Likely 2014 Chicago Cubs All-Star Selections, Plus a Bonus Player Analysis

Likely 2014 Chicago Cubs All-Star Selections, Plus a Bonus Player Analysis

The Cubs probably have two All-Stars, although I'd say there are four guys that deserve at least a look.

The clear first choice for me is Anthony Rizzo, the best first baseman in the National League so far this season. Rizzo has a better glove than rival Paul Goldschmidt, and has been slightly better as a hitter after you control for where each has played. (Chase Field is a bit better for hitters than Wrigley, although lefties do often mash in the Friendly Confines.)

Rizzo's pitch selection has improved immensely so far this season. His walk rate is up significantly, and his strikeout rate hasn't changed much. He's hitting for more power, and squaring the ball up better just in general, which is to say that I wouldn't attribute all of his 60-point BABIP increase to just luck.

A reminder: Rizzo is two months away from turning 25, and is under team control through 2021.

I think Jeff Samardzija's combination of awesome output thus far and reputation as the team's "ace" will earn him the second nod for this team. But if you like his numbers, you'll love the line that Jason Hammel has put so far this season. Even after last night, Hammel has more strikeouts per inning and fewer walks per inning than Shark. Both pitchers have ERAs well under 3. I could see both guys being grabbed, but it's probably just Rizzo and Shark.

There's almost no way Neil Ramirez gets selected for an All-Star Game with just 15 innings pitched to his name, but the kid has been absolutely dominant. He leans heavily on his 96 mph fastball, and has struck out 4 of every 9 batters he's faced, which is insane.

BONUS ROUND

Y'all need ta reckanize: Luis Valbuena is good at baseball.

He doesn't quite have enough PAs to qualify, but regardless, Luis is currently 8th among MLB 3Bs in fWAR. He's been a plus defender at third, and he's hitting .288/.394/.456 so far this season. The dude should play every day until the magic fades.

Unfortunately for this team, it's pretty likely that the magic will indeed fade. Valbuena's BABIP is an unsustainable .361 right now, about 90 points above his career mark and more than 130 points better (!) than last season. The two projection systems listed by Fangraphs expect Valbuena's BABIP to settle back to .300 over the rest of the season, which could give him a line in the neighborhood of .250/.340/.400 for the summer.

Valbuena is making just $1.7 million this year, and is under team control for two more seasons (arb3 and arb4). A left-handed-hitting league-average bat that can play good defense at either 2B or 3B is an asset. We'll see whether the Cubs would like to extract that value in the form of playing for their own team, or if they'd rather convert him into future wins via trade. The Atlanta Braves, for example, could use an upgrade at either 2B or 3B.

@AJWalsh08

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  • Nice piece, AJ. I think your All-Star selections are spot on, although I'd argue that we're going to see Hammel traded before the game, giving Samardzija the nod.

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