There are a number of problems with voting starting so early, and you probably are already aware of them, but I'll rehash them anyways since I've become so frustrated. Because the ballots are set so early, the decision for which player will represent their team at each position can look extremely foolish by the time the All-Star game rolls around. Just last year it not only resulted in AAA players being on the ballot (as it always does), but also in 2 players who made the All-Star team through player voting being left off the ballot entirely. In fact, those 2 players were probably deserving of starting the All-Star game, yet they didn't even get their name on the ballot!
Who were they? Carlos Quentin and Milton Bradley. When voting ended on July 2nd, Quentin was batting .281/.386/.525 with 19 homers, 61 RBIs, 5 steals, and a 41:48 BB:K ratio; meanwhile, Jerry Owens, who was on the outfield ballot for the White Sox, had not even appeared in a Major League game that season! Milton Bradley was hitting an absurd .320/.437/.611 with 17 homers, 51 RBIs, and 4 steals, though I couldn't find who was on the ballot instead of him.
This year, one of our own has been affected: Denard Span. With the outfield logjam that was in place at the start of the season, Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young both got on the ballot instead of Span (Michael Cuddyer is the 3rd Twins outfielder on the ballot). While I don't contend Span should be an All-Star, he is leagues more deserving than Young or Gomez.
Although this doesn't happen often, once is too much. What happens more regularly is horrible players, who aren't even in the big leagues anymore, wind up on the ballot, with Owens being one example. This year, Alexi Casilla is on the ballot for the Twins, despite having been sent down to the minors on May 5th, almost two months before All-Star voting will end.
The last problem with the early start is that players who don't perform initially lose votes. A perfect example is Joe Mauer. He certainly lost ground to the other AL catchers since voting started 10 days before he played his first game, but he is now clearly the deserving starter. Fortunately, Mauer's absurd hot streak means he's still in first place right now, but early voting definitely costs players in his situation.
Now I'm going to discuss the inherent flaw: people will always vote for their favorite players, rather than the most deserving. For me, that's not true--only in very close cases will I pick a player based on how much I like him. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was frustrated to see 4 Red Sox starting again last year, or Derek Jeter as the starting shortstop once more. And there's just no easy solution to this problem. As long as fans are voting, undeserving but popular players will continue to start. If it meant that better choices would be made, I would very willingly give up my votes, but there's little to no chance of Major League Baseball going that route.
With that out of the way, I figure I'll run through who I just voted for at every position, starting with the National League. Of course, my opinion can change based on how players perform, and I may post periodic updates on who I'm voting for.
[As an aside, I realize that I'm going against my own ramblings by voting well over a month before balloting concludes. My reasoning is this: after seeing undeserving players topping the voting after MLB.com released results for the first time, people need to start voting immediately to counteract these bad votes. That's why my solution would be to have voting take place for a week only and end on the same date it does now.]
--------------All stats are through Monday's games (5/25)----------------
1B: Albert Pujols
Actual Leaders: Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Carlos Delgado, Lance Berkman.
Pujols is the obvious choice here. I could see an argument for Joey Votto, as his OPS is actually a tad higher than Pujols' at this point, but Pujols' 7 stolen bases and ridiculous BB:K ratio of 35:13 get him my vote. Adrian Gonzalez is also having a nice year and should have more votes.
2B: Chase Utley
Actual Leaders: Utley, Richie Weeks, Orlando Hudson, Skip Schumaker, Luis Castillo.
Utley is another easy choice, with Orlando Hudson an easy second. Utley leads NL second basemen in home runs, OBP, SLG, and is second in RBIs. He leads OPS by a wide margin, .997 to Hudson's .909. Weeks is now out for the year, meaning Felipe Lopez, Freddy Sanchez, and Brandon Phillips are next in line if those two fall apart or get injured. Castillo, and Schumaker to a lesser degree, has no business being in the top five.
SS: Hanley Ramirez
Actual Leaders: J.J. Hardy, Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Khalil Greene.
This one is a little closer, but I'm still confident in saying that Ramirez is the pick. Looking at the stats (AVG, HR, RBI, SB) that are displayed on the ballot, I originally chose Miguel Tejada. While I would still pick him second, other stats show Ramirez to be the best NL shortstop. He leads them in runs, doubles (tied), home runs, OBP, SLG, and OPS, and also has 8 stolen bases. There's no good reason for Hardy currently being the top vote-getter, while Rollins and Greene, and Reyes to a lesser extent, are getting votes solely due to their name as they are having terrible seasons.
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
Actual Leaders: David Wright, Bill Hall, Chipper Jones, Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez.
Third base is the first position where I can see a real debate--both Zimmerman and Wright are deserving candidates. While Zimmerman has an edge in runs, RBIs, and OPS, and a bigger lead in home runs and SLG, Wright has the advantage in OBP and stolen bases. They are both in the top 3 of NL third basemen in runs, doubles, RBIs, average, OBP, and OPS. For his advantages in the above categories, I chose Zimmerman. Casey Blake and and Chipper Jones aren't horrible picks either, while Hall and Ramirez are not deserving at all, but for different reasons; Hall has a poor .686 OPS (the lowest of the four deserving candidates I mentioned is .936), while Ramirez has only played in 18 games thus far.
C: Brian McCann
Actual Leaders: Yadier Molina, Jason Kendall, Ivan Rodriguez, Russell Martin, McCann.
