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Originally published July 5, 2014 at 8:14 PM | Page modified July 5, 2014 at 10:33 PM

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Tackling the tough task of picking the best of the best

The selection of the All-Star teams is big around baseball. There are plenty of deserving players and pitchers, but only 34 spots on each team.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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CHICAGO — The rosters for the All-Star Game will be announced early Sunday evening on a special show on ESPN before Sunday Night Baseball. Think of it like the NCAA selection show without the drama or the excitement.

Still, the selection of the All-Star teams is big around baseball. There are plenty of deserving players and pitchers, and only 34 spots on each team.

These are the All-Star picks of one lonely beat writer, who watches far too much baseball and eats too few vegetables.

American League

First base (3)

Who’s leading: Miguel Cabrera

Who should start: Edwin Encarnacion

Reserves: Jose Abreu, Cabrera

Encarnacion has been a huge reason for the Blue Jays’ success this season. He’s hitting .278 with 26 homers and 69 RBI. Abreu has been almost as good, hitting .280 with 27 homers and 46 RBI in his first season in the big leagues.

Second base (3)

Who’s leading: Robinson Cano

Who should start: Cano.

Reserves: Jose Altuve, Ian Kinsler

Cano is one of the top hitters in baseball with a .322 batting average. Yes, his power numbers are down, but he’s helped turn the Mariners into a winning team. Altuve is the best player people have never heard of. He has 121 hits this season.

Third base (3)

Who’s leading: Josh Donaldson

Who should start: Adrian Beltre.

Reserves: Kyle Seager, Donaldson

Beltre is hitting .336 with a .898 OPS. While his errors are up, he’s still the best in the AL. Seager wasn’t even in the top five in voting, but his numbers are better than Evan Longoria.

Shortstop (2)

Who’s leading: Derek Jeter

Who should start: Jeter*

Reserves: Alcides Escobar

Jeter gets the sentimental nod here. It’s a reward for his career, not this first half of the season. Jeter is a certain Hall of Famer and important for the game. Escobar gets the nod over Alexei Ramirez because of his .294 batting average and brilliant glove work.

Catcher (2)

Who’s leading: Matt Wieters

Who should start: Salvador Perez

Reserves: Kurt Suzuki

Wieters is done for the season because of elbow surgery. Regardless, Perez is the best catcher in the American League. He’s hitting .290 with 10 homers and 29 RBI and is one of the best defenders in the league. At age 30, Suzuki is having a career renaissance for the Twins, batting .305 and going from a backup to an everyday player.

Outfield (5)

Who’s leading: Jose Bautista, Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes

Who should start: Trout, Bautista, Michael Brantley.

Reserves: Cespedes, Adam Jones

With Nelson Cruz starting as the designated hitter, Brantley should start. He’s hitting .314 with 13 homers, 55 RBI and an .891 OPS. Jones appears to be a perennial All-Star for the Orioles

Designated hitter (2)

Who’s leading: Nelson Cruz

Who should start: Cruz

Reserves: Victor Martinez

Cruz’s decision to sign a one-year contract with the Orioles is going to lead to plenty of money. He has hit 26 homers with 68 RBI and has helped Baltimore stay in the AL East race. Martinez is one of the toughest outs in baseball.

Pitchers (13)

Who should start: Felix Hernandez

Reserves: Masahiro Tanaka, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Chris Sale, David Price, Max Scherzer, Mark Buehrle, Garrett Richards, Dellin Betances, Greg Holland, Fernando Rodney, Sean Doolittle, Jake McGee.

Tanaka may lead the league in wins at 12, but no pitcher has been better than Hernandez, who is 10-2 with a 2.10 ERA. The start is also a nod to his dominance over the last few seasons. Richards is the surprise pick, having harnessed his talented arm and command issues. Doolittle and McGee have been almost unhittable as situational lefties, while Betances is one of the most dominant set-up men in baseball.

National League

First base (5)

Who’s leading: Paul Goldschmidt

Who should start: Goldschmidt.

Reserves: Freddie Freeman, Justin Morneau, Anthony Rizzo, Adam LaRoche

Goldschmidt is the most dangerous hitter in the NL. Morneau has found a home in Colorado. The former Twin gets a chance to go back to Minneapolis. One of these players would serve as the DH.

Second base (3)

Who’s leading: Chase Utley

Who should start: Dee Gordon.

Reserves: Utley, Daniel Murphy

Gordon has been a key reason for the Dodgers success with his speed and presence at the top of the order. He’s hitting .299 with 41 stolen bases and 49 runs scored. Utley has had a nice season after injuries.

Third base (2)

Who’s leading: Aramis Ramirez

Who should start: Todd Frazier.

Reserves: Anthony Rendon

Frazier is having a breakout season with the Reds, hitting .292 with 17 homers and 47 RBI. He has even stolen 13 bases. Rendon has stepped in and solidified third base for the Nationals. He’s hitting .280 with 12 homers and 48 RBI and 57 runs.

Shortstop (2)

Who’s leading: Troy Tulowitzki

Who should start: Tulowitzki.

Reserves: Starlin Castro

Tulowitzki’s numbers are ridiculous — .350 batting average, 18 homers, 47 RBI, 66 runs scored and a 1.049 OPS. The Rockies may be tanking, but he’s still producing at an MVP level.

Catcher (3)

Who’s leading: Yadier Molina

Who should start: Jonathan Lucroy.

Reserves: Molina, Devin Mesaroco

Lucroy is hitting .333 with nine homers and 44 RBI, and he’s also rivaling Molina as the best receiver in the NL. Mesaroco is hitting .313 with 15 homers and 41 RBI.

Outfield (6)

Who’s leading: Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig

Who should start: McCutchen, Gomez and Giancarlo Stanton.

Reserves: Puig, Seth Smith, Justin Upton.

There is something wrong with voters if Stanton isn’t in the starting outfield. He has 21 homers and 62 RBI to go with a .309 batting average. Puig’s numbers aren’t as good.

Pitchers (13)

Who should start: Clayton Kershaw.

Reserves: Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto, Alfredo Simon, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Kyle Lohse, Tim Hudson, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Rodriguez, Craig Kimbrel, Rafael Soriano, Huston Street

The easiest decision is to start Kershaw, who is the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. After destroying his ankle last season, Hudson has come back and posted a 2.35 ERA this season. Francisco Rodriguez is having a career renaissance with the Brewers.

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373

or rdivish@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @RyanDivish

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