The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is right around the corner, and while the blogosphere is bursting with opinions of who should and shouldn't make the team, I thought it might be fun to start another debate. Who would make an imaginary 2011 all-rookie all-star team? Sure, MLB has the Futures Game, but some of these players are years away from putting up major league numbers and some may never be seen or heard from again -- such is the wonderful world of prospects. The 2011 all-rookie all-star team will feature only players playing Major League Baseball and who are rookie eligible.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Nationals
Ramos came out of the gates strong in April to the tune of .358/.426/.527. He hasn't done much at the plate since, dropping his overall line to .238/.317/.389. However, his defensive game has been very solid and he has thrown out 13 of 32 would-be base stealers (41 percent). Ramos was recently a first-round pick in ESPN's Franchise Player Draft.
First Base: Freddie Freeman, Braves
Freeman has a bit of an advantage here, as he started the season in the big leagues unlike another strong contender, Eric Hosmer. Even so, Freeman has put up very solid numbers for a 21-year-old in his first big-league season. He's hitting .272/.339/.434 overall with nine home runs, but he has improved significantly after a slow April, raising his slugging percentage each month. He leads all rookie first-baseman in weighted on base average, wOBA, just edging out Mark Trumbo.
Second Base: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Quite frankly, this one wasn't even close. Espinosa was quiet out of the gates, but he continued to play slick defense and the power numbers eventually began to soar. His 15 home runs are the most ever by a rookie second baseman prior to the All-Star break, and his .227 isolated power, ISO, puts him in the top 20 in all of baseball. However, Espinosa might have to miss our imaginary all-rookie all-star team, as he may be in line to take a spot on the National League's very real All-Star roster. If that were to happen, Espinosa's replacement would be Dustin Ackley, who has looked strong at the plate since being called to the big leagues (.300/.378/.575), but in a very small sample size of 45 plate appearances.
Shortstop: Dee Gordon, Dodgers
This was a tough call, as there is no real standout rookie at the position and no one is even close to 200 plate appearances on the year. While stats always play a role in determining an all-star, sometimes fans just want to see players that bring excitement to the field. That's why the Dodgers rookie gets the nod here. Gordon has been pretty dreadful at the plate (.243/.263/.297), he's still a raw talent, and he has the type of speed that's easy on the eyes.
Third Base: Justin Turner, Mets
With a bigger sample size, I feel that Mike Moustakas probably would have snagged this spot, but Turner had been extremely productive before injuring his thumb early in June. He leads all rookie third basemen with 0.6 wins above replacement, WAR.
Left Field: Craig Gentry, Rangers
Sometimes players get a surprise opportunity at playing time in the big leagues. Sometimes they make the most of it and sometimes they don't. Gentry has definitely made the most of his time with the Rangers this season, putting up a .355 OBP and nine stolen bases in only 28 games while playing stellar defense.
Center Field: Ben Revere, Twins
When it comes to game-changing speed, Revere has it. He has nine stolen bases in 40 games and has shown exceptional range in center to go along with a respectable .281 average.
Right Field: Josh Reddick, Red Sox
Allen Craig was well on his way to earning a selection at one of the corner outfield spots, but he's out with a knee fracture. This leaves the selection to a group with a very small sample size. Reddick only has 42 plate appearances on the season, but he's been channeling his inner Randy Jackson, putting up a molten-hot lava bomb line of .444/.476/.772 and has already posted 1.2 WAR.
Designated Hitter: Mark Trumbo, Angels
Trumbo just missed being named the starting first baseman of my all-rookie all-stars, but he deserves a spot on the team and fits in nicely as the designated hitter. He's second among rookies in home runs and third in weighted on-base average, wOBA, with a minimum of 200 plate appearances.
Starting Pitcher: Michael Pineda, Mariners
Several rookie starters have had very good seasons to date, but none have been as utterly dominant as Pineda. His 8.7 K/9 is second only to Brandon Beachy among rookie starters -- although Beachy has only thrown 56 1/3 innings due to time on the DL -- and his 25.7 percent whiff rate is the best of any rookie starter. Pineda has also thrown the most innings of any rookie starter. Simply put, he's an All-Star, rookie or not. If he ends up representing the Mariners at the actual MLB All-Star Game, there are a number of pitchers that could fill his slot here, including Beachy, Alexi Ogando, Zach Britton or Jeremy Hellickson.
Reliever: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
With a dominant 14.3 K/9, 3.6 K/BB rate and only one home run allowed in a rookie reliever-leading 41 innings pitched, Kimbrel has become one of the most electric closers in baseball. Oh yeah, he also has 23 saves, which leads all rookie relievers and puts him one save behind Brian Wilson for the most in baseball.
Of course, all-star selections wouldn't be as fun if it weren't for the debate part of the process. Who would you put on the imaginary 2011 all-rookie all-star team? Who would they play against in an actual game -- the winner of the Futures Game, perhaps?