The Midsummer Classic takes place in July to recognize the MLB players that performed the best in the season's first half. It's a great celebration and a jewel event, recognizing the game's greatest stars.

But what about all the guys that got hot down the stretch? We need to show them some love as well.

Let's use this space to celebrate some of baseball's strongest second halves. Where possible or logical, we'll go with the non-All-Star over the All-Star here, if only to spread the kudos around. (Stats going into Wednesday's games.)

First base

Carlos Santana, Indians: .304/.419/.567 slash, 13 HRs, 160 weighted runs created plus

Joey Votto has slightly outperformed Santana in the second half. But Votto is pretty much always awesome, while Santana best demonstrates the spirit of this squad. His career second-half OPS is 73 points higher than his first-half mark, and this year he had a disappointing .238/.340/.409 slash at the break. Clearly, the Indians, recent winners of 22 straight, have caught fire since then, and the switch-hitting Santana (pending free agent alert!) has been a big factor there.

Second base

Brian Dozier, Twins: .282/.372/.553, 18 HRs, 140 wRC+

Jose Altuve is the clearest candidate at this position with a .348/.397/.568 slash and 159 wRC+. But whereas Altuve and the Astros virtually clinched the American League West months ago, Dozier and the Twins have had to fight every inning of the way to their current positioning in the AL Wild Card race.

Dozier, who had a ho-hum first half with a .745 OPS and 13 homers, was one of the veterans who stood up in the clubhouse after the Trade Deadline and implored a predominantly young team to keep fighting despite the summer sell-off, and he's more than held up his end of the bargain.


Francisco Lindor, Indians: .311/.375/.576, 17 HRs, 147 wRC+

Had the season ended in April, Lindor would have garnered serious MVP consideration with seven homers and a 1.018 OPS. But perhaps fatigue from the deep World Series run and the World Baseball Classic set in, because he endured an uncharacteristic two-month slump from that point.

He's clearly recovered now. And Lindor gave us one of the truly magic moments of this 2017 season with his two-out, two-strike, game-tying double to keep the Indians' streak alive in what would become win No. 22.

Third base

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: .269/.390/.598, 21 HRs, 159 wRC+

Donaldson's injury troubles in the first half greatly contributed to the Blue Jays' surprisingly lowly standing in the AL East. Donaldson played just 46 games before the break, primarily because of a calf injury, and his numbers when he was able to take the field were solid but not spectacular. Though too late to rescue Toronto, Donaldson has looked like his old MVP self in the second half. He had five homers, a double and six RBIs in a three-game stretch against the Twins last weekend to solidify his spot here.


Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: .283/.401/.722, 30 HRs, 181 wRC+
J.D. Martinez, D-backs: .288/.360/.726, 27 HRs, 166 wRC+
Mike Trout, Angels: .288/.432/.537, 13 HRs, 161 wRC+

We could get cute and break up the corner-outfield spots, and, in keeping with the theme of the piece, we could give Martinez the edge over Stanton simply because Stanton was an All-Star this season and Martinez was not. But … c'mon. You think I'm leaving either of these guys off here? One of them can slide over to left for our imaginary squad (apologies to Justin Upton).

Stanton launched himself into the NL MVP discussion with that ridiculous six-week stretch from mid-July to late-August where he hit 25 home runs in 40 games -- one every 5.9 at-bats. He has since cooled because, well, how could he not? But he's still got a shot at 60 homers, a number that retains its magic in this game.

Martinez has had a Stanton-like impact on a D-backs team that jumped on him for what was largely considered a less-than-punitive prospect price a couple weeks ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Martinez has taken his already-elite power production with Detroit up another level in Arizona, with 24 homers in his first 52 games for the Snakes. You can never simply assume a player thrust into a race will slot in so seamlessly, but Martinez (pending free agent alert!) has been everything Arizona could have asked for.

In center field, you could easily go with Charlie Blackmon, who continues to have a leadoff season for the ages. But because Trout had to miss the real All-Star Game because of his hand injury, it only seems right to honor him here. His September hasn't been up to his usual absurd standards, but his overall WAR gains on a still-breathing Angels squad since his post-break return from the DL have lifted him back into the MVP discussion. (For the record, the Cardinals' Tommy Pham would also be a solid choice in center.)


Gary Sanchez, Yankees: .287/.336/.583, 19 HRs, 136 wRC+

It was inevitable that Sanchez wouldn't quite live up to the standard he set for himself at the tail end of 2016, when he darn near won the AL Rookie of the Year on the might of just two months in the Majors. Sanchez suffered a biceps strain early in the season and wasn't quite the same offensively or defensively upon his return. But Sanchez re-asserted himself as a force in that Yankee lineup with a 12-homer binge in August, and the thought of what he and Aaron Judge can accomplish together in the heart of the order inspires either awe or dread, depending on your particular perspective.

Designated hitter

Edwin Encarnacion, Indians: .242/.381/.521, 18 HRs, 135 wRC+

With three players on this list, are you starting to understand why the Indians have baseball's best record in the second half?

The consistent production of Nelson Cruz in his age-36 season has been as beautiful to behold as his All-Star selfie with "Cowboy" Joe West. But Encarnacion joined Cruz in going deep 10 times in August alone. Encarnacion got off to a rough start with his new club, though it wasn't anything his early season track record didn't point to. As the year has progressed, Encarnacion has walked his imaginary parrot around the basepaths at a rate in line with his Toronto norm, and, though he hasn't hit for a high average, his high OBP and post-May power spike have been everything the Indians asked for.

Starting pitcher

Justin Verlander, Astros: 8-2, 2.04 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .552 opponents' OPS, 5.47 K/BB

Corey Kluber has caught and quite possibly surpassed Chris Sale in the AL Cy Young Award conversation, but his run of dominance dates back to his June 1 activation off the DL, which is why he was an AL All-Star this year.

Verlander, meanwhile, had a pedestrian (by his standards) season going at the midway mark. But he's been much more akin to the ace of old the past couple months. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has nearly tripled in the second half, and his opponents' OPS has dropped 200 points.

Verlander gets bonus points here for a dominant transition to the Astros, for whom he has allowed just two earned runs on 10 hits with 26 strikeouts in 21 innings over three starts.

Relief pitcher

Tyler Lyons, Cardinals: 1.11 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 4.29 K/BB

You could go with any number of relievers with dominant second-half numbers, from the multi-inning brilliance Chad Green has given the Yankees in their playoff push and Yusmeiro Petit has afforded the Angels in the AL Wild Card hunt to the overlooked job Craig Stammen has done in big spots for the Padres to the continued excellence of Brewers closer (and 2017 All-Star) Corey Knebel, to name a few.

But Lyons is the perfect example of what this list is all about. As recently as May 23, he had as many 2017 disabled list trips to his name as he did appearances (two). As recently as June 12, he had an ERA over 5.00 and it was still above 4.00 at the break. Lyons, though, really stabilized the Cards' bullpen in the home stretch and began to take over the closing duties. It hasn't been enough to push St. Louis into playoff position (last week's sweep at the hands of the Cubs dealt a severe blow there), but it kept them a lot more relevant than they would have been otherwise.


Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.