With just days left before the balloting ends, suddenly the once-stagnant NL All-Star race has blown wide open. After maintaining essentially same starting line-up throughout the voting process, the National League could potentially face up to four upstart changes in their lineup by week's end.
In the aftermath of the fractured-wrist-heard-round-the-world, St. Louis first basemen Albert Pujols' (3,358,432) spot in the starting lineup is suddenly up for grabs. Making the charge for the honor is Milwaukee's Prince Fielder (2,903,584), who finds himself embroiled in a fierce battle with Cincinnati's Joey Votto (2,832,857) that will likely come down to the wire.
Fielder's Milwaukee teammate, Rickie Weeks (2,869,583), rode another strong week to finally overtake Brandon Phillips (2,791,186) as the NL's starting second basemen. Though the margin between the two remains small, Phillips had held the lead since the initial balloting results were released at the beginning of June.
In news regarding players who probably deserve starting nods, Los Angeles outfielder Matt Kemp (2,743,927) and New York shortstop Jose Reyes (2,710,777) continued their meteoric rise up the rankings on the heels of yet another torrid week. The triple crown candidate and NL batting king each have a few days left to make up the 200,000 vote differential between incumbents Troy Tulowitzki (2,955,609) and Matt Holliday (2,935,965).
Atlanta catcher Brian McCann (3,062,884), Philadelphia third basemen Placido Polanco (3,261,718), St. Louis outfielder Lance Berkman (3,208,183), and leading vote-getter Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun (3,932,100) all maintained steady leads at their respective positions. Braun has been the most popular NL candidate since the second week of balloting.
Noticeably absent from the voting is Arizona Diamondbacks stud Justin Upton. Since beginning within 500,000 votes of a starting spot, the young outfielder has found the gap between himself and the leaders widening each time a new set of results is released, despite a blistering June that saw his batting average raise from .264 to .306.
While his numbers may not overwhelm upon first glance, there is something to be said about the influence a player has on his team. The argument could be made that by leading the unknown Diamondbacks in a charge from irrelevance to the top of the NL West, Upton has had a far greater impact on his franchise than any member of the star-studded Cardinal outfield.
Fan voting ends June 30th and can be accessed from MLB.com or any major league team website. Starting league rosters will be announced during the ‘2011 All-Star Game Selection Show' on TBS, Sunday July 3rd. The 2011 MLB All-Star game will be held July 12th at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.
The starting NL lineup as of June 28th:
C: Brian McCann, Braves: 3,062,884 (Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 2,271,887)
1B: Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 3,358,432 (Prince Fielder, Brewers: 2,903,584)
2B: Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 2,869,583 (Brandon Phillips, Reds: 2,791,186)
3B: Placido Polanco, Phillies: 3,261,718 (Chipper Jones, Braves: 2,040,594)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 2,955,609 (Jose Reyes, Mets: 2,710,777)
OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers: 3,932,100 (Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 2,743,927)
OF: Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 3,208,183 (Andre Ethier, Dodgers: 2,264,640)
OF: Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 2,935,965 (Jay Bruce, Reds: 2,119,267)