All-Star voting begins tomorrow at noon and I’m oddly a little excited about it. I haven’t voted for the All-Star Game in a few years and don’t really get much enjoyment out of it or the other festivities. Yeah, I may love the long ball, but I get bored watching the home run derby.
But in 2018, something is happening. The Atlanta Braves are exciting and deserve to be represented in the All-Star Game as a result. How you vote for the All-Star Game is your business, but to me, I want to put the players there that have earned it rather than stuff the voting with players because they’re on my team. Hey Chicago Cubs fans, Javier Baez is maybe the fifth-most deserving candidate for second base. And St. Louis Cardinals fans, Yadier Molina is hurt and even before that, wasn’t really in the race.
I don’t think I’ll convince anyone to not post a ballot based entirely on their own homerism, but it’s worth a try.
Braves fans, if you are like me and want to see the players who most deserve it go rather than the players you like the most, here is a position-by-position look at the Braves’ choices.
Catcher – Kurt Suzuki
Chances – Not happening
Earlier this season, Suzuki was on fire but has significantly cooled down. There are much worse choices than Suzuki – Jorge Alfaro, Tucker Barnhart, and YADIER MOLINA – but there are also a handful of better options. Especially when you consider Suzuki’s at-bats will decrease with Tyler Flowers back and rolling. While Cubs fans will prop up Wilson Contreras, your vote should come down between Francisco Cervelli and J.T. Realmuto. The latter missed the beginning of the year, but has been on fire since and from a wOBA standpoint, he is the only other catcher challenging Cervelli. The Pirates catcher, by the way, has been quietly on fire with a wOBA near .400 and his usual tremendous defense.
First Base – Freddie Freeman
Chances – No-brainer
With Joey Votto fading while Freeman has surged, this is currently a two-player race between Brandon Belt and Freeman. Yeah, don’t sleep on Belt, guys. He’s right there in every category and Giants fans can make a legit argument that he deserves it over Freeman if the All-Star Game was played today. But you can’t really go wrong with either choice so why not go with Freeman? He does have better on-base numbers after all.
Second Base – Ozzie Albies
Chances – Very, very good
Here’s where the vote could screw a player. Say Cubs fans do vote in Baez, who has a love/hate relationship with a .300 OBP. There are about four really deserving candidates here and Baez isn’t one of them. At least one of the four was already going to miss the All-Star Game. Now another could be out so that Baez can start. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that.
As for Albies, you can feel good about your vote for him. But you could also vote for Asdrubal Cabrera, Scooter Gennett, and Cesar Hernandez and also feel good. Gennett likely deserves the start right now, but again, this group of four are very close. The only thing holding Albies back is a poor OBP.
Shortstop – Dansby Swanson
Chances – About the same of me marrying Anna Kendrick
Swanson has had a decent bounce-back campaign, though his numbers have tanked a lot since earlier this year. But he’s not in the argument here for a spot. Amazingly, Cardinals fans have all the reasons in the world to vote for Paul DeJong and so do you. He actually deserves votes. As do Trea Turner and Brandon Crawford. Swanson…not so much.
Third Base – Johan Camargo
Chances % = His Amount of Steals
Camargo is having a really strange season. He has as many walks as hits and is smacking the ball hard all over the place. It’s a very strange version of the player we saw in 2017. Which looked nothing like the guy who played in 2016. Guys, Camargo is re-inventing himself every year. Next year, he’ll be a pitcher. You don’t know!
Outfield – Nick Markakis, Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte
Chances = Amazingly yes, not yet, and nope
Nick Markakis, barring a return to 2013-17 Markakis, will be an All-Star for the first time. He’s yet to slow down even a small bit. If the All-Star Game was held tomorrow, he deserves to be in the starting lineup. That’s how insane his season has been to this point. Even his biggest fanboys are shocked by his level of success to this point.
Acuña Jr. wasn’t producing at an All-Star level before his injury. It’s possible he goes on a tear and rides that momentum into a spot, but there are plenty of worthy selections. As for Inciarte, huge triple on Tuesday, but with his offensive limitations, he needs to produce at his usual 100 wRC+ type level to have a chance and hope his other counting numbers impress. That’s not happening.
As for who should join Markakis, A.J. Pollock is not back just yet but should earn your vote. Odubel Herrera is annoying to watch as a Braves fan, but he’s a solid pick to join Pollock and Markakis. Also consider Lorenzo Cain, Tommy Pham, Bryce Harper, and even Brandon Nimmo. The latter doesn’t have the at-bats but is killing it. Especially against right-hand pitching. Which is why you probably shouldn’t leave in a right-hand pitcher to face him. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Brian Snitker.
In: Dan Winkler (maybe)
Out: Everyone else
Now, I know we don’t vote for the pitchers, but it seems weird not to mention them.
I love Sean Newcomb, but the competition here is steep. Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Miles Mikolas, Gio Gonzalez, and even Jake Arrieta are all in the driver’s seat. If healthy, Noah Syndergaard seems like a good pick as well. Of the Atlanta Braves’ rotation, Newcomb has pitched the best – along with Mike Foltynewicz – but neither are rubbing elbows with the league’s best just yet.
Now, in the pen, Winkler could be an option. His ERA remains under 1.00, his FIP isn’t far behind, and he’s just outside the Top 5 among NL relievers in fWAR. Shane Carle was there, but his recent appearances have pushed him out of the mix. Though, it’s tough to see it happening with Josh Hader, Sean Doolittle, and Jeremy Jeffress doing their thing. But Winkler is definitely in the discussion and would be a tremendous story for MLB to pimp of resilience.
Of course, things can change between now and when All-Star voting gets closer to closing. Albies might start bashing around the ball again or Newcomb could reach a new level, pushing both into the no-brainer category. But as things stand right now, I see Freeman and Markakis as easy yes votes with Albies as worthy as any other second baseman of your vote. The rest is straight homerism if you vote for them.
Which is fine. It can be a popularity contest, I suppose.