Do the current voting leaders deserve a starting spot?
Every spring, the baseball world anticipates the wave of talent that comes together for a few days to put on a show. Major League Baseball All-Star Weekend, which will be held at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., from July 15-17, will feature the game’s brightest stars for the Futures Game, Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, Home Run Derby and the 89th MLB All-Star Game to conclude the festivities.
With voting for the All-Star Game already well underway, and debate swirling around who should represent each league at each position in just a few short weeks, here’s a look at who currently leads in the National League, who will most likely come out on top, and lastly our take on who is the most worthy candidate. (Here's the AL rundown)
Three-way race at catcher between @BusterPosey, @WContreras40 and Kurt Suzuki highlights latest National League balloting update. Visit https://t.co/Jd6REEkFYI to vote. #MLBVote pic.twitter.com/yClzTVtFqd— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 18, 2018
Note: Stats referenced are through June 18
Who’s Leading: Buster Posey (Giants)
Who Should Win: J.T. Realmuto (Marlins)
Who Will Win: Buster Posey (Giants)
Breakdown: Make no mistake: Posey isn't having a bad season by any means, and neither is the Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras. But when Realmuto is putting up the kind of numbers he has posted this season -- leading NL catchers in OPS (.895), wRC+ (146) and WAR (2.5) -- all while being the only real threat in the rebuilding Marlins' lineup, that production is hard to ignore. The only issue is that Realmuto does not have the visibility or larger support that Posey and Contreras have garnered.
Who’s Leading: Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Who Should Win: Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Who Will Win: Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Breakdown: This is about as easy of a call as there can be. Freeman leads all vote-getters with more than 1.4 million thus far, and his 867,000-vote gap over second-place Anthony Rizzo is larger than at every other position. The Nationals fans in D.C. won't like it, but Freeman is a lock.
Who’s Leading: Ozzie Albies (Braves)
Who Should Win: Scooter Gennett (Reds)
Who Will Win: Ozzie Albies (Braves)
Breakdown: This one very well could end up being a fight to the finish. Chicago's Javier Baez had a scorching start to the season but has cooled off significantly as the weather has heated up on the North Side. Meanwhile Albies has posted 1.7 WAR (2nd among NL second basemen) and a strikeout percentage of 17.5 (third), displaying patience not often seen in such young talent. But Gennett is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball, hitting an absurd .387 on balls in play (second among all qualified NL players). This is a three-horse race, with Albies (first) and Gennett (third) only separated by 172,000 votes. Something to watch: the right side of the NL infield might be getting a lot of boos from the hometown crowd if these leads stick.
Who’s Leading: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
Who Should Win: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
Who Will Win: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
Breakdown: Last year, it was Kris Bryant leading in the polls with Arenado (right) -- statistically the better choice -- chasing the 2016 MVP down the stretch. This time around, Arenado leads in the polls and on the field. Don't count out the voting power of the Cubs faithful, but Arenado deserves the starting nod and should get it.
Who’s Leading: Brandon Crawford (Giants)
Who Should Win: Brandon Crawford (Giants)
Who Will Win: Brandon Crawford (Giants)
Breakdown: In an unusually lopsided race, Crawford is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Long regarded as one of the game's premier defensive shortstops, Crawford's bat has found life in 2018. His .862 OPS is only eight points out of the top spot, and that bat-glove combination has Crawford on his way to start alongside division rival Arenado on the left side of the NL infield.
Who’s Leading: Nick Markakis (Braves), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
Who Should Win: Nick Markakis (Braves), Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Lorenzo Cain (Brewers)
Who Will Win: Nick Markakis (Braves), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
Breakdown: Markakis and Kemp are both off to fantastic starts, even though both are north of 30. The only debate here comes with the hometown favorite, Harper. Maybe part of it is that the expectations for Harper are always taller than everyone's favorite racing presidents at Nationals Park, but save for Harper's 19 home runs and 43 RBIs, his season thus far (.217/.355/.479, .212 BABIP) has been largely pedestrian. Cain, meanwhile, leads all NL outfielders in WAR (2.9) and ranks third in wRC+ (131) and walks per strikeout (0.88). Harper will likely hold off Cain for the starting spot -- at least, Nationals fans hope he does, so he can start alongside teammate and likely NL starting pitcher Max Scherzer -- but the latter should be a safe bet for a reserve spot.
-- Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.