Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez haven't exactly hit like All-Stars through the first month of the season, but there are plenty of familiar first basemen slugging their way to spots in the Midsummer Classic. And they've been joined by a few new faces as well.
Paul Konerko of the White Sox can represent the old guard, and following this weekend's games, the 16-year veteran led American League first basemen in most offensive categories. Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has been doing the same thing about 10 miles north of U.S. Cellular Field, making the most of his opportunity as a 29-year-old career Minor Leaguer.
LaHair's success, Pujols' struggles and a collection of well-known stars in the American League should make for some interesting decisions about who starts at first base in the 2012 All-Star Game on July 10.
While first base is typically a position of strength at the plate, AL first basemen, many of whom are off to sluggish starts, have collectively put up numbers comparable to players at defensive-minded positions like catcher, shortstop and second base.
Pujols and Gonzalez, voted to start in last year's Midsummer Classic, have struggled at the plate early on. After hitting his first homer of the season Sunday afternoon, Pujols' batting average still stood at .197 and his OPS at a meager .526 on Tuesday morning.
"I know what I'm capable of doing," said Pujols, a nine-time All-Star. "I come over here every day, try to get myself ready for the game and give 110 percent to this team and to this organization."
He'll have plenty of competition in the AL race, with Konerko leading the pack statistically. The Tigers' Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees and Boston's Gonzalez are among the other big names at first, while Baltimore's Chris Davis, Kansas City's Billy Butler and Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena have put up impressive numbers.
As soon as Pujols and Fielder left for the AL, departing St. Louis and Milwaukee for lucrative deals with the Angels and Tigers, Reds first baseman Joey Votto appeared to be the logical successor as the National League's starting first baseman. While he has only two homers and a middle-of-the-pack .490 slugging percentage, Votto's offensive production has still been among the NL's best. He leads the Major Leagues with 13 doubles.
As a whole, NL first basemen have led the way offensively, combining for a .784 OPS that ranks above every other position in the NL. And LaHair has been one of the biggest surprises, bashing eight homers in 26 games with a 1.279 OPS that ranked second to only Matt Kemp.
"As much as anything, he's been swinging the bat well," Cubs manager Dale Sveum recently said. "All of his at-bats -- even against lefties -- even though there might not be a result, are quality at-bats."
Washington's Adam LaRoche, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and Colorado's Todd Helton have also produced solid numbers through the season's first month, with Freeman tied for fourth in the Majors with 26 RBIs.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Fans can also once again participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. The 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 9.
The 2012 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 1, on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. Fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, July 10. MLB.com will have extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB InternationalÕs independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit AllStarGame.com or royals.com/asg.