Tag:Michael Morse
Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:29 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:52 pm
 

Injury roundup: Hart, Longoria, Utley and more

Corey HartBy Dayn Perry

Notes on some maladies and afflictions from around baseball on Tuesday ... 

  • Rays third sacker and AL MVP candidate Evan Longoria has no idea when his injured right hand will allow him to join the lineup. He might, however, begin hitting off a tee on Wednesday. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Brewers right fielder Corey Hart was recently diagnosed with torn cartilage in his knee and on Tuesday underwent successful arthroscopic surgery this week. He'll miss three to four weeks almost certainly open the season on the DL, just as he did in 2011. [MLB.com]

  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley still has no clear timetable for his return from chronic knee problems. 

    “We talked about him not playing for the first week or two weeks,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We’re going to ease him into it. We know he’ll be ready when the bell rings. We just want to make sure he’s as fresh and as healthy as he can possibly be on Opening Day.” [The Zo Zone]

  • David Wright of the Mets is hampered by a ribcage injury, and he won't be able to see any Grapefruit League action until at least next week, manager Terry Collins told reporters. Wright is lifting weights and not experiencing any discomfort, but the Mets are taking a conservative approach with their third baseman. [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • Good news for the wondrously named Freddie Freeman, who was in the lineup on Tuesday well ahead of schedule. Freeman dislocated his left kneecap early in camp and was initially expected to be out for up to two weeks. 

    “I felt good,” Freeman said afterward. “I had no problems. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I’m not going to go out there if I didn’t feel like I could do it. It felt good swinging. It felt good fielding. I was able to come off the bag when holding on runners and go back just in case there was a throw back." [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

  • Nationals outfielder Michael Morse, fresh off his 31-homer breakout campaign of 2011, was a late scratch today because of a strained lat muscle. He's listed as day-to-day. [Washington Post]

  • Astros catcher Humberto Quintero will receive a cortisone shot on Wednesday and then head back to Houston to have his injured back examined. He hopes to be in the lineup on Friday against Toronto. [MLB.com]

​​​​For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.



Posted on: February 27, 2012 10:03 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:33 pm
 

Spring primer: Washington Nationals



By Matt Snyder


The Washington Nationals have never had a winning record. They finished 81-81 in 2005 but came in last. Then they dipped all the way down to consecutive 59-win seasons before winning 69 in 2010 and going 80-81 last season. So is 2012 the time for the first Nationals winning season -- and possibly more? Unfortunately for the Nats, they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Fortunately for the Nats, they are improved from last season's third-place team.

Danny Knobler's camp report: Harper decision might make all the difference | Likes, dislikes

Major additions: LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Brad Lidge
Major departures: OF Layne Nix, RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Todd Coffey

Probable lineup
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Michael Morse, LF
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Danny Espinosa, 2B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Roger Bernadina, CF

Probable rotation
1. Stephen Strasburg
2. Gio Gonzalez
3. Jordan Zimmerman
4. Edwin Jackson
5. Chien-Ming Wang

John Lannan is also a possibility as the fifth starter, and remember Strasburg is on a 160-inning limit this season.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Drew Storen
Set-up: Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge

Important bench players

C Jesus Flores, IF/OF Mark DeRosa, OF Rick Ankiel

Prospect to watch
C'mon. You know who. We've all been watching Bryce Harper since he was about 15, and from everything said in camp it sounds like 2012 is the year we see him in the majors. Will he break camp with the club? Only if they're ready to play him everyday, which means Werth is shoved to center. I believe the Nationals would have to be 100 percent convinced Harper was ready to star right now, otherwise there's no reason to do so -- especially since the defense would suffer as a result. More likely, an injury or underperformance opens the door sometime in May or June. Regardless, scouts collectively believe Harper is an elite-level superstar when he does stick in the majors. Anthony Rendon bears watching as well, but not to the extent of Harper.

