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Prediction: Markakis makes first All-Star team

I know it's way too early for such proclamations, but Major League Baseball doesn't want us to wait. We must pick our All-Stars now. Regardless, I feel pretty good about this: Nick Markakis will play in his first All-Star game in July.

A bit more on Markakis (who was 2-for-4 with another run in last night's loss) in a bit; first, the All-Star details.

The season is less than three weeks old, but All-Star voting has already begun. The Internet ballot boxes opened yesterday, and the Orioles don't want their fans to sit this one out.

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From the release:

Buying votes. Encouraging fans to vote early and vote often. Democracy in America -- Awesome!

Can we agree that giving every fan up to 25 votes and opening the ballots this early is a complete joke? Last year voting didn't begin until April 29, a full week later. Pretty soon, we'll be picking this team during spring training.

Regardless, Markakis is playing like an All-Star right now, and I think he'll be playing like an All-Star a couple of months from now, too. Let's discuss ...

In last night's 8-2 loss, Markakis had two of the Orioles' eight hits. Though the Orioles have lost six of their last seven, the right fielder has strung together a nice little nine-game hit streak. Plus, he's leading the American League in RBIs, runs and several other categories and is sixth with a .397 batting average.

Just for fun, let's compare him against some other American League outfielders. First, let's note that last year's top vote-getters among AL outfielders were Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki and Josh Hamilton. Well, Manny's being Manny in the NL now, Ichiro started the year on the DL and is currently batting .240 and Hamilton is hitting just .231 with one homer.

We're a couple of weeks away from the point where numbers start carrying a bit more meaning, but let's line up some of the outfielders anyways:

-- As the league leader, Markakis' average is obviously higher than Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, J.D. Drew, Carlos Quentin and Grady Sizemore. Jermaine Dye, et al;

-- Obviously, he also has more RBIs than Quentin, Sizemore & Co., too;

-- Though a good number of guys will always have more homers than Markakis, he did enter last night's game tied for the AL lead in total bases (36);

-- Plus, he also led all outfielders in on-base percentage (.463), hits (23), runs (18) and doubles (7), too.

Oh yeah, and despite a miscue here and there, you won't find many better defensive right fielders.

You get the point. What's especially interesting is that since Markakis took over the starting job, he's always been a late starter. His numbers in April and May have been consistently low each of the past three seasons, picking up dramatically in June. So it's difficult to look at this hot start and project what the next couple of months will look like.

Sure, expect some numbers to level off, and he probably won't be leading every offensive categories in July. But if I'm Nick Markakis, I don't make any fishing plans for the All-Star break this year. There's a good chance he'll have a spot in the dugout in St. Louis.

Photos: Associated Press

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