 2015, he was all but guaranteed to be the number one starter for the D-backs. But this is baseball, where nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen from one year to the next. As such, Greinke has put up his worst ERA since back in 2005, notching a 4.37 ERA for his efforts in 2016.

TEAMS

Surprisingly Good: Marlins, Mariners and Indians

I didn’t know what to make of the Marlins heading into the 2016 season, but they truly surprised me in a big way. Dealing with the losses of star players such as Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton at various points in the season, for drastically different reasons, many expected the Marlins to fade away early on. But they’ve hung in there all season long, sitting five games back of a wild card spot. Inevitably, there aren’t enough games remaining for the Marlins to wind up in the playoffs, but to still be in the discussion at this point in the year is remarkable.mariners

Things are coming down to the wire for the Mariners, and they may not have enough in them to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, but they had a year that shocked a lot of people. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager all having great seasons at the right times, Seattle was able to beat a lot of teams around baseball that many felt would give them trouble. As such, they easily made my list. They may or may not make the postseason in 2016, but things are looking positive all of a sudden for them to finally get there in 2017.

Many people felt the Indians would be as good as they have been this year, but I wasn’t as convinced. I simply thought the World Series defending Royals and the always good Detroit Tigers would keep Cleveland from being relevant in the month of September. But to my surprise — as well as the surprise of some people who felt the same way I did — the Indians are sitting atop the American League Central. If they can keep things going into the playoffs, they may not be done surprising people as the postseason plays out.

Surprisingly Bad: Rays, Braves and Twins

A lot of people actually picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East division this season, with their rotation being the key to that happening. However, with Chris Archer having a rough year along with several untimely injuries, the Rays haven’t been able to come close to realizing their predicted potential. With only a week to go, the Rays are in sole possession of last place in the American League East. With the division strong once again, it remains to be seen if the Rays can turn things around in 2017 and beyond.braves

It took the Braves forever to win a single game this season, and once they finally recorded one in the win column, they still weren’t able to get much of anything going. Losing 91 games to this point in the year, the Braves are promising that 2017 will be the year things turn around, with them getting a shiny new ballpark across town. But if the Braves don’t turn things around next year in a big way from this season, their ballpark could easily turn out to be the bright spot in the entire season when all is said and done.

Much like the Braves, the Twins’ season was over before it even got started. When the final game has been recorded, the Twins will have more than likely lost 100+ games after finishing four game over .500 last year. Following that breakout performance for the Twins, many people felt that they would be able to keep it going into this year. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Twins have been one of the worst teams in recent baseball history. Although they could easily turn things around in 2017, all hope is lost for this year.

Arenado: The Most Underappreciated Player in MLB

If I asked you to name the best player in Major League Baseball age 25 or younger, your mind would likely immediately turn to Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Manny Machado, who have all become superstars. And you wouldn’t receive any argument whatsoever from me as to any of those players being the best in the game. It’s all opinion-based, with no one truly being right or wrong. But there is one player who I feel isn’t getting the full recognition he deserves, and that’s Nolan Arenado.

ArenadoArenado is in the highlight reels virtually every single night, and he’s won his share of recognition through awards (three straight Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger last season), but he’s still not being held in the regard that I feel he should be. Arenado is simply one of the best — if not the best — players in the majors today, yet he doesn’t receive the coverage to the same extent of Harper, Trout and Machado.

Mike Trout got off to a somewhat slow start in 2016, but has been turning things around as of late. Following an eight game start to the season where Trout recorded just one homer and batted .185, Trout has now notched seven dingers and is hitting above .300 for the season. He is undoubtedly headed for another MVP-type season, as every one of his years have been to this point. But Nolan Arenado has better numbers.

Bryce Harper, just the opposite of Trout’s season, began things on a blazing pace, but has slowed down recently. Over his last 15 games, Harper is hitting just .167, but has recorded 22 walks, leading to the best on base percentage of the Arenadoplayers listed in this blog post. With his average greatly down this season, it makes you wonder if Harper can get back on track. Even so, Harper is the type of player who can get red hot overnight. But Nolan Arenado has been more consistent.

Manny Machado has been fairly consistent, and in some ways even more consistent than Arenado, all season long, and is having another great year. He has more hits than the other three, subsequently leading the other three in batting average, and is playing great defense at third base — the American League version of Nolan Arenado. But Nolan Arenado has more career Gold Gloves.

Drowned out a bit by the historically hot start of Trevor Story in 2016, and with Arenado playing in Colorado, his accomplishments can be a bit overshadowed at times. Nolan Arenado has just as much power as any player in baseball, plays an unbelievable defensive third base, and is the best overall combination of the talents of Harper, Trout and Machado. He’s going to hit .300 every season, drive in well over 100 runs and hit 40+ home runs. Not many players can post those type of numbers year in and year out.