Fantasy breakout: Jordan Zimmermann
"One could argue that in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery Zimmermann had already broken out. Last year the 25-year-old posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP and only an innings limit kept him from being a top 40 starting pitcher. This season, Zimmermann won't be curtailed in terms of his workload, and better yet, there is room for him to perform better even on a per-inning basis. He averaged slightly less than seven strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, not meeting the standard he set prior to his surgery but he started to miss a lot more bats over his final 10 starts. Over that span, Zimmermann got to strike three 53 times in 58 2/3 innings. With more innings and a higher K-rate likely this season, look for Zimmermann to emerge as a No. 3 starting pitcher in mixed leagues." - Al Melchior [Full Nationals fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust Jayson Werth
"Leaving a homer-friendly ballpark in Philadelphia behind, many expected Werth to have a down year in 2011, but the worst may be yet to come. Park factors may have worked against Werth with his move to Washington but even before he signed with the Nationals he was facing a steady decline in his home run per flyball ratio. While Werth's home run power seems to be evaporating the 46 doubles he hit in 2010 was merely an outlier as he has never hit more than 26 in a season barring that one year." - Al Melchior [Full Nationals fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Every player plays like he's capable and the Nationals don't have a major weakness. The offense has the potential to be strong top-to-bottom, with great starting pitching -- Edwin Jackson proving to be the best No. 4 in the league -- and a lock-down back-end of the bullpen. If everything comes together like it can, the Nationals would make the playoffs. They may not be able to win the toughest division in the National League, but with a possibility of two wild cards on the table -- seriously, Bud, how long until this is decided?!? -- there's certainly no reason to count out the Nats.

Pessimistic outlook
While there are good hitters in the lineup, the lack of an elite slugger in addition to a hole in center field holds the offense back. Werth's struggles bleed into 2012, Zimmerman again can't stay healthy and the pitching staff is plagued by Gonzalez's control issues and Jackson's inconsistency -- not to mention Strasburg's inning limit. Playing in the mighty NL East, the Nationals come in fourth or even last, with the Mets surprising and jumping over them.

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Chicago White Sox

Magglio Ordonez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

If there's an opposite of the Oakland A's and Billy Beane's Moneyball, it's Kenny Williams and the White Sox. The White Sox have not drafted well and searched to fill holes through free agency, spending money and taking big chances in trades. While Williams' way makes him the butt of some jokes and nobody's making a movie about him anytime soon, he does have something Beane doesn't have -- a World Series trophy.

Lineup

1. Alexei Ramirez, SS
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Michael Morse, 1B
4. Chris Young, CF
5. Carlos Lee, DH
6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
7. Ryan Sweeney, LF
8. Brent Morel, 3B
9. Chris Stewart, C

Starting Rotation

1. Mark Buehrle
2. Gio Gonzalez
3. Daniel Hudson
4. Brandon McCarthy
5. Clayton Richard

Bullpen

Closer - Jon Rauch
Set up - Matt Guerrier, Chris Sale, Addison Reed, Boone Logan, John Ely
Long - Lucas Harrell

Notable Bench Players

Not surprisingly, when looking at the state of the organization (and the state of that lineup), the White Sox are thin on bench players, with Dayan Viciedo making a push for the starting lineup as well as Chris Getz on the infield and Mike Cameron in the outfield.

What's Good?

There's no Adam Dunn, for starters. The rotation is good, especially at the top with Buehrle and Gonzalez. The rest of the rotation is good enough, as well. While Rauch isn't the top closer around, the rest of the bullpen is talented.

What's Not?

The lineup isn't going to strike fear into too many pitching staffs, even though there are nice pieces. The corner outfielder and DH are all on the down side of their career. There's also not much depth on the roster among position players.

Comparison to real 2011

The White Sox finished 79-83 in 2011, thanks to poor seasons from Dunn, Morel, Beckham and Alex Rios. The rotation is likely a little better in real life than this team, while the bullpen is better here than in real life, evening out. The lineup may not put up a lot of runs, but the White Sox didn't, either. The real team has an impact bat in Paul Konerko and a good complimentary piece in Carlos Quentin. This lineup doesn't have those kinds of weapons, so I'm not so sure our hypothetical team could match the 79 wins the White Sox finished with in 2011.

