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 Marlins Park in Miami from July 9-11, will feature the game’s brightest stars for the Futures Game, Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, Home Run Derby and the 88th MLB All-Star Game to conclude the festivities.
With voting for the All-Star Game already well underway, and with plenty of 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 NL, who will most likely come out on top, and lastly our take on who is the most worthy candidate.
Who’s Leading: Buster Posey (Giants)
Who Should Win: Buster Posey (Giants)
Who Will Win: Buster Posey (Giants)
Breakdown: The fans are getting this one right, which cannot be said for many other positions. Posey is far and away the best catcher in the National League this season, leading qualified — minimum 3.1 plate appearances per game — catchers in batting average (.352), on-base percentage (.439) and slugging (.538). Leading Chicago’s Willson Contreras by more than 900,000 votes and St. Louis’ Yadier Molina by an additional 100,000 votes, Posey is the clear-cut choice.
Who’s Leading: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)
Who Should Win: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)
Who Will Win: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)
Breakdown: Make no mistake about it: this is the most loaded position in the NL and will likely come down to the wire. Zimmerman’s 13th season has been a resurgent one that has landed him atop the batting charts among qualified first basemen, but Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo is right on his heels trailing by 150,000 votes. Should Zimmerman not be selected, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt — who currently sits in a distant third by nearly 600,000 votes — has made the next-best case in 2017. His 47 walks and 60 runs scored are best in the NL, and he leads Zimmerman in RBIs and runs while leading all first basemen in stolen bases (15) and WAR (3.5).
Who’s Leading: Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
Who Should Win: Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
Who Will Win: Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
Breakdown: Another one the fans are getting right, though this one is not a terribly difficult pick. Murphy’s .345 batting average and 11 home runs pace all qualified second basemen — no one is hitting above .306 or has double-digit home runs entering play Monday — and no second baseman comes within 100 percentage points of his .961 OPS. Chicago’s Javier Baez — who finds himself in a bit of a slump — is in a distant second, trailing by over one million votes.
Who’s Leading: Kris Bryant (Cubs)
Who Should Win: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
Who Will Win: Kris Bryant (Cubs)
Breakdown: This is the position that has everyone talking. Riding high off Bryant's MVP performance in helping the Cubs win the World Series, Chicago fans have propelled him to the top of the polls. However, Arenado (right) is ahead of Bryant in quite a few key categories, especially in RBIs where Arenado’s 55 nearly doubles Bryant (28). Arenado hit for the cycle on Father's Day, a feat he capped with a walk-off home run, and his .573 slugging percentage leads qualified NL third basemen. Both were All-Stars in 2015 and '16, with Arenado also picking up Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors each of the last two seasons, so the 300,000 vote separation will definitely be one to watch down the stretch.
Who’s Leading: Zack Cozart (Reds)
Who Should Win: Zack Cozart (Reds)
Who Will Win: Corey Seager (Dodgers)
Breakdown: This is a close one, and Seager’s success in just his second full season could be what puts him over the top when all is said and done. He should be helped by the Reds’ slide in the Central and the Dodgers’ playoff chances — Los Angeles holds the second wild-card spot by nine games over the Cubs. However, both Cozart (nine HR, 33 RBIs) and Seager (nine, 32) have very similar numbers offensively. Cozart does hold the edge in batting average (.320) and OPS (.966), with Seager ahead in walks (44), doubles (18) and runs (50). Cozart has widened the margin since last week, but Seager (trailing by roughly 300,000 votes) is still within range of making a late run at the starting spot.
Who’s Leading: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Jason Heyward (Cubs)
Who Should Win: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Marcell Ozuna (Marlins)
Who Will Win: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Marcell Ozuna (Marlins)
Breakdown: Harper (MLB-leading 2.83 million votes) and Blackmon (2.26 million votes) are putting up ridiculous numbers — Blackmon’s 95 hits, 10 triples and .328 batting average lead qualified outfielders while Harper’s 1.028 OPS is third best in the NL — so they are all but locked in to start. The real competition lies for the third spot. While it is understandably a bit bold to predict that Ozuna — currently fifth in the voting — will start, his case is more solid than those ahead of him (Heyward and teammate Ben Zobrist) and anyone immediately following him (Atlanta's Matt Kemp, Ozuna's teammate Giancarlo Stanton). Ozuna’s .324 batting average, .583 slugging percentage and 18 home runs put him second, third and third, respectively, among qualified NL outfielders. Heyward, meanwhile, does not crack the top 20 in batting average, OPS, or RBIs, so Ozuna’s consistent offense throughout the first half has him positioned as a deserving dark horse to close the 100,000-vote gap with Heyward and round out the starting trio.