With the calendar flipping to June, it's not too early to start thinking about who might represent the Washington Nationals at the mid-summer classic, the 2011 All-Star Game on July 12 in Phoenix. It's an honor for players to be voted in by the fans, but the first early results posted by Major League Baseball show no Nationals player in the top five in voting for position players or top 15 outfielders. Unfortunately, $126 million isn't enough to buy Jayson Werth a few All-Star votes.
But manager Jim Riggleman will be there, as he was chosen by San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy as one of his coaches, so he'll have a little input in the selection of the reserves. Which player will be repping the curly W at Chase Field? Let's take a look at the most likely candidates.
Obviously, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman would normally be a shoo-in for the honor, but since he's only played eight games thus far, he'll hardly qualify for the spot. The Nats hitters have struggled as a group, but there are a couple of players - if they get hot in June - could warrant mentioning.
Let's start with Werth. His slash line of .255/.344/.439 isn't terrible and he has eight home runs and 21 RBIs. He's been in a lull power-wise, having not homered since hitting two against Baltimore on May 20 (on his 32nd birthday). But if he were to catch fire this month, Werth could up those numbers across the board and, with his profile and media attention, he could be an attractive pick.
Another offensive player we can't dismiss is second baseman Danny Espinosa. Against the Phillies last night, Espinosa hit two home runs to bring his total to 10, which ties the Los Angeles Angels' Mark Trumbo for the lead among all rookies in the major leagues. He also has 33 RBIs, which places him 10th in the National League overall, ahead of players like Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto.
Add Espinosa's fabulous glove and his rookie status and he would be an exciting pick. Unfortunately, he's only hitting .217/.311/.461, so that's a blemish on his record. I wonder if the selection committee would understand that his BABiP is only .222, due to revert back to the mean, and his average should rise correspondingly as it does. Eh, probably not.
Michael Morse is certainly making a push. The slugging first baseman has been on a tear the last 10 games, hitting over .400 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in that span. His overall line of .301/.329/.504 with seven homers and 24 RBIs could put him in the conversation, but with established stars like Pujols, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder at first base, he'd be a tough selection.
That brings us to the pitchers. Livan Hernandez has the best ERA of the starters, but the lack of run support he's had to endure has left his record at 3-6, not All-Star worthy. Jason Marquis certainly bears mentioning, as his 6-2 record leads the staff and his 4.13 ERA is credible. But the most logical candidate from the pitching staff is its young closer, Drew Storen.
Storen is nine out of 10 in save chances with a sparkling 2.03 ERA and 24-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If the Nats can give him a few more save chances in the next few weeks to pad his stats, he could garner enough attention to make his first All-Star appearance.
There's no clear-cut right answer to this question yet. Luckily, there are several more weeks of play before the final decision needs to be made. Better yet, Nats fans could take the matter into their own hands and vote one of the Nationals in, something that hasn't happened since Alfonso Soriano was voted onto the team in 2006. Wouldn't that be nice?
Dave Nichols covers the Nationals for Nats News Network. Read Nichols' Nationals observations part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.