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Filling out my All-Star ballot

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Major League Baseball is getting ready to unveil its All- Star rosters, so I figured it was time I fill out a ballot of my own.

It should be every baseball fan's duty to vote for the contest. I've probably done it every year since I was seven, and I see no reason to stop now just because I became a baseball writer.

So let's take a look at those who I think are the deserving All-Stars, as well as the starting pitchers in each respective league.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

C - JOE MAUER

Mauer is quite simply the best all-around player at his position. He is near the top of the league in hitting and is on pace to shatter his career-best in runs scored. At some point he will probably have to step out from behind the plate, but for these purposes he will be the AL's starting catcher at the Mid-Summer Classic. HONORABLE MENTION: Dioner Navarro

1B - KEVIN YOUKILIS

I could have gone Justin Morneau here, but I decided to stick with the fans' choice. Youkilis (.311, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 49 runs) has put up about the same numbers as Morneau (.313, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 48 runs), but the former gets the nod from me based on his glove and the fact that he has a higher slugging percentage. HONORABLE MENTION: Morneau

2B - IAN KINSLER

If this guy played for the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, he would have been a lock to start this game. He still might edge out Dustin Pedroia, but either way, there is no doubt he is the deserving choice. The main table- setter of the Rangers' high-octane offense, Kinsler currently leads the AL in hitting (.325) and runs scored (75), while knocking in 51 runs himself. HONORABLE MENTION: Pedroia

SS - MICHAEL YOUNG

Despite posting the worst offensive season of his career to date, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will start this game. It's not the glamour spot that it once was, but Young has clearly been the class of an otherwise weak shortstop corps this season. HONORABLE MENTION: Jeter

3B - ALEX RODRIGUEZ

Even though he missed close to a month with a strained quadriceps, A-Rod is on pace for another monster season. As I write this he is hitting .319 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI. The only downside to Rodriguez this season has been his recent link to Madonna. Madonna? What is this, 1988? Jeter's resume includes the likes of Jessica Biel, Mariah Carey (in her prime) and Jessica Alba, among others, and A-Rod is running Madonna out there? I guess that is why Jeter is the captain. HONORABLE MENTION: Evan Longoria

OF - JOSH HAMILTON

If there has been a better story than that of Josh Hamilton, I sure don't remember it. Hamilton's comeback from the depths of drug abuse has been nothing short of amazing. The Rangers star has been the league MVP through the first three-plus months of the season and will enter the All-Star break leading the league in RBI (82) and possibly home runs (21), while hitting over .300.

OF - J.D. DREW

Think Manny Ramirez is pretty good? Since David Ortiz went down with a wrist injury, Drew has been the best hitter in baseball while batting in Big Papi's coveted three-spot, in front of Ramirez, in the Boston lineup. Given how good Drew (.300, 16 HR, 51 RBI) has been, it will be interesting to see if Boston moves him when Papi comes back.

OF - CARLOS QUENTIN

There weren't many headlines when Chicago's acquisition of Quentin from the Arizona Diamondbacks kicked off last year's Winter Meetings, but it may have been the move of the offseason. All the 25-year-old outfielder has done is belt 19 home runs with 61 RBI.

HONORABLE MENTION: Johnny Damon, Milton Bradley, Grady Sizemore

DH - JERMAINE DYE

After a disappointing 2007 campaign, Dye has so far this season resembled the player that nearly won an AL MVP Award in 2006 with a terrific first half that has seen him hit .307 with 19 home runs and 52 RBI.

SP - CLIFF LEE

Lee, who had to fight for a spot in Cleveland's rotation this spring, has been the best pitcher in the AL from the start of the season. He has cooled off since an incredible start which saw him allow runs in just two of his first seven outings, but is still tied for the league lead in wins and is close to the top in ERA. Not to mention he shares the same birthday as a certain baseball editor. HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Saunders, Justin Duchscherer

NATIONAL LEAGUE

C - GEOVANNY SOTO

Soto has been a big reason behind the Chicago Cubs having the best record in the National League. Atlanta's Brian McCann and Los Angeles' Russell Martin could also make cases to start the contest, but the Cubs' strong first half should translate into them having at least one All-Star starter. HONORABLE MENTION: Martin

1B - LANCE BERKMAN

Berkman (.355, 22 HR, 69 RBI, 74 runs) had one of the best stretches in recent memory during the month of May, when he hit .471. He hasn't cooled off much since, and is one of the few bright spots on what has become a dim season in Houston. HONORABLE MENTION: Albert Pujols

2B - CHASE UTLEY

You can make an argument for Dan Uggla, but you would lose. Utley, the NL leader with 24 home runs, is a top-five talent and could become the third straight Phillies player to win the NL MVP. Don't believe me? Just ask the President of the United States. He chose Utley as the player he would start a franchise with. And he is never wrong. HONORABLE MENTION: Uggla

SS - HANLEY RAMIREZ

If Utley isn't the best all-around player in the NL, then this guy is. Nobody in the league combines power and speed like Ramirez. He tends to take plays off in the field, but he is still only 24 and the property of the Marlins for the next six-plus years. HONORABLE MENTION: Jose Reyes

3B - CHIPPER JONES

At .390, Chipper is threatening the .400 mark, but at age 36, nagging injuries are starting to take their toll. Old man or not, he has been the best 3B in the NL this season. HONORABLE MENTION: David Wright

OF - RYAN LUDWICK

The St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the surprising teams of the first half, and outfielder Ryan Ludwick has been a big part of that. Given his first real taste of being in the lineup everyday, Ludwick has responded, hitting .291 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI. Not to mention he shouldered the offensive load when Albert Pujols missed a few weeks with a calf injury.

OF - RYAN BRAUN

Braun is not here because of his prowess in the field, that's for sure. But at the plate, there have been few better than the second-year star. After last year's sensational Rookie of the Year campaign, Braun is hitting .279 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI.

OF - PAT BURRELL

Contract years are the ultimate motivator. Case in point being Burrell, who is arguably having his best year in the City of Brotherly Love. While serving as Ryan Howard's main protector, Burrell has blasted 21 home runs with 53 RBI.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jason Bay, Nate McClouth, Matt Holliday

DH - ADRIAN GONZALEZ

The Padres are having a down season, but that has not slowed down first baseman Adrian Gonzalez any. You can argue for Pujols or Holliday in this spot, but both have missed significant time this season with injury. Gonzalez is hitting .284 with 21 homers, and his 69 RBI represent over 20-percent of San Diego's total output this season.

SP - TIM LINCECUM

There are a few guys you can throw out here. Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez is probably the NL Rookie of the Year and Brandon Webb leads the league in wins, but no pitcher this season in either league has been as electric as 24-year- old Tim Lincecum. The Freak has won six straight decisions since suffering his only loss of the year on April 29 against Colorado. He also leads the NL in strikeouts and is near the top of the league in ERA, while closing in on double-digit victories.

HONORABLE MENTION: Volquez, Webb

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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