- Tim Kurkjian, MLB reporter
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The choosing of the National League All-Stars is not an easy process, especially when it comes to catchers and first basemen, where there are too many good ones. Everyone has a ballot, which is what makes the voting process in baseball so interesting. Here's our ballot.
Catcher: Johnny Estrada, Braves: Lots of options here (including Paul Lo Duca, Jason Kendall and Michael Barrett), but Estrada is hitting .332 with 38 RBI, and is leading the league in batting average (.471) with runners in scoring position. Plus, he has been steady behind the late. Estrada is the guy the Phillies traded to get Kevin Millwood, a deal that left many in Philly laughing. This year, the Braves are the ones who are laughing. And, extra credit for Estrada, who wears a No Drugs patch on his chest protector as a warning to young kids.
First base: Sean Casey, Reds. Again, a tough call here with Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Lyle Overbay and Todd Helton in a very talented group. But Casey is hitting .364, he leads the league in hits, has 13 home runs and 49 RBI for a team that has been in contention all season.
Second base: Jeff Kent, Astros: He is hitting .294, which included a 25-game hitting streak. He leads NL second baseman with 31 extra base hits, 10 home runs, 44 RBI and .514 slugging. Mark Loretta is hitting .318 and Tony Womack (.295, 13 steals) has provided a spark at the top of the Cardinals' order. Both merit consideration.
Third base: Scott Rolen, Cardinals. He is the league MVP. He's third in the league in batting, he has 14 more RBI than anyone in the NL and he's tied for fourth in home runs. He's hitting .443 with men in scoring position, and fields his position as well as any defensive player in the game. There is no close second here, but Vinny Castilla is bringing it in Colorado.
Shortstop: Jack Wilson, Pirates. A career .246 hitter entering this year, Wilson is batting .344, fourth best in the league. He's second in the NL in hits. He has, as always, played great defense. Barry Larkin and Adam Everett have been very good, too.
Outfield: Barry Bonds, Giants. The most devastating hitter since Babe Ruth is doing it again. Bonds is leading the NL in hitting, leads in slugging by 158 points, in on-base average by 148 points and is tied for third in home runs. The respect that pitchers have shown him is unparalleled since intentional walks were made official in 1955, maybe perhaps ever. Bonds has 49 intentional walks, more than Alex Rodriguez's career total, more than Willie McCovey's 45 in 1970 -- the most by anyone other than Bonds over the last 50 years. Counting just his intentional walks, Bonds would be tied for fourth in the NL.
Outfield: Lance Berkman, Astros: He's in the top 10 in batting in the NL (.335), he's tied for third in RBI, second in on-base average and third in slugging. With the All-Star game in Houston, Berkman will feel right at home.
Outfield: Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: Lots of possibilities here, but Cabrera is hitting .292 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI in a lineup where he doesn't have the protection of other hitters. There are others here, including Steve Finley, Ken Griffey Jr., Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Juan Pierre and Craig Wilson.
Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent should get starting nods in the Midsummer Classic before their home fans.