The mid-point of the MLB season is fast approaching, and the Milwaukee Brewers hold a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central. Surely a first-place team will have plenty of contenders for NL roster spots ahead of next month's All-Star game.
That means Milwaukee's best will have to fight for one of the reserve spots (of course, at least one Brewers player will receive all-star honors, per MLB rules).
Last season, the National League had 30 players on the roster - 11 infielders, nine pitchers, seven outfielders, and three catchers.
Already, the eight starting spots for position players will go to members of other NL squads. The starting pitcher is likely to be Washington's Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That leaves just 21 total spots - seven infielders, eight pitchers, four outfielders, and two catchers. Can the Brewers snag more than just their typical reserved spot?
Milwaukee is not getting a catcher spot. Manny Pina has had a very nice season, but he has been outclassed by several other players. Now we are down to 19 available openings, for five Brewers' players that have a real chance to make the All-Star team:
Jimmy Nelson: 3.39 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 2.3 WAR
Chase Anderson: 2.92 ERA, 8.32 K/9, 2.2 WAR
Eric Thames: .265/.399/.607, 20 HR's, 2.1 WAR
Corey Knebel: 1.01 ERA, 15.9 K/9, 10 saves, 1.6 WAR
Travis Shaw: .295/.349/.527, 12 HR's, 1.4 WAR
Shaw has been extremely productive in the middle of the Brewers' lineup, but the depth at third base will make it hard for him to sneak in. Big guns Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon, and Jake Lamb all rank ahead of Shaw in the NL.
Thames runs into a similar number crunch at first base; Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Joey Votto seem like locks, with a history of greatness that put them well ahead of Thames.
However, the Brewers do have a chance with the pitchers. Nelson and Anderson rank fifth and seventh respectively in WAR among NL starters, while Knebel is currently second in WAR for relievers, and first in strikeouts per nine innings. Those numbers are hard to deny, regardless of name recognition.
Knebel's strikeout ability make him the favorite for at least the Brewers' designated roster spot - he would be able to come in at any point in the game for a big K.
But the combination of team and individual success in Milwaukee deserves to be recognized with more than just one All-Star. Here's to hoping NL manager Joe Maddon puts aside divisional rivalries and looks at Nelson or Anderson as another arm to deepen the National League squad.