Taking a look back at the best the first half of the season had to offer
The All-Star break is the ceremonial midpoint of the baseball season, and as we all anxiously await games to get going again on Friday, we polled more than a dozen of our experts and asked them to select the first half's top performers in a number of key categories.
MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Harper, 22, is slugging .704. No player younger than 26 years old has topped .700 over a full season in the divisional era.
To paraphrase Dennis Green, he is who we thought he was. At 22, he's established himself as one of the game's signature talents. -- Anthony Castrovince
He got hot in early May. So did the Nats. Coincidence? I think not. -- Paul Hagen
Top starter: Zack Greinke, Dodgers
He has allowed one run or fewer in 14 of his 18 starts this season.
He gets little run support, but his ERA is minuscule and he is one of the biggest stabilizers on a team that is still in it despite a slew of injuries and a short-staffed rotation. -- Alyson Footer
Max Scherzer has been more spectacular, but Greinke's ERA and consistency give him the nod. -- Lyle Spencer
Top rookie: Kris Bryant, Cubs
Leads all rookies with a .376 OBP, a mark that ranks ninth in the National League.
Meet the new face of the Cubs. He arrived to huge expectations and has fulfilled all of them, both offensively and defensively. Along the way, he's helping transform an entire franchise. -- Richard Justice
No newcomer has played more like a perennial All-Star. Amazingly, you don't get the sense he's even really found his power stroke just yet. -- Phil Rogers
Top manager: A.J. Hinch, Astros
The Astros currently have 49 wins. In 2013, they had 51 wins the entire season.
He has been a guiding light in helping making the Astros respectable again. He has excelled in game management, player relations and being one of the faces of the franchise. -- Justice
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES:
Paul Molitor, Ned Yost
Bounceback player: Prince Fielder, Rangers
Fielder, who has played all 162 games four times in his career, is once again staying on the field. He leads the AL with 114 hits.
A neck injury limited him to 42 games in 2014, and because of his size people wondered if he was going to fall off rapidly. Apparently not. He's raking like he did in his days in Milwaukee. -- Footer
Best single-game performance: Scherzer, June 20
Scherzer threw a one-hitter in his previous start, and actually had a higher game score (100) in that game than in his no-hitter (97). That combined game score of 197 is the highest on record in a two-start stretch.
He was one pitch away from throwing the 24th perfect game in MLB history when he hit the Pirates' Jose Tabata with a 2-2 pitch. He retired Josh Harrison to finish off the no-hitter, which then was followed by a complete-game one-hit shutout of the Phillies. -- Rogers
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Corey Kluber's 18 strikeouts (May 13), Steven Matz's historic debut (June 28), Harper's three-homer game (May 6)