C Carlos Ruiz (.361/.427/.579)
Yadier Molina may have a few more home runs, RBI and steals, but Ruiz's triple slash stats look like a prime year from Mike Piazza. His 35 runs scored lead all NL receivers and his ten home runs, already a career high, tie him with Buster Posey for second place behind Molina. Jonathan Lucroy was giving Ruiz a run for his money before a fractured hand derailed his season. Brian McCann, a fixture behind the plate for the NL All-Stars since 2006, probably won't make the squad because he's barely batting his weight this year.
1B Joey Votto (,353/.478/.643)
Amongst NL first basemen there's Votto, and then there's everybody else. Vottomatic is the best pure hitter in baseball right now, and his rate stats are reminiscent of a 1940s Ted Williams season. For good measure, he's pacing the bigs in doubles (31), walks (59), OPS (1.121), OPS+ (198) and intentional walks (a dozen). The only one who can compete with the 2010 MVP's home run and RBI numbers? Adam LaRoche.
2B Dan Uggla (.240/.367/.422)
Long gone are the days when you could simply vote for Chase Utley and move on to the next position. There's no clear-cut frontrunner this year, with Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Jose Altuve (the only player smaller than Dustin Pedroia?), and Omar Infante all worthy of consideration. Nobody stands out, so I'll go with Uggla, who has the most runs scored (50) and home runs (eleven) at the position in the Senior Circuit. I've always felt that he gets overlooked because of his low batting averages and high strikeout totals, kind of like a less extreme version of Mark Reynolds. His power is down a bit this year, but don't forget he started slow last year too before going off in the second half.
3B David Wright (.354/.448/.554)
Far and away the best third baseman in the NL this season with Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval hurting, Chipper Jones and Scott Rolen fading, and the Ramirezes (Aramis Ramirez and Hanley Ramirez) still recovering from slow starts. He seems to have recaptured the form that had him on the track to Cooperstown five years ago. After striking out two times for every walk he drew from 2009-'11, when his career went south, he boasts a 45/40 BB/K ratio this season. The home runs haven't been what you expected, if you want to nitpick.
SS Jed Lowrie (.270/.359/.506)
Normally this spot would belong to Troy Tulowitzki, but a groin injury has sidelined him until August. Jose Reyes has been disappointing, to say the least, so this spot is up for grabs. I'd have no issue with Starlin Castro, Rafael Furcal or even Jimmy Rollins, who's been a beast over the past month. I'll settle for the 28 year-old Astro, who's quietly putting together a great campaign in his first season as an everyday player. His fourteen dingers lead all NL shortstops (Ian Desmond is the only other one with more than eight) reminds me of Jhonny Peralta last year, when he had the numbers but the fans left him off the ballot (fortunately he made the team as a last minute reserve). If he'd done this for Boston instead of Houston, I'd bet he'd be receiving a little more attention. The Sox can't complain, though, as they are getting great production from Mike Aviles.
OF Carlos Gonzalez (.333/.389/.605)
The good new is that the National League leader in runs scored and total bases is hitting like it's 2010 again. The bad news is that his Rockies have the third worst record in baseball. And yes, his home/road splits are still outrageous.
Carlos Beltran (.312/.400/.582)
Albert Pujols who? I examined his hot start back in the middle of May, and he hasn't stopped raking. Beltran's resurgence comes on the heels of Lance Berkman's improbable 2011 Comeback Player of the Year, and I mention this a) St. Louis is known for its reclamation projects and b) because I noticed some interesting parallels:
-Compare Beltran's rate stats to Berkman's (.301/.412/.547). Almost interchangeable
-Both players were 35 at the start of the season
-Both players had just signed short term free agent deals
-Both players played right field
-Both players are switch-hitters
Talk about deja vu. Beltran's 20 home runs and 59 RBI are tops in the NL, and if he can maintain those triple slash figures they will represent career highs over the course of a full season. Health is always a concern for Beltran--he's missed 199 games combined from 2009 through 2011--so a DL stint is likely at some point this summer.
OF Ryan Braun (.311/.392/.596)
The reigning MVP is proving that he doesn't need Prince Fielder's lineup protection to be an elite hitter. He's tied with Beltran for the league lead in home runs, and his triple slash stats look remarkably similar to last season's .332/.397/.597. He's still as steady as they come, and I'm glad to see his tumultuous offseason hasn't affected his play on the field.
It kills me to leave out Melky Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier, but their omission from the starting lineup is a reflection of how stacked the NL outfield is this season.