Votebook: NL outfielders difficult to narrow down
Stanton, McCutchen clear starters; final starting slot still in question for All-Star Game
Balloting continues for Major League Baseball's 85th All-Star Game on July 15 at Target Field in Minnesota, and fans can cast their votes using the 2014 All-Star Game Ballot Sponsored by Experian. Deciding who should get voted into the starting lineup can be challenging. Today, Phil Rogers and Richard Justice discuss National League outfielders.
Rogers: Hey, Richard. Take a look at the outfield situation for the National League in the All-Star Game. I'm not sure how this fuzzy picture is going to clear itself up. For the sake of our discussion, let's say seven outfielders are going to wind up on Mike Matheny's team -- the three regulars, three backups and another who can be in the designated-hitter mix. You good with that? For starters, let's talk about the starters. How many no-brainers have you got? I think I'm only at two -- Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen. How about this stat for these two: As of Friday, they've combined to hit 33 home runs and they're 19-for-19 in stolen bases. The surprise there is McCutchen has only five more steals than Stanton (12-7). Pretty efficient players, I'd say. But I owe you a starter, and that's where this gets really tough. Do you have a third to go with McCutchen and Stanton? There are a lot of guys in the picture, but I'm not sure there's anyone else who is an automatic. Who do you have?
Justice: Yep, those are the easy ones. Stanton is the NL MVP Award winner at this point, and among NL outfielders, he's first in WAR, OPS, home runs and extra-base hits. He's third in batting average, fourth in doubles and sixth in the fangraphs.com defensive metrics. In other words, Stanton is real good at baseball. McCutchen is good, too. He's second in WAR, OPS, extra-base hits and doubles. McCutchen is first in batting average and seventh in home runs. If we're scoring at home, no one else is even close to those two, even though McCutchen's defensive score is way there. After that, it gets tough. Yasiel Puig? Jason Heyward? Carlos Gomez? Who do you have, buddy boy? You first.
Rogers: Well, if I had a ballot in front of me, the third name I'd punch is Billy Hamilton. I know a lot of his numbers don't match up to the guys who are great athletes and hit for power -- Gomez and Puig, specifically -- and I feel a little bad about overlooking Seth Smith, who continues the best season nobody has noticed out there in Petco Park -- but these days, it's Hamilton who is the one player I have to see, night after night. Did you catch him in Pittsburgh last week? Hamilton made catches all over the outfield and plastered his face on the outfield wall while tossing in a two-strike bunt single for grins. On Monday night at Wrigley, I watched him use his speed to freak out two really good defensive players, Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo, and then drive in the go-ahead run with a great at-bat. I know you've been all over Hamilton since Goodyear, Ariz., so I'm going to take him before you can.
Justice: For me, it comes down to Puig or Gomez. I love 'em both. I especially love that they play the game with flair, that both have personalities and aren't afraid to show 'em off. However, as the starting lineup shakes out, I would think both of 'em will be in the Twin Cities. Puig should have been there last year. Statistically, I lean toward Gomez, who is a little bit better across the board. Surprisingly, though, they're almost even in the defensive metrics. They're both great stories, and isn't that part of why we love the All-Star Game? Gomez remade himself, while Puig burst onto the season last June 3 and has been fascinating, both in the way he plays the game and his raw skills. Again, if I have to take one, I take Gomez.
Phil Rogers and Richard Justice are columnists for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.