Next: Baltimore Orioles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

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Posted on: August 24, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 11:25 am
 

Report: Nationals not interested in Fielder

Fielder

By Evan Brunell

Cross out the Nationals as a destination for Prince Fielder, a source in the Nationals organization tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com.

It's not every day that a team would turn down Fielder, but the Nationals have two first basemen under contract -- Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. LaRoche is done for the year due to injury, but hit a disappointing .172/.288/.258 in 43 games before going down. All due respect to LaRoche, but the $8 million on his 2012 contract shouldn't preclude Washington from going after Fielder as it would be a clear upgrade. No, where the catch comes is Morse, who is currently the first baseman in LaRoche's absence.

After tantalizing Washington the last two years with his potential to break out, the 29-year-old has done so in style with a .317/.373/.550 mark this season with 21 taters in 440 plate appearances. By the time the season ends, he will have doubled (or come close to it) his previous career high in plate appearances. Morse will move back to left field to make room for LaRoche, and he's the real reason why the Nats may not need to go after Fielder. If LaRoche fails, the team simply moves Morse to first base.

But why not just keep Morse in left permanently and sign Fielder? If it's the best upgrade the team can make, it's one that it should pursue. Thing is, it may not be the best upgrade the team can make; the depth at first guarantees that. What the Nationals really need are a center fielder and leadoff hitter, which isn't mutually exclusive. Washington had been chasing Denard Span of the Twins, B.J. Upton of the Rays and Michael Bourn of the Braves, formerly of the Astros. However, GM Mike Rizzo balked at the price, so no move was made. Things could change in the offseason, and if and when it does, it will cost a good package of young players. In that case, the Nats may elect to hang onto its draft picks that it would have to cough up in any Fielder signing in order to replenish the system after the trade.

Assuming Washington truly isn't going to go after Fielder (and I don't buy that), it dwindles Fielder's market even lower to the point one has to seriously consider if Fielder could head back to Milwaukee. All but one team currently with a payroll over 100 million (in order from highest to lowest: Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Cubs, White Sox, Giants, Twins, Cardinals, Dodgers, Tigers) won't make a run for various reasons. The Cubs could make a go of it, but that would be a bold step for an incoming GM to make for a team that needs a lot more than Fielder to become competitive again. Other than that, the other teams either have financial issues or are blocked at first base. The only team in which Fielder makes sense are the Angels, and as we've seen over the last few years, Los Angeles' decisions when it comes to free agency are curious, and it's no sure thing it will pony up for Fielder.

So, suddenly, Fielder's next-biggest suitors are in a payroll bracket that Milwaukee might be able to contend with. Fielder previously turned down a five-year, $100 million contract to stay in Milwaukee. If that was within Milwaukee's budget, then any eventual deal with Fielder could be right in the Brewers' wheelhouse. Fielder has long been considered a goner for quite some time, but his future in town is far from certain.
 
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Posted on: August 11, 2011 6:44 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 7:45 pm
 

Morse dodges serious injury in hit-by-pitch

By Matt Snyder

Nationals first baseman Michael Morse was hit with an errant Ryan Dempster pitch on the left elbow and was forced to leave the game Thursday afternoon in Chicago. He had X-Rays in a Chicago-area hospital to survey the damage and the Nationals apparently feared the worst.

“I’m worried,” Manager Davey Johnson said (Nationals Journal). “He’s got huge arms, and the muscle is well-protected. But he was in bad shape.”

Fortunately for the Nationals, Morse is reportedly only day to day with an elbow contusion. (Bill Ladson via Twitter)

As someone who watched the play live on TV and saw Morse's immediate reaction, I'll confirm that he was definitely in bad shape. He more than winced. Morse was bending over holding his hand and wrist area quite frequently and appeared in serious pain. When he was being checked out by trainers, his hand was shaking as he tried to straighten out his arm. He then walked off the field holding his left arm with his right.

MLB.com has a video of the play.

Morse, 29, has been the Nats' best hitter this season. He has 20 homers, 68 RBI and is third in the NL with a .319 batting average.

