A year ago as baseball was nearing its All-Star break, I recall blogging about then-Atlanta Braves utilityman Omar Infante, an odd choice for selection but certainly a useful fantasy option. Infante wasn't 100 percent owned in ESPN standard (10-team) leagues at the time, or close to it, but he ended up becoming more popular, thanks to his versatility and .321 batting average.
While the book isn't quite closed on who will be heading to this year's Midsummer Classic in Arizona (there remains some voting for the last spot in each league, and there will be the typical injury replacements and such), let's take a look at the current roster of All-Stars still available in standard leagues. As usual, there aren't many.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles (94.9 percent owned): I certainly would have chosen Detroit Tigers catcher Victor Martinez over him, but Wieters isn't an awful choice. He ranks seventh among all catchers in ownership and he's 11th on the Player Rater. I'm not giving up on a major offensive breakout from the 25-year-old in time, and I don't mean to cop out, but I expect his second half to be a lot like his first half. A 15-homer, 60-RBI season is fine.
Russell Martin, C, New York Yankees (51.4 percent): Terrific to start the year but hitting below .200 since May, Martin still flicks the occasional home run and can steal a base. He's on pace for 20 home runs and 14 stolen bases, but you can't stomach the batting average. Martinez, Carlos Santana and Miguel Olivo all rank better on the Player Rater. I wouldn't pick Martin up and expect big numbers.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees (97.2 percent): His disabled list stint caused a few people to cut him, but not many. Jhonny Peralta and Elvis Andrus are having far better seasons; in fact, Jeter ranks 11th among AL-eligible shortstops on the Player Rater, 22nd overall. That's not to say he can't get to the top-10 range, but sans power and batting average and with modest speed, it won't be easy.
Matt Joyce, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (85.2 percent): A May monster (.414, seven home runs) but June bust (.173, one home run), Joyce certainly seems droppable at this point in standard leagues. His sore left shoulder might be a bigger problem than anyone has let on, and it's destroyed him at the plate. Desmond Jennings could be taking his at-bats soon.
Aaron Crow, SP/RP, Kansas City Royals (5.2 percent): There was a time -- like a week -- when he was the closer, and fantasy owners everywhere ran to pick him up. He never did get a save chance, though. Own him for the ERA, WHIP and 80-strikeout pace, which is good for a middle reliever, but be wary since he is a rookie, after all. Rookie relievers get tired, too.
Placido Polanco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (97.4 percent): He's worth owning if he's hitting .330, but at .274 (and dropping), there's not a great case. Polanco is short of a pace for double digits in home runs and stolen bases, and he's playing hurt. Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Roberts, Chase Headley and Ty Wigginton are all having better seasons statistically, and Headley is available in roughly half of ESPN's leagues.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (61.4 percent): Yeah, third base isn't the strongest spot in the NL. Kudos to Jones for even playing this season; I had the under on 100 games, and Jones is already at 73. He could end up knocking in 90 runs, but that .256 batting average takes the fun out of it.
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals (66.1 percent): Ninth among catchers on the Player Rater, he looked quite a bit better hitting .324 a month ago. Today he's at .286. Since there's little power to augment things, just play catcher roulette for the ones playing well, and right now he is not.
Tyler Clippard, RP, Washington Nationals (17.4 percent): Craig Kimbrel is the only relief pitcher with more strikeouts this season, and Clippard's ERA and WHIP are considerably better. So why is Kimbrel No. 1 among relievers on the Player Rater and Clippard is 27th? It's all about the saves. However, if your fantasy team is using a questionable sixth or seventh starter, and doesn't covet the saves, Clippard is a wise own.
Jonny Venters, RP, Atlanta Braves (72.3 percent): His pristine 0.56 ERA exploded all the way to 1.56 in four outings, after he allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Venters remains extremely valuable, despite earning a mere three saves. He might not earn three more, but unless you think he's tired -- I don't -- I'd keep him owned.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP/RP, San Francisco Giants (99.2 percent): How is he not owned in 100 percent of leagues? Oh, because he's looked human in his past two outings, walking four in each and seeing his ERA rise to 2.13. I still believe in Vogelsong, despite his past, and I really don't expect him to statistically fall off a cliff soon. I smile when I see him making the All-Star team, because even if Tommy Hanson is more deserving, that's not Vogelsong's problem.