Balloting for the position-player starters for the 2023 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is already underway, as the polls opened Wednesday. The 2022 Midsummer Classic is set for Tuesday, July 11 at Seattle's T-Mobile Stadium.
The ballot is on MLB.com and you can vote here. I'm going to run through my selections now.
Now, there are people out there who see the word "Star" in the title and want the game to be about the biggest names in the sport, even if said names aren't performing well this season (think Manny Machado, for example). That's not the wrong answer at all, because we're still over a month away and have still seen a bit of a small sample, but I'm more of a "who has been the biggest star this season" type. I reserve the right to fall back into that mode if it's close and/or no one at a position has established himself, but in general I view each annual affair as a reward for players who have been the best in that season alone.
Let's get to the ballot, starting in the American League. I've listed the positions in order of how they are on the ballot, which is why catcher is in such a weird spot.
First base: Yandy Díaz
Anthony Rizzo of the Yankees is a close second here and the people who prefer established stars are perfectly defensible to go in his direction. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could also be a pick for people with that mindset. Díaz is hitting .310 with a .410 on-base percentage and .580 slugging (adding up for a 178 OPS+) with 12 homers, 30 RBI and 37 runs all while leading off for the best team in baseball.
How about the run production from Semien? He leads the AL in runs (48 in 55 games) and he's fourth in RBI (44). He's 7 for 8 in stolen bases, has a 134 OPS+ and is playing great defense.
As good as it gets on defense, Chapman was on fire offensively too coming out of the gate this season. He leads the AL in doubles while hitting .288 with a 139 OPS+. If the offense keeps coming down (he hit .202/.272/.312 in May), Josh Jung of the Rangers should get a strong look. José Ramírez and/or Rafael Devers could also get insanely hot and that would satisfy the people who want the most established stars.
This is neck-and-neck with Bo Bichette and I wouldn't argue either way. Hell, I might vote for Bichette tomorrow. As things stand, these are the only two players who should be getting votes, so please don't stray. Thank you in advance.
It's actually pretty crowded here. Jonah Heim is having a great season and the Rangers have been in first place basically all year. Salvador Perez is old reliable with a rock-solid resume and 12 homers this season. Cal Raleigh is clutch, a fun player and would be playing in front of the hometown fans in Seattle.
I'm going with Rutschman, though, and it's possible he's already the best catcher in baseball. A quality defensive catcher who hits for average, power and gets on base at over a .400 clip is something very special.
Since coming off the injured list, Judge has been out of his mind and he's right back at the top. Trout is Trout and having another great season even if not overwhelming by his lofty standards. Arozarena is slashing .297/.407/.513 with 11 homers, 40 RBI, 35 runs and six stolen bases.
The toughest omission was Yordan Alvarez, who takes a bump by being moved from DH to left field. It hurts his value because he's a net negative out there (he hasn't been charged with an error, so he's not exactly butterfingers, but his lack of range crushes him). There are arguments to be made for him over Trout if we're judging on just this season or over Arozarena if we're doing the overall star-power thing. I won't argue with anyone who votes for him.
Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
He'll make it as a pitcher, too. It'll be the third-straight year he's been a worthy All-Star both as a pitcher and hitter.
With due respect to the reigning MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Pete Alonso's breathtaking home run pace, Freeman's all-around work with the stick is just too overwhelming right now. He's hitting .346! He leads the NL in hits, doubles, runs, OPS, OPS+ and total bases!
There are cases to be made for players like Nolan Gorman, Nico Hoerner, Thairo Estrada and Ketel Marte, but I'll show respect for the batting average not far off .400. Though it matters less than OBP and slugging, it still very much matters, it's a baseball staple and many fans care deeply about it.
Third base: Max Muncy, Dodgers
The down years for Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado really open things up here. Jeimer Candelario and J.D. Davis could be first-time All-Stars. And while the people I just joined forces with might be scared off by his .209 batting average, the power production (17 homers, 40 RBI) along with enough walks for a suitable OBP make me lean toward Muncy.
Can we grab one of the AL guys, please? Swanson and Xander Bogaerts started the season hot at the plate and then faltered. Francisco Lindor's OBP is sub-.300. Trea Turner has been awful. Some small sample and fluky things are going on elsewhere. Swanson's defense and baserunning with his hitting have been enough to give him the lead here in both versions of WAR, so we'll lean toward him.
Holdover stars like Will Smith and J.T. Realmuto will have their support and maybe the power surge of Francisco Alvarez moves the needle, but this really isn't very close. Murphy would be on the short list for NL MVP right now. Among NL catchers, he has a big lead in home runs and RBI while also leading in runs. He's slashing .286/.398/.553 and has played outstanding defense.
There's no need to discuss Acuña. He should be the top vote-getter if everyone is paying attention.
Carroll is making good on his good Rookie of the Year odds so far. He's doing it all: hitting for average, taking walks, hitting for power and stealing bases.
With all the emphasis early on what is wrong with Soto, did you know that he's second in the NL in OBP and fifth in OPS? He's second in OPS+!
Designated hitter: J.D. Martinez, Dodgers
Bryce Harper has only played in 24 games and has hit .315 with a .410 OBP, but his power hasn't yet gotten going and that's just such a small sample. Martinez is hitting .278/.320/.611 with 12 homers and 39 RBI. He's a worthy pick. Perhaps Harper catches fire in the next few weeks and is a better choice by the game. Either way, I'd be fine with a Martinez or Harper pick here. Jorge Soler also merits mention.
- C: Adley Rutschman, Orioles
- 1B: Yandy Díaz, Rays
- 2B: Marcus Semien, Rangers
- 3B: Matt Chapman, Blue Jays
- SS: Wander Franco, Rays
- OF: Aaron Judge, Yankees
- OF: Randy Arozarena, Rays
- OF: Mike Trout, Angels
- DH: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
- C: Sean Murphy, Braves
- 1B: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
- 2B: Luis Arraez, Marlins
- 3B: Max Muncy, Dodgers
- SS: Dansby Swanson, Cubs
- OF: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves
- OF: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks
- OF: Juan Soto, Padres
- DH: J.D. Martinez, Dodgers
See you at the polls.