In the end, it’s hard to compare the four of Harper, Trout, Machado and Arenado, with them all playing different types of games, but I still feel that Arenado is the best of them all, even if it’s not acknowledged quite as often or on the same level as the other three. Arenado has the ability to win the Triple-Crown any given season, and will inevitably be one of the top players in baseball for years to come.

The most overlooked all-around player in baseball, if you ask me.

My Initial 2016 MLB All-Star Game Ballot

We aren’t even a month into the baseball season, and the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star game ballot has already been released. I feel it’s a little too early to be casting votes for the Midsummer Classic, as some superstar players have gotten off to rough starts and will likely get back to their former glory by the time the All-Star game arrives on July 12th out in San Diego, while some previously unknown players who have busted out of the gate will likely be merely trickling along by that time.San Diego

But even so, I decided to go ahead and post a blog on the subject, regardless of the earliness of it all.

Voting itself is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 5 times per day, and 35 times total, for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until June 30th.)

Due to the All-Star game still being over two months away, I divided things up a bit this year. I’m going to go ahead and cast 15 votes for the players I feel are All-Star worthy as of now (the players discussed below), with a plan to go back and cast my other 20 available votes in the final week leading up to the actual game. Odds are, at least a few of them will be different, but as for right now, here are the players at each position that I feel are deserving of playing in the 2016 MLB All-Star game:

FIRST BASE:  Joe Mauer (AL),  Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

With guys such as Eric Hosmer, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis to choose from in the American League portion of things, this wasn’t necessarily an easy decision, but I ended up going with Joe Mauer. Leading the pack in batting average, Mauer has really gotten off to a nice start of what looks to be a bounce back season.

For the National League, I chose Adrian Gonzalez. He is second in the National League first basemen group in average, and is off to an equally good start as Joe Mauer. Amazingly, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are all batting down around .200, making this a somewhat easy choice.

SECOND BASE: Ian Kinsler (AL),  Neil Walker (NL)

Picking between Jose Altuve and Ian Kinsler was rather difficult, as both have stats very similar to the other. In the end, however, I chose Kinsler for the all-around game he brings to the table. While Altuve has had a hot bat to begin the season, it’s Kinsler who I feel can continue to hold his streak the longest.

There are multiple options for National League secondbaseman, with Daniel Murphy and Jean Segura’s high averages jumping out as All-Star worthy. But I wound up picking Neil Walker, who has a combination of a good average, along with a high early homer total that make him All-Star game worthy.

SHORTSTOP:  Carlos Correa (AL),  Zack Cozart (NL)

After winning the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award, I currently have Carlos Correa being the AL starting shortstop at the All-Star game as well. Correa plays a great defense and has just as much pop in his bat as anyone around baseball. Therefore, I picked him on my ballot.

The National League shortstop spot goes to Zack Cozart in my mind. While Trevor Story leads the pack in homers and RBI’s, the majority of those came during his extremely hot (and historic) first several games. Recently, Story has cooled off a ton, and the shortstop spot is Cozart’s to lose, in my opinion.

THIRD BASE: Manny Machado (AL),  Nolan Arenado (NL)

There are a ton of worthy candidates in the American League for All-Star game third baseman, but, unfortunately, I could only choose one on my ballot. Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and even Adrian Beltre all have cases. But I went with Manny Machado, who has been incredible to start the season.

Going against Maikel Franco and Kris Bryant was extremely hard to do, especially with them getting off to good starts, but I didn’t go with either of them. Instead, I went with Nolan Arenado. Although his stats aren’t much better than any of the other options, Arenado is one of the best both offensively and defensively at the position.

CATCHER:  Salvador Perez (AL), Wellington Castillo  (NL)

Though his average is a good distance away from the magic .300 mark, Salvador Perez is deserving of the All-Star catcher slot. He is having a great season in Kansas City, once again, and easily earns my vote. Always consistently good, Perez is one of the best catchers in the game, and should be honored as such.

Yadier Molina is always the heavy favorite for National League starting catcher, and he is once again on top in batting average. But I didn’t go with Molina. Instead, I went with breakout catcher, Wellington Castillo. Castillo is having a great year to this point, and he has a very good case for being named the starter in July.

DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz

David Ortiz could be hitting .100 by the time the All-Star game rolls around and he still would be worthy of the vote. Being his final season, and with all he’s done over his career, he deserves it no matter what. But the stats are there, regardless. Ortiz more than deserves to play in his final All-Star game.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks for each league, especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Steven Souza Jr. (AL)

Picking Mark Trumbo and Steven Souza Jr. was a bit tough, but they’re having too good of seasons for me to ignore. Although they likely won’t be the top vote-getters when all is said and done, they earn my vote for now. Mike Trout, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. Despite a slow start, Trout is heating things up, and is still a superstar.

Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun, who are each having uniquely great seasons, and are each very exciting players to watch.

Bryce Harper Speaks Out for More Emotion

The regular season is still several weeks away and Bryce Harper is already making headlines across baseball. Not for an amazing throw or catch, or even a mammoth homer out of the ballpark. Instead, Harper is being talked about for his recent comments on baseball’s unwritten rules that involve one of the game’s touchiest topics: emotion.

HarperIn recent seasons, certain players have taken some heat for showing emotion on the field after making a game-changing play. Guys who have taken their sweet time rounding the bases after a home run, such as David Ortiz, or pitchers who have pumped their fist in celebration of a big time strikeout, i.e. Jose Fernandez, have had a negative light put upon them by opposing teams and fans alike.

Because of this, Bryce Harper (who has also been criticized numerous times for his emotional gameplay) took a very verbal stance recently, opposing those who feel individual celebration and emotion have no place in baseball, saying, “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself . . . I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair.”

I’m not sure I agree with Harper in going as far as to say baseball is a tired sport. I for one think baseball is more exciting than ever, with players getting seemingly more and more talented each season, and subsequently posting some unbelievable numbers. But I do agree with him that it’s time for emotion to find a place in baseball, assuming the situation calls for it (I don’t want to see celebrating after a bases-empty single), as it is a natural reaction as a human being to have some sort of emotional display after doing what is essentially your job as a big leaguer: to help your team win.

What’s become tired to me is isn’t the sport, as Harper suggests, but players allowing their feeling to be hurt so easily because the opposing team’s batter took too long to circle the bases on a home run or stood and watched the ball for too long, resulting in them being plunked in their next at-bat as a form of retaliation. That’s what is making baseball a tired sport.

Not surprisingly, however, some players don’t agree with Harper’s words (or my opinions). San Francisco Giant’s reliever, Sergio Romo, stated, in response to Harper’s comments, that there is undoubtedly ways to show emotion without showing up the other side. But I find that hard to envision. Inevitably, there will always be someone who views another player’s celebratory action as uncalled for, no matter how innocent the intention may have been. That’s the way the world works, so players might as well just do their thing and not care what anyone thinks.

But while guys such as Bryce Harper obviously couldn’t care less what people think or say about them, I imagine they Bautistado care what opposing pitchers do in retaliation. In the recent past, as previously touched upon, it’s been common “tradition” to get back at a team who had a player celebrate a home run or big play by drilling another player — usually the superstar player — with a fastball. Giving every player the okay to be themselves and celebrate would hopefully cut down on these over the top retaliations.

Baseball has long been a sport of tradition, and while I’m all for that, I think baseball also needs to grow with the times. There is a rule in the official Major League Baseball rule book that states that players aren’t allowed to fraternize with opposing players at any point before, during or after the game; yet players are laughing and joking with each other from the time they take the field until the last out. The game has historically changed with the times, and we have reached a new point in that timeline.

Recent changes to the written rules have seen second basemen being protected from takeout slides, as well as advanced instant replay rules being put into place to help get calls correct. In my mind, it’s time for the unwritten rules to be looked at as well. I don’t want things to go as far as players dancing after every base hit, but I don’t think things will reach that point. All that players such as Harper are asking is that they be allowed to show off their talent while having fun with it all.

Emotion takes baseball players back to their little league days when baseball was simply just a game. That emotion is needed in baseball, not because “showing up” the opposing team is a good thing, but because baseball is a much better sport when players are being genuine with who they are and the way they are feeling.

As Bryce Harper put it, it’s time players showed their “flair”.

Could We See Multiple 50-Homer Players in 2016?

Ever since Babe Ruth burst onto the scene in 1919 with his single-season record breaking year of 29 home runs (more than some entire teams back then) — subsequently leading to his many superstar seasons that included 60 home runs in 1927 — baseball has been in love with the long ball. In fact, ever since 1983 there has been at least one player each and every season to hit 40 or more home runs, showing just how much baseball has come to depend on the big fly.Ruth

With 40 home runs no longer being quite the extraordinary feat that it was back when Ruth was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career — nine total players hit 40+ in 2015 — the new number of astonishment has risen to 50 or more homers in a season, which hasn’t been done in the past two seasons.

The most recent player with 50 or more homers in a season was Chris Davis in 2013, when he hit 53 with the Orioles. But I feel that there is a good chance of at least one player basting 50 homers in 2016, with the slightest of chances that multiple players accomplish the feat.

