All-Star Watch: American League

The best of the American League this season, and the players you should be voting for on your All-Star ballots.

Catcher – AJ Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

AJ has been remarkably durable and remarkably consistent over his career, and is off maybe his finest season yet. He leads all American League catchers in OPS (.857), batting average (.299), slugging (.512), RBI (33), and ranks 2nd to Joe Mauer in on-base percentage, and hits. Pierzynski is also displaying more power than at any other point in his career, posting a .213 ISO mark, which measures a batters ability to hit for extra-bases. Anything over .200 is considered elite, especially at the catcher position.

Runner-up: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

1st Base – Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

Perhaps the only positional player who has any chance of catching Josh Hamilton in the MVP race is Paul Konerko. Konerko is the 2nd White Sox on the list, and has been the biggest reason why the South Side team has taken over 1st in the AL Central. He’s hitting .381/.455/.642 with 11 homers and 33 RBI. His batting average is the best in baseball, and he’s getting on-base at the best clip in the American League. The gulf in performance between Konerko and the next closest 1st baseman, Prince Fielder, is among the biggest in baseball at any position right now.

Runner-up: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

2nd Base – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

Quick, who’s been the most valuable player for the Cleveland Indians so far this season? Why that would be 25-year-old, 2nd year pro Jason Kipnis, who is hitting .280/.342/.450 while playing excellent defense. He also leads AL 2nd basemen in steals, with 11, while ranking 2nd in homers, with 8, and 1st in RBI, with 30. Kipnis’ also has excellent instincts on the bases having only been caught once in his 12 tries.

Runner-up: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

3rd Base – Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

Mark Trumbo may be on the official ballot, but he’s only played 8 games at the position, so I’m not giving him my vote. Instead I will take Adrian Beltre, who’s hitting .319/.340/.549 with 10 homers and 34 RBI. He been the Rangers 2nd best hitter this season, a nice accomplishment on the best offense in the league. Beltre is still playing his usual stellar defense at 3rd as well, giving him a decisive edge of Miguel Cabrera for the spot.

Runner-up: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Shortstop – Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

The American League hits leader holds off the strong field of candidates for another month, just outplaying Asdrubal Cabrera, JJ Hardy, and Elvis Andrus. Jeter is not hitting the astronomical .380 he was early in the season, but his .336/.382/.455 are elite numbers for a shortstop. He also has 5 homers, one short of last year’s total, and 4 steals on the ledger, to go along with 28 runs scored.

Runner-up: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians

Outfield – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

Did you expect anybody else? The best hitter on the planet leads all of baseball in homers (21), RBI (57), slugging (.764!!!), OPS (1.184!!!!), OPS+ (205), total bases (139) and WAR (3.7). He’s the runaway MVP candidate in the American League at this point, and a legitimate Triple Crown candidate because he’s hitting .368 as well.

Outfield – Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

The best player for the surprisingly competitive O’s just got a fat contract extension this month, paying him $91 million for the next 7 seasons. This is Jones’ finest season of his career, and he’s hitting .314/.365/.618 with 16 homers, 34 RBI and 8 steals. Its difficult to say whether he can sustain his high batting average because he’s a career .279 hitter, but Baltimore fans should enjoy this hot streak while it lasts.

Outfield – Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

The last AL spot was a toss-up between Matt Joyce, Curtis Granderson, and Willingham, who was my choice. Willingham has more extra-base hits than the other 3, and a higher OPS than the rest as well. He’s been getting on base at an excellent clip, at a .401 rate, the highest of his career. Willingham will be an excellent trade target for an outfield or power-needy team at the deadline.

Runners-up: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees, Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays, Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s

Designated Hitter – David Oritz, Boston Red Sox

Ortiz is having a throwback season, slugging the ball like he did when Manny was still in left field and Francona in the dugout. He’s hitting .323/.394/.608 with 12 homers and 18 doubles. He’s also driven in and scored 35 runs apiece, best of all potential AL DH candidates.

Runner-up: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

Right-handed Pitcher – Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Verlander has, for the most part, picked right back up from his Cy Young/MVP season, and leads the league in many important categories. Verlander’s ranks best in baseball in WHIP (.885), strikeouts (82), and innings pitched (81.1). His 5-3 record isn’t as shiny as last season’s 24-5, but Verlander has probably been a slightly better pitcher. His 3 complete games are more than 26 other teams have in their entire rotation.

Runner-up: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

Left-handed Pitcher – Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

Sale had his coming out party May 28th when he struck out 15 Tampa Bay hitters in 7.1 innings. It was one of the most impressive pitching performances on the season, and Sale’s finest game to date. It lowered his ERA to 2.31, best in the American League, and his 9.5 K/9 rate proves that he has the goods to continue pitching at this high a level.

Runner-up: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

Reliever – Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

Johnson is having a phenomenal year, as is the entire Baltimore bullpen. He’s thrown 21.1 innings and allowed only 2 runs, 4 walks, and 13 hits for a tiny .84 ERA with a .797 WHIP. He has saved 16 games for the Orioles, who are still tied with Tampa Bay for 1st place.

Runner-up: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

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