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Posted on: July 16, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: July 16, 2011 9:38 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Phillips stings Cardinals

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Brandon Phillips, Reds:Phillips didn't exactly enhance his standing in St. Louis. Already the most hated man in eastern Missouri, Phillips hit a two-out, walk-off homer to give the Reds a 6-5 victory over St. Louis. Phillips had an error that gave St. Louis its first lead off starter Johnny Cueto

Jeff Karstens, Pirates: The Pirates right-hander allowed just five hits and needed only 83 pitches in a shutout victory in Houston, which when coupled with losses by the Cardinals and Brewers catapulted the Pirates into a tie for first place. Seriously, a tie for first place. Karstens became  the first Pirate to win five-straight decisions since 2006 and lowered his ERA to 2.34, third-best in the National League, leapfrogging Roy Halladay.

Eric Hosmer, Royals: With two outs in the ninth, Hosmer took Twins closer Matt Capps deep over the wall in center at Target Field, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Closer Joakim Soria made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth, but the Royals held on for the victory. Hosmer now has nine home runs on the season.


Nationals defense: Washington had five errors in Friday's 11-1 loss to the Braves. First baseman Michael Morse had two errors on one play in the first inning and added another later in the game. Morse had just one error in his first six seasons in the big leagues. Shortstop Ian Desmond had another error in the Braves' four-run first. Ryan Zimmerman added the team's fifth miscue later when a ball went between his legs in the sixth.

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Usually a player's 1,000th career hit would be a time of celebration. Not for Ramirez, who was slow out of the box on a ball to the gap in the ninth inning. Cubs center-fielder Marlon Byrd made a strong throw to second to nab Ramirez. The Marlins scored their only run of the game one batter later on Logan Morrison's RBI single that should have tied the game at 2. Instead, the Cubs lifted a struggling Carlos Marmol, and Sean Marshall picked up a one-out save for Chicago, ending Florida's six-game winning streak.

Matt Tolbert, Twins: When you come in a pinch-runner, you're supposed to be smart on the basebaths. That's all the Twins ask of Tolbert -- well, that and running faster than Jim Thome -- but he didn't do his job. With one out in the ninth and the Twins trailing 2-1, Tolbert stood on third with Luke Hughes at the plate. Hughes hit a tapper back to the mound, but instead of holding at third, Tolbert was easily thrown out at the plate. One batter later Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounded out to end the game.

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Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Loaded pitching highlights NL East All-Stars

By Matt Snyder

2011 All-Star Game
SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL Central | NL West
The strength of this divisional All-Star team is going to be mitigated by the fact that we're only picking one starting pitcher, one non-closing reliever and one closer, because this sucker is stacked with pitching. The lineup is no slouch either, in what is probably the second-best division in the majors, if not better than the vaunted AL East. I would have said the NL East was better top-to-bottom if it wasn't for that dreadful June by the Marlins. Anywho, let's get to it.

C Brian McCann, Braves: It's an easy choice, but that doesn't mean the other guys suck. Not by any stretch. Carlos Ruiz, Ronny Paulino, John Buck and Wilson Ramos are admirable backstops to varying degrees, but McCann is the best catcher in baseball this season, hands down. He's hitting .314 with 14 homers and an OPS over .900, not to mention he calls the games for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins: Before freaking out, Phillies fans, remember we're using DHs in this little exercise (wink, wink). We're also going to set Michael Morse aside for later and Ike Davis is injured. So it boils down to Freddie Freeman and Gaby Sanchez. Freeman's been hot of late and is hitting .279 with 13 homers, 42 RBI and a .354 OBP. Sanchez is hitting .290 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and a .370 OBP. He's also superior defensively be several metrics, so it's Sanchez in a close call.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Jose Reyes NYM SS
2 Shane Victorino PHI CF
3 Gaby Sanchez FLA 1B
4 Ryan Howard PHI DH
5 Carlos Beltran NYM RF
6 Michael Morse WAS LF
7 Brian McCann ATL C
8 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B
9 Placido Polanco PHI 3B
2B Danny Espinosa, Nationals: Tough call over Chase Utley here, but Espinosa has played in 89 games to Utley's 38, so that makes the choice much easier. Espinosa, the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner at this point, has played a great second base for the Nats in addition to developing as a power hitter. He has 16 home runs and 52 RBI to go along with 11 stolen bases.