This is the first one that is totally off-base. Molina, Kendall, Rodriguez, and Martin wouldn't be in my top five, meaning the first deserving candidate is fifth. McCann is first in average, OBP, and SLG among NL catchers with at least 75 plate appearances, and is tied for fourth with 5 homers and 18 RBIs. John Baker, Jesus Flores, and Chris Ianetta (in that order) would be my next choices for catcher. Bengie Molina might look to be the best, as he leads NL catchers with 8 homers and 30 RBIs, but his two walks leave him with a paltry .269 OBP and an OPS that ranks 15th of 18 catchers with at least 75 plate appearances. By the way, Kendall and Martin both rank behind him in that category.
OF: Raul Ibanez, Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton
Actual Leaders: Ryan Braun, Alfonso Soriano, Beltran, Manny Ramirez, Mike Cameron, Ibanez, Corey Hart, Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, Shane Victorino.
The outfield is 1-for-3, with Beltran currently in the top 3. With Ibanez's current stats, it's an embarrassment that he isn't leading the voting, much less in a starting position. He's first among NL outfielders in homers, RBIs, SLG, and OPS, and third in batting average. He's over 100 points ahead in OPS (1.135) and SLG (.726). Beltran and Upton rank 2nd and 4th, respectively, in OPS, but Upton hasn't even cracked the top 15 in voting. Other deserving players include Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe, and Ryan Braun (in that order), meaning that the majority of players topping the list should not be there.
And now the American League.
1B: Justin Morneau
Actual Leaders: Kevin Youkilis, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Morneau, Chris Davis.
This is easy both because Morneau is a Twin, but also because he is either first or second among AL first basemen in almost every category. He's first in: runs, triples, RBIs, SLG, and OPS; he's second in: hits, doubles, home runs, average, and OBP. While it's upsetting that Morneau is only 4th right now, this position is pretty stacked, as everyone on this list but Chris Davis (plus Carlos Pena and Russell Branyan) has a pretty solid argument for being the All-Star starter. Youkilis' numbers are very good (he, rather than Morneau, would lead the AL in OPS if he qualified), but he hasn't played that much yet. For those reasons, I think that, as of now, Morneau should be the #1 vote-getter.
2B: Aaron Hill
Actual Leaders: Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Hill, Robinson Cano, Brian Roberts.
This is essentially a toss-up between Hill and Kinsler. They are very similar in every category, except for batting average, OBP, and stolen bases. Hill's large edge in average and smaller edge in OBP convinced me to vote for him. Kinsler, though, is a perfectly reasonable choice and he sits first overall right now. Pedroia, Cano, and Roberts are not terrible choices, as they are having very nice years, but I think Kinsler and Hill are a step above them right now. All in all, the voting for AL second basemen seems to be the most reasonable.
SS: Jason Bartlett
Actual Leaders: Derek Jeter, Marco Scutaro, Elvis Andrus, Bartlett, Alexei Ramirez.
While he's not quite Joe Mauer, Bartlett has been otherworldly this year, making him the blowout winner for AL shortstop. He leads them in almost every statistical category, including hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Incredibly, he leads by almost 200 points in OPS! Since I started this post, Bartlett has been placed on the DL. For now, I'll stick with him, but Scutaro is also doing very well, especially his 36:22 BB:K ratio. Of course, none of this really matters, as Derek Jeter is leading shortstop voting by many miles and will undeservedly start the All-Star game yet again.
3B: Evan Longoria
Actual Leaders: Longoria, Michael Young, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Mike Lowell.
Bartlett's teammate Longoria takes my third base vote, though in a closer race. For now he has a relatively comfortable margin with me, but Alex Rodriguez may close that gap quickly. As of now, I've got Brandon Inge and Michael Young behind Longoria, with Inge beating Young due to Young's horrible defensive rating at third base.
C: Joe Mauer
Actual Leaders: Mauer, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The voters definitely have this one right. Mauer's April absence may have hurt him, but his scorching streak since his return has made that a moot point. There is no legitimate argument to be made against Mauer starting at catcher at this point. It's all just too bad for Victor Martinez, as he's having a very good year, and is a clear second after Mauer.
OF: Jason Bay, Adam Jones, Torii Hunter
Actual Leaders: Bay, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., Nick Markakis, Carl Crawford, Nelson Cruz, Grady Sizemore, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter.
Bay is deserving of his place atop the AL outfield ranks, but Hamilton, Ichiro, and Griffey most certainly are not. Hamilton has an OPS of .791 and has only played in 30 games thus far, and Griffey is in the same camp, having only played in 35 games and sporting an OPS of just .729. In addition, Griffey's only actually played 23 innings in the outfield this season--if he can be on the ballot, why can't Jason Kubel (he's played 51 innings in left field)? Ichiro, meanwhile, ranks only 13th among AL outfielders in OPS (.814) and doesn't have a ton of steals to boost his profile (8). The biggest problem with the current balloting, though, is that Adam Jones, who is second in the AL in OPS, is not in the top 15. This guy completely merits an All-Star game start, yet he is receiving no support.
Well, there you have it. I'm hoping you consider these guys when you vote so that the All-Star game will actually be made up of All-Stars for once. And whatever you do, PLEASE do not vote for Derek Jeter!!