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Professional

MLB: NL Central drives All-Star voting

It’s official. Or at least semi-official. This is the year of the National League Central.

Thanks to the strength of the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds, the Central will have more representatives than any other division when players line up before the All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field in New York.

The Cardinals landed five players on the NL team (elected starters Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran along with Adam Wainwright, Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter). That was one more than the Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Grilli and Jeff Locke) and two more than the Reds (elected starters Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips along with Aroldis Chapman).

Add in two reserves from the Brewers (Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura) and Travis Wood of the Cubs and that’s 15 of the 33 players named to the NL team. The much-hyped AL East has 13 All-Stars, including four from the Orioles.

Other thoughts on the teams:

• Yasiel Puig is almost certain to be elected to the team in the online Final Player Vote, and that’s probably a decent way to get him to New York.

• It’s a down year for American League outfielders, but really? Torii Hunter? The Tigers have six players on the AL team including Hunter, whose 0.5 WAR ranks 36th among 53 AL outfielders with 150-plus plate appearances.

• Hard to understand why AL manager Jim Leyland picked relievers Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara for the AL Final Man vote while leaving off the A’s Grant Balfour, who is 22-for-22 in saves.

• The Athletics’ Josh Donaldson, the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre and the Rays’ Evan Longoria were left off – a testament to how strong third base has become in the AL.

• My favorite pick is the Indians’ Jason Kipnis. Squeezed out, last year and could have been again, given Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia. The Glenbrook North product will make the first of what should be many trips to the All-Star Game.

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