3B Placido Polanco, Phillies: We'd be a lot stronger here if David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Chipper Jones were completely healthy and hitting up to their full potential, but things haven't gone that way. Jones is in obvious age decline, Zimmerman has struggled -- until very recently -- after a lenghty stint on the DL and Wright has been on the shelf for all but 39 games. Polanco, on the other hand, has provided steady defense for the Phillies at the hot corner and is hitting .274 with a .331 OBP. 

SS Jose Reyes, Mets: Back in early April, we may have thought this would be a three-horse race between Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Reyes, but it's not even close. Ramirez had been awful up until the past few weeks and while Rollins is good, Reyes has been an MVP candidate -- at least until he fell injured a few days ago. Reyes leads the majors in hits, triples and batting average while also leading the NL in runs scored.

LF Michael Morse, Nationals: Hey, he's played 27 games in left, even though he's primarily a first baseman now. I'm using him here because we wanted to put together the best possible lineup and the other choices out in left in this division weren't great. Logan Morrison was the next best choice, while Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are simply far overpaid at this point. Morse, however, has been tearing the cover off the ball since the beginning of May. He's hitting .303 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and an .887 OPS.

CF Shane Victorino, Phillies: The All-Star is really the only choice here. Angel Pagan was injured for a while Victorino has far exceeded the production of Roger Bernadina. Victorino's hitting .303 with a .376 OBP, 53 runs and 13 steals. He also plays a stellar center field behind that vaunted Phillies pitching staff.

RF Carlos Beltran, Mets: Who woulda thought this one coming into the season, huh? You've got the young studs Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward out in right in this division, meanwhile Beltran had to move to right from center to keep his knee injury from reaggravating. All he's done is go out and make his sixth All-Star team. In addition to leading the NL in doubles (26), Beltran is hitting .283 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI and a robust .372 OBP.

DH Ryan Howard, Phillies: If Chipper Jones or Ryan Zimmerman were having better seasons or David Wright and Ike Davis were healthy, this might have been a much tougher choice. Stanton could be an option, too, but I'm going Howard. He has 18 homers, an NL-best 71 RBI, an .842 OPS and just feels like a menacing DH in the batter's box.

SP Roy Halladay, Phillies: Do I seriously have to pick just one? We could put together a five-man rotation of ace-caliber pitchers -- Halladay, Jair Jurrjens, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Tommy Hanson -- and still have the likes of Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann and the injured Josh Johnson left over. What if Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg were healthy? This is the most pitching-rich division in the majors, including the bullpen. And it's only going to get better as the young arms further develop and a dude named Stephen Strasburg gets healthy. Anyway, I have to pick one, so it's the best pitcher in baseball. Maybe Justin Verlander has a case over Halladay, but he's not in this division. Just remember, if we went out to 25-man rosters, this division would have the sickest pitching staff of all.

RP Jonny Venters, Braves: Antonio Bastardo has been excellent for the Phillies. He has a 0.87 ERA and has stranded over 99 percent of his baserunners. He's struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings and has now collected five saves. Tyler Clippard has also been outstanding. He has a 1.86 ERA and strikes out batters at an even higher pace than Bastardo. But Venters has been dominant in 53 1/3 innings (Bastardo has 31) and has thrown in more high-leverage situations than Clippard. According to FanGraph's wins above replacement player, the only relief pitcher in the NL more valuable than Venters this season has been Craig Kimbrel, who you'll see below.

CL Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Drew Storen and Francisco Rodriguez have been good, but Kimbrel leads the majors with 27 saves and has struck out 70 batters in just 45 innings. Sure, he's blown five saves, but none since June 8. Since then, he's closed all nine opportunities and hasn't even given up a run in his last 13 games. He definitely looks the part of a young Billy Wagner. Only workload is a concern for the 23-year-old at this point.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com