It's Barajas, Braden (Looper) and Belliard -- in that order -- at the top of the mid-season Andujar rankings, sponsored by Batter's Box. In a non-binding vote by 16 members of The Roster, Jeff Suppan and former Jay Jose Cruz Jr. also cracked the top five.
Our first look at the 2004 Andujar rankings back on May 1 showed Marlon Anderson with a healthy lead on the field ... but in true Andujar "youneverknow" fashion, the erstwhile St. Louis infielder found his way onto just one of the 16 ballots cast at midseason.
In fact, just one player -- Rod Barajas -- made it onto all 16 ballots, but six players were on at least 10, while 23 players were named at least once each. So it's still a wide-open field and of course ... youneverknow.
Not familiar with the Andujars? Meet the '03 winner and catch up on how it works.
1. Rod Barajas: 16 votes, 144 points (8 firsts)
2. Braden Looper: 15, 107 (3)
3. Ronnie Belliard: 12, 101 (3)
4. Jeff Suppan: 8, 57 (1)
5. Jose Cruz Jr.: 11, 56 (1)
6. Jose Lima: 10, 55
7. Danys Baez: 11, 54
8. Todd Walker: 9, 54
9. Pokey Reese: 8, 38
10. Matt Stairs: 9, 36
Others Receiving Votes: Royce Clayton (34), Todd Hollandsworth (31), John Halama (29), Dave Burba (28), Shane Spencer (15), Todd Jones (12), Marlon Anderson (6), Miguel Batista (5), Ismael Valdez (4), Todd Zeile (3), Brad Fullmer (2), Mike Myers (2), Lou Merloni (1).
Barajas inherited the backstop role full-time for the surprising Texas Rangers when early rookie of the year smash Gerald Laird was injured, and has maintained an OPS of nearly .840 with a dozen homers -- one more than his previous career total. Looper has an ERA below 2.00 and 16 saves for the surprising New York Mets.
Belliard has maintained a batting average of better than .310 and an OPS of more than .830 as the everyday second baseman for the initially surprising Cleveland Indians. In fact, Belliard's totals have gone up across the board since he left Colorado and Coors Field.
Off the radar for good is Paul Abbott, who has been traded, and Mark Bellhorn, who was erroneously listed as eligible in the first place. Falling fast are Scott Spiezio, John Thomson, Cory Lidle and Henry Blanco, who all were in the May 1 "Top 10" -- but all of whom failed to receive so much as a single mention in the midseason balloting.
If you're looking for an omen about the eventual winner, last year just one Andujar candidate made it to the 2003 All-Star game -- A.L. starter and eventual Andujar recipient Esteban Loaiza. This year, just one Andujar candidate -- Ronnie Belliard -- is headed to the mid-season classic in Houston.
So is Belliard the odds-on favorite? Well, as great as Barajas has been, he'll likely be shunted back to a reserve role when Laird returns, while Looper will suffer in final post-season balloting from an obvious Box prejudice against "closers."
Looking Back: May 1 Voting
1. Marlon Anderson: 83 (2 firsts)
2. Paul Abbott: 58 (1)
3. Todd Walker: 56 (2)
4. Scott Spiezio: 52
5. John Thomson: 48 (2)
6. Braden Looper: 34
7. Ronnie Belliard: 28 (2)
8. Matt Stairs: 24
9. Cory Lidle: 22
10t. Henry Blanco: 17 (1)
10t. Brad Fullmer: 17
10t. Dave Burba: 17
Looking Back: Pre-Season Top 10
1. Jay Payton
2. John Thomson
3. Brett Tomko
4. Brad Fullmer
5. Todd Greene
6. Jeff Suppan
7. Kerry Ligtenberg
8. Danys Baez
9. Jason Johnson
10. Matt Stairs
There it is, Boxers. Fire away.