Being named an All-Star is something a Major Leaguer can carry with him for the rest of his life. But of course, with any cherished accolade, not every player will be able to earn the honor.
Sometimes, a slow start to the year can sink hopes. Injuries can derail them, too. And with 15 teams in competition for spots on each All-Star roster, sometimes the strong simply are beaten out by the stronger.
But there’s always a chance, and in this week’s notebook, MLB.com’s National League Central beat writers offer an All-Star of the future from each of their respective clubs. The requirement is that each player listed has not been named an All-Star before.
Here are their picks:
Brewers: Omar Narváez
Keston Hiura is too obvious after he slugged .570 last season, the second-highest mark in franchise history for a rookie who logged at least 300 plate appearances. (Ryan Braun set the bar at .634 in 2007). So let’s go further out on the proverbial limb for Narváez, a catcher who has already shown an ability to hit at an All-Star level, but needs work on defense. Among the 14 big league catchers who made at least 400 plate appearances last season, when Narváez was with the Mariners, he was third with a 119 wRC+ and fourth with a .345 wOBA, but was 10th in the FanGraphs’ version of WAR at 1.8, largely because of his defense. Narváez spent the spring working on that part of his game, with the team’s data analysts, bench coach Pat Murphy and catching coordinator Charlie Greene. The Brewers have had some success over the years in turning offense-first catching prospects, like Jonathan Lucroy, into more well-rounded players. -- Adam McCalvy
Cardinals: Kolten Wong
While Jack Flaherty certainly seems likely, we’ll try to stick with a hitter here, so let’s go with Wong. In his seven-year career, Wong has become one of the best second basemen in the Majors, highlighted last year by his first Gold Glove Award. Wong’s 10 Infield Outs Above Average, according to Statcast, was second in baseball, behind Adam Frazier’s 11. And according to FanGraphs, Wong’s 19 defensive runs saved and 5.2 ultimate zone rating ranked first in baseball.
The 29-year-old also had a career year at the plate, hitting .285 with a team-leading .361 on-base percentage, which helped him move to the top of the lineup near the halfway point of the year, bringing a spark to the Cardinals’ offense. He also stole a career-high 24 bases in 2019 and was eyeing 30 this year, as he was slated to be the leadoff hitter this year after a productive Spring Training. Wong has often mentioned how he’s found his identity as a hitter the past few years, which has allowed him to steadily increase his production. If he continues that, as well as his elite defense, he could make his first All-Star team in the near future. -- Anne Rogers
Cubs: Kyle Schwarber
That's right. Schwarber has never been an All-Star, even with all the hype surrounding his arrival to the Majors and his importance to the Cubs' core over the past few seasons. Arguably the biggest obstacle in that regard has been offensive inconsistency. Specifically, Schwarber has been more of a second-half hitter (.874 OPS) than a first-half hitter (.787 OPS) in his career. The same held true in '19, when Schwarber hit .227 (.777 OPS) before the break and then went off (.280 average and .997 OPS) after the season's intermission.
The difference this time around, at least as far as the Cubs hope, is that Schwarber's showing down the stretch in '19 was more foreshadowing than fluke for the 27-year-old, who is in his prime years. Consider that Schwarber posted a 151 wRC+ and .404 wOBA, which are the same marks that Mookie Betts had in that same post-All-Star break stretch. Schwarber led the Cubs with 20 homers after the break and was sixth in MLB in slugging percentage (.631) among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances in the second half. -- Jordan Bastian
Pirates: Bryan Reynolds
The Pirates have a few candidates atop MLB Pipeline’s list of their top 30 prospects: starter Mitch Keller (No. 1), third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes (No. 2) and intriguing shortstop Oneil Cruz (No. 3). It could be Keller, if he fulfills his own ace expectations, but we’re trying to look for hitters for this exercise. And why should we ignore the obvious pick on the Major League roster?
Reynolds led the Pirates with 4.1 Wins Above Replacement last season, slashing .314/.377/.503 with 16 homers and 37 doubles in 134 games during his rookie year. Making the Midsummer Classic as an outfielder is always tricky, due to the amount of competition, but Reynolds could make an argument for himself as the Pirates’ representative in the future if he keeps hitting like he did last year.
He’s batted above .300 at every level he’s ever played. His adjusted OPS+ was 31 percent better than league average last season, and that’s with a September swoon, during which he finally showed some signs of fatigue. He might develop into 20-homer power. And he believes he’s capable of compiling more stolen bases than he did in his debut. That sounds like a future All-Star, doesn’t it? -- Adam Berry
Reds: Nick Senzel
If the 24-year-old Senzel can stay healthy, he could become a breakout sensation and have All-Star status for Cincinnati. His rookie year in 2019 was a mixed bag, as he batted .256/.315/.427 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 104. He suffered injuries to his right ankle and left eye, and a torn labrum in his right shoulder required surgery on Sept. 24, as he turned in a subpar OPS+ of 89.
However, Senzel was batting a season-high .285 on Aug. 2, when an adjustment was made to his hitting approach that had him struggling and causing his numbers to sink. Always credited with an advanced hitting approach since he was the overall No. 2 pick in the 2016 Draft, Senzel batted .312 with an .895 OPS over his four Minor League seasons. The delayed Opening Day this year should allow Senzel to be fully healed and hit the ground running when the 2020 season does start. With the experience he’s gained -- plus plenty of support in the deep Cincinnati lineup that means he doesn’t have to do it all -- the future looks bright for Senzel. -- Mark Sheldon