While more than one player hitting 50+ home runs would seem somewhat unlikely, it’s not as rare as you might think. Sure it’s tough to do, but it was done as recently as 2007 when Alex Rodriguez (54 homers) and Prince Fielder (50 homers) did just that. It was also done in 2006, 2002, 2001, 1999-1996, 1961, 1947 and 1938, with four players hitting 50 or more in both 1998 and 2001.

I don’t see another 1998 or 2001 on our hands, but I do feel that 2016 could become the 12th season in MLB history with two or more players hitting over 50 home runs in a single season.

Of all of the player in baseball, there are three who I feel stand the best shot at 50 this season: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis and Bryce Harper.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured for most of the 2015 season, but as history has shown, he has just as much power as anyone in baseball right now, and is right up there with the all time great power hitters. In the 74 games he did play in 2015, Stanton blasted 27 home runs. If you were simply to double those numbers, Stanton would’ve theoretically hit 54 home runs in 148 games played. While those numbers can’t be taken literally, due to them being mere projections, Stanton undoubtedly has 50+ home run potential, and with the Marlins moving in the fences, I think 2016 will finally be his year if he can stay healthy.

50HomersBut even though Stanton has the best shot at 50, I think Chris Davis, who is no stranger to big production numbers, has a good chance as well. In 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs, but had 4-5 additional homers robbed by fantastic plays in the outfield over the season. Even so, Davis actually has a 50-homer season under his belt, as previously stated, hitting 53 in 2013. Returning to the Orioles for the next seven seasons, Davis is likely to hit well over 200 home runs over the course of that contract, and I could easily see him popping 50 of them in 2016 alone.

The last of the players on my top three 50 homer candidates list is Bryce Harper. He’s still extremely young, at just 23 years old, but having hit 42 home runs last season, I could envision 50 from him in 2016. His power is undeniable, and with him taking a fantastic approach at the plate last year — either drawing a walk or waiting for his pitch and crushing it — I think Harper will continue to produce MVP caliber numbers for the next several seasons. Whether or not he surpasses 50 homers in 2016 is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Despite the fact that Spring Training hasn’t even begun, it’s never too early to glance towards the regular season, and I have the feeling that 2016 is going to be an unbelievable year around Major League Baseball. Although there’s the chance that my prediction is way off and no players at all hit 50 or more home runs this coming season, the potential for it to occur is there. That’s more than enough reason to get people around the baseball world excited for the regular season to get underway in less than two months.

Decision of Yoenis Cespedes Could Decide the NL East

After watching the majority of above average outfield free agents get plucked off the market over the course of this offseason (the most recent case being Justin Upton, who agreed to a six-year, 132.75 million dollar contract with the Tigers), Yoenis Cespedes is currently in the process of determining his fate for the 2016 season and beyond.Cespedes

Reportedly, the two teams most in the running to nab Cespedes are the New York Mets and the division rival Washington Nationals (though the Yankees have been mentioned as well).

As with every team around baseball, either team would be a better version of itself with Cespedes as part of their everyday lineup in 2016, but in this case I think the choice could wind up being more important than usual. With the Mets and Nationals going back and forth in the division last season, all the way until the latter part of the year, I truly believe that the team that gets Cespedes will be the team that holds the advantage to win the National League East division.

Back on July 31st of last year, the National held a two game lead over the Mets and were seemingly on their way to the postseason as had been expected from Opening Day. But a trade for Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets ultimately gave them what they needed to surpass the Nationals and never look back.

In 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes blasted 17 home runs and drove in 44 runs, all while hitting a cool .287. With Cespedes leading the way, New York wound up taking what was supposed to be an easy division win by the Nats and turning it a complete 180 degrees into a cakewalk division win by the Mets — an outcome that truly stunned many around the baseball world.

Sure, the Mets had a lot go right last season, and the Nationals had almost everything go wrong, but you can’t deny the impact that the lone presence of Cespedes brought to the Mets.

With the Phillies still seemingly lost heading into 2016, NLEastthe Braves working on rebuilding their club and the Marlins being much improved but still likely a third place team at best, the division will inevitably go to either the Nationals or the Mets.

On paper, the two teams are quite even. While I would give the edge to the Mets in terms of pitching staff (with guys like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard), I would declare the Nationals the better lineup, with tons of pop including the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper, who hit 42 home runs and batted .330 a year ago. The difference maker, in my mind, for both teams comes down to one free agent: Yoenis Cespedes.

With the National League East division set to be just as competitive as ever between the Mets and the Nationals, whoever can win the Cespedes sweepstakes (given the reports are correct, and he does end up with one of the two) will hold the upper hand heading into 2016 to win the division. As history has shown since the introduction of the second wild card in 2012, winning the division is extremely important in securing a long playoff run in October.