Here are the NL Central's All-Star sleepers

June 6th, 2019

Read our FAQ on this year's revamped balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters, and the ability to vote through Google Search.

We tend to think of the starters when we think of All-Stars, but the rosters for the Midsummer Classic are big. There are a lot of All-Stars every year, and not all of them are big-name, nine-figure guys.

With that in mind, here's a look at one player from each team in the National League Central who might have a less obvious case to make a trip to this year's All-Star Game.

Brewers: SP

The case for him: This is a little bit of an "on the come" bet, but it feels like a good one.

Teammate Zach Davies has the sparkling ERA, but if you put your finger over that column and look at the entire rest of the stats page, Woodruff looks better. Far more strikeouts. Virtually identical numbers of innings, walks, hits and home runs. But Woodruff's ERA is a run and a half higher.

Based on the peripherals, and pedigree, it's much more likely that Woodruff improves than that Davies keeps it up. And it's not like Woodruff would be out of place even now; he's 10th in the NL in K's. Woodruff had a rough start his last time out, but even so he has a 3.21 ERA over his last nine starts. He's pitching like the guy the Brewers thought he'd be, and if he keeps that up, he'll be a legit candidate by the time players vote.

Cardinals: IF

The case for him: Cardinals fans may take exception here -- not at the idea that DeJong is an All-Star candidate, but that he's a sleeper. Hear me out, though.

Javy Baez seems a certainty to start at short for the NL. Trevor Story is putting up huge numbers again. Dansby Swanson is enjoying a career year. And in the numbers you find on the All-Star ballot, DeJong doesn't blow you away. So, yeah, he's a bit of a sleeper.

And that's unfortunate, because he's just an outstanding player. He's a very close second to Baez among NL shortstops in WAR (Fangraphs version), because he does a little of everything. DeJong plays a plus shortstop. He's a very good baserunner. He hits for power (17 doubles and eight homers), and gets on base (30 walks and a .374 OBP).

He does nearly all of the things that help a team win, even if his "baseball card" numbers aren't that flashy. He belongs in Cleveland in July.

Cubs: IF

The case for him: You know about Chicago's stars, and there are likely going to be a lot of Cubs regulars making the short flight to Cleveland next month. But utility man Bote has been a key cog in the Cubs' rebound from a slow start to get in the mix in the NL Central. With Ben Zobrist still out and Addison Russell having missed a large chunk of the year, Bote helped keep things going.

It can be tough for utility men to make it into the All-Star Game -- without a position, it's hard to know where to put them. But Bote's versatility would make him an asset for manager Dave Roberts, someone who could come off the bench late in the game. Bote has played second and third regularly and made cameos at first, short and left field. Plus he has a .289/.363/.503 line at the plate. He's the Cubs' secret weapon and could serve the same purpose in the ASG.

Pirates: SP

The case for him: Lyles' momentum has slowed quite a bit in his last three starts, so full disclosure: It's possible this will look silly in a few weeks. But he's still having, overall, an excellent season.

When the Pirates signed Lyles, a former Top 100 prospect and first-round pick already on his fifth organization, they made it known they saw something in him. They believed he could be, if not an All-Star, more than just filler. So far, he's made them look smart.

Lyles has a career-high strikeout rate as he's continued an adjustment he made last year, throwing more curveballs and fewer fastballs than he ever did earlier in his career. It's been an effective change even as his velocity has dipped, with both the curve and the fastball bringing him fine results.

His 5-3 record and 3.38 ERA may not be flashy, but he's having a very strong year, and a surge over the next few weeks could earn him his first All-Star nod.

Reds: SS

The case for him: In short, he's been a godsend for the Reds. Signed as almost an afterthought, after Spring Training was already under way, he's stabilized the Cincinnati infield and hit more than anyone had any right to expect.

Iglesias was brought in as depth for a team that looked like it had too many infielders. Then the team committed to Nick Senzel's move to center field, and Scooter Gennett got hurt. Suddenly there was a dearth up the middle. Iglesias took over as the everyday shortstop and has run with the opportunity.

Still only 29, he remains one of the game's best defenders at shortstop. But what's been shocking is his offense -- Iglesias sports a .299/.337/.428 line, and when you combine a league-average bat with plus defense at shortstop, you've got a good ballplayer.