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How Yasiel Puig can fit on the National League All-Star roster

Yasiel Puig, DodgersYasiel Puig 's heroics, theatrics and statistics more than compensate for his late arrival in the majors. (John Cordes/Icon SMI)

The All-Star rosters and Final Vote candidates will be announced Saturday evening, which means we'll soon be done discussing who should make it and moving on to complaining about who did. No player's candidacy has been debated more than that of Yasiel Puig, the sensational Dodgers rookie outfielder. In the past couple of days alone, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and Angels manager Mike Scioscia have voiced their opinion that Puig, who debuted on June 3, hasn't played enough to warrant a spot on the National League roster. We here at The Strike Zone disagree.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a potential NL roster to see just how disruptive the inclusion of Puig would be. Because, while Puig's lack of major league experience should not be held against him with regard to an All-Star selection, he still shouldn't be selected over more deserving candidates who have played a full season, either.

We don't yet know the identity of the fan-selected starters, but we do have updated vote totals from Tuesday. Based on the trends we've seen from past updates, let's assume the voting yields these eight players:

C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

1B: Joey Votto, Reds

2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds

3B: David Wright, Mets

SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rokies

OF: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals

All but Harper held leads on Tuesday. Harper was just 15,266 votes behind Justin Upton for the final outfield spot, and given that he's back off the DL and homered in his first game back, it's a good bet he sneaks into that final spot.

Tulowitzki, meanwhile, is injured and unable to play. The right choice for NL manager Bruce Bochy is to choose the Brewers' Jean Segura to replace him, even though his own shortstop in San Francisco, Brandon Crawford, was in second place in the voting as of Tuesday.

The first additions to that starting nine are easy to make. First we'll take the three pitchers vying for the start: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Matt Harvey of the Mets. Then we'll add one reserve at each position (three for the outfield). That gives us this second group of eight hitters:

C: Buster Posey, Giants

1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

2B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

3B: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals

OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Domonic Brown, Phillies; Michael Cuddyer, Rockies

Posey, Goldschmidt, Carpenter, and Gomez are no-brainers. Desmond is a close pick over San Diego's Everth Cabrera, who is set to return from the disabled list on Friday, with Desmond getting extra credit for his strong 2012 campaign. Alvarez is a close pick over Ryan Zimmerman, and the NL outfield gets pretty crowded after Gomez, but Brown has been a sensation and Cuddyer leads the league in OPS.

That gives us 16 hitters and three pitchers. We need at least a dozen pitchers. We also need to make sure we have one player from every team. There are just four teams that are not yet represented: the Braves, Marlins, Cubs and Padres. Here are the most-deserving players from each of those four teams:

Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B

Marlins: Jose Fernandez, SP

Cubs: Travis Wood, SP

Padres: Everth Cabrera, SS

That puts us up to 18 hitters and five pitchers, so we can flesh out our pitching staff with seven more hurlers. Give me the other two men from my recent Cy Young leader list, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals and Cliff Lee of the Phillies.

Some of you may have disagreed with a few of the picks above, but I'm guessing far more will disagree with this next decision. Last year, both leagues included five closers on their rosters, but starting pitching is far more valuable, so I'm going to limit my roster to three relievers, and they need not be closers. Give me the three most dependable late-game aces in the NL this year: Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon of the Pirates and Edward Mujica of the Cardinals, each of whom has just one blown save and some spectacular peripherals (the three have combined to strike out 134 men against just 13 walks in 113 1/3 innings).

That leaves two spots for deserving starting pitchers. I'll take the Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin and the Cardinals' Shelby Miller. (Remember, any starters who start the Sunday before the All-Star Game would be ineligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic and thus have to be replaced by another pitcher.)

Here's what we have so far:

C: Molina, Posey

1B: Votto, Goldschmidt, Freeman

2B: Phillips, Carpenter

3B: Wright, Alvarez

SS: Segura, Desmond, Cabrera

OF: Beltran, C. Gonzalez, Harper, C. Gomez, Brown, Cuddyer

SP: Kershaw, Wainwright, Harvey, Zimermann, Lee, Corbin, Miller, Fernandez, Wood

RP: Grilli, Mujica, Melancon

There are four remaining roster spots, three of which will be announced tomorrow, and one which will be filled by the final vote candidate selected by the fans.

I didn't use wins above replacement as a guide for the above, but if we turn to Baseball-Reference.com's version of the stat we see that Puig has a bWAR of 2.4. Here are the players not on the above roster with an equal or higher bWAR total:

4.4: Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates

3.7: Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Rockies

3.6: Starling Marte, LF, Pirates

3.4: Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks; Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies

3.0: Russell Martin, C, Pirates

2.9: Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves

2.7: Jay Bruce, RF, Reds

2.6: Chase Ultey, SS, Kyle Kendrick, SP, Phillies

2.5: SPs Mike Leake (Reds), Jeff Locke (Pirates), Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers)

A few notes: Simmons' bWAR is based amost entirely on his fielding, which is legitimately outstanding, but a player with a 70 OPS+ doesn't belong on my All-Star roster. Bruce and Utley have played all three months so far and are 0.3 or less bWAR ahead of Puig, a meaningless difference. Puig could very easily pass both of them in the next week, as well as Kendrick, Leake, Locke and Ryu. That narrows our list of contenders for those final spots to the three Pirates, the two Rockies, Parra, and Puig.

Now, here's an interesting twist. The two non-relievers with the lowest bWARs among the 30 players I selected above are another Pirate (Alvarez, 1.9) and another Rockie (Cuddyer, 1.6, who grades out as a brutal defender). With three Pirates already selected, let's replace Alvarez with McCutchen, a deserving perennial All-Star. Matt Carpenter thus will back up both second and third base, the latter being where home-field hero David Wright of the Mets will start, so there will be little complaint if he plays the whole game, and Everth Cabrera can play second base if needed (he had five starts there last year). Rockies fans can have their pick here between Cuddyer and De La Rosa, but let's not have four players (including the injured Tulowitzki) from a losing team, which also means Chacin is out. I'll take De La Rosa to add depth to my pitching staff.

Now we have four men left. Martin has been a huge part of Pittsburgh's success this year, so let's have him as a third catcher and leave off Marte because we already have four Pirates. Martin also helps solve our infield shortage as he has made two starts at third base this year. That puts Parra and Puig in the final two spots to be announced tomorrow and leaves the rest, including Alvarez and Cuddyer as Final Vote candidates. So that yields this roster of 33:

C: Molina, Posey, Martin

1B: Votto, Goldschmidt, Freeman

2B: Phillips, Carpenter

3B: Wright

SS: Segura, Desmond, Cabrera

OF: Beltran, C. Gonzalez, Harper, C. Gomez, Brown, McCutchen, Parra, Puig

SP: Kershaw, Wainwright, Harvey, Zimermann, Lee, Corbin, Miller, Fernandez, Wood, De La Rosa

RP: Grilli, Mujica, Melancon

Among the potential candidates for the Final Vote, then, we have Marte, Chacin, Simmons, Bruce, Utley, Kendrick, Leake, Locke, Ryu, Alvarez, Cuddyer and whichever closers you might feel I snubbed (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and, ironically, Jonathan Papelbon, being the ones that leap to mind), none of whom I'd rather have on the roster over Puig, but one of whom would get to join him there. So, there is room for Puig on the National League All-Star team, if just barely. I look forward to seeing him at Citi Field on the 16th.

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