#ASGWorthy: Murphy or Zobrist at 2B in NL?

Each thriving at keystone in first season with new club

#ASGWorthy: Murphy or Zobrist at 2B in NL?

There are some obvious similarities between the Nationals' Daniel Murphy and the Cubs' Ben Zobrist, two veterans who signed with new clubs following strong postseasons and so far are making their contracts look like bargains for division leaders.

That makes them the two leading candidates among National League second basemen on the 2016 All-Star ballot. But which one, at this point, is most deserving of a trip to San Diego in July?

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Pirates #ASGWorthy players

That's where the differences between Murphy and Zobrist come into play, although there certainly isn't a significant gap as the calendar nears Memorial Day. In terms of wins above replacement (WAR), Zobrist was slightly ahead of Murphy according to both FanGraphs.com (2.4 vs. 2.1) and Baseball-Reference.com (2.0 to 1.7), through Monday's games.

Zobrist's splash-hit homer

What is clear is that Murphy and Zobrist have separated themselves from the pack statistically, despite Neil Walker's early home run binge for the Mets (Murphy's former team) and strong starts from the likes of the D-backs' Jean Segura and the Dodgers' Chase Utley.

If the focus rests solely on offense, Murphy should get the nod.

The two players are tied in home runs (six) and are close in RBIs. Zobrist's biggest advantage is in drawing walks (31), leading to a higher on-base percentage (.448), but Murphy is first in the Majors in batting average (.389) and holds a significant edge in extra-base hits (22).

Put that together, and Murphy's slugging percentage (.605) is almost 100 points higher. In terms of weighted runs created-plus (wRC+), an all-encompassing offensive metric, Murphy's 174 ranks among the league leaders, ahead of Zobrist's 157.

It's an amazing rise for Murphy, who was an All-Star in 2014 but whose wRC+ had wound up between 103 and 110 in each of the previous four seasons. After batting .421 and slamming seven home runs to help the Mets advance to last fall's World Series, Murphy has carried over some of that success at the plate.

Murphy on joining the Nationals

The question is if Zobrist has enough of an advantage on defense to overcome Murphy.

Part of Zobrist's value always has come from his versatility, but the Cubs have played him almost exclusively at second, where he is +32 in his career -- but -3 since 2012 -- according to Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Murphy, on the other hand, came to Washington with a reputation as a well below-average fielder, with DRS rating him at -42.

Zobrist's nice play

Two months of data is not enough to make a fair judgment, but different defensive metrics consistently put Zobrist, who is errorless, above Murphy (four errors) in 2016. That's reflected in the WAR numbers.

In the end, both Murphy and Zobrist are strong choices, and Nats and Cubs fans likely have their minds made up already. For those still on the fence, the choice could come down to how heavily they want to weigh the glove against the bat.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 times.

Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply, with a maximum of up to five messages and no purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.

Following the announcement of the 2016 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard 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 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 87th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.