Votebook: New generation of stars emerges
Young, talented group appears on All-Star ballot for first time
Want a good scope of just how much can change in a year? Try comparing All-Star Game ballots. They'll tell you all about the significant amount of player turnover on a yearly basis -- resulting from trades, free agency, position changes, ineffectiveness, surprises, retirements, call-ups, you name it.
From 2010 to 2011, those ballots got a bit of a makeover.
Gone, for various reasons, are Ken Griffey Jr., Troy Glaus, Luis Castillo, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, Bengie Molina and Jim Edmonds.
In are Buster Posey, Starlin Castro, Mike Stanton, Freddie Freeman, Peter Bourjos, Neil Walker and some guy named Sam Fuld.
And therein lies baseball's efficient recycling process. As players head out, a new batch emerges to take their place and, hopefully, their votes.
For this year's All-Star Game -- to be played July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix -- numerous names appear on the ballot for the first time.
The 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint is available online until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 30. The American League and National League rosters will be unveiled on Sunday, July 3, on the 2011 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS.
Here are some of the more notable punch-card or online-balloting newbies. Statistics are through Thursday's games.
Bourjos, CF, Angels: OK, so you probably knew Bourjos was solid defensively, has blazing speed and a knack for getting on base. But did you expect him to drive the ball the way he has? Few did. Through his first 25 games, Bourjos not only has a .352 on-base percentage, but has also notched 11 extra-base hits -- including four triples -- and has slugged .541.
"I'm feeling good right now," said Bourjos, who struggled through 51 games as a rookie last year. "I'm seeing the ball well and getting some good swings. I just want to keep it going."
Castro, SS, Cubs: Perhaps the competition from Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki will prove to be too stiff. But Castro is already putting himself up there among the game's best shortstops. The 21-year-old hit .300 in 125 games after coming up in early May last season. This year, he's hitting .346 with 11 RBIs, has struck out only six times in 111 plate appearances and is hitting both righties and lefties well. His .933 fielding percentage is second-lowest among Major League starting shortstops.
Whether that stands in the way of Castro -- the youngest player in the big leagues -- becoming the first Cubs shortstop to make an All-Star team since Shawon Dunston in 1990 remains to be seen.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets: Since he came up after the season began, Davis' name didn't appear on the All-Star ballot last year. Now, Mets fans can actually vote him in. And he's giving them reason to. The sweet-swinging, slick-fielding 24-year-old is off to a hot start in his sophomore season, batting .352 with four homers and 19 RBIs through his first 25 games. He doesn't really get the pub of fellow young lefty-hitting first basemen Freeman and Brandon Belt -- the Giants prospect who was optioned to Triple-A on April 20 -- but he has been better than each of them thus far.
Freeman, 1B, Braves: By many accounts, Freeman was every bit as good as phenom Jason Heyward while coming up through the Braves' system. We'll finally see for ourselves this season. Scouts rave about the 21-year-old's approach, power and defense. But Freeman has struggled in the early going, batting .238 and striking out 15 times in his first 26 games.
Heyward was an All-Star in his first season last year. But with Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder making up first base in the National League, that'll be a tough one to follow up for Freeman.
Fuld, LF, Rays: He was just a throw-in in the offseason trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs. But the legend of Fuld -- or, perhaps more fittingly, the "Legend Of Sam Fuld" -- continues to grow. Fuld, a 29-year-old speedster who pretty much came out of nowhere, locked up a starting job shortly after Ramirez's abrupt retirement and has been sensational, batting .315 with eight RBIs, 10 stolen bases and countless jaw-dropping catches.
Fuld's aura began on the field and developed through Twitter. Now, Fuld himself has a Twitter handle and an account has already begun in hopes of getting him voted into the All-Star Game.
Posey, C, Giants: Yes, folks, Posey wasn't even in the big leagues at this time last year. Hard to believe, right? It should be, considering what he did while being named National League Rookie of the Year and winning a World Series championship after coming up for good in late May.
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will serve as NL skipper for the Midsummer Classic: "He's shown that he's not only talented, but he's also smart and has a great makeup."
Besides Barry Bonds, the Giants haven't had a position player start the All-Star Game in eight years. The 24-year-old Posey, batting .259 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 22 games, could change that.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Mariners: Smoak, acquired as part of a deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers last year, has gotten on a roll recently. The 24-year-old switch-hitter enters the weekend riding a 10-game hitting streak that has seen him bat .371 (13-for-35) with four homers and 13 RBIs.
Smoak, batting .303, missed six games recently while dealing with the death of his father, but picked up right where he left off.
Stanton, RF, Marlins: It hasn't really clicked yet. But you just know that, at some point -- perhaps pretty soon -- Stanton is just going to go off. His raw power is too freakish. Stanton showed that while blasting 89 homers in 324 career Minor League games -- some of those still haven't landed yet, by the way -- and then translated it to the big leagues last season, hitting 22 homers and slugging .507 in 100 games as a rookie.
Slowed by nagging leg ailments since Spring Training, Stanton is batting .267 with only two home runs in 20 games thus far. But he has raised his batting average 29 points since last Friday.
Walker, 2B, Pirates: Walker, like third-base teammate Pedro Alvarez, is new to the All-Star ballot. Unlike Alvarez, though, Walker is off to a good start in his first full season. So good, in fact, that he is the first second baseman in Pirates history to appear in at least 10 games at the cleanup spot since Bill Mazeroski.
Walker, who batted .296 with 12 homers after coming up in late May last season, has hit .340 in his last 13 games at the No. 4 spot of the order and sports a .377 on-base percentage and 14 RBIs.
Brett Wallace, 1B, Astros: After being dealt three times since being the No. 13 overall Draft pick in 2008, Wallace finally established himself with a hot spring that won him the starting first-base job in Houston. So far, the 24-year-old has kept right on hitting, batting .373 with nine RBIs and a .959 OPS to start the season.
Wallace had just three hits in his first 21 at-bats of 2011, but backed his stance slightly off the plate following the season's first road trip and has seen results.
"I think it's allowed him to be able to use his hands on the ball that is down and on the inside part of the plate," Astros hitting coach Mike Barnett said recently. "He's getting there a lot easier."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.