Ronald Acuña Jr. will have company at Dodger Stadium for the 2022 All-Star Game. The 24-year-old will be joined by Dansby Swanson, William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Austin Riley and Max Fried, all of whom will make their first All-Star appearances. The six All-Star selections are the most for the Braves since 2011, when they had five players in attendance.
“I’m definitely super happy and proud of the teammates and the coaching staff, I think it’s going to be awesome to have everyone out there,” Acuña said through team interpreter Franco García.
“I'd like to bring the whole team with me,” Swanson said. “I feel like each guy has had a big role in why we've been successful this year. Obviously, Travis is phenomenal, Willie's had kind of a breakout year for himself, Ronnie is obviously Ronnie, so it's pretty special. And then Fried, I've said that before, like, the guy's elite, he's top notch.”
Acuña didn’t have to worry about his spot in the 2022 Midsummer Classic because, on June 30, the right-fielder was announced as the leading vote-getter in the National League and earned an automatic starting spot.
Swanson was narrowly beaten out for the starting shortstop spot by the Dodgers' Trea Turner in the final phase of fan voting, 52% to 48%. But Swanson won't miss out on the experience, as he was selected as a reserve. Over his last 30 games, the 28-year-old is slashing .341/.370/.589 with 44 hits, eight home runs and 24 RBIs.
“It's obviously a tremendous honor, something you definitely work for your whole life,” Swanson said, on being named to his first All-Star Game. “I'm very appreciative and thankful, very blessed to be in this position.”
William Contreras will join his brother Willson at the All-Star Game, becoming the 15th set of brothers to reach the Midsummer Classic. The last brothers to make an All-Star Game in the same year were Aaron and Bret Boone in 2003, per Elias Sports Bureau. With Bryce Harper injured, William takes Harper's starting designated hitter spot, with his brother starting at catcher. The last brothers to start an All-Star Game together were Sandy and Roberto Alomar in 1992, per Elias Sports Bureau. William has played just 43 games this season, splitting time with d'Arnaud behind the dish, but he's been extremely productive when he goes to the plate.
“That's one thing that I don't think we've ever really talked about,” Contreras said about playing in the All-Star Game with his brother. “It is a dream come true, and I think it's something that we've always dreamed about, but it's crazy that it's happening. I'm really happy, I'm excited and I can't wait for the day.”
Contreras is slashing .273/.358/.566 and is tied for the fifth-most homers by a catcher this season (11), but each catcher above him has played in 20 or more games. Contreras has 11 homers in 143 at-bats, 1 per every 13 ABs, which would be the 8th-best rate in the Majors, but he doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify.
The Braves will have both of their catchers in Los Angeles on July 19, as d'Arnaud also earned a reserve spot. The last time two catchers with at least 20 games caught for the same team made the All-Star team was 1957-60 and 1962, with Yogi Berra and Elston Howard of the Yankees. It happened just one other time before that, in 1942 with Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar, also of the Yankees.
Riley, who was named to the team as an injury replacement on Saturday, was hitting .282 with 26 homers at the time, on pace to smash his career-best 33 big flies, achieved last season.
d'Arnaud has been a true veteran leader for Atlanta during the team's successful season, and he's also been a factor in the box and behind the dish. Over his last 15 games, he's slashing .293/.359/.534, while already throwing out nine runners on the season, which is the fifth most in the Majors among qualified catchers.
“What makes it special is it's in my hometown, where I grew up learning the game of baseball. It's gonna be cool.” d’Arnaud said. “It's special, and I'm very thankful for not only the fans, but for my peers who think I'm a good player.”
Fried also will be enjoying his first All-Star selection back home at Dodger Stadium, a place he visited often during his childhood. The Southern California native has garnered a 9-2 record, tied for fifth in wins in the Majors, with a 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 100 strikeouts. He is among the candidates to be the National League’s starting pitcher.
“[Fried’s] been one of the game's top pitchers the last three years, and for him to get his first All-Star selection, also for him in his hometown, is very special,” d’Arnaud said.