*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
Let's be clear right up front: In terms of the first basemen on his roster, Bruce Bochy isn't going to have any complaints at the All-Star Game. His National League team will be loaded at the position -- and, as a result, in the middle of the lineup.
Eight NL first basemen have an OPS of at least .868. For those who prefer classic stats, five are on pace to hit 30-plus home runs. So as the team comes together over the next month, there are two things we know: The standard to deserve the starting job will be extremely high, and there are multiple players who could reach that standard.
Not that long ago, the debate was between Adrian Gonzalez and Anthony Rizzo, with ultra-consistent D-backs star Paul Goldschmidt in the wings. But at this point, the debate has shifted to include Goldschmidt, with the question on the table being this one: Who is the most deserving, Goldschmidt or Gonzalez?
No knock on Rizzo or any of the others, but more than anyone else, it's Goldschmidt who is moving the needle these days. He played behind Joey Votto when Bochy managed the 2013 NL All-Stars at Citi Field, and this time around, Goldschmidt could very well earn the chance to be introduced with the regulars.
While the D-backs entered the season with lots of questions about their starting rotation and how their lineup fit together, they did not have to worry about Goldschmidt. The 27-year-old product of Texas State University tied for the NL lead in home runs and led in RBIs in 2013, and he was close to being the same hitter last season -- his OPS was only 14 points lower, dropping from .952 to .938 -- before having his left hand fractured by an Ernesto Frieri pitch in early August.
You knew Goldschmidt would heal, and he has. He's returned with a vengeance, in fact, hitting for average and power. Goldschmidt has taken his production up to new heights, in part because he isn't getting himself out by chasing pitches. He's walking almost as often as he's striking out, which is how he's reaching base more than 46 percent of the time. Goldschmidt is also among the NL leaders with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs after going 4-for-5 with a home run on Wednesday.
Goldschmidt is at his best as a hitter when he's got a chance to drive in a run with a single. He's hitting .380 with runners in scoring position. Goldschmidt's OPS in those spots is a ridiculous 1.455. He has spoiled rookie manager Chip Hale.
Goldschmidt's not just a hitter, either. He's putting himself strongly in the running for a second NL Gold Glove Award with his play in the field. Defensive metrics probably don't show as much for first basemen as they do for players at other positions, but Goldschmidt is currently first in Defensive Runs Saved (+5) among Major League first basemen, as compiled by Fangraphs.
Without Goldschmidt, there's no way that the D-backs would be hanging around .500 in Tony La Russa's first full season in charge of their baseball operations.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, has been the most consistent contributor on a Dodgers team that is positioned to win 90-plus games and go to the postseason for the third year in a row.
Gonzalez is putting together a slash line of .318/.400/.570 while hitting 11 homers and driving in 39 runs. Like Goldschmidt, he's coming through with regularity in big at-bats, hitting .326 with runners in scoring position. Gonzalez just hasn't had as many of those chances as the Arizona first baseman.
Gonzalez is a two-way player too, as he's putting together a solid bid for his fifth Gold Glove Award, including his second in a row. He'd look fine in the starting lineup next month at Great American Ball Park.
With the DH rule available to Bochy, maybe both of them can start. But it's clear that Goldschmidt deserves to be the starting first baseman. He's been the most productive hitter and the guy making the most plays in the field. How can you argue against that combination?
You can vote for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online.
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Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities.
The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.