MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Tulo too good to not be NL starter

Rockies superstar's ability at the plate and in the field is unmatched in the game

Tulo too good to not be NL starter

Who will you be voting for to start at shortstop for the National League All-Stars on July 14 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati? For me, it's Troy Tulowitzki. He is the defending champion. Someone has to knock him off to claim the job. It's that simple.

If Tulowitzki is healthy, there's nobody better in either league.

That is the rub -- if Tulowitzki is healthy. He was healthy the first half of last season, and he was a slam dunk for the starting spot on the NL All-Star team. Two games into the post-All-Star portion of the season, Tulowitzki suffered a season-ending hip injury that required surgery.

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Tulo is back this year, though. He's healthy. And no offense to the likes of Starlin Castro, Adeiny Hechavarria and Co., but Tulowitzki is the shortstop the others have to beat out.

Tulowitzki is not only hitting .308, but he also has 11 doubles, a .526 slugging percentage and an .847 OPS -- nearly 100 points higher than Castro (.758).

Tulowitzki has been the NL starting shortstop three of the last four years, and that fourth year, 2012, his season ended on May 30, which short-circuited any All-Star hopes he had. Even with that abbreviated season Tulowitzki finished third in fan voting.

That's not to ignore Castro, who after a funk in 2013, bounced back to be an elite shortstop a year ago. He is a good offensive player, and he has the benefit of playing for a sizable Cubs fan base. But Castro is not yet a Tulowitzki, whose defensive dazzle is every bit as key in the Rockies star's stature as his middle-of-the-lineup offensive ability.

Tulo's diving stop

Castro has been an All-Star in three of the past four years, including 2012, when he was the backup to Rafael Furcal.

Given Castro's skill set and durability, he is primed to perhaps move to the top of the NL shortstop class someday, but not now -- not with Tulowitzki showing the potential of another one of those eye-opening seasons where he dominates on offense and defense.

All-Star votes most often are based off more than the first couple months of the season, which will impact the hopes of Hechavarria, who leads NL shortstops with 16 RBIs and is hitting .321.

Hechavarria, however, doesn't receive much national attention with the Marlins. That will obviously hurt his case, because All-Star starting lineups are determined by fan voting.

In the first 22 years of the Marlins franchise, they have had a player voted to the NL starting lineup only four times -- shortstop Hanley Ramirez in 2008, '09 and '10, and outfielder Gary Sheffield in 1993. And the bulk of Sheffield's votes came prior to his trade that season from the Padres to the Marlins on June 24.

Even Giancarlo Stanton, the face of the Marlins and one of the most talked-about players in the game, hasn't yet had the fan support to gain a starting outfield spot, although he was selected to be the designated hitter for the NL a year ago.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.