By Mark Miller
Watching the All-Star Game back on July 16 reminded baseball fans of the beauty of the game and wide variety of talent the sport features in 2013.
From the stellar defense of Baltimore’s Manny Machado to the spine-tingling entrance and tribute to the retiring Mariano Rivera to the final out and save registered by Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan, it was a magical night at Citi Field in New York. There was a great mix of young and old, veterans and rookies, hitters and pitchers on display.
With an abundance of that talent residing in the American League and the expansion of interleague play, those who attend games at The Ballpark in Arlington can personally see this wide array of talent. While some already have come and gone, the months of August and September will feature plenty more.
Since the dog days of summer are here, the Blitz takes a look at those who already have made this a year to remember and one to continue to watch. Let us know if you agree with our choices for the stars of 2013:
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
Nobody would have thought a catcher would lead the National League in hitting with a .331 average but the .284 career hitter is a major reason the Cardinals have the best record in baseball.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Another solid first-half player with 11 homers, 47 RBI and a .319 average. Too bad the defending World Series champs likely will not make the playoffs.
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
All it took was a change of scenery for Davis to accomplish in the big leagues what he had in the minors for the Rangers. His 37 homers and 97 RBI already have surpassed a strong 2012.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Leads all first baseman not named Chris Davis with 23 HRs and 85 RBI to go along with a .303 average. He’s a major reason the Diamondbacks lead the National League West.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Another solid year for Pedroia, who is batting well with a .294 average. He’s one reason the American League East-leading Red Sox have surprised everybody after a dismal 2012.
Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
The one veteran offensive player from the Big Apple to remain healthy, Cano has more homers (21) and RBI (70) than any second baseman in the game plus a .297 average.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
The main reason Milwaukee traded Zack Greinke has paid off with a .313 average, 11 homers and 31 stolen bases. He also plays stellar in the field.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Though he missed a month on the disabled list, Tulo has hit 19 homers and driven in 59 with a .330 in just 75 games.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
After winning the Triple Crown for the first time since 1967, Cabrera might become the first to do it in consecutive seasons. He leads the majors with a .360 average and 99 runs batted in and is No. 2 in home runs with 32.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
A key reason the Rangers remain in playoff contention with a .309 overall average, 22 HRs and 58 RBI plus his usual vacuum cleaner of a glove.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Though not as prolific as in his rookie season, Trout’s 17 homers, 65 RBI, 23 stolen bases and .324 average are better than most.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies
Earned a starting spot in the All-Star game with 17 homers, 62 RBI and a .329 average in just 85 games. One reason why was a season-best 27 game hitting streak.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
After a career year in 2012 (.327 average, 31 HR, 96 RBI), the Pittsburgh star’s numbers are a bit down (.302, 14, 56) but he’s already stolen 21 bases and is a key cog in the Pirates’ early success (see below for more).
Allen Craig, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Who needs Albert Pujols when Craig is putting up similar numbers. His .322 average is just behnd Molina and 79 RBI ranks him ahead of Goldschmidt in the league plus he’s the best in the game with runners aboard.
Joe Nathan, RP, Texas Rangers
Another reason the Rangers are in the playoff hunt is the veteran right-hander with 32 saves in 34 tries to go along with a stellar 1.73 ERA. His All-Star save helped Rivera earn the game’s most valuable player award.
Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
The first Met to start an All-Star Game since 1988 earned his spot with a 8-2 record, National League leading 164 strikeouts and a 2.11 earned run average, third best in his league.
Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
While losing to the Rangers just before the All-Star Break, Scherzer won his first 13 decisions of 2013 to earn the American League starter selection.
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
While he’s lost six times against eight wins, the big right-hander from Highland Park leads the majors with a 1.96 ERA. Too bad many of his teammates have struggled.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
The greatest designated hitter ever hasn’t slowed down at age 37. His 20 homers, 67 RBI and .329 average have been critical to Boston’s surge.
Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees
What a way to walk away from the game for the future hall of famer. At age 43, he’s saved 33 of 35 games with a 1.64 ERA. One of baseball’s most classy players fully deserved the accolades he received at the All-Star Game.
Ones to Watch
Pittsburgh Pirates: Not only will the Pirates likely end their streak of under-.500 seasons dating back to 1992, they very well could make the 2013 playoffs. Manager Clint Hurdle, a former Texas batting coach, brings his team to Texas in September.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A’s
Spurred by his win in the All-Star Home Run Derby, look for the Cuban star to rebound from a sophomore jinx first half (.232 average, 16 HRs, 50 RBI) to better match his rookie season (.292, 23, 82).
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
At just age 20, Harper already is one of the bright future stars of the game. Despite playing in just 58 games at the break, he had 13 homers and 29 RBI with a .264 average. If he stays healthy, look for a great final two months.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes, he only made his Major League debut June 3 but what a first 48 games for the 22-year-old Cuban. His 10 homers and 23 runs batted in helped lift the Dodgers out of their early-season disappointment and back on the playoff